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The AMC Cavalier was part of three other prototypes that hinted at some of AMC's future production vehicles. In 1966, the Cavalier became part of "Project IV" touring the auto show circuit. This group of four show cars included the Vixen (a four passenger coupe with a "flying buttress" rear roof pillar that made the rear window area look similar to the 1966 Pontiac GTO), the AMX prototype (a two-seat coupe that evolved into the real production car), and the AMX II (a notchback hardtop that was 8 inches (203 mm) longer than the AMX). Only the four-door Cavalier sedan was designed by Richard A. Teague in AMC's advanced design studio.
The Cavalier was unique in that it was a study in symmetry. It was built to demonstrate the use of numerous interchangeable body panels. For example, the fenders were identical (the opposite ends, e.g. left front and right rear). The doors were similarly shared with opposite sides since the rear doors were hinged in the back (suicide door). The hood and decklid were also interchangeable. The objective was to reduce the costs of production.
The dash was a schematic layout of the car; the Cavalier profile and interior cavities were represented in the design of the dashboard.
The car featured curved sides, as if a fuselage, punctuated by full wheel arches. The rear roof pillars ("C" pillar) were a "flying buttress" design providing the side view of the car with a sweptback roof to what appears a short rear deck. There was a minimal amount of ornamentation compared to contemporary production cars.
Under the innovative body panel structure, the plan was for a conventional front-mounted 343 cu in (5.6 L) 280 bhp (209 kW) AMC V8 engine with rear-wheel drive (FR layout). The Cavalier had a 118 inches (2,997 mm) wheelbase with a seating capacity for six passengers. The four-door sedan was compact sized, measuring 175 inches (4,445 mm) in overall length.
Many of the Cavalier's styling touches found their way into the AMC Hornet that was introduced for the 1970 model year. The Hornet was also designed under the direction of Richard A. Teague.
The Sharjah Post Office issued an airmail stamp in 1970 that includes a drawing of the AMC Cavalier. It is part of a Post Day series with a pair of early and modern automobiles. The stamp shows a 1904 Rambler and a 1965 Cavalier (although it is identified as a 1970 model probably because the show car looked so similar to the AMC Hornet introduced that year).
American Motors planned to use the "Cavalier" name for a new pony car model to debut in 1968. By that time, however, General Motors had secured the rights to the "Cavalier" name. The second choice was selected: Javelin.
American Motors Corporation, Public Relations Department, Press Releases (various dates).