1966 AMC ‘Project IV’ - Cavalier & Vixen
AMC debuted a trio of interesting ‘idea’ cars in 1966 and while none of them saw full-scale production, they inspired certain ideas on future models that went into production in the following years…
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Deemed innovative in period, the AMC Cavalier’s innovations had little lasting worth. Nevertheless, this four-door saloon was an interesting – and practical – concept car; one that was styled under the firm’s endlessly resourceful design czar, Dick Teague. The central theme of the car was interchangeability: the wings could be swapped around: left-front to right-rear, and right-front to left-rear. The bonnet and boot lid were also transposable, while the bumpers and doors were symmetrical, too.
While not an original idea, the firm having previously exploited interchangeable parts on the prior Metropolitan under the Nash nameplate, it was thoughtfully executed. AMC claimed that should the Cavalier enter production, the number of steel pressings would be greatly reduced, while the cost of tooling and production would be reduced by as much as 30%. For an independent player such as AMC, which had nothing like the resources or inter-marque economies of scale of Detroit’s ‘Big Three’, such a lessening of expenditure would have been seismic.
However, the Cavalier never was going to be built in series, nor was the concept car anything other than a mock-up. By contrast, another member of AMC’s ‘Project IV’ series of concept queens from 1966 wasn’t styled internally. It was the work of freelancer Vince Gardner, a highly regarded designer whose resume included spells at Cord, Budd, and more besides, even if his contributions to many landmark automobiles weren’t always recognised in period.
According to a press release from the period, the AMX II was: ‘…an American Motors’ ‘Idea’ car, a modified version of the fastback theme introduced earlier on the experimental AMX. It features a ‘V’ rear window with the rear deck contours. Safety tail-lights with green, amber, and red lenses would give cars behind immediate indication of the driver’s intentions and actions’. Like its Cavalier stablemate, this handsome, pillarless coupé featured a 2974mm (110in) wheelbase platform and was powered by a 343cu in V8 (although this is debatable given that no pictures exist of the car moving).
There was another closely related concept car from 1966, too. The oddly proportioned Vixen explored familiar themes, but with the windscreen moved further back which made for an elongated bonnet. The car’s signature feature, however, was its roof arrangement. According to PR material from the time: “…this Experimental car features a landau-type roof with central vents in the rear. The vents are angled at 45 degrees to increase visibility when the car is parked, or when the driver is backing up, and a sliding glass quarter window permits flow-through ventilation if desired. A deeply recessed rear window appears to be invisible from both inside and outside because of its non-reflection shape and position.” While none of these concepts were adopted for production, the designs didn’t go to waste: certain elements were watered down and applied to the Hornet which went on sale in 1970.