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1969 AMX/2 Concept Car and 1970 AMX/3

Image Gallery: Concept Cars Unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, the non-running 1969 AMX/2 concept car showed tiny AMC was toying with an advanced mid-engine sports car. See more concept car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1969 AMX/2 concept car -- the prototype for the exciting 1970 AMX/3 production car -- was the first evidence that tiny, staid AMC was toying with a high-performance mid-engine sports car.

Dick Teague was always proud that he'd designed the 1970 AMX/3 -- so proud that he snared for himself one-third of those built. Sadly, that amounted to just two cars.

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A lifelong car enthusiast, Teague loved most anything on four wheels, though as a car collector he favored vintage machines, which appealed to him as both simple and nostalgic next to the modern iron he worked on during 25 years as design vice-president for American Motors. Even so, those two AMX/3s sat cheek-to-jowl with his big White steamer and massive Pope-Hartford touring right up until his untimely death in 1991.

Designer's vanity? Not at all. The AMX/3 (sometimes written "AMX/III") remains one of the prettiest cars on the globe: low, smooth, curvy in all the right places, adroitly proportioned. Teague had every right to be proud of it.

But good looks are only part of the story. The 1970 AMX/3 was also a high-performance mid-engine sports car that came very close to production, which would have been no small achievement even if volume would have been scarcely more than the six examples ultimately built.

Still, while Chevy teased the public with midships Corvettes that would never be, little AMC was briefly on the verge of building a Euro-style supercar the public could actually buy.

Learn more about the beginning of this story -- the 1969 AMX/2 concept

car -- in the next section.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

The design of the 1969 AMX/2 concept car was patterned after midengine European exotics.
The design of the 1969 AMX/2 concept car was patterned after midengine European exotics.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The real story of the 1970 AMX/3 begins in with the 1969 AMX/2 concept car. Like Detroit's Big Three -- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler -- American Motors was then aggressively courting the youth market, and the Teague studios had issued a variety of "think young" concept cars in pursuit of same, as well as groovy new showroom offerings like the Mustang-inspired Javelin, the unique two-seat AMX, and the outlandish SC/Rambler.

The 1969 AMX/2 was something else, however. Patterned after European exotics like the Lamborghini Miura, Lotus Europa, and Porsche 914, it was not just AMC's most daring concept car ever but one of Detroit's first acknowledgments that mid-engine design was The Coming Thing in production sports cars.

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That the AMX/2 got built at all stemmed from the enthusiasm of AMC group vice-president Gerald C. Meyers and chairman Roy Chapin, Jr. The shape came from a Dick Teague sketch that had taken Meyers's fancy: a two-passenger fastback with what the designer termed an "airfoil" shape, which managed to be interesting --swoopy without being cartoonish.

The eventual non-running fiberglass mockup sported a "fast" windshield, shapely down-curving nose with functional hood vents and hidden headlamps, and a raised rear-deck "spine," which provided pivot points for twin tillable spoilers. Its outboard ends were flared neatly into the rear fenders.

The dorsal "spine" floated above a flat, ribbed engine cover-cum-deck. Central twin exhausts implied a V-8, which was planned for but not installed in this purely speculative exercise.

Teague supervised these and other details, but the actual design was executed by staffers Bob Nixon and Fred Hudson.

Though clearly just a pipe dream, the 1969 AMX/2 concept car was greeted with no little interest on its public unveiling at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1969. With people promising to buy if only AMC would oblige, Meyers and Chapin decided to take the next logical step by commissioning a fully engineered version that could be built for sale in at least limited numbers.

But just to make sure they weren't missing something design-wise, they also decided to solicit a proposal from Italy's Giorgetto Giugiaro, then increasingly regarded as the world's most talented car designer.

Go to the next page to see what Giugiaro's team came up with.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

This sketch shows designer Dick Teague's initial design for the 1970 AMX/3.
This sketch shows designer Dick Teague's initial design for the 1970 AMX/3.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Evolved partly in response to high interest in the 1969 AMX/2 concept car, the 1970 AMX/3 development program was directed at delivering a limited production sports car in 1970-1971. If all went according to plan, the 1970 AMX/3 development program would result in an image-building $10,000 replacement for the Javelin-based AMX.

Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro's team duly produced a full-size mock-up in lightweight foamcore that was shipped to Detroit for "comparison competition." Never publicly shown, it bore the low, angular lines then typical of Giugiaro, but looked lumpy next to the league group's model, which resoundingly carried the day.

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Yet despite its all-AMC design and engineering, the resulting AMX/3 was quite European in many ways. For example, noted race-car engineer and builder Giotto Bizzarrini supervised chassis development in Italy, and BMW assisted with testing.

The four-speed transaxle in the first AMX/3 came from ZF in Germany, though OTO Melara of La Spezia, Italy, was later tapped for a new gearbox and final drive that could better withstand the hefty torque of the installed AMC 390 V-8.

Per mid-engine practice of the day, that V-8 mounted longitudinally behind a snug two-seat cockpit, with the transmission trailing behind.

Suspension was by classic all-around double wishbones and coil-over-shock units, with dual springs at the back and an anti-roll bar front and rear. Brakes were big four-wheel vented discs from Germany's Ate.

Also like many midships contemporaries, the 1970 AMX/3 used different-sized front/rear rolling stock: 205-15 Michelin X radials on 15x6 1/2 Campagnolo alloy wheels fore, 225-15 tires on massive 9-inch-wide rims aft.

Dimensions were quite compact: 105.3-inch wheelbase, 175.6-inch overall length, 74.9-inch width. Tracks were fairly generous at 60.6/61.2 inches front/rear. Overall height was just 43.5 inches, yet ground clearance was a respectable 5.9 inches.

This well-developed mock-up shows the final form of the 1970 AMX/3. It was photographed in AMC's design showroom.
This well-developed mock-up shows the final form of the 1970 AMX/3. It was photographed in AMC's design showroom.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Despite weighing some 3,100 pounds, the AMX/3 had an estimated top speed of 160 mph, thanks to its 340-horsepower engine and fairly short 3.45:1 final drive. Unfortunately, high-speed stability was none too good.

Teague later recalled that Bizzarrini drove an AMX/3 on the demanding Nurburging in Germany and "became nearly airborne at 145, so that kind of slowed him down. . . . It did get very front-end light."

So was the 1970 AMX/3 development program successful? Learn all about the car's debut in Rome in 1970 on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

The 1970 AMX/3 debut in Rome impressed journalists and racing champ Mark Donahue.
The 1970 AMX/3 debut in Rome impressed journalists and racing champ Mark Donahue.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1970 AMX/3 debut was in Rome, Italy, on March 23, 1970. The car would have replaced the Javelin-based AMX, according to Teague, but "in a much more contemporary vein and not [sharing] anything with the Javelin. And the price would have been $10,000 instead of $4000, [so] it would have been more of a prestige car, kind of an image-building car.

"We were into racing at that time with Trans Am and all that, and it was really kind of a tool, but a serious one, to create an image for the company that was something other than four-door Ramblers and 'Ma and Pa Kettle' cars."

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Journalists who went to Rome to get their first drives were impressed. So, too, was Mark Donahue, who was then winning Trans-Am races in factory Javelins.

The AMX/3 almost made it to AMC dealers. The specific plan was to build 24 AMX/3s in 1970, then increase output gradually in line with demand.

Mark Donahue, who had been winning Trans-Am races in factory Javelins, was pleased with the fast and shapely AMX/3.
Mark Donahue, who had been winning Trans-Am races in factory Javelins, was pleased with the fast and shapely AMX/3.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

But AMC's continuing sales problems, projected engineering costs for meeting new federal safety standards, and difficulty in securing a body supplier all conspired to put AMX/3 on the shelf after just six examples were built, all effectively pre-production prototypes.

Go to the next page to learn about the legacy of the 1970 AMX/3 and designer Dick Teague.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

Taken during the Rome press preview, this publicity photo shows what appears to be the number-three AMX/3 later owned by designer Dick Teague.
Taken during the Rome press preview, this publicity photo shows what appears to be the number-three AMX/3 later owned by designer Dick Teague.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1970 AMX/3 legacy lives on in the surviving prototypes. Number-one wound up in the Gilmore Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan; numbers two and four in the Indianapolis area.

Designer Dick Teague owned numbers three and five. Most of his collector cars were sold after his death. The final AMX/3 was completed sometime later (likely during 1971) at the behest of a business friend of Bizzarrini's.

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Dick Teague's initial design ideas survived to final form with virtually no alteration, though wheels and other details differed among the six cars ultimately built. For example, number-six was the only AMX/3 with concealed wipers and three extra inches of rear overhang.

Number-six's Italian businessman-owner saw to the cutting-up of two unused bodies, which later prompted Teague to speculate that a couple more examples might surface someday.

That, alas, seems unlikely, but at least we have the six AMX/3s to inspire thoughts of this grand midships turismo that might have been. For us, they will also ever inspire memories of the good friend we lost in Dick Teague, one of the great unsung talents of the design business. It says much about this man that he could always laugh at mistakes like the late-1970s Pacer as graciously as he accepted praise for brilliant successes.

The AMX/3 was proposed as a limited-edition $10,000 replacement for the rather conventional AMC Javelin pony car. But just six AMX/3s were built.
The AMX/3 was proposed as a limited-edition $10,000 replacement for the rather conventional AMC Javelin pony car. But just six AMX/3s were built.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The AMX/3 was definitely Dick Teague's kind of modern automobile, and his enthusiasm showed in every line. As unquestionably his finest work, it's the one we should remember him by as both car designer and enthusiastic "car nut." He would want it that way. He deserves no less.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out:

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