Friday Fantasy: The AMC AM Van Was Almost The First American Minivan

The American minivan is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The 1984 Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan entered production on November 1, 1983, and dominated the family car scene for over a decade.

They were the championed by Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, after previous efforts at Chrysler and Ford to bring such a vehicle to market were spurned.

But another American automaker came close.

The AMC AM Van was a concept vehicle that debuted in 1977 for the car show circuit and was a much different prospect than Chrysler’s efforts.

Although just a fiberglass body on a wood frame, the very compact model is shorter in length than a VW Beetle and presented as an four-wheel-drive vehicle with a turbocharged engine and a side pipe exhaust system. It has two rows of seats and two doors, plus barn style tailgate doors. Budget woes at AMC kept it from making it to production, but the vehicle still exists.


It was part of concept vehicle collection for years before being offered at an RM Sotheby’s auction in Highland Park, Ill., last year. It didn’t sell on the block, but was purchased afterward by a German car collector named Andreas Wietzke who is turning it into a functional vehicle.

He’s using a CJ-7 chassis, according to Hemmings, which will preserve its AMC connection and four-wheel-drive, but means it will be powered by a V8. Witzke said the full restoration could take up to three years.