The sometimes pretty, sometimes puzzling 1960s AMC concept cars are proof that when the going gets tough, automakers get going on show cars.
After all, what better than a dazzling concept car to dispel any public notions of corporate trouble -- and to spark hopes that what's sitting on the spot-lit turntable (or something much like it) might soon be sitting in your garage? This was the job of the 1960s AMC concept cars.
American Motors Corporation had plenty of tough going in its 33 years of existence, but for 25 of those years it had the perfect person to head up its styling efforts in Richard A. Teague. A California native and one-time child actor, Teague began his design career in 1948 with General Motors, who hired him after his graduation from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
But Teague didn't make his mark until after joining Packard in 1951, where he learned to do more work with fewer resources than most any other designer around.
Besides the adept facelift for the "last real Packards" of 1955-56, Teague accomplished the memorable Request and Predictor show cars despite the shoestring budgets then typical of what he later called Packard's "last days in the bunker." The Predictor, of course, was supposed to herald an all-new '57 Packard line that didn't materialize because Studebaker-Packard Corporation was nearly broke.
After brief stints with Chrysler and an independent design firm headed by Ford alumnus Bill Schmidt, Teague went to American Motors in 1959, where he assisted Ed Anderson in what passed for a styling department. When Anderson left in 1964, Teague was named vice-president of design, largely on the strength of his pretty and popular styling for that year's rebodied Rambler American compact. In short order he turned AMC's design section into a far larger and more professional operation.
Meantime, the 1960s were all a-go-go, and AMC was working hard to reverse its stodgy image as a builder of nothing but sensible economy cars. Yet despite the expansionist visions of president Roy Abernethy, to say nothing of Teague's own best efforts, AMC was in financial hot water by 1966.
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That attracted the interest of one Robert B. Evans, a Detroit industrialist who specialized in corporate rescues and was not, by his own admission, an "automobile man." Still, Evans judged AMC a good investment in spite of its problems, and bought large blocks of company stock. With that, he soon had himself a seat on the board of directors. John Conde, AMC's longtime public relations chief, later described him as "a breath of fresh air at the time."
Go to the next page to learn about the new team's next step, the hot AMC AMX concept cars.