AMERICAN MOTORS CORPORATION

American Motors

American Motors Corporation
Industry Automotive
Fate
Successor Eagle (Chrysler)
Founded January 14, 1954
Defunct 1988
Headquarters Southfield, Michigan, United States
Key people
Products
  • Automobiles
  • Military vehicles
  • Buses and delivery vehicles
  • Sport utility vehicles
  • Major home appliances
  • Commercial refrigeration
  • Lawn care products
Subsidiaries

American Motors Corporation (AMC) was an American automobile company formed by the 1954 merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history.

George W. Mason was the architect of the merger to reap benefits from the strengths of the two firms to battle the much larger “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). Within a year, George W. Romney, future governor of Michigan, took over, reorganizing the company and focusing AMC’s future on a new small car line. By the end of 1957 the original Nash and Hudson brands were completely phased out. The company struggled at first, but Rambler sales took off. A Rambler won the 1959 Mobil Economy Run and by 1960, was the third most popular brand of automobile in the United States, behind Ford and Chevrolet. After two model years (1963 and 1964) of only producing compact cars, AMC focused back to larger and more profitable cars like the Ambassador line from the perceived negative of the Rambler‘s economy car image. In the face of deteriorating financial and market positions, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., took charge to revitalize the company, and designer Richard A. Teague economized by developing several vehicles from common stampings. While prices and costs were cut, new and more sporty automobiles were introduced, and from 1968 AMC became known for the Javelin and AMX muscle cars.

AMC purchased Kaiser’s Jeep utility vehicle operations in 1970 to complement their existing passenger car business. Beginning in the early 1970s, they moved towards all-new compact car designs based on the Hornet, including the Hornet itself and the Gremlin. Other new models in the 1970s included the Matador and Pacer. In an effort to create a more efficient cost structure, in the 1979 model year, AMC eliminated the Matador line and then in the 1980 model year, eliminated the Pacer, focusing almost exclusively on their Hornet-based cars and the Jeep line. While the new lines of the late 1970s, such as the Spirit and Concord, were variations on the Hornet’s platform, the company continued with innovations on existing designs: the 4-wheel-drive AMC Eagle, introduced in 1979, was one of the first true crossovers.

From 1980, AMC partnered with France’s Renault to help finance their manufacturing operations, obtain much-needed capital, and source subcompact vehicles. By 1983 Renault had a controlling interest in AMC. In the 1983 model year, the AMC brand focused entirely on AWD autos; the company stopped producing two wheel drive cars. AMC facilities were used to produce Renault Alliance and Encore compact and subcompact cars. In 1985 Chrysler entered an agreement with AMC to produce Dodge Diplomats and Plymouth Furys as well as Dodge Omnis and Plymouth Horizons in AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin plant. At the time, AMC had excess manufacturing capacity thus contract manufacturing for Chrysler made sense. In 1987, after further new vehicle development that included the Medallion (a re-badged Renault 21) and Giorgietto Giugiaro’s Italdesign new full-size front-drive sedan that became the Eagle Premier, Renault sold its 47% ownership stake in AMC to Chrysler. Chrysler made a public offer to purchase all the remaining outstanding shares of AMC stock on the NYSE. Renault left the US market completely as a brand in 1987. The Renault Medallion was sold through the newly formed Jeep Eagle Division of Chrysler as an Eagle, not a Renault. AMC’s badge would be used on the Eagle Sports Wagon through the 1988 model year, then be eliminated entirely. The Jeep/Eagle division of Chrysler Corporation was formed from the AMC Jeep Renault dealer network. The Jeep and Eagle vehicles were marketed primarily by former AMC dealers. Ultimately, the Eagle Brand of car would be phased out like Chrysler’s DeSoto, Plymouth, and Imperial by 1998.

Formation

In January 1954, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation began acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company (in what was called a merger). The new corporation would be called American Motors Corporation. (An earlier corporation with the same name, co-founded by Louis Chevrolet, had existed in New Jersey from 1916 through 1922 before merging into the Bessemer–American Motors Corporation.)

The Nash-Kelvinator/Hudson deal was a straight stock transfer (three shares of Hudson listed at 11⅛, for two shares of AMC and one share of Nash-Kelvinator listed at 17⅜, for one share of AMC) and finalized in the spring of 1954, forming the fourth-biggest auto company in the U.S. with assets of US$355 million and more than $100 million in working capital. The new company retained Hudson CEO A.E. Barit as a consultant and he took a seat on the Board of Directors. Nash’s George W. Mason became President and CEO.

 

 American Motors dealership sign

Mason, the architect of the merger, believed that the survival of the US’ remaining independent automakers depended on their joining in one multibrand company capable of challenging the “Big Three” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – as an equal. The “frantic 1953–54 Ford/GM price war” had a devastating impact on the remaining “independent” automakers. The reasons for the merger between Nash and Hudson included helping cut costs and strengthen their sales organizations to meet the intense competition expected from autos’ Big Three.

One quick result from the merger was the doubling up with Nash on purchasing and production, allowing Hudson to cut prices an average of $155 on the Wasp line, up to $204 on the more expensive Hornet models. After the merger, AMC had its first profitable quarter during the second three months of 1955, earning $1,592,307, compared to a loss of $3,848,667 during the same period in the previous year. Mason also entered into informal discussions with James J. Nance of Packard to outline his strategic vision. Interim plans were made for AMC to buy Packard Ultramatic automatic transmissions and Packard V8 engines for certain AMC products.

In 1954, Packard acquired Studebaker. The new Studebaker-Packard Corporation (S-P) made the new 320 cu in (5.2 L) Packard V8 engine and Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission available to AMC for its 1955 Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models. When Mason died in 1954, George W. Romney succeeded him. Ironically, Romney had once been offered Nance’s job. In 1948, Romney received offers from Packard for the post of chief operating officer and from Nash for the number two position in the company. Although the Packard offer would have paid more, Romney decided to work under Mason because he thought Nash had a brighter future. S-P President James Nance refused to consider merging with AMC unless he could take the top position (Mason and Nance were former competitors as heads of the Kelvinator and Hotpoint, respectively), and a week after Mason’s death Romney announced, “there are no mergers under way either directly or indirectly.” Romney agreed with Mason’s commitment to buy S-P products. Mason and Nance had agreed that in return S-P would endeavor to purchase parts from American Motors, but S-P did not do so. As the Packard engines and transmissions were comparatively expensive, AMC began development of its own V8. AMC also spent US$40 million developing its Double Safe Single Unit monocoque, which debuted in the 1956 model year. In mid-1956, the 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard V8 and TwinUltramatic transmission were phased out and replaced by AMC’s new V8 and by GM Hydra-Matic and Borg-Warner transmissions.

By 1964, Studebaker production in the United States had ended, and its Canadian operations ceased in 1966. The “Big Three”, plus the smaller AMC, Kaiser Jeep, International Harvester, Avanti, and Checker companies were the remaining North American auto manufacturers.

Product development in the 1950s

Rambler American 1st-generation black sedan

 Rambler American

1958 Rambler sedan pink and white NJ

 1958 Rambler sedan

Product consolidation

American Motors combined the Nash and Hudson product lines under a common manufacturing strategy in 1955, with the production of Nashes and Hudsons consolidated at Kenosha. The Detroit Hudson plant was converted to military contract production and eventually sold. The separate Nash and Hudson dealer networks were retained. The Hudsons were redesigned to bring them in harmony with Nash body styles.

The fast-selling Rambler model was sold as both a Nash and a Hudson in 1955 and 1956. These badge-engineered Ramblers, along with similar Metropolitans, were identical save for hubcaps, nameplates, and other minor trim details.

The pre-existing full-size Nash product line was continued and the Nash Statesman and Ambassador were restyled as the “new” Hudson Wasp and Hudson Hornet. Although the cars shared the same body shell, they were at least as different from one another as Chevrolet and Pontiac. Hudsons and Nashes each used their own engines as they had previously: the Hudson Hornet continued to offer the 308 cu in (5.0 L) I6 that had powered the (NASCAR) champion during the early 1950s; the Wasp now used the former engine of the Hudson Jet.

The Nash Ambassador and Statesman continued with overhead- valve and L-head sixes respectively. Hudson and Nash cars had different front suspensions. Trunk lids were interchangeable but other body panels, rear window glass, dash panels and braking systems were different. The Hudson Hornet and Wasp, and their Nash counterparts, had improved ride and visibility; also better fuel economy owing to the lighter unitized Nash body.

For the 1958 model year, the Nash and Hudson brands were dropped. Rambler became a marque in its own right and the mainstay of the company. The popular British-built Metrooolitan subcompact continued as a standalone brand until it was discontinued in 1961. The prototype 1958 Nash Ambassador / Hudson Hornet, built on a stretched Rambler platform, was renamed at the last minute as “Ambassador by Rambler”. To round out the model line AMC reintroduced the old 1955, 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase Nash Rambler as the new Rambler American with only a few modifications. This gave Rambler a compact lineup with 100 in (2,540 mm) American, 108 in (2,743 mm) Rambler Six and Rebel V8, as well as the 117 in (2,972 mm) Ambassador wheelbase vehicles.

The “dinosaur-fighter”

Sales of Ramblers soared in the late 1950s in part because American Motors focus on the compact car and its marketing efforts. These included sponsoring the hugely popular Walt Disney anthology television series and as an exhibitor at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. George Romney himself pitched the Rambler product in the television commercials.

While the “Big Three” introduced ever-larger cars, AMC followed a “dinosaur-fighter” strategy. George W. Romney‘s leadership focused the company on the compact car, a fuel-efficient vehicle 20 years before there was a real need for them. This gave Romney a high profile in the media. Two core strategic factors came into play: (1) the use of shared components in AMC products and (2) a refusal to participate in the Big Three’s restyling race. This cost-control policy helped Rambler develop a reputation as solid economy cars. Company officials were confident in the changing market and in 1959 announced a $10 million (US$81,175,799 in 2016 dollars) expansion of its Kenosha complex (to increase annual straight-time capacity from 300,000 to 440,000 cars). A letter to shareholders in 1959 claimed that the introduction of new compact cars by AMC’s large domestic competitors (for the 1960 model year) “signals the end of big-car domination in the U.S.” and that AMC predicts small-car sales in the U.S. may reach 3 million units by 1963.

American Motors was also beginning to experiment in non-gasoline powered automobiles. On April 1, 1959, AMC and Sonotone Corporation announced a joint research effort to consider producing an electric car that was to be powered by a “self-charging” battery. Sonotone had the technology for making sintered plate nickel–cadmium batteries that can be recharged very rapidly and are lighter than a typical automobile lead–acid battery.

In 1959, AMC hired designer Richard A. Teague who had previously worked for General Motors, Packard, and Chrysler; after Edmund E. Anderson left the company in 1961, Teague was named principal designer and in 1964, Vice President.

Changing focus in the 1960

Innovation

1964 Rambler American 440-H

 1964 Rambler American 440-H

1964 Rambler Classic 770

 1964 Rambler Classic 770

1965 fastback Marlin

 1965 fastback Marlin

1967 Ambassador 990

 1967 Ambassador 990

1969 American Motors AMX

 1969 American Motors AMX

In an effort to stay competitive, American Motors produced a wide range of products during the 1960s, and added innovations long before the “Big Three” introduced them.

For example, the Rambler Classic was equipped with a standard tandem master cylinder in 1962, six years before U.S. safety regulations required that safety feature.

Rambler also was an early pioneer in offering an automatic shift indicator sequence (P R N D2 D1 L, where if one selected “D2”, the car started in second gear, while “1” started in first gear) on its “Flash-O-Matic” transmission which is similar to today’s “PRNODSL”, made mandatory in 1968, which requires a neutral position between reverse and drive, while General Motors still offered a shift selector that had reverse immediately next to low gear (PNDSLR) well into the 1960s.

In 1964, the Classic was equipped with standard dual reclining front seats nearly a decade before the Big Three offered them as options. Bendix disc brakes were made optional on the Classic in 1965, while the Big Three didn’t offer them until 1969 on many models.

In the early part of the decade, sales were strong, thanks in no small part to the company’s history of building small cars, which came into vogue in 1961. In both 1960 and 1961, Ramblers ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales, up from third on the strength of small-car sales, even in the face of a lot of new competition. Romney’s strategic focus was very successful as reflected in the firm’s healthy profits year after year. The company became completely debt-free. The financial success allowed the company to reach an agreement on August 26, 1961 with the United Auto Workers for a profit sharing plan that was new in the automobile industry. Its new three-year labor contract also included generous annual improvement pay increases, as well as automatic cost-of-living raises. However, in 1962, Romney resigned to run for Governor of Michigan. His replacement was Roy Abernethy, AMC’s successful sales executive.

Abernethy believed that AMC’s reputation of building reliable economical cars could be translated into a new strategy that could follow AMC buyers as they traded up into larger, more expensive vehicles. AMC in reality had produced large cars throughout most of its history, The Rambler Ambassadors were every bit as large as a Full Sized Ford or Chevy. There was only an absence of Full Sized cars from the AMC lineup in 1963 and 1964 The first cars bearing his signature were the 1965 models. These were a longer Ambassador series and new convertibles for the larger models. During mid-year a fastback, called the Marlin, was added. It competed directly with cars like the Dodge Charger, AMC’s “family-sized” car emphasized personal-luxury. Abernethy also called for the de-emphasis of the Rambler brand. The 1966 Marlin and Ambassador lost their Rambler nameplates, and were badged as “American Motors” products. The new models shared fewer parts among each other and were more expensive to build.

Tough choices

The continuing quest “in the business world’s toughest race – the grinding contest against the Big Three automobile makers” also meant annual styling changes requiring large expenditures. American Motors’ management total confidence “that the new 1965 models would stem a bothersome decline” actually began falling behind in share of sales. Moreover, a new line of redesigned cars in the full and mid-sized markets was launched in the fall of 1966. The cars won acclaim for their fluid styling, and Abernethy’s ideas did work as Ambassador Sales increased significantly. The dated designs of the Rambler Americans, however, hurt its sales which offset gains from Ambassador sales. There were quality control problems with the introduction of the new full-sized cars, as well as persistent rumors of the company’s demise because of their precarious cash flow. Consumer Reports negative ratings for AMC’s Safety didn’t help either.

American Motors did not have their own electric car program as did the Big Three, and after some negotiation a contract was drawn in 1967 with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. A nickel-cadmium battery powered 1969 Rambler station wagon demonstrated the power systems that according to the scientist was a “wonderful car”. This was also the start of other “plug-in”-type experimental AMC vehicles developed with Gulton – the Amitron and the Electron.

Abernethy was ousted from AMC on January 9, 1967 and damage control fell to the new CEO, Roy D. Chapin Jr. (son of Hudson Motors founder Roy D. Chapin). Chapin quickly instituted changes to AMC’s offerings and tried to regain market share by focusing on younger demographic markets. Chapin’s first decision was to cut the price of the Rambler to within US$200 of the basic Volkswagen Beetle. Innovative marketing ideas included making air conditioning standard on all 1968 Ambassador models (available as a delete option). This made AMC the first U.S. automaker to make air conditioning standard equipment on a line of cars, preceding even luxury makes such as Lincoln, Imperial, and Cadillac.

The company introduced exciting entries for the decade’s muscle car boom, most notably the AMX, while the Javelin served as the company’s entrant into the sporty “pony car” market created by the Ford Mustang. Additional operating cash was derived in 1968 through the sale of Kelvinator Appliance, once one of the firm’s core operating units.

The Rambler brand was completely dropped after the 1969 model year in North America, although it continued to be used in several overseas markets as either a model or brand name, with the last use in Mexico in 1983. From 1970, AMC was the brand used for all American Motors passenger cars; and all vehicles from that date bore the AMC name and the new corporate logo. However, the names American Motors and AMC were used interchangeably in corporate literature well into the 1980s. The branding issue was further complicated when the company’s Eagle all-wheel drive passenger cars were marketed as the American Eagle in the 1980s.

Chapin expanded American Motors product line in 1970 through the purchase of the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation (formerly Willys-Overland) from Kaiser Industries. This added the iconic Jeep brand of light trucks and SUVs, as well as Kaiser-Jeep’s lucrative government contracts – notably the M151 MUTT line of military Jeeps and the DJ-Series postal Jeeps. AMC also expanded their international network. The military and special products business was reconstituted as American Motors General Products Division, later reorganized as AM General.

1970s product developments

1972 AMC Gremlin X

 1972 Gremlin X

1984 AM General transit bus

 AM General transit bus

1974 Matador X Coupe

 1974 Matador X Coupe

1975 AMC Pacer

 1975 AMC Pacer

1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout

 1976 Hornet Sportabout

Jeep Cherokee SJ Chief S f

 Jeep Cherokee (SJ) Chief S

1979 AMC Spirit GT V8 Russet FR

 1979 Spirit GT

In 1970, AMC consolidated all passenger cars under one distinct brand identity and debuted the Hornet range of compact cars.

The Hornet and the later Gremlin shared platforms. The Gremlin, the first North American-built subcompact, sold more than 670,000 units from 1970–1978. The Hornet became AMC’s best-selling passenger car since the Rambler Classic, with more than 860,000 units sold by the time production ended in 1977.

The new mid-sized AMC Matador replaced the Rebel in 1971, using an advertising campaign that asked, “What’s a Matador?” In 1972, AMC won the tender for Los Angeles Police Department cruisers, and Matadors were used by the department from 1972 to 1975, replacing the Plymouth Satellite. American Motors supplied Mark VII Limited owner Jack Webb with two Matadors for use in his popular television series Adam-12, increasing the cars’ public profile.

In 1973, AMC signed a licensing agreement with Curtiss-Wright to build Wankel engines for cars and Jeeps.

Starting in 1974, the Matador sedan and station wagon were mildly refreshed, with new boxier front ends. The Matador two-door hardtop, known as the “flying brick” due to its poor aerodynamics in NASCAR competition, was replaced at great cost with a sleek, smoothly shaped, and radically styled two-door coupe. The model received praise for its design, including “Best Styled Car of 1974” by Car and Driver magazine, customer satisfaction, and sold almost 100,000 coupes over a five-year period. The Matador Coupe shared few components with the Matador sedan and station wagon other than suspension, drive train, some trim, and interior parts.

The Ambassador was redesigned and stretched 7 inches (178 mm) to become the biggest ever, just as the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo sparked gasoline rationing across the nation. The additional length was due to a new front end design and stronger energy absorbing bumpers required of all automobiles sold in the U.S. Sales of all large cars fell due to economic problems and rising gasoline prices. The full-sized Ambassador was discontinued as AMC’s flagship line after the 1974 model year. Nash and AMC made Ambassadors from 1927 to 1974, the longest use of the same model name for any AMC product and, at the time, the longest continuously used nameplate in the industry.

In 1974, AMC’s AM General subsidiary began building urban transit buses in cooperation with Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Metropolitan coach had sold 5,212 units when production ceased in 1978.

The AMC Pacer, an innovative all-new model introduced in March 1975 and billed as “the first wide small car”, was a subcompact designed to provide the comfort of a full-sized car. Its pre-production development coincided with two changes in U.S. Federal passenger auto laws: first, the reduction in permissible emissions for passenger auto engines, which the Pacer would have met with the Wankel-type engine it was designed for, as the Wankel’s compact dimensions allowed space for extensive emission control equipment in the engine bay; second, a tightening of U.S. passenger auto safety laws, which accounted for the Pacer’s designed-in safety features, e.g. internal door beams. These, together with the wide body and large glass area, added considerable weight.

With the advent of the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, General Motors aborted the Wankel rotary engine around which the Pacer had been designed, as its fuel consumption exceeded that of conventional engines with similar power. Therefore, AMC’s existing 258 and 232 cu in (4.2 and 3.8 L) AMC Straight-6 engines were used in the Pacer instead. Fuel economy was better than a rotary, but still relatively poor in light of the new focus on energy efficiency. Also, as the Pacer shared few components other than drivetrain with other AMC cars, it was expensive to make and the cost increased when sales fell steeply after the first two years.

Development and production costs for the Pacer and Matador Coupe drained capital which might otherwise have been invested in updating the more popular Hornet and Gremlin lines, so that toward the end of the 1970s the company faced the growing energy crisis with aged products that were uncompetitive in hotly contested markets. However, “AMC used cars, as far back as 1967, had the advantage of good warranty coverage … so most owners were conscious of low-cost car maintenance … AMC units [became] some of the very best buys on the used car market” by 1975.

The 1977 Gremlin had redesigned headlights, grille, rear hatch and fascia. For economy in the fuel crisis, AMC offered the car with a more fuel-efficient Volkswagen-designed Audi 4-cylinder engine 2.0 L (122 cu in). The engine was expensive for AMC to build and the Gremlin retained the less costly but also less economical 232 cu in (3.8 L) as standard equipment.

The AMX nameplate was revived in 1977. It was a sporty appearance package on the Hornet hatchback featuring upgrades, as well as the 258 cu in (4.2 L) inline six as standard with a choice of three-speed automatic or four-speed manual transmissions. The 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was optional with the automatic transmission.

As all Matadors now received standard equipment that was formerly optional (e.g. power steering, automatic transmission), the “Brougham” package was dropped. Optional on the Matador coupe was a landau vinyl roof with opera windows, and top-line Barcelonas offered new two-tone paint.

For 1978, the Hornet platform was redesigned with an adaptation of the new Gremlin front-end design and renamed AMC Concord. AMC targeted it at the emerging “premium compact” market segment, paying particular attention to ride and handling, standard equipment, trim, and interior luxury.

Gremlins borrowed the Concord instrument panel, as well as a Hornet AMX-inspired GT sports appearance package and a new striping treatment for X models.

The AMC Pacer hood was modified to clear a V8 engine, and a Sports package replaced the former X package. With falling sales of Matador Coupes, sedans and wagons, their 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was dropped, leaving only the 258 cu in (4.2 L) Inline-6 (standard on coupes and sedans) and the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 (optional on coupes and sedans, standard on wagons). The two-tone Barcelona luxury package was offered on Matador sedans, and two-tone red paint introduced as an additional Barcelona option. Matador production ceased at the end of the model year with total sales of 10,576 units. The Matador was no longer attractive as automakers struggled to overcome economic woes including continuing fuel price increases and double digit domestic inflation.[45]

In 1979, the Spirit sedan replaced the Gremlin. A new fastback version of the car, the Spirit Liftback, proved successful.

In December, Pacer production ceased after a small run of 1980 models was built to use up parts stock.

Concords received a new front end treatment, and in their final season, hatchbacks became available in DL trim. On May 1, 1979, AMC marked the 25th anniversary of the Nash-Hudson merger with “Silver Anniversary” editions of the AMC Concord and Jeep CJ in two-tone silver (Jeeps then accounted for around 50 percent of the company’s sales and most of their profits); and introduced LeCar, a U.S. version of the small, fuel-efficient Renault 5, in dealer showrooms.

Concord and Spirit models were dropped after 1983.

Financial developments, Renault partnership

Late 1970s to early 1980s

1978 AMC Concord

 1978 AMC Concord

1979 AMC Spirit liftback

 AMC Spirit liftback

1981 AMC Concord

 1981 AMC Concord

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

In February 1977, Time magazine reported that although AMC had lost $73.8 million in the previous two fiscal years, U.S. banks had agreed to a year’s extension for a $72.5 million credit that had expired in January; that Stockholders had received no dividends since 1974; and that Pacer sales did not match expectations. However, Time noted record Jeep sales and a backlog of orders for AM General’s buses.

Also in 1977, Gerald C. Meyers was appointed chairman and chief executive.

On March 31, 1978, AMC and Renault announced a sweeping agreement for the joint manufacture and distribution of cars and trucks that would achieve benefits for both. A month later, AMC announced that it would halt the production of standard urban transit buses after about 4,300 were sold by its AM General subsidiary during three years. In May 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of all AMC’s 1976 cars (except those conforming to California emissions regulations) – some 270,000 vehicles— plus 40,000 1975 and 1976 Jeeps and mini trucks, for correction of a fault in the pollution control system. Total cost was estimated at up to $3 million—more than AMC had earned the previous quarter.

American Motors lost an estimated $65 million on its conventional (non-Jeep) cars for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1978, but strong Jeep sales helped the company to an overall $36.7 million profit on sales of $2.6 billion. However, AMC faced costly engineering work to bring their Jeeps into compliance with a federal directive for all 4-wheel-drive vehicles to average 15 mpg-US (16 L/100 km; 18 mpg-imp) by 1981.

A year later, with its share of the American market at 1.83%, the company struck a deal with Renault, the nationally owned French automaker. AMC would receive a $150 million cash injection, $50 million in credits, and also the rights to start building the Renault 5 in 1982. (A deal for Renault products to be sold through the AMC-Jeep dealer network had already been made in 1979.) In return, Renault acquired a 22.5% interest in AMC. This was not the first time the two companies had worked together. Lacking its own prestige model line in the early 1960s, Renault assembled CKD kits and marketed Rambler cars in France.

In 1979, AMC announced a record $83.9 million profit on sales of $3.1 billion (US$10,107,336,084 in 2016 dollars) for the fiscal year ending in September—this despite an economic downturn, soaring energy prices, rising American unemployment, automobile plants shutting down, and an American market trend towards imported cars. In October, the company’s car sales surged 37%, while they sank 21% for the industry as a whole.

However, a drop in Jeep sales caused by the declining economy and soaring energy prices began to constrict AMC’s cash flow. At the same time, pressure increased on the company’s non-Jeep product lines. The face-lifts and rebranding of AMC’s once-innovative and successful cars were not enough in a competitive landscape that had changed dramatically. No longer was the threat limited to the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). The Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Toyota, Nissan) used streamlined production methods such as outsourcing and Just In Time (JIT) supply-chain management. They had new, highly efficient assembly plants in the United States. And now they targeted the heart of AMC’s passenger product line: small cars.

While Americans turned to the new imports in increasing numbers, AMC continued its struggle at the inefficient and aging Kenosha, Wisconsin facilities—the oldest continuously operating automobile plant in the world, where components and unfinished bodies still had to be transported across the city.

In early 1980, the banks refused AMC further credit. Lacking both capital and resources for the new, truly modern products it needed to offer, the company turned to Renault for a $90 million loan (US$258,477,383 in 2016 dollars). By September that year, AMC’s U.S. market share had fallen to 1.7%, and in November sales dropped 19.1%. AMC warned stockholders that the company could be bankrupted if they did not approve a plan for Renault to acquire as much as 59% of the company. On December 16, 1980, AMC shareholders “overwhelmingly approved making the French Government-owned Renault” their company’s principal owner.

In January 1982 the company’s former president W. Paul Tippett Jr. replaced Gerald C. Meyers as CEO, and Jose Dedeurwaerder, a Renault executive, became president. Dedeurwaerder brought a broad perspective at this critical time: as an engineer and international business executive with 23 years at Renault, he is credited with streamlining many of AMC’s arcane management techniques. He also instituted important improvements in plant layouts, as well as in cost and quality control.

Renault, having increased their stake in the company several times to keep it solvent, eventually owned 49% in 1983. This development effectively ended AMC’s run as a truly American car company.

New ownership and new management heralded a new product venture for AMC: a line of modern front-wheel drive cars, designed by Renault, to be produced at Kenosha.

1980s product developments

AMC Eagle

1981 AMC Eagle Wagon.

 1981 AMC Eagle Wagon.

In August 1979, for the 1980 model year, AMC introduced four-wheel drive versions of the Spirit and Concord, calling the collective line the AMC Eagle. Eagles rapidly became one of the company’s best-known products and is considered one of the first “crossover SUVs“. Eagles used the 2-wheel drive body shells mounted on an all-new platform developed by American Motors in the late 1970s. Featuring an innovative full-time four-wheel drive system, it sold best in snow-prone areas. Sales started strongly but declined over time. While the two-wheel drive Spirit and Concord were both discontinued after 1983 as the company concentrated on its new Renault Alliance, the Eagle survived for five years longer, albeit only in station wagon form, into the 1988 model year. This meant the four-wheel drive Eagle was the lone representative of the AMC brand from 1984–1988. All the company’s remaining output was branded Renault or Jeep. The last AMC Eagle was built on December 14, 1987.

Renault Alliance

Later Alliance model with AMC badging in place of Renault alliance

 Later Alliance model with AMC badging in place of Renault

The Renault Alliance was the first joint product of the AMC-Renault partnership. Introduced in 1983, the Alliance was a front-wheel drive Renault 9 compact restyled for the American market by Richard Teague and produced by AMC at Kenosha. The car was initially badged as a Renault, and some cars carried both Renault and AMC badges, however most 1986 and all 1987 models had only AMC branding; it was available as a sedan with two or four doors, a hatchback (introduced in 1984 and badged as Encore), a two-door convertible and, for the final 1987 model year, a higher-performance version of the 2-door sedan and convertible sold as the GTA.

The new model, introduced at a time of increased interest in small cars, won several awards including Motor Trend Car of the Year. Motor Trend declared: “The Alliance may well be the best-assembled first-year car we’ve ever seen. Way to go Renault!” The Alliance was listed as number one on Car and Driver‘s list of Ten Best cars for 1983, The positive reception and sales of 200,000 Alliances by 1984 was hindered by the availability of only two body styles. The Alliance was a European-designed car and not fully suited to U.S. market demands. The distribution network was also not well supported, which led to lower quality delivered by dealerships with “disastrous consequences” for the image of the automobiles, as well as high warranty costs. Alliance production ended in June 1987.

Jeeps

Jeep Cherokee Laredo

 Jeep Cherokee Laredo

Jeep Comanche Pioneer

 Jeep Comanche Pioneer

More beneficial to AMC’s future was the introduction of an all-new line of compact Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer models in the autumn of 1983 for the 1984 model year. The popularity of these downsized Jeeps pioneered a new market segment for what later became defined as the sport utility vehicle (SUV). They initially used the AMC 150 C.I.D. (2.5L) OHV four-cylinder engine with a carburetor, and a General Motors-built 2.8 L (171 cu in) carbureted V6 was optional. In 1986, throttle-body injection replaced the carburetor on the 2.5 L I4 engines. A Renault 2.1 L (128 cu in) Turbo-Diesel I4 diesel was also offered. Starting with the 1987 models, a 4.0 L (244 cu in) I6 engine, derived from the older 258 cu in (4.23 L) I6 with a new head design and an electronic fuel injection system, replaced the outsourced V6. American Motors’ “new” engine was designed with help from Renault and incorporated Renault-Bendix (Renix) parts for fuel and ignition management. The 4.0 developed an outstanding reputation for reliability and toughness. Retained by Chrysler after the buyout, the design continued to be improved and refined until its discontinuation at the end of the 2006 model year. The 4.0 engine saw extensive application in XJ Cherokees and Wagoneers, Grand Cherokees, and Wranglers, and many of those engines saw (or are seeing) extremely long lives, quite a few exceeding 300,000 mi (480,000 km). The XJ Cherokee itself was built by Chrysler until the end of the 2001 model year in the U.S. and until 2005 in China.

Three other designs continued to be used after the Chrysler buyout: the Grand Wagoneer full-size luxury SUV, the full-sized J-series pickups, built on the same chassis as the earlier SJ model Wagoneers and Cherokees that dated from 1963 with the AMC 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, and the Jeep Comanche (MJ) compact pickup, which debuted in 1986. Unlike most sport-utility vehicles which are based on adapted pickup truck designs, the Cherokee XJ SUV came first and the Comanche was designed as a later pickup truck version.

Production of the full-sized pickups ceased after 1987. The Grand Wagoneer and 360 V8 engine were dropped after 1991 (the last American-made vehicle whose engine used a carburetor for fuel delivery), and the Comanche bowed after 1992.

1985 and the final buyout

Marketplace and management changes

There were significant changes in 1985 as the market moved away from AMC’s small models. With fuel relatively cheap again, buyers turned to larger more powerful automobiles and AMC was unprepared for this development. Even the venerable Jeep CJ-5 was dropped after a 60 Minutes TV news magazine exposé of rollover tendencies under extreme conditions. AMC also confronted an angry work force. Labor was taking revenge, and reports circulated about sabotage of vehicles on the assembly lines because of the failure to receive promised wage increases. There were rumors that the aging Kenosha plant was to be shut down. At the same time, Chrysler was having trouble meeting demand for its M-body rear-drive models (Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury and Chrysler Fifth Avenue). Because they were assembled using the old “gate and buck system” and the tooling could be easily moved, Chrysler could supply the components and control the quality, while AMC assembled the car. Therefore, Lee Iacocca and Joe Cappy reached an agreement to use some of AMC’s idle plant capacity in Kenosha.

These problems came in the midst of a transfer of power at AMC from Paul Tippet to a French executive, Pierre Semerena. The new management responded with tactical moves by selling the lawn care Wheel Horse Products Division and signing an agreement to build Jeeps in the People’s Republic of China. The Pentagon had problems with AM General, a significant defense contractor, being managed by a partially French-government-owned firm. The U.S. government would not allow a foreign government to own a significant portion of an important defense supplier. As a result, the profitable AM General Division was sold. Another milestone was the departure of Dick Teague: AMC’s design vice president for 26 years, he was responsible for many Jeep and AMC designs including the Rambler American, Javelin, Hornet, Gremlin, Pacer, and Matador coupe.

Problems at Renault and the assassination

American Motors’ major stockholder, Renault, itself was experiencing financial troubles of its own in France. The investment in AMC (including construction of a new Canadian assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario) forced cuts at home, resulting in the closure of several French plants and mass layoffs. Renault was down to just three alternatives regarding its American holdings: (1) They could declare AMC officially bankrupt thereby lose its investment; (2) They could come up with more money, but Renault management perceived AMC as a bottomless pit; or (3) AMC could be put up for sale and the French could get back part of their investment. Against these detractions, Renault’s chairman, Georges Besse, continued to champion the French firm’s future in the North American market; pointing to the company’s completion of the newest and most-advanced automotive assembly plant in North America, then known as Bramalea Assembly, as well as the recent introduction of the thoroughly modern, fuel-injected 4.0 L and 2.5 L engines. In addition, Jeep vehicles were riding an unprecedented surge in demand. It seemed to Besse and others that AMC was on course for profitability.

However, on November 17, 1986, Georges Besse, who had a high profile among French capitalists, was assassinated by Action Directe, a clandestine militant extremist group variously described as communist, anarchist and Maoist, which professed strong sympathies for the proletariat and the aspirations of the Third World. The murder was carried out by members of Action Directe’s Pierre Overney Commando (named after a Maoist militant killed by a Renault factory guard). The group stated that the murder was in retaliation for Besse having sacked tens of thousands of workers – 34,000 from the French aluminum producer PUK-Péchiney and 25,000 from Renault.

Chrysler purchase AMC Stock

Under pressure from Renault executives following Besse’s death, Renault’s new president, Raymond Levy set out to repair employee relations and divest the company of its investment in American Motors. Renault owned 46.1% of AMC’s outstanding shares of stock.

The earlier agreement between Chrysler and AMC in 1985, under which AMC would produce M-body chassis rear-drive large cars for two years from 1986–88, fed the rumor that Chrysler was about to buy AMC. According to the head of manufacturing for Chrysler at the time, Stephan Sharf, the existing relationship with AMC producing a car for a competitor facilitated the negotiations.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 1st.

 The Jeep Grand Cherokee was the driving force behind Chrysler’s buyout of AMC; Lee Iacocca wanted the design. Chrysler completed development and released it to the public in late 1992, and continues to use the nameplate today.

On March 9, 1987, Chrysler agreed to buy Renault’s share in AMC, plus all the remaining shares, for about US$1.5 billion (US$3,124,340,949 in 2016 dollars). AMC became the Jeep-Eagle division of Chrysler. It was the Jeep brand that Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca really wanted – in particular the ZJ Grand Cherokee, then under development by Jeep engineers, which ultimately proved highly profitable for Chrysler (the nameplate remains in production today). However, the buyout included other attractive deal sweeteners for Chrysler. Among them was the world-class, brand-new manufacturing plant in Bramalea, Ontario, which offered Iacocca an unprecedented opportunity to increase his company’s production capacity at a fire-sale price. AMC had designed and built the plant in anticipation of building the Renault 25 based Eagle Premier. Additional profitable acquisitions were the AMC dealer network (the addition of which strengthened Chrysler’s retail distribution – many AMC dealers switched to selling Chrysler products); and AMC’s underrated organization and management talent – which Chrysler quickly assimilated (numerous leading Chrysler engineers and executives were ex-AMC). AMC was fully merged as of March 29, 1990.

The sale came at a time when the automotive press was enthusiastic about the proposed 1988 lineup of Renault, Eagle and Jeep vehicles, and reports that the financial outlook for the tiny automaker were improving. AMC quarterly results for all of 1987 were positive, Chrysler purchased AMC at a time the company appeared to be in very good financial position with its new product line.

The sale marked Renault‘s withdrawal from the North American market (excluding Mexico) in the 1988 model year. However, the French company has since returned to that market with its subsequent purchase of a US$5.4 billion controlling stake in Nissan in March 1999. In contrast to the AMC/Renault partnership, Carlos Ghosn, CEO and President of Renault of France and Nissan of Japan, is guiding the Renault-Nissan alliance away from national identities.

Business legacy

American Motors was forced to constantly innovate for 33 years until Chrysler absorbed it in 1987. The lessons learned from this experience were integrated into the company that bought AMC. The organization, strategies, as well as several key executives allowed Chrysler to gain an edge on the competition. Even today, the lessons gained from the AMC experience continue to provide benefits to other firms in the industry. There are a number of legacies from AMC’s business strategies.

AMC had an ability to formulate strategies that were often evaluated by industry critics as “strokes of brilliance”. According to Roy D. Chapin Jr., AMC realized they were up against the giants of the industry, so to compete successfully they had to be able to move quickly and with ingenuity. An essential strategy practiced by AMC was to rely on outside vendors to supply components in which they had differential advantages. This approach was finally accepted within the U.S. auto industry, but only after each of the Big Three experienced the failure of attempting to be self-sufficient.

The smallest domestic automaker did not have “the massive R&D budgets of General Motors, Ford, and foreign competitors … [thus] AMC placed R&D emphasis on bolstering the product life cycle of its prime products (particularly Jeeps).” In 1985, AMC originated product lifecycle management (PLM) as a strategic business approach according to Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor for Manufacturing Business Technology, in an effort to better compete against its much larger rivals by ramping up its product development process.

Another example of AMC’s agility was the ability of management to squeeze money out of reluctant bankers, even in the face of bankruptcy. These core abilities helped save the company from collapse and after each obstacle, give it the wherewithal to keep it operating. Ironically, AMC was never stronger than just before its demise.

AMC’s managers anticipated important trends in the automotive industry. It preached fuel efficiency in the 1950s, long before most auto buyers demanded it. Led by AMC’s Rambler and several European cars, the small car innovation reduced the Big Three’s market share from 93% in 1957 to 82% in 1959. The company inherited foreign manufacturing and sales partnerships from Nash and continued developing business relations, decades before most of the international consolidations among automobile makers took place. AMC was the first U.S. automaker to establish ownership agreement with a foreign automaker, Renault. Although small in size, AMC was able to introduce numerous industry innovations. Starting in 1957, AMC was the only U.S. manufacturer to totally immerse all automobile bodies in primer paint for protection against rust, until competitors adopted the practice in 1964. Even one of AMC’s most expensive new product investments (the Pacer) established many features that were later adopted by the auto industry worldwide. These included aerodynamic body design, space-efficient interiors, aircraft style doors, and a large greenhouse for visibility. AMC was also effective in other areas such as marketing by introducing low rate financing. AMC’s four-wheel drive vehicles established the foundation for the modern SUV market segments, and “classic” Jeep models continue to be the benchmark in this field. Roy D. Chapin drew on his experiences as a hunter and fisherman and marketed the Jeep brand successfully to people with like interests. The brand developed a cult appeal that continues.

The purchase of AMC was instrumental in reviving Chrysler. According to Robert Lutz, former President of Chrysler, the AMC acquisition was a big and risky undertaking. The purchase was part of Chrysler’s strategic “retreat-cum-diversification” plan that he states did not have the right focus. Initially the goal was to obtain the world-renowned Jeep brand. However, Lutz discovered that the decision to buy AMC turned out to be a gold mine for Chrysler. At that time, Chrysler’s management was attempting to find a model to improve structure and operations, “something that would help get our minds unstuck and thinking beyond the old paradigms that we were so familiar with“. In this transformation, “Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC was one of the all-time great moments in corporate serendipity” according to Lutz “that most definitely played a key role in demonstrating how to accomplish change“.

According to Lutz (1993), while AMC had its share of problems, it was far from being a bunch of “brain-dead losers”. He describes the “troops” at AMC as more like the Wake Island Marines in battle, “with almost no resources, and fighting a vastly superior enemy, they were able to roll out an impressive succession of new products”. After first reacting with anger to the purchase, Chrysler managers soon anticipated the benefits. To further solidify the organizational competencies held by AMC, Lee Iacocca agreed to retain former AMC units, such as engineering, completely intact. In addition, AMC’s lead engineer, François Castaing, was made head of all engineering at Chrysler. In an unthinkable strategic move, Castaing completely dismantled the entrenched Chrysler groups. In their place AMC’s “platform team” was implemented. These were close-knit cross-functional groups responsible for the whole vehicle, as contrasted with Chrysler’s highly functional structure. In this capacity, Castaing’s strategy was to eliminate the corporate administrative overhead bureaucracy. This move shifted corporate culture and agitated veteran executives who believed that Chrysler’s reputation as “the engineering company” was being destroyed. Yet, according to the popular press, by the 1980s Chrysler’s reputation was totally shot, and in Lutz’s view only dramatic action was going to change that. In summary, Chrysler’s purchase of AMC laid the critical foundation to help re-establish a strategy for its revival in the 1990s.

Top managers at Chrysler after the AMC buyout appeared to have made errors similar to those by AMC. For example, Chrysler invested heavily in new untested models while not keeping up its profitable high-volume lines.

After the DaimlerChrysler merger, the combined company also encountered the problem of having too many platforms. It also failed to achieve synergies by sharing components and from Chrysler’s paperless design and supplier capabilities. Mercedes-Benz managers were protective of their designs and components and “advanced R&D was clearly put under German direction.” This policy increased production costs. They could have observed the experience of the Nash and Hudson merger designed to achieve manufacturing efficiencies and savings from component sharing. The first product combining Chrysler and Mercedes technology and engineering with a Mercedes name was in 2006, eight years after DaimlerChrysler AG was created.

The AMC influence also continued at General Motors. GM recruited a new executive team to turn itself from near bankruptcy in the early 2000s. Among the new strategists at GM was Lutz who brought an understanding of the importance of passion in the product design. Lutz implemented a new thinking at GM that incorporated the systems and structures that originated from AMC’s lean and focused operations.

Renault implemented the lessons it learned from its investment in AMC. The French firm took a parallel approach as it did with its initial ownership of AMC and applied it to resurrect the money-losing Nissan automaker in Japan.

In 2009, in a deal brokered by the Obama administration, Italian automaker Fiat initiated a white knight takeover of Chrysler to save the struggling automaker from liquidation. The deal was immediately compared to the AMC-Renault deal; Some commentators noted the irony in that Chrysler now faced the same fate that AMC faced 30 years earlier, while others expressed skepticism of whether the Italian firm could save Chrysler, given how the Renault deal failed. However, there have been key differences between the two; Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne became CEO of Chrysler as part of the deal and immediately began globally integrating Fiat and Chrysler’s assets and product lines; The Fiat-Chrysler merger doesn’t face the political opposition the AMC-Renault deal did since Fiat is entirely private and independent and the US Government supported the merger; Most importantly, while AMC proved to be a continuous money-loser for Renault, Chrysler returned to profitability fairly quickly and has since become an important source of revenue and profits for Fiat, which has been struggling to maintain volume and profitability amid the European debt crisis. The two firms would later fully marge to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2014.

Legacy of products

Passenger automobiles

Eagle Premier

 Eagle Premier

Chrysler revived the “Spirit” name dropped by AMC after 1983 for use on one of its A platform cars, (the Dodge Spirit) from 1989–1995. The planned Renault Medallion was sold as the Eagle Medallion in 1988 and 1989. A Renault/AMC concept, the Summit, was produced by Mitsubishi Motors beginning in 1989. The planned all-new 1988 Renault Premier, a joint development effort between American Motors and Renault, and for which theBrampton Assembly plant (Brampton, Ontario—originally called the Bramalea Plant) was built, was sold by Chrysler as the 1988–1992 Eagle Premier, with a rebadged Dodge Monaco variant available from 1990–1992. The full-sized Premier’s platform was far more advanced than anything Chrysler was building at the time. After some re-engineering and a re-designation to Chrysler code LH, the Eagle Premier went on to form the backbone of Chrysler’s passenger car lineup during the 1990s as the Chrysler Concorde (a revived model name that was briefly used by Plymouth in 1951 and 1952), Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler LHS, Dodge Intrepid, and Eagle Vision. Plymouth almost received their own rendition of the LH platform, which was to be called the Accolade, but Chrysler decided to nix this idea not long before LH production started. The Chrysler 300M was likewise a Premier/LH-derived car and was initially to have been the next-generation Eagle Vision, until the Eagle brand was dropped after 1998.

Jeep vehicles

Jeep Comanche Chief

 Jeep Comanche

Chrysler marketed the SJ Jeep Grand Wagoneer until 1991, leaving it almost entirely unaltered from the final AMC rendition before the buyout. The Jeep Comanche pickup truck remained until 1992, while the Cherokee remained until 2001 in the U.S. (the XJ Cherokee was produced in China through 2006 as the Cherokee 2500 [2.5L] and Cherokee 4000 [4.0L]). Although it was not introduced until 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was initially an AMC-developed vehicle.

Traces of AMC remained within. AMC’s Toledo, Ohio plants continued to manufacture the Jeep Wrangler and Liberty, as well as parts and components for Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles (although Toledo Machining and Forge was closed in 2005). AMC’s main plant in Wisconsin, albeit heavily downsized, operated as the Kenosha Engine Plant, producing engines for several Chrysler Group products including the Wrangler. The plant was closed as part of the post bailout restructuring of Chrysler in October 2010. The 4.0 litres (242 cu in) engine was used until the 2006 model year by DaimlerChrysler in the Jeep Wrangler. AMC’s technologically advanced Bramalea Assembly and Stamping Plants in Brampton, Ontario later produced the LX-cars – the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300, and the now discontinued Dodge Magnum.

In terms of AMC-related parts, some were used as late as 2006, when the Jeep Wrangler (the last new product introduced by AMC before the Chrysler deal) was still using the AMC Straight-6 engine in some models, as well as the recessed “paddle” door handles that were used since the 1968 model year by AMC. Both were retired when the Wrangler was completely redesigned for the 2007 model year.

AM General, sold by American Motors in 1982, is still in business building the American Motors-designed Humvee for American and allied militaries. AM General also built the now-discontinued civilian variant – the H1 – and manufactured a Chevrolet Tahoe-derived companion, the H2, under contract to GM, who acquired the rights to the civilian Hummer brand in 1999. GM was forced to phase out the Hummer brand in early 2010 as a part of its bankruptcy restructuring after offering it for sale, but failing to find a suitable buyer.

Although Chrysler introduced new logos for its brands in the 1990s and again in 2010 after the Fiat Group took control of the company, Jeep still uses the AMC-era logo introduced shortly after AMC’s purchase of the brand in 1970. Until the Chrysler purchase, Jeep’s logo also featured the AMC emblem.

Legacy of divisions and facilities

Former divisions

During its history, American Motors bought or created, then later sold and divested itself of several specialized divisions, some which continue to exist today:

Kelvinator, the subdivision of Nash-Kelvinator, was sold by American Motors in 1968 to White Consolidated Industries and subsequently became part of Electrolux. The Kelvinator Company is still in business.

Jeep is now a brand of the Chrysler Group. Many Jeep models retained the mechanical specifications and styling cues that were developed by AMC well into the 1990s or even into the first decade of the 2000s.

AM General is now owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings and the Renco Group. It was organized as an LLC in August 2004.

Wheel Horse Products Division is now owned by the Toro Company.

Beijing Jeep was established by AMC in 1983 to produce Jeeps for the burgeoning Chinese market; the joint venture was inherited by Chrysler and continues under the ownership of the new Chrysler. AMC’s trials with the venture were the subject of a fairly well known book on the venture, “Beijing Jeep”, by James Mann.

Facilities

AMC World Headquarters (1954–1975) was located at 14250 Plymouth Road in Detroit and was widely known as the Plymouth Road Office Center (PROC). In 1975, AMC moved its headquarters from the facility on Plymouth Road to a newly constructed building on Northwestern Highway in Southfield, Michigan known as the American Center.

The initial building had been built in 1926–27 by the Electric Refrigeration Corporation (subsequently Nash-Kelvinator) with design by Amedeo Leoni, industrial layout by Wallace McKenzie, and tower enclosure and industrial units by William E. Kapp, of SHG. The original 600,000 sq ft (56,000 m2) three-story factory and four-story administration building had been headquarters to Nash-Kelvinator from 1937–1954 as well as a factory for refrigerators, electric ranges, and commercial refrigeration—as well as airplane propellers for the U.S. military effort during World War II.

During World War II, the U.S. War Department contracted with Nash-Kelvinator to produce 900 Sikorsky R-6 model helicopters. As part of that contract, a 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) site north of the factory was used as the smallest airport in the world as a flight testing base. Nash-Kelvinator produced about fifty R-6s a month during the war. When the contract was terminated at the end of the war, a total of 262 helicopters had been constructed.

During Chrysler’s occupancy of the complex, it was known Jeep and (Dodge) Truck Engineering (JTE), including facilities for Body on Frame (BoF) work as well as testing facilities and labs. The buildings included 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2), approximately one third devoted to engineering and computer functions.[93]

As of 2007, Chrysler still employed over 1,600 people at the complex, moving those operations in mid-2009 to the Chrysler Technology Center. PROC was made available for sale by Chrysler in early 2010.

  • American Center – AMC’s corporate headquarters in Southfield, Michigan is still standing, still open, and still called “American Center”. The original “American Center” signage at the top of the building remained until 2005, although the AMC logo has been removed. The signage has since been changed to Charter One. The 25-story building is rented to several different organizations and companies as office space. After the Chrysler acquisition, Chrysler Financial occupied as much as 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) of the building.
  • Toledo South Assembly Plants – Torn down in 2007 by Chrysler. Until it was demolished, still visible on most of the signage on the outside of the factories were areas where Chrysler painted over the AMC logo.
  • Toledo Forge  – Torn down by Chrysler in 2007.
  • Brampton (formerly Bramalea) Assembly and Satellite Stamping Plants. – still in use by Chrysler. AMC designed this US$260 million (US$592,203,716 in 2016 dollars), 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) plant, which was operational by 1986. This plant was designed and built by AMC for the specific purpose of building the Eagle Premier. Like the older Brampton plant (see “Former Factory Facilities”, below), this factory was also part of American Motors Canada, Inc., and with the Chrysler buy-out in 1987, became part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant currently builds the LX series of vehicles including the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger. Also Producing a slightly modified version of the lX series; renamed the LC series; supporting the Dodge Challenger nameplate.
  • Kenosha “Main” Plant – Portions of the Kenosha Main Plant (later Chrysler’s Kenosha Engine plant with some new additions) at 52nd Street and 30th Avenue continued to be run by Chrysler as an engine-production factory. This plant closed in October 2010 as part of Chrysler LLC’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure which resulted from the automotive industry crisis. Demolition of the plant began in early December 2012.
  • Canadian Fabricated Products Ltd. – An AMC division (part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Stratford, Ontario; established 1971 and sold post-buyout by DaimlerChrysler in 1994; produced automotive interior trim.
  • Guelph Products – An AMC division (also part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Guelph, Ontario; opened in 1987, and subsequently sold by Chrysler in early 1993; the operation supplied moulded plastic components to the Brampton Assembly Plant.
  • Coleman Products Corporation – An AMC subsidiary in Coleman, Wisconsin. Manufactured automotive wiring harnesses for AMC and other automakers. (Not the same as Coleman Company)
  • Evart Products Co. – An AMC subsidiary in Evart, Michigan. The plant was established in 1953 with 25 workers and eventually expanded to over 1,200, becoming Osceola County’s largest employer. This factory manufactured injection molded plastic parts (notably, grilles) for AMC (supplying 90% of in-house needs), as well as for other automakers. In 1966, Products Wire Harness was built. After Chrysler’s purchase of AMC, Collins & Aikman took over the factory.
  • Mercury Plastics Co. – Mercury Plastics operated a plant at 34501 Harper Ave., Mt. Clemens, Michigan. The company was acquired in 1973 for 611,111 shares of AMC stock. The company produced plastic parts for AMC, as well as for uses in other industries.
  • Windsor Plastics Co. – Windsor Plastics, 601 North Congress Avenue, Evansville, Indiana was acquired in 1970. The division produced plastic parts for AMC and other industries. The company was sold to Guardian Industries in 1982, and underwent a name change to Guardian Automotive Trim, Inc. It is still in operation today. The original factory in Evansville continues to manufacture plastic parts for the OEM and aftermarket automotive industries. Items manufactured include grilles, bezels, and other parts.
  • The AMC Proving Grounds – The former 300 acres (1.2 km2; 0.47 sq mi) AMC Proving Grounds in Burlington, Wisconsin had initially been Nash’s test track and subsequently became Jeep’s test facilities (after AMC’s acquisition of Willys in the 1970s). The grounds fell into disuse after Chrysler’s takeover of AMC in 1987 and subsequently became the engineering and test facility for MGA Research. The company rents out this proving grounds to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for “ride-and-drive” events by automakers, as well as for movies and commercials.
  • Axle tooling equipment – sold in 1985 to Dana Holding Corporation, and they named the AMC-15 axles as Dana 35. Dana manufactured the AMC-20 axles for AM General‘s Hummer H1. The company also continues to produce the AMC-15 axle as well; however they have been upgraded from AMC’s original design with multiple variations (including front axle designs).
  • Holmes Foundry, Ltd. – AMC’s block-casting foundry was a major AMC factory which is now completely obliterated. Holmes had its main office and foundry at 200 Exmouth Street, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Holmes was established in 1918, by Mr. J. S. Blunt, and was called Holmes Blunt Limited. In the early years, Ford Motor Company contracted the plant for a steady supply of engine casting blocks. This factory had a reputation locally as a dirty, dangerous place to work. The company had three divisions, all operating on one site at the edge of Sarnia. Beginning in 1962, AMC contracted with Holmes Foundry to supply AMC with cylinder block castings. American Motors acquired 25% interest in the foundry in January 1966. In July 1970, AMC acquired 100% of Holmes Foundry through an exchange of shares, making it a wholly owned subsidiary. However, it was not until October 1981 that Holmes Foundry finally became a Division of American Motors, Canada. As part of its acquisition of AMC in 1987, Chrysler Corporation took ownership of the Holmes facility and its manufacturing business, but closed the operation on September 16, 1988. The industrial facilities were cleaned of their environmental contaminants in 2005, in preparation for a new highway interchange to be built on the site.
  • Kenosha “Lakefront” (Kenosha, Wisconsin) Plant – The AMC plant in downtown Kenosha along Lake Michigan was razed, and after reclamation the land was used for new development. At the company’s inception in 1954, the plant covered 3,195,000 sq ft (296,800 m2) and together with the Milwaukee plant had an annual production capacity of 350,000 cars.
  • Milwaukee Body (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Plant – AMC inherited a 1,600,000 sq ft (150,000 m2) body plant in Milwaukee from Nash. The plant was the main body plant for Seaman Body Company, which did a lot of business with Nash and other makers assembling bodies of various designs. For AMC, the plant was sometimes an internal headache. For instance, in late 1961, George Romney himself stormed through the plant and threatened to close it and eliminate its 9,000 jobs due to labor problems. The plant survived until the Chrysler buyout. Chrysler later decided to dispose of the factory. Upon closure, the site was named as a Superfund site. The factory was demolished and the site rehabilitated and redeveloped.
  • Danforth Ave (Toronto, Ontario) Plant – Inherited from Nash. This plant was purchased by Nash from Ford of Canada in 1946. The first Canadian-built Nash rolled off the line in April, 1950. Upon the formation of American Motors in 1954, the plant assembled 1955 Nash and Hudson Ramblers (2- and 4-door sedans); as well as Nash Canadian Statesman and Hudson Wasp (4door sedans). In 1956, the plant continued to assemble Nash and Hudson Rambler (4-door sedans and wagons) and the Nash Canadian Statesman (4-door sedan); but The Hudson Wasp was imported. That same year, American Motors Sales (Canada) Limited was formed – taking over Nash Motors of Canada Limited and Hudson Motors of Canada Limited. In 1957, AMC assembled the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 at the Danforth plant; but in July, 1957, AMC closed the plant and imported Ramblers into Canada until 1961. The structure remains today as the Shoppers World Danforth Target store.
  • Tilbury, Ontario Assembly Plant – Another plant AMC inherited from the 1954 merger; this one via Hudson. Specifically, it was a contract with CHATCO Steel Products which actually owned the plant. American Motors ceased Hudson production at the Tilbury plant in 1955.
  • Brampton Assembly Plant – AMC opened a plant in 1960 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. It was part of American Motors Canada, Inc. Rambler Drive, a small street just west of this plant, still exists and leads into a residential subdivision that was built in the 1960s. In 1987, with the Chrysler buy-out, the division and the plant were absorbed as well, becoming part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant was closed in 1994 and sold to Wal-Mart for use as their Canadian warehouse. This plant/warehouse was demolished in 2004 and redeveloped in 2007 with multiple smaller commercial buildings now onsite; a new Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse now takes up the largest section of this commercial development. Note that this is a separate facility from the current Brampton (formerly Bramalea) Assembly and Satellite Stamping Plants nearby.

In October 2006 its recent tenant, Union Stamping and Assembly, declared bankruptcy.

Earlier use of the name

The era of 1900 to 1925 saw various corporations, in several U.S. states, use similar “American” names, such as American Motor Carriage Company (Ohio, 1902–1903), American Automobile Manufacturing Company (Indiana, 1911–1912), and American Motors Incorporated (New York, 1919–1920). In 1916, An earlier “American Motors Corporation”, apparently unrelated to the more famous later corporation of the same name, was formed in 1916 in Newark, New Jersey, with Louis Chevrolet as vice president and chief engineer. By 1918 it was producing cars in a plant at Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1923 it merged with the Bessemer Motor Truck Company of Pennsylvania into Bessemer–American Motors Corporation, which lasted less than a year before merging with the Winther and Northway companies into Amalgamated Motors. The latter company apparently ceased soon after.

Later reuse of trademark

A new company was formed in Palmdale, California, in 2001. A registration for the American Motors trademarks was filed in 2001 by this California-based firm. The company’s website specifically claimed no affiliation to the previous American Motors, but used AMC’s history and logos on its website. The website is now dead, and the company’s claims to AMC’s trademarks expired in 2005.

The new Chrysler LLC holds a live registration for the name “American Motors”, which was applied for in 2005. The AMC trademark, complete with “A-mark” – as was originally used in 1970 and through the late-1980s – was registered and published for comment by Chrysler as of 2010.

AMC passenger cars

1969 AMC SC Rambler Hurst B-scheme exterior finish at Potomac Ramblers Club meet 2of2

 1969 SC/Rambler

1982 AMC Eagle

 1982 Eagle SX/4

1957 Rambler Rebel hardtop rfd-Cecil'10

 1957 Rambler Rebel

1970 AMC The Machine 2-door muscle car in RWB trim by lake

 1970 The Machine

 

Samsung

 1976 Matador coupe

1971 AMC Ambassador 2-door hardtop coupe

 1971 Ambassador

1974 AMC Ambassador Brougham 4-door sedan beige

 1974 Ambassador
Subcompact
1957 Nash Metropolitan Series III Hardtop1957 Nash Metropolitan Series III Hardtop1955–1962: Metropolitan*

1975 AMC Gremlin
1975 AMC Gremlin 1970–1978: AMC Gremlin**

1979–1983: AMC Spirit

1987 AMC Eagle wagon burgundy-woodgrain NJ

1987 AMC Eagle wagon burgundy-woodgrain NJ

1981–1983: AMC Eagle (SX/4 and Kammback)

1985 Renault Alliance convirtible photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA.

1985 Renault Alliance convirtible photographed in College Park, Maryland, USA.

1983–1987: Renault Alliance based on the Renault 9.

1985 Encore 2-door hatchback

1985 Encore 2-door hatchback

1984–1987: Renault Encore – based on the Renault 11.

* – The Metropolitan was introduced by Nash in 1954.
** – The Gremlin was the company’s first modern subcompact.

Compact
Crossover
Mid-size
Full-size

AMC engines

199 six-cylinder

343 4-bbl V8

390 Go Pac V8

Main article: List of AMC engines
  • 1954–1956:
    • 184 cu in (3.0 L) Nash I6 (Rambler)
    • 196 cu in (3.2 L) Nash L head I6 (Rambler/AMC I6)
    • 252 cu in (4.1 L) Nash I6
    • 320 cu in (5.2 L) Packard built V8
    • 352 cu in (5.8 L) Packard built V8 (used only 1956)
  • 1956–1966:
    • 196 cu in (3.2 L) Rambler I6/AMC I6 (L head and OHV version-ended 1965)
    • 199 cu in (3.3 L) Typhoon Six I6 (Starting in 1966)
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) Typhoon Six I6 (Beginning in 1964)
    • 250 cu in (4.1 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1961)
    • 287 cu in (4.7 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1963)
    • 327 cu in (5.4 L) AMC V8 (also used by Kaiser Jeep 1965–1967)
  • 1967–1970:
    • 199 cu in (3.3 L) Typhoon Six I6
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) Typhoon Six I6
    • 290 cu in (4.8 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1969)
    • 304 cu in (5.0 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1970)
    • 343 cu in (5.6 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1969)
    • 360 cu in (5.9 L) AMC V8 (Beginning in 1970)
    • 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8
  • 1971–1980:
    • 121 cu in (2.0 L) AMC I4 1
    • 232 cu in (3.8 L) AMC I6
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 304 cu in (5.0 L) AMC V8
    • 360 cu in (5.9 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1978 for automobiles and through 1991 in Jeeps)
    • 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 (Ending in 1974 as a regular production order in automobiles; was available in fleet/police use until at least 1975, in 1975 89 units were installed in Matadors; 4 coupes and 85 sedans-wagons. Available in full-size Jeeps through 1979, also used by International Harvester in 1974 in 1200 series pickups & Travelall during a strike at International Harvester, though IH called the engine a 400 CID)
  • 1980–1983:
  • 1984–1986:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
  • 1987:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 4.0 litres (242 cu in) AMC I6
  • 1988–1989:
    • 2.5 litres (150 cu in) AMC I4
    • 258 cu in (4.2 L) AMC I6
    • 3.0 litres (183 cu in) PRV V6

Also: Kaiser Jeeps used the AMC 327, Buick 225 (“Dauntless V6”), Buick 350 (“Dauntless V8”), Willys 134 I4 (“Hurricane”). The Downsized Jeep XJ Cherokee/Wagoneer used the Chevrolet 2.8 Litre V6 in 1983–1984.

1 AMC contracted with Volkswagen to buy tooling for the Audi 2.0 L OHC I4. Major parts (block, crankshaft, head assembly) were initially purchased from Audi and shipped to the U.S. where final assembly was accomplished by AMC at a plant purchased specifically for production of this engine. Sales never reached numbers to justify taking over total production. AMC made several changes to the engine. They were prevented from using the Volkswagen or Audi names in association with the AMC assembled version by contractual agreement.

Collectibility

1970 AMC Javelin SST with Go package in bitter sweet orange

 Javelin with “Go” package

1958 Ambassador 4-d hardtop wagon 1

 Ambassador hardtop wagon

1964 Rambler American 440 convertible-red NJ

 Rambler American convertible

AMC models historically regarded by hobbyists as particularly “collectible” include the Javelin, AMX, and performance specials such as the 1957 Rambler Rebel, 1965–67 Marlin, 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler, 1970 Rebel Machine, and 1971 Hornet SC/360. These models enjoyed limited popularity when new, resulting in low production figures. In January 2007, the AMC AMX was “really taking off in the muscle car market” according to the editors ofHemmings Classic Car, and it had “left its mark among AMC collectors’ minds as a great alternative” to higher-priced Hemi-powered muscle cars.

The early Javelin (1968–70) stands out from the Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars. Car expert Jack Nerad noted in a 2007 article “several fully restored AMX models” listed for sale at “little more than half the price of a comparable Buick Gran Sport, Chevrolet Chevelle, Olds 4-4-2 or Pontiac GTO” in support of the author’s opinion that the 1971–74 Javelin was “clearly an outstanding alternative muscle car for the enthusiast on a budget.”

According to James C. Mays, automotive historian and author of The Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction, the “Wow! Factor” is an important and measurable pleasure to an owner whether their car is driven or sits in a climate-controlled garage. His “Wow! Factor” includes examples of a bright red 1969 AMX that according to its owner “is just a fast Rambler”, but draws more people at events than the more prestigious Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as well as a “million-dollar moment” when a Rambler owner was serenaded with the “Beep Beep” song by The Playmates while fueling at a travel plaza. Moreover, the author’s collector car, a 1969 Ambassador station wagon, made friends as strangers came to greet and host him as if “long lost kin”. Mays points out the ready availability of parts for AMC engines and his experiences in having service done on Ramblers without being charged for the work in exchange for the experience of driving a “sassy Rambler” (a 1966 American convertible) and having pictures taken with it.

Other AMC models, once somewhat ignored by the hobby, are now considered “future collectibles”. Examples include the 1959 Ambassador 4-door hardtop station wagon, of which only 578 were produced, and the Jeep Scrambler CJ8, a combined pickup truck-Jeep, of which only a few thousand were produced.

Hemmings Classic Car magazine included the 1969–70 Rebel SST and the 1974–78 Matador coupe in their 2008 list of “dollar-for-pound [weight]” cars that could be bought in show-quality condition for a comparatively modest outlay, The writer also noted that “most of AMC’s ’70s lineup” qualified for inclusion on the list.

The AMC Gremlin is described to have “a cult-like following in today’s collectible car market. The Gremlin shares components with some other AMC models its repair and restoration can be relatively inexpensive compared with other “historic cars”.

The AMC Pacer increased in value according to a Pacer owner who is the CEO of a major insurance provider for collector car owners.

There are active Rambler and AMC car clubs in the U.S. and elsewhere (examples in External Links).

Hot Rod Magazine revival April Fool’s joke

In April 2008, Hot Rod Magazine released an article claiming that American Motors was in the process of being revived. The vehicles in the works were to be the AMX, Matador, Ambassador, Pacer, and Gremlin. Illustrated with drawings of the concept cars entering production and accompanied by plentiful information, it was a popular article, although it was later revealed to be an April Fools’ joke.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c

My personal photo collection:

1959 AMC Rambler Station Wagon1960 AMC Rambler American Wagon1961 AMC Metropolitan 562, 2-Door Coupe1965 AMC Rambler Marlin1966 American Motors Cavalier1966 American Motors Vixen1967 AMC AMX III Concept Car - to become a Javelin Frt Qtr BW1968 Amc ambassador sedan1968 Amc ambassador sw1968 Amc amitron1968 AMC AMX Cut-Away Frt Qtr BW1968 Amc amx gt1968 Amc amx1968 AMC AMX-R Prototype1968 Amc javelin karmann1968 Amc javelin sst sport coupe1968 Amc javelin1968 Amc rebel (2)1968 Amc rebel1968 Amc rebel_7701968 Amc rebel_sw1969 AMC Ambassador SST 4d Limo1969 Amc ambassador sst hardtop1969 AMC Ambassador Sst Station Wagon Bw1969 Amc amx II tyl1969 Amc amx II1969 Amc amx11969 AMC Dick Teague Styling Proposal for 1971 AMX BW1969 Amc Line-10-11ambassador_sst1969 Amc Line-24-25javelin1969 Amc rebel sst hardtop1970 AMC Gremlin-white-A-6401970 AMC Rebel Station Wagon Greengreen1970 AMC Rebel1971 AMC AMX prototype-fV mx1971 AMC AMX prototype-fVl mx1971 AMC AMX prototype-fVl2 mx1971 Amc Matador Station Wagon Bw Max1974 AMC's1975 AMC Pacer (2)1975 AMC Pacer Patrol Car (2)1975 AMC Pacer Patrol Car1975 AMC Pacer1975 AMC Pacer-X Hatchback Coupe1975 AMC Pacer-X Sport Hatchback Coupe1976 AMC Pacer pickoupe1976 AMC Pacer D-L Hatchback Sport Coupe r3q1976 AMC Pacer DL Sport Coupe1976 AMC Pacer Hatchback Sport Coupe1976 AMC Pacer Wagon yellow1976 AMC Pacer. ajpg1976 AMC Pacer. b1976 amc pacer1977 AMC Pacer 2dr Station Wagon1977 AMC Pacer DL Station Wagon1978 AMC Pacer Interior & Dashboard1978 AMC Pacer Wagon-black1979 AMC Pacer Limited Hatchback Sport Coupe1979 AMC Pacer Wagon-red1980 AMC Concord 2 door1980 AMC Pacer Wagon1980 AMC Pacer1981-83 AMC Eagle SX4American-motors.svg

That’s it

RAMBLER automobile Kenosha Wisconsin USA Part III

1965 AMC Rambler Marlin_FrontRightSide_RedWht

1965 AMC Rambler Marlin

RAMBLER automobile Kenosha Wisconsin USA Part III

1900 Emblem Rambler

RAMBLER automobile

1960 Rambler R

Kenosha Wisconsin USA Part II

for part one: 

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/20/rambler-automobile-kenosha-wisconsin-usa-part-i/

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/21/rambler-automobile-kenosha-wisconsin-usa-part-ii/

for nash:

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/19/nash-automobile-manufacturer-kenosha-wisconsin-united-states-1916-1954/

for hudson:

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/12/hudson-motor-car-company-detroit-michigan-united-states-1901-1957/

Rambler Marlin

Rambler (AMC) Marlin
1965 AMC Rambler Marlin_FrontRightSide_RedWht
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors (AMC)
Production 1965–1967
Assembly Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Designer Richard A. Teague
Body and chassis
Class Personal luxury car
Body style Fastback 2-door pillarless hardtop
Layout FR layout
Platform Rambler Classic, AMC Ambassador
Chronology
Successor AMC Rebel/Matador/Ambassador
1965+1966 marlin Fastback_wet_hood_ornament
 1965 and 1966 hood ornament

The AMC Rambler Marlin is a two-door mid-sized fastback car made in the United States by American Motors Corporation from 1965 to 1967. A halo model for the company, it was marketed as a personal luxury car.

In ’65, the car was marketed as “Rambler Marlin”. For ’66, the car featured “Marlin” identification only, named “AMC Marlin”, as was the ’67 model.

It’s fastback roof design was previewed on the 1964 Rambler Tarpon show car, based on the compact Rambler American. 1965 and 1966 model year production Marlins were fastback versions of the mid-sized two-door hardtop Rambler Classic, and 1967 brought a major redesign in which the car was given the new, longer AMC Ambassador full-size chassis. This version had a longer hood and numerous ‘improvements’ including more interior room and new V8 engines.

Origin

As consumer per capita income increased in the early 1960s, the U.S. automobile market expanded. Whereas American Motors’ profitable marketing strategy under George W. Romney had concentrated on compact, economical cars, Romney’s successor as CEO,Roy Abernethy, saw larger, more prestigious and luxurious models as a new profit opportunity. The objective was to compete with the “Big Three” automobile manufacturers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) by expanding AMC’s model lines into additionalmarket segments; particularly by developing a sporty, roomy, 6-passenger sedan that would occupy a unique niche in the market. The idea was that the new car would be a distinctive, low-volume model symbolizing a new Rambler look and spearheading a full product line. To be a distinctive competitor in the big league with the Big Three, it was decided that it should be flashy and intermediate-sized, and in an era when other automakers were stressing the power of muscle cars for their intermediate-sized image vehicles, the new model – the Marlin – was to feature comfort and spaciousness.

1966 marlin Fastback_wet_hood_nameplate

 Marlin nameplate

Initially, in response to a proposal for a sporty youth-oriented car, a four-seat fastback design study, the Rambler Tarpon, had been built on the compact-sized Rambler American platform. This was shown as a concept car at various auto shows but AMC’s current “GEN-1” V8 engine would not fit in the comparatively small Rambler chassis; also the new “GEN-II” V8 designs were still in development, and market research showed that a six-cylinder engine alone would not satisfy potential customers.

Ultimately, and in line with Roy Abernethy’s new marketing strategy, the decision was made to build the new fastback model on AMC’s intermediate-sized Rambler Classic platform. The development team, under distinguished American designer Richard A. Teague, had to work with considerably smaller budgets than their counterparts at Detroit’s Big Three to create the new Marlin. They created a large, roomy and luxurious fastback which incorporated a number of design features from the Tarpon show car. (The roof was raised over the rear passenger area when Abernethy, who was six-foot-four (193 cm tall), insisted on being able to sit in the back seat of the design studies.) As the car was targeted at the evolving “personal luxury” segment, its long list of standard equipment was supplemented by numerous options that enabled buyers to personalize their Marlins.

1965

First generation
1966_AMC_Marlin_Rear_view_WhiteBlackVinyltop
Overview
Also called Rambler Marlin (1965)
AMC Marlin (1966)
Production 1965–1966
14,874 built
Body and chassis
Class mid-size personal luxury car
Related Rambler Classic
Powertrain
Engine 232 cu in (3.8 L) 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS) I6 2-bbl
287 cu in (4.7 L) 189 hp (141 kW; 192 PS) V8 2-bbl
327 cu in (5.4 L) 250 hp (186 kW; 253 PS) V8 2-bbl
327 cu in (5.4 L) 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) V8 4-bbl
Transmission 3-speed manual
3-speed with overdrive
“Twin-Stick” on console (1965)
4-speed manual (1966)
3-speed automatic
3-speed “Shift-Command” on console
Dimensions
Wheelbase 112 in (2,845 mm)
Length 195 in (4,953 mm)
Width 74.5 in (1,892 mm)
Height 53 in (1,346 mm)
Curb weight 2,992 lb (1,357 kg) V8
1965_Marlin_aqua_white_md-fl

 Only the 1965 Marlins had the “Rambler” nameplate on the hood and rear panel

Launch

American Motors billed the Marlin as a new addition to the company’s self-styled “Sensible Spectaculars” model line. Backed by extensive advertising and merchandising, the car was officially announced on 10 February 1965, and unveiled in Rambler dealer showrooms on 19 March.

New car introductions, more significant in the 1960s than today, were often accompanied by special invitations and heavy publicity. The Marlin was advertised in 2,400 newspapers on its launch day, and American Motors’ news releases positioned it as aimed at buyers wanting a sporty fastback that was also roomy and comfortable. This contrasted it with the smaller Barracuda and Mustang fastbacks that had arrived a year earlier. AMC’s first model following the muscle car launches of the 1960s, the Marlin was intended to outflank competitors as a product they did not offer – a strategy now called “niche marketing“.

It followed signature design features of the Ford Galaxie “Sports Roof”, the Plymouth Barracuda, the Mustang 2+2, and the 1965 fastback models from General Motors, including the Chevrolet Impala “Sport Coupe” versions. A book on American muscle cars says V8-powered Marlins provided appropriate performance for the streamlined appearance.

Press reaction

The new model met with a mixed reception in the press. Popular Mechanics magazine recorded 0 to 60 mph in 10.8 seconds by manually shifting the automatic transmission, and fuel economy of 18.14 mpg-US(12.97 L/100 km; 21.79 mpg-imp) at a steady 60 mph (97 km/h). Tom McCahill‘s road test in Mechanics Illustrated recorded 0 to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds with the 327 engine.

Motor Trend magazine found the Marlin well balanced and said it added to the market’s various personal performance sports cars. The San Francisco Chronicle praised it and noted effortless cruising at 80 mph (129 km/h).” Hot Rod magazine, which described the car as “weirdly attractive”, ran the quarter-mile in 17.43 seconds at 79 mph (127 km/h) with the 327 cu in (5.4 L) and “Flash-O-Matic” transmission.

The Marlin emphasized the stretched-out hardtop (pillar-less) roofline that followed the contemporary styling vogue. Automobile Quarterly magazine thought the car very ugly and expressed dislike for the inadequacy of the rear-view window, the positions of the steering-wheel and stoplights, the softness of the front seats, and the design of the pedals.

Designer reaction

Vincent Geraci (who became chief of product design and product identity at Chrysler after AMC’s buyout), viewed the Marlin as “an exciting program … We took a 1965 body design and turned it into a sportier version. But enlarging the car from its original concept [the Tarpon] and raising the roof produced an adverse effect on overall appearance.”

Bob Nixon (who after AMC’s buyout in 1987 became Jeep‘s design chief at Chrysler) dismissed the project as an “ugly embarrassment” and said that the assignment to create a sporty fastback on the Classic platform was “like trying to build a Corvette on a Buick sedan body. It just doesn’t work.”

Carl Cameron, designer of the original Dodge Charger, named the Marlin as the only competition for his 1966 car even though, he said, the Marlin lacked some of the Charger’s features and it was “very different”. Contrary to the view that the Charger was a “clone” of the Marlin, Cameron said that the starting-point for his design was the fastback 1949 Cadillac, and that any similarity to the Marlin was coincidental. He added that as a result of the exceptionally tall Abernathy’s insistence on being able to sit in the Marlin’s back seat, “those cars had big squared-off roofs” whereas the Charger’s roof treatment was “rounded off, much more pleasing to the eye.”

Vehicle appointments and options

1965_Marlin_aqua_white_md-is

 1965 Marlin interior

Standard features, which focused on comfort and luxurious appearance, included deluxe exterior trim, individual reclining front seats, front and rear center armrests when bucket seats were selected, and interiors from AMC’s two-door Ambassador model, including dashboard and instrument panel. On the Marlin, the dashboard was trimmed with engine-turned aluminum. Interior door panels were finished with carpeting and stainless steel trim, when many cars at the time had cheaper stamped vinyl glued to cardboard. Retractable front seatbelts where optional. The reclining bucket seats could be ordered with headrests. The Marlin was also one of the first American automobiles with front disc brakes (four-piston design, by Bendix) as standard. It had drum brakes without servo assistance on the rear.

A total of 2,005 Marlins were built with the smallest engine option, a 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) 232 I6. The AMC-designed 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) 327 cu in (5.4 L) 4-barrel V8, often paired with an automatic transmission that had the shifter in a floor console, accounted for 42% of total production, while less than 6%, regardless of engine option, had the innovative “Twin-Stick” manual transmission (with overdrive). The center console-mounted controls offered one longer stick for the regular gears, with a second shorter lever for overdrive selection. It can be shifted as a 5-speed: from 1st to 2nd, to 2nd+OD, to 3rd, to 3rd+OD. Other options included “Solex” tinted glass (70% of production), power steering, heavy-duty suspension, “Twin-Grip” limited slip differential, air conditioning, adjustable steering wheel, power windows, and a choice of AM radio or an AM/FM monaural unit (50% of production) with “Duo Costic” rear speaker and “Vibra Tone” system to simulate stereophonic sound (stereo broadcasting was not yet widely available in the U.S.). Only 221 Marlins were built without a radio. Wide-ranging interior colors and upholstery choices were available, and options for the exterior, including accent colors for the roof and side window trim, enabled further customization.

Pricing and sales

The MSRP price was US$3,100 (US$23,199 in 2015 dollars), compared with $3,063 for a bench seat (six-passenger) version of the Rambler Classic 770 2-door hardtop, which did not have the extra features and luxurious interior of the Marlin. 10,327 Marlins were sold in the abbreviated first year of production.

1966

1966_AMC_Marlin_fastback_tan_side_view

 1966 AMC Marlin two-tone trim
1966_AMC_Marlin_interior_of_a_4-speed_tan

 1966 model with the optional 4-speed manual

The Rambler Marlin became known as the AMC Marlin starting with the 1966 model year. All references to the historic Rambler brand name were removed from the car and promotional materials. This was part of Roy Abernethy’s remake of AMC’s corporate identity, divorcing the larger car lines from the Rambler brand and the economy compact car image. The other changes were minor (e.g. a slight modification to the extruded aluminum grille, a front sway bar made standard on six-cylinder models, and an optional black vinyl roof cover that continued over the trunk opening). New was an electronic tach on the top of the dash.

The year also saw the introduction of the fastback Dodge Charger, a derivative of the intermediate-sized Dodge Coronet, and a sporty model in direct response to the Marlin. Together, the Charger and Marlin were “unusual, distinctive and in a class by themselves.” General Motors and Ford also positioned products similar to the Marlin as specialized “personal luxury” coupes and introduced 2-door fastback versions of their full- and intermediate-sized car lines.

AMC broadened the car’s market appeal by lowering the base price to US$2,601 (US$18,906 in 2015 dollars) and offering more options. For example: high-level trim packages that had previously been standard, as well as the availability of a floor or center console mounted 4-speed manual transmission and a dash-mounted tachometer, affected small changes in pricing and equipment that paralleled the competition. By comparison, Chrysler did a similar thing with the pricing and content of its Dodge Charger from the 1966 to the 1967 model years. Despite these changes, Marlin production fell to 4,547 in 1966.

Popular Science magazine road test comparison of three 1966 sporty fastbacks (Ford Mustang, Plymouth Valiant, and AMC Rambler) highlighted the Marlin’s quiet interior, high quality upholstery and positioned seats with adjustable backrests that “permit almost any driver to find an ideal seat-to-wheel-to-pedal relationship”, as well as the “best-balanced ride on good roads and bad”. The 287 cu in (4.7 L) two-barrel V8 engine with the three-speed automatic achieved 0 to 60 mph in 11.7 seconds, and was the quietest, but least responsive of the group. The test Marlin’s standard drum brakes were criticized as inadequate, with the authors recommending the optional disk brakes.

1967

Second generation
Samsung
Overview
Production 1967 only
2,545 built
Body and chassis
Class full-size personal luxury car
Related AMC Ambassador
Powertrain
Engine 232 cu in (3.8 L) 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS) I6 2-bbl
290 cu in (4.8 L) 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) V8 2-bbl
343 cu in (5.6 L) 235 hp (175 kW; 238 PS) V8 2-bbl
343 cu in (5.6 L) 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS) V8 4-bbl
Transmission 3-speed manual
3-speed with overdrive
4-speed manual
3-speed automatic
3-speed “Shift-Command” onconsole
Dimensions
Wheelbase 118 in (2,997 mm)
Length 201.5 in (5,118 mm)
Width 78 in (1,981 mm)
Height 53 in (1,346 mm)
Curb weight 3,342 lb (1,516 kg) V8
Samsung

 1967 model was larger, less angular
1967_AMC_Marlin_two-door_fastback_sungold_and_white-Front

 The front end was shared with the AMC Ambassador
1967_Marlin_black_on_gold_ny-i 1967 luxury and safety oriented interior

 1967 luxury and safety oriented interior
1967_AMC_Marlin_engine_bay_343_V8_CZ

 The all-new 343 “Typhoon” V8 engine

The Marlin was larger and more expensive for the 1967 model year. It was now built on AMC’s completely redesigned 118 in (2,997 mm) wheelbase “senior” platform, i.e. the AMC Ambassador chassis. The retooling for 1967 design changes that were mostly to the “senior” line of AMC cars (Ambassador, Marlin, Rebel) cost $35 million. (US$ 254,405,128 in 2015 dollars) The overall length of the new Marlin’s body increased by 6.5 inches (165 mm) with more rear seat legroom, as well as being wider resulting in 2.2 inches (56 mm) of additional interior room, but in the process the car gained 350 pounds (159 kg) compared to the previous models.

Making the Marlin larger was a design requirement in anticipation of the 1968 entry of the compact-platform based Javelin. Also the longer, wider car would improve product differentiation among AMC’s various model lines. Motor Trend magazine compared two “Sporty Specialties” – the 1967 AMC Marlin and Dodge Charger – concluded that both are “caught in the middle” because “neither has the compactness of the basic sports-personal archetypes such as the Mustang or Camaro, nor the posh elegance to social climb” to the models such as the Cadillac Eldorado or Buick Riviera. Rather, “both aim at the driver who wants a sporty-type car, but who doesn’t want to give up room and comfort and isn’t ready to move into more expensive category.” The 1967 Marlin was part of the “cool” car sales pie that featured sporty cars with “the popular fastback silhouette”.

The Ambassador chassis allowed for a longer hood that harmonized better with its fastback rear end, and the body was given a less angular appearance. A bright trim strip from the door opening to the rear bumper accentuates the slightly kicked-up “coke bottle” profile of the rear fenders. The front end shared the Ambassador’s protruding, vertically stacked headlights and an all-new recessed extruded aluminum grille with horizontal bars that bowed forward in the center. The grille was a black anodized version of the twin (parking and turn-signal) “rally light” grille on the Ambassador DPL models. The hood ornament was redesigned, with a small chrome marlin fish set in clear plastic inside a chrome ring.

The main feature was the Marlin’s fastback roof with “stylish elliptical C-pillars that ended “between two stubby, squared-off fins” in the rear. The decklid was the same as on the previous model, but now without the large round insignia. A bigger back window improved rear visibility. New taillights were similar to those on the first-generation car. The rear bumper was slightly different from the one used on the Ambassador and Rebel station wagons, the top edge being a continuous horizontal line that fits up against the body.

Teague said the 1967 car was ‘the best-looking Marlin we built.’ Motor Trend magazine described the all-new styling of AMC’s new full-size cars as “attractive” and “more graceful and easier on the eye in ’67.”

The second-generation Marlin did not have its own catalog, but was described within the large Ambassador sales brochure. The Ambassador’s standard features and options also came on the Marlin. The interiors continued to offer premium materials and fittings, including wood-grain trim, and were the same as on the Ambassador 990 and DPL two-door hardtop models (with the exception of the “Custom” package that had two matching pillows) that “rival more expensive cars for luxury and quality, yet are durable enough to take years of normal wear.” Many Marlins were ordered with the reclining buckets seats that not only featured a center armrest between them (with a center cushion for a third occupant or a floor console with gear selector), but also a foldaway center armrest for the rear seat. The interior design was new and featured a safety-oriented dashboard with the instruments and controls grouped in front of the driver, while the rest of the dash was pushed forward and away from the passengers. Protruding knobs and controls were eliminated from any area that the passenger or driver could strike them. The steering wheel was smaller than used before and the column was now designed to collapse under impact. A new lane change feature was made standard for the turn signal.

An entirely new family of V8 engines was offered. The six-cylinder was still available, but rarely ordered -only 355 were built. The base V8 was the 290 cu in (4.8 L) with a 2-barrel carburetor, while a pair of 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8s were optional: a 2-barrel that ran on regular-fuel, as well as a high-compression (10.2:1) premium-fuel version with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust that produced 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS) at 4800 rpm and 365 pound-feet (495 N·m) of torque at 3000 rpm. An entirely new four-link, trailing-arm rear suspension system was introduced eliminating the previous torque tube design.

Motor Trend magazine’s road test of the Marlin with the 343 engine reported zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, and ran a 17.6-second quarter mile at 82 mph (132 km/h) with two passengers aboard, which was comparable to the performance of a Dodge Charger with a 383 cu in (6.3 L). Fuel economy with the 280 hp V8 averaged 15.3 mpg-US (15.4 L/100 km; 18.4 mpg-imp) city and 17.6 mpg-US (13.4 L/100 km; 21.1 mpg-imp) highway, while with the 155 hp straight-six the big Marlin averaged 17.3 mpg-US (13.6 L/100 km; 20.8 mpg-imp) city and 20.4 mpg-US (11.5 L/100 km; 24.5 mpg-imp) highway. The Marlin “also handled well” and featured reclining seats that are “well worth the extra $44.65 to anyone who travels long distances.”

Sales of the redesigned Marlin fell to 2,545. This was partly a result of customers’ diminishing confidence in the financial health of the automaker under Abernethy’s leadership, and partly confusion caused by AMC’s move away from its loyal “economy” customer market segments into segments dominated by the domestic “Big Three” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler). Furthermore, buyers did not turn to the “family”-sized fastbacks. Therefore the Marlin ceased production at the end of the 1967 model year.

Racing

The Marlin “was an overlooked performer on the muscle car landscape”, yet it was campaigned without factory support in motorsport venues. Roy Abernethy had instituted a prohibition on automobile racing and he was opposed to corporate sponsorship of activities that glamorized speed and performance. While the Big Three automakers in the U.S. were focusing on high performance during the early 1960s, AMC ran advertising that said: “Why don’t we enter high-performance Rambler V-8s in racing? Because the only race Rambler cares about is the human race.” Nevertheless, the 1965 Marlin was an attempt to attract younger customers. The Marlin was promoted as an image-breaking model and AMC dealerships began sponsoring Ramblers in auto racing.

Dragstrip

Preston Honea achieved drag racing fame with the “Bill Kraft Rambler”. The effort began in 1964 when the Bill Kraft Rambler dealership had installed a highly modified AMC Ambassador V8 engine (the 327 V8 bored out to 418 cu in (6.8 L), four carburetors, special intake manifold) in a 1964 Rambler that ran 112 mph (180 km/h) at the Fontana dragstrip. For the 1965 season, Kraft built a new “Bill Kraft Rambler”, this time a fastback-bodied Marlin Funny Car on alcohol fuel and nitrous injection. The AMC engine was replaced by a Plymouth Hemi. On its first time out, the Hemi-powered car ran a 10.31-second quarter mile at 138 mph (222 km/h).

Oval

Roy Haslam, a 1999 inductee to Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame, raced his AMC Marlin Super Stock (image) in Canada and the U.S. He won the July Cup and was 3rd in the season point championships.

Endurance

Brothers Larry and Don Hess raced a Marlin in the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona. Sponsored by Queen City Rambler, a Charlotte, North Carolina AMC dealership, the car ran almost stock, even a with radio antenna. The passenger seats were removed, a roll bar installed, and the factory exhaust system replaced with open headers that exited below the doors. The Marlin retired after 80 laps with overheating and steering problems, and was reportedly sold as a used car after the race.

Special versions

American Motors designers and stylists made two operational show cars. Both used the platform of the first generation Marlin and promoted Rambler’s new emphasis on luxury and glamour.

  • The Black Marlin toured the 1965 auto shows along with attractive young women in sailors’ outfits. It was finished in black with “a sleek and stylish interior.”
  • The Tahiti luxury version toured the shows in 1966, starting with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It was finished in a brilliant fireflake blue with “bright South Seas floral upholstery”, and matching throw pillows.

A design experiment in 1966 was the manufacture of a first-generation Marlin with the front end of the Ambassador.

The Marlin II essentially foretold the switch to the longer wheelbase platform that occurred for the 1967 model year. The car was used by Richard Teague, and was sold in 1967.

George Barris customized a 1966 Rambler Marlin for Rader, a wheel manufacturer, to use for promotion. The car was repainted Candy Red with powdered gold leaf in the clear coat, and had Rader wheels with “thick wall” tires, a reworked mesh grille with four rectangular Cibié headlamps, and Black Pearl Naugahyde on the trunk. Later Barris worked with AMC to produce dealer-installed customizing kits for the AMX.

The roof was cut off a 1966 Marlin  for the Florida Marlins, a professional baseball team based in Miami Gardens, Florida. With no seats except for the driver, the car was used in parades and on-field ceremonies at Pro Player Stadium and transported the team’s mascot “Billy the Marlin” for the fans to see during the ball club’s 1997 world championship season.

Legacy

New market segments

The intermediate-size fastback car was not a big hit in the marketplace. However, “there were many who welcomed the new breed of mid-size fastbacks as a breath of fresh air.” According to Consumer Reports, these cars defied “the usual guidelines to size and price class, and they cannot be measured against any standard”.

The Marlin had low sales overall but generated publicity and excitement, attracting potential customers to AMC dealers and creating sales opportunities for other models. American Motors’ claim to fame was as a maker of economical and undistinguished compact cars and the publicity and interest generated by the Marlin’s rather radical design facilitated a shift in public opinion about the automaker, as well as the contribution margin to the company’s sales. The Marlin’s first-year sales helped generate a profit of US$5.2 million (US$ 38,914,889 in 2015 dollars) for AMC in fiscal 1965, despite a three-week strike by the United Auto Workers.

The mid-sixties automobile market in the U.S. was marked an increasing influence of younger buyers who wanted a sporty image. Most of the “sportiness” of these was due to effective marketing. No longer satisfied with “standard” cars the market moved into new segments that included muscle models and personal-luxury cruisers. Many were heavily restyled derivatives of volume models and shared common parts. Moreover, they were image builders and big profit generators for their automakers. The objective of the Marlin was to move AMC in this direction. However, the AMC “had an established image as an expert in the small-car field”, and thus faced problems in marketing the Marlin as a sporty big car. Moreover, “the Marlin actually represented a double leap” for AMC: into performance, as well as personalization. The model had a good start, but sales quickly bottomed out in the 1967 model year. The automaker’s anti-racing philosophy turned around after $40 million (US$ 290,748,718 in 2015 dollars) was spent to develop a new V8 engine family and AMC turned to “competitive events as a means of knocking down its avidly gathered reputation for economy.”

Although the Marlin was discontinued in 1967, it paved the way for a successful replacement—the compact 1968 AMC Javelin. Therefore, the Marlin’s introduction in 1965 can be viewed as stopgap marketing move by AMC, influenced by the company’s lack of a V8 engine at that time to fit the compact Rambler chassis. As a mid-sized car, the Marlin was not a dashing, affordable pony car, and after three years of production, it would “step aside in favor of another two-door: the hip, new Javelin.”

Political connection

The Marlin was the subject of political controversy in Republican candidate Mitt Romney‘s 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election campaign.

In a television advertisement Romney and his wife Ann tenderly describe their first date and falling in love. Mrs. Romney recalls her husband pulling up in “some goofy-looking car” and running out of gas on the way home. Romney describes being embarrassed by the fact that in high school he drove a car that he says was “kinda awful.”

What Romney did not say in the ads was that the car was a brand new Marlin, from the company that was headed by his father, George W. Romney, from 1954 to 1962.

The rival Shannon O’Brien campaign responded that Romney “actually drove a cool car”—a “personal luxury car” according to AutoWeek magazine. The press release by the Democratic ticket chided: “…the fact that Mitt Romney was embarrassed by his brand new car shows just how out of touch with regular working people he is.”

Crossfire connection

2008 Crossfire's roof, rear fenders, and rear end design resembled the Marlin's

 Crossfire’s roof, rear fenders, and rear end design resembled the Marlin’s

Some of the main design components of the Marlin’s design returned in 2004 with the Chrysler Crossfire. The rear-wheel drive, two-seat sports car was developed when Chrysler was merged with German automaker Daimler-Benz (forming DaimlerChrysler) and shared most of its components with the Mercedes-Benz SLK320. The original concept car was styled by Eric Stoddard, the car was further refined by Andrew Dyson and built by the German coachbuilder Karmann. Both the Marlin and Crossfire became “known more for their rear view than their front styling.”

The new coupé displayed a fastback roof with broad rear fenders, a rear end treatment that prompted many automotive journalists to comment on the Crossfire’s resemblance to the AMC Marlin. Examples include automotive journalist Rob Rothwell, who wrote “…when I first espied the rear lines of the Chrysler Crossfire I was instantly transported back to 1965 and my favorite car of that year, the Rambler Marlin.” Automotive editor toThe Detroit News described the “distinctive boat-tail rear end that reminds more than one observer of the old Rambler Marlin.” Motor Trend also compared the “provocative boattail theme” of the 2004 Crossfire’s sheetmetal to that of the AMC Marlin. Even the handling characteristics of the Crossfire were compared by one British journalist to “a detuned 1967 AMC Marlin with locked-solid suspension.”

Collectibility

1965–1966 Marlins at a Marlin Auto Club meet in Kenosha, Wisconsin

 1965–1966 Marlins at a Marlin Auto Club meet in Kenosha, Wisconsin
1967 Marlins attending a Marlin Auto Club show

 A few of the 1967 Marlins attending a Marlin Auto Club show

The distinctive Marlin has found a niche among old car hobbyists and collectors of historic vehicles as evidenced by the backing of enthusiasts with a single marque antique auto club. It offers information to those interested in “these uncommon and fascinating cars.” Although a relatively low-production model, the Marlin is a derivative of AMC’s higher-volume models so it shares many common parts. Vehicles in various stages of appearance and mechanical condition can be found for sale. Plusses for collectors of the 1965 model include decent performance with optional drivetrains, historical oddity, plush, bucket-seat interior, and its still low prices; while the Marlin’s “distinctive” styling, rust issues, and slow appreciation in value are minuses. The Marlin’s low production numbers also means that there “will never have too many other Marlin owners to rub elbows with.”

There are also many active local and national (U.S. and other nations) Rambler and AMC car clubs that welcome Marlins.

Scale models

A highly detailed Marlin promotional 1/25-scale model was manufactured under license from AMC by Jo-Han for the 1965 and 1966 model years. The only differences are their grilles and removal of the Rambler name on the 1966s. A friction model was also available from Jo-Han in 1966. Although available in a variety of single and two-tone color combinations, many of these “dealer promos” were done in aqua/dark blue two-tone plastic. Unwanted by AMC dealers as the 1966 model year neared its end, thousands of the models were given away to institutions such as children’s hospitals and orphan’s homes. They are now highly desirable and they command premium prices. Their value can be upwards of $200 to 400 for mint, in-the-box specimens that still have the hood ornament.

Jo-Han also produced 1/25-scale plastic kits of the 1966 Marlin, (Jo-Han C1900) and reissued it in the mid-1970s in the “U.S.A. Oldies” series (Jo-Han C-3666). They are based on the promotional models, but are less valuable today. According to Steve Magnante of Hot Rod magazine, Jo-Han appears to be poised for a comeback with its most famous unassembled model kits favoring offbeat subjects, “but save up-this stuff is pricey.”

Two types of die-cast toy models were sold under the Corgi Toy brand and manufactured by Mettoy Playcraft in the UK during the late 1960s. Both were done in 1:48 scale. One was a two-tone red and black Marlin with opening doors and a tow hook. The “Rambler Marlin Sports Fastback” (Corgi 263) scale model was released in 1966 and withdrawn from the market in 1969. In addition to the two-tone paint with chrome bumpers and grille, the model features a detailed interior finished in white and the front seat backs can be tipped forward (as in the actual cars). The second was a gift boxed set (Corgi GS10) with the Marlin finished in blue with a white roof and featuring a roof rack for a kayak, as well as towing a matching utility trailer with opening hatches. Released in 1968, this set had a short run of just 11 months.

Interchange

1966 Customized Marlin with 327 V8

 Customized 1966 Marlin with 327 V8

The following is a digest of a section in “The Marlin Handbook – 2004” prepared by the Marlin Auto Club.

First generation

Front fenders, hood, as well as front and rear bumpers are interchangeable with the 1965 and 1966 Classic. The rear bumper from 1965 and 1966 Ambassadors will interchange, as well as the dashboard, seats, and other inside trim pieces. Windshields and the doors with their side glass are interchangeable with all two-door Classic and Ambassador models.

Drive train, front and rear suspension, brakes, radiators, master cylinders, trunnions, steering columns, power steering pumps, engines, transmissions, brake drums and rotors are interchangeable with 1965 and 1966 Ambassadors and Classics. Some parts are even interchangeable back to 1958 and earlier, while other components were used by AMC into the 1970s.

The 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 was used through the late-1970s. This engine was stroked and became the 258 cu in (4.2 L) that was used into the 1990s in Jeeps. Many engine components are shared. This engine was also upgraded into Jeep’s 4-liter workhorse. It is possible to transplant this high-output fuel-injected engine into a Marlin. (See: AMC Straight-6 engine)

The 287 cu in (4.7 L) and 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8s started out in 1956 and 1957 and were used in large Ramblers, Classics, and Ambassadors through 1966. The AMC 327 engine continued to be used in Jeep and marine applications into the mid-1970s. (See: AMC V8 engine)

Second generation

Front fenders, hood, front bumper, are interchangeable with all 1967 Ambassadors. Windshields as well as doors and their glass from all two-door Ambassadors and Rebels are also interchangeable.

The 1967 Marlin similarly shares most major mechanical components with 1967 and up “senior” (Ambassador, Rebel, and Matador) models. The front suspension design was changed in 1970; however, brake components are interchangeable with later models. Mechanically, the track width for 1967, as well as 1968, was 58.5 in (1,486 mm). Starting in 1969 this was increased to an even 60 in (1,524 mm). In spite of the track width increase, the rear axle uses the same mounting points and spring locations. Therefore, complete rear-end assemblies from later models “bolt in” with some minor exceptions such as the different drive shaft rear universal joint sizes compared to those used in 1967.

Starting with the 1967 model year, completely new “GEN-II” V8 engines were used in all AMC vehicles. In 1968, the high-performance 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 was added. Then in 1970 and 1971 the 290 became the 304 cu in (5.0 L), the 343 became the 360 cu in (5.9 L), while the 390 became a 401 cu in (6.6 L). Many of the V8 parts are interchangeable with the 290 and 343. All “GEN-II” engines fit into the second generation Marlin. American Motors’ V8 engines were used through 1991 in the full-size Jeep Wagoneer.

See also

AMC Rambler Tarpon

Rambler Tarpon
1963 Rambler Tarpon back
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation(AMC)
Designer
Body and chassis
Class Concept car
Body style 2-door fastback
Layout FR layout
Powertrain
Engine AMC Straight-6
Dimensions
Wheelbase 106 in (2,692 mm)
Length 180 in (4,572 mm)
Height 52.5 in (1,334 mm)

The Rambler Tarpon was a concept car, a sporty youth-oriented 2 plus 2 hardtop coupé developed in 1963 by American Motors Corporation (AMC). The bright red with black roof design study made its public debut 1964 Chicago Auto Show and served to foretell the fastback design elements of the larger Rambler Marlin that was introduced in 1965.

Design

The Tarpon was an “aquatically-named” design study for a small rear-wheel drive two-door monocoque pillarless hardtop. Characteristic was its sleek sloping fastback roof that narrowed as it met the rear bumper. The Tarpon featured two large and deep taillights that flowed down from the shoulders of the rear fender. The show car was finished in red with a black vinyl roof accenting its clean shape from the windshield back to almost the rear bumper. The smooth roofline was unbroken by the almost horizontal rear window. In a 1991 book about collectible cars, automotive historian Richard M. Langworth described the Tarpon’s sweeping roofline and “roughly elliptical side window openings suited the American’s handsome lines to a T, and the pretty well-peoportioned fastback looked a natural for showroom sale.” However, there was no trunk lid or outside hatch to access the cargo area.

The Tarpon concept “generated much excitement at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) convention in January 1964.” The concept was shown with the designers worked on a cutaway profile of the car on stage. The Tarpon then generated wide public interest as it toured the auto show circuit starting in January 1964. Its semi-boat tail roof design was accented with black vinyl first appeared at the Chicago Auto Show. It was well received at the automobile shows before the so-called “pony car” market segment was established. The Tarpon appeared together with the Mustang II (a concept design shown before the production version was unveiled) at the 1964 New York International Auto Show.

Development

The automobile marketplace was changing in the early 1960s “when many young, first-time drivers entered the market … and bought cars with flair.”[4] Early in 1963, American Motors’ management began development of “a new car with a sports flair” to modify its image. Richard A. Teague‘s styling team came up with an entirely new concept for AMC – a fastback design. He had a passion for pre-World War II automobiles and had a “passion for taking old styling and making it new again.” He observed the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette spit-window coupe design and the 1963 Ford Galaxie Sports Hardtop, which outsold the notchback models, followed the pattern set by Chevrolet’s distinctive 1942 Fleetline two-door fastback body style called the Aerosedan. Teague knew that his design team had to work with considerably smaller budgets than their counterparts at Detroit’s Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). The small automaker was not willing to undertake the large investment that would be required all-new tooling, so his design team made imaginative use of existing tooling and create spin-offs from existing products.

The Tarpon was made on the compact-sized Rambler American‘s new design and platform already set for the 1964 model year. A convertible chassis was used 106 in (2,692 mm) wheelbase), but the Tarpon was slightly longer, 180 in (4,572 mm) compared to 177.25 in (4,502 mm) for the production Rambler American. The Tarpon’s roof was lowered two inches making it only 52.5 in (1,334 mm) high for an even more dynamic look. The top section of the new Rambler Tarpon was made of reinforced plastic. The windshield was described as “bulbous” and the fastback roofline featuring a “skylight” rear window. The swept back, double-compound curved windshield further enhanced the Tarpon’s low appearance. The Tarpon also featured polished 13-inch aluminum wheels. Production Ramblers rode on ordinary steel 14-inch versions, so the smaller wheels made the car lower. The interior had a complete set of dial-type gauges under a padded dash, a deep-dish aluminum steering wheel rimmed in walnut, and custombucket seats.

The Tarpon seemed to take aim at Plymouth’s new Valiant-based Barracuda and the soon to be announced Ford Mustang. Shown before the introduction of Ford’s compact Falcon-based Mustang, AMC’s Tarpon was “an instant success” with 60 percent of surveyed potential buyers stating they would buy one.

The Tarpon did not go into production. At that time, AMC was still developing its “GEN-2” light-weight V8 engine that would fit the small Rambler American chassis. If produced, the Tarpon would have been a competitor to the Plymouth Barracuda, a fastback derivative of the second-generation compact Valiant. Utilizing an existing compact platform would have paralleled the Mustang’s design approach whose chassis, suspension, and drive train were derived from the Ford Falcon. However, AMC’s market research indicated that offering only a six-cylinder power plant would not satisfy the intended target market segment. The new V8 engine was introduced in 1966 in the sporty hardtop model of the Rambler American called Rogue. Moreover, AMC’s CEO, Roy Abernethy, wanted the company to move away from the marketing image of Ramblers as being only small, economical, and conservative automobiles and designs. According to Abernethy AMC’s “main problem was its image lag — the fact that too many people still thought of American Motors as the builder of plain jane compacts.”

Under Abernethy’s leadership, the company was introducing larger cars that had more options, prestige, and luxury. For example, the new convertibles and more upscale Ambassador potentially offered higher profits. Although the small four-passenger Tarpon anticipated a new market segment that later became known as the pony cars, the decision at AMC was to build its sporty fastback “image” model on the company’s mid-sized or intermediate Classic platform. Teague recalled that “Abernethy had decided that instead of a 2+2 we would build a 3+3 sports-type car.” The new production model, called Marlin, was introduced mid-year 1965 and it added more “sport” to AMC’s car line-up. However, the Marlin had six-passenger capacity and was equipped with features as apersonal luxury car like the Ford Thunderbird or Buick Riviera, rather than a competitor in the pony-car segment. Nevertheless, the production Marlin incorporated many of the design features that were the trademarks of the Tarpon show car. Because it was a much larger car, the Marlin had even more pronounced shoulders extending laterally behind the rear wheels than those on the Tarpon.

In 1965, three years before AMC’s production pony car was unveiled, press reports described the compact-sized design as “Tarpon-like fastback” built on the Rambler American’s platform. The Tarpon “was the car that AMC could have, should have, but didn’t make in response to the Mustang… Instead AMC built the Marlin, which, on the larger Classic chassis, was too big to be a pony car, too slow to be a muscle car, and cursed with ungainly proportions due to the Classic’s stubby hood.” The automaker was niche marketing, offering a larger-sized product that not offered by its much larger competitors. Although the Tarpon show car pointed the way, AMC waited until the 1968 model year to introduce a small fastback, the Javelin, that was aimed directly at the market segment created by Ford’s Mustang.

Designers

Tarpon Chuck Mashigan

 AMC press release photograph — Tarpon with AMC designer Chuck Mashigan

The automotive design team at AMC was headed by Richard A. Teague. Stuart Vance was Manager of Engineering and this included the body development, as well as the prototype shop. Others involved with the Tarpon were Teague’s right hand man Fred Hudson (who later contributed to the Javelin), Vince Geraci (who contributed to final look of the Marlin), Chuck Mashigan (Advanced Studio manager), Robert Nixon, Jack Kenitz, Donald Stumpf, Neil Brown Jr., Bill St. Clair, Jim Pappas, as well as Jim Alexander (who designed the interior). Teague selected the names for both the Tarpon show car and the production Marlin.

Teague worked at AMC for 26 years. He was responsible for some of AMC’s timelessly beautiful and advanced vehicles, as well as for some of the company’s disappointments. After his retirement as Vice President at AMC, Teague described the development of the fastback design:

“… We originally had a car called the Tarpon, which should have been produced … it was really a neat car, a tight little fastback. We showed it to the S.A.E. (Society of Automotive Engineers) convention (February, 1964 in Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan) and everybody was steamed up about it! But the thing that killed the Tarpon was the fact that we didn’t have a V-8 for it at that time…. [AMC president] Roy Abernethy didn’t like little cars. Never did. He liked big cars, because he was a big guy — hell of a nice guy. And he felt that this car was too small, so he said, “Well, heck, Teague, why don’t you just put it on the Rambler Classic wheel-base? That way you’ve got V-8 availability and you’ve got more room inside it.” And then on top of that he added an inch to the roof while I was in Europe. I still have never gotten over that…”

Teague was also responsible for the design of AMC’s compact Javelin, as well as the two-seat AMX. Both were ground breaking small fastback sport coupes with well proportioned and timeless lines.

Legacy

The Tarpon served as the direct fastback design influence for the 1965-1967 AMC Marlin. Moreover, components of the original Tarpon design returned to a production car in 2004 in a fastback coupe with a distinctive design “that reminds more than one observer of the old Rambler Marlin.” The principal appearance statements of the small two-seat Chrysler Crossfire include its “provocative boattail theme” in its fastback and rear end design. Automotive journalists noted the Crossfire’s resemblance to the AMC Marlin featuring the Tarpon’s rear-end. For example, Rob Rothwell wrote: “My first glimpse of the rear lines of the Chrysler Crossfire instantly brought back memories of one of my favorite cars, the 1965 Rambler Marlin”

Show cars
International

AMC AMX

For the AMC AMX of 1978, see AMC Concord.
For 1979-1980, see AMC Spirit.
AMC AMX
1968_AMX_best_of_show_Rockville_Maryland_2007

1968 AMX with “Go-Package”
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation
Also called Rambler AMX (Australia)
Production 1968–1970
Assembly Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Port Melbourne, Australia (AMI)
Designer Richard A. Teague
Body and chassis
Class Grand tourer, Muscle car, Sports car
Body style 2-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Platform AMC’s “junior cars”
Powertrain
Engine 290 cu in (4.8 L) 4-bbl V8 225 hp (168 kW; 228 PS) 1968-69
343 cu in (5.6 L) 4-bbl V8 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS) 1968-69
360 cu in (5.9 L) 4-bbl V8 285 hp (213 kW; 289 PS) 1970
390 cu in (6.4 L) 4-bbl V8 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) 1968-69
390 cu in (6.4 L) twin 4-bbl V8 420 hp (313 kW; 426 PS) 1969 SS
390 cu in (6.4 L) 4-bbl V8 325 hp (242 kW; 330 PS) 1970
Transmission 4-speed manual floor shift
3-speed “Shift-Command”automatic on console
Dimensions
Wheelbase 97 in (2,464 mm)
Length 1968-69: 177 in (4,496 mm)
1970: 179 in (4,547 mm)
Width 71 in (1,803 mm)
Height 51 in (1,295 mm)
Curb weight 3,000 lb (1,361 kg)

The AMC AMX is a two-seat GT-style sports car that was produced by American Motors Corporation for the 1968 through 1970 model years. The AMX was also classified as a muscle car, but “unique among other American cars at the time due its short wheelbase“. The AMX was also the only American-built steel-bodied two-seater of its time, the first since the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird. To a degree, the AMX was a competitor with America’s only other two-seater of the era, the Chevrolet Corvette for substantially less money. With a one-inch (2.5 cm) shorter wheelbase than the Chevrolet’s 2-seater, “the AMX was often seen by the press as a Corvette competitor.”

Fitted with the optional high-compression medium block 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8 engine, the AMX offered top-notch performance at an affordable price. In spite of this value and enthusiastic initial reception by automotive media and enthusiasts, sales never thrived. However, the automaker’s larger objectives to refocus AMC’s image on performance and to bring younger customers into its dealer showrooms was achieved. After three model years, the two-seat version was discontinued, and the AMX’s now signature badging was transferred to a high-performance version of its 4-seat sibling, the Javelin, from 1971-1974.

American Motors capitalized the respected reputation of the original AMXs by reviving the model designation for performance-equipped coupe versions of the compact Hornet in 1977, Concord in 1978, and subcompact Spirit in 1979 and 1980.

Origin of AMX

1968+1968 'AMX' badge AMC

 1968 and 1969 C-pillar AMX emblem
1969_AMC_AMX_red_with_white_stripes

 1969 AMC AMX in “Matador Red”

The AMX name originates from the “American Motors eXperimental” code used on a concept vehicle and then on two prototypes shown on the company’s “Project IV” automobile show tour in 1966. One was a fiberglass two-seat “AMX”, and the other was a four-seat “AMX II”. Both of these radically styled offerings reflected the company’s strategy to shed its “economy car” image and appeal to a more youthful, performance-oriented market.

The original AMX full-scale models were developed in 1965 by AMC’s advanced styling studios under the direction of Charles Mashigan. The two-seat AMX was “big hit on the auto show circuit in 1966” and featured a rumble seat that opened out from the rear decklid for extra passengers called a “Ramble” seat. AMC executives saw the opportunity to change the consumers’ perception of the automaker from Romney’s economy car image, to the realities of the new marketplace interested in sporty, performance oriented vehicles. Robert B. Evans requested a car like the AMX to be put into production quickly.

Two simultaneous development programs emerged for a production car: (1) a modified Javelin and (2) a completely new car bodied in fiberglass. The first approach was selected allowing AMC to use its existing technology and unibody manufacturing expertise to make fairly inexpensive modifications to the Javelin approximating the prototype’s styling and proportions. The automaker could turn out steel bodies in large numbers, so it rejected developing plastic (or fiberglass) bodies because those are intended only for low-production models. The first fully operational unit debuted as part of AMC’s AMX project in 1966. The “once-frumpy” automaker jumped on the “pony car bandwagon” with its “attractive Javelin” and soon introduced the “unique” AMX featuring a design where “hoods didn’t come any longer, nor decks any shorter”.

Vic Raviolo, previously responsible for the Lincolns that raced in the Carrera Panamericana during the 1950s was involved with engineering AMC’s new sports-car-type coupe. The AMX was the first steel-bodied, two-seat American performance car since the 1957 Thunderbird, Ford’s original two-seater having long since evolved into a four-seat personal luxury car. The AMX was also the only mass-produced, domestic two-seater to share the market with Chevrolet’s Corvette since the 1957 Thunderbird. With a short 97 in (2,464 mm) wheelbase, the AMX’s direct competition was the one-inch longer (98 inches (2,489 mm) Chevrolet Corvette. The AMX’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) was US$ 3,245 (US$22,007 in 2015 dollars ), nearly 25% below and over $1,000 less than the Corvette’s price tag.

The AMX was introduced to the press at the Daytona International Speedway on 15 February 1968; just over four months after the Javelin went on sale. In the demonstrations on the race track, the new AMXs ran at speeds up to 130 mph (209 km/h). American Motors’ Group Vice President, Vic Raviolo, described the AMX as “the Walter Mitty Ferrari.” The AMX was designed to “appeal to both muscle car and sports car enthusiasts, two camps that rarely acknowledged each other’s existences.” The problem was the “tire-melting” acceleration of the 2-seater made it “a quick car that handled like a sports car, confusing the buying public.” Automotive journalist Tom McCahill summed up, “the AMX is the hottest thing to ever come out of Wisconsin and … you can whip through corners and real hard bends better than with many out-and-out sports cars.”

Record-breaking

1967 AMC Rebel1967Adv

 AMX “shatters” speed records in an advertisement for Champion spark plugs

In January 1968, two specially-prepared AMXs set 106 world speed and endurance records at Goodyear‘s track in Texas driven by World Land Speed Record holder Craig Breedlove, his wife Lee, and Ron Dykes. As a way to promote the new car, AMC’s Performance activities manager, Carl Chakmakian, asked Breedlove to put the AMX through its paces before it was even available for sale. Breedlove’s “Spirit of America” crew and Traco Engineering had six weeks to prepare the cars before they were to be displayed at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

The AMC V8 engines, such as the 290 cu in (4.8 L) engine in one car was bored out to 304 cu in (5.0 L) and the 390 cu in (6.4 L) in the other to 397 cu in (6.5 L). The shop installed exhaust headers, eight-quart oil pans, oil coolers, hi-rise intake manifolds, racing camshafts with solid lifters and stronger springs, and larger carburetors. The cars had engine and rear-end oil coolers, and 37 US gal (140 L; 31 imp gal) cell-type safety fuel tanks. Engine components were X-rayed and Magnafluxed to check for cracks, as were chassis components.

Chassis preparation included heavy-duty front and rear springs (part of the factory’s optional handling package), rear spring traction control arms, heavy-duty shock absorbers and a “panhard” type track bar in the rear to eliminate side sway. Stock wheels and tires were replaced by wide magnesium racing wheels and Goodyear racing tires. The cars were aerodynamically modified: the front ends were lowered, the hoods were slanted down and spoilers were installed below the front bumpers. The car interiors had structure-stiffening roll cages for driver protection, a stock bucket seat modified for additional support, and supplementary engine-monitoring instruments.

Breedlove also took the AMX to Bonneville reaching 189 mph (304 km/h) in a United States Auto Club (USAC) sanctioned run, as well as an unofficial run of over 200 mph (322 km/h).

Industry firsts

The AMX was not only sporty and attractive, but it introduced many industry firsts.

The American Society of Automotive Engineers named the AMX as the “Best Engineered Car of the Year” in 1969 and 1970.

For its first year recognition, the reasons cited included the car’s dashboard, which was injection-molded in one piece “for safety purposes, an industry first.” The AMX’s new 390 engine was developed to have a large displacement within its minimal external dimensions and moderate weight, while the use of common components and machining with AMC’s 290 and 343 engines assured manufacturing economy. The 1968 models also included an innovative fiberglass safety padding, a “plastic” on the inside of the windshield posts that was first used on the AMC Javelins.

For the following year’s award, the citation included the 1970 AMXs (and Javelins) being the first production cars to use windshields that were safer, thinner, and lighter than ordinary laminated glass. Developed by Corning, the glass featured a chemically hardened layer designed to give under impact and crumble into small granules to reduce injuries. The inner layer has “stress raisers that will cause it to break before excessively high concussion forces can be developed in the occupant’s skull.”

American Motors also incorporated new designs for windshield sealing for the 1970 models, and developed a systems solutions process that began in the styling studio to insure maximum efficiency.

1968

1968_AMC_AMX_go-package_white_NJ

 1968 AMC AMX with Go-Pac
1968_AMC_AMX_390_GO_PAC_white_s

 1968 AMC AMX with chrome wheels and red stripe tires standard with Go-Package
1968_AMC_AMX_yellow_390_auto_md-er

 The “AMX 390” engine

American Motors promoted the mid-model year launch of the AMX to automotive journalists at Daytona to emphasize its sports car performance, as well as with a marketing agreement with Playboy Enterprises. The AMX was introduced to the public on 24 February 1968, five months after the Javelin and other 1968 AMC cars. It was promoted as “the only American sports car that costs less than $3500”. American Motors advertisements also showed “a helmeted race driver revving up at the starting line in one of AMC’s sporty AMX models, which it describes as ready to do 125 miles an hour.”

The two-seat AMX was “meant for a small, well-defined market niche, and it pulled in young people into AMC dealer showrooms in never before seen numbers”. Numerous road tests described the new AMX as a “handsome two-seater with American-style acceleration and European-style handling”. Journalists gave it a real run workout on all kinds of terrain and wrote “that the AMX is one of the best-looking cars — if not the best-looking car — made in the U.S.A.”

All AMXs came with a 4-barrel carbureted small block AMC V8 engines in several versions: 290 cu in (4.8 L) (225 hp (168 kW), N-code), 343 cu in (5.6 L) (290 hp (220 kW), T-code), as well as the 390 cu in (6.4 L) “AMX” featuring 315 hp (235 kW) with 425 pound force-feet (576 N·m) of torque (X-code). All derived from the same external sized block. However, the three engines differed vastly internally, with the smallest engine having small intake and exhaust valves, thin block webbing, and a cast nodular iron crankshaft; the 343 used larger valves with a thicker block webbing; and the 390 moved up to a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, as well as larger rod bearings, 2.250 in (57.15 mm) compared to 2.090 in (53.09 mm) in the smaller two versions.

A BorgWarner T-10 four-speed manual transmission was standard, as were special traction bars, dual exhaust system, and fatter tires for better traction. A “Shift-Command” three-speed automatic transmission with the capability of manual shifting (BorgWarner model M-11B or M-12) was optional together with a floor console mounted shifter.

A popular “Go-Package” option came with either the four-barrel 343 or 390 engine, and included power assisted front disk brakes, “Twin-Grip” differential, E70x14 red-stripe performance tires on “Magnum 500” styled-steel wheels, heavy-duty suspension with thicker sway-bars, heavy-duty cooling, and other performance enhancements. A wide range of specialized performance parts were also available through AMC dealers for installation on customer’s cars. These were known as “Group 19” parts because of the way AMC organized its parts books.

Breedlove AMX

According to several sources, “Breedlove Replica” cars to commemorate the speed and endurance records were offered by AMC. The Standard Catalog of American Muscle Cars 1960-1972 describes an estimated 50 “Breedlove” AMXs were sold featuring the red, white, and blue paint scheme along with the standard 4-barrel 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 with four-speed manual transmission.

However, AMC historian, Larry Mitchell, argues there was no “factory literature, order sheets, advertising, photographs, or anything else to properly document any factory 1968 or 1969 ‘Breedlove Replica’ AMXs.” According to Mitchell, a new car that was ordered by a dealer in Canada could not have been painted at the factory, but rather outsourced to local Kenosha body shops to perform the final painting.

Hertz rent-a-racer

In the late-1960s, The Hertz Corporation offered “rent-a-racer” program in selected locations that included cars such as Corvettes, Jaguar XK-Es, Shelby Mustangs, and AMXs.

1969

1969_AMX_in_Big_Bad_Green_umr

 1969 AMC AMX in “Big Bad Green”
1969_AMX_in_Big_Bad_Green_umi

 1969 AMX interior with center panel “Gauge package”

The AMX’s full second model year saw only slight changes, except for a $52 increase in its base price. The five-spoke Magnum 500 steel road wheels were no longer chrome plated, but now came with a stainless steel trim ring. The racing stripes were now available in five colors. The interior featured a revised instrumentation with the 0–8000 rpm tachometer moved to match the speedometer that was now calibrated to 140 mph (230 km/h). Interior door panels were revised, carpeting was upgraded, new leather upholstery was optional, and the gas pedal became suspended. Later production cars received a hood over the instruments in front of the driver. Trunk capacity was 9.7 cubic feet (275 l).

Starting January 1969, all manual transmission AMXs came with a Hurst floor shifter. The center console-mounted three-speed “Shift-Command” automatic remained optional with “1”, “2”, and “D” forward settings. The “D” mode was fully automatic, but the driver could shift manually through all three gears by starting out in the “1” setting for first-gear with no upshift, and the “2” setting for second-gear with no upshift.

A “Big Bad” paint option for $34 became available starting in mid-1969. The neon brilliant blue (BBB), orange (BBO), and green (BBG) exteriors included color-matched front and rear bumpers, as well as a special slim bright lower grille moulding for the front bumper and two vertical rubber-faced painted bumper guards for the rear. The factory-painted 1969 AMXs were 195 in BBB, 285 in BBO, and 283 in BBG.

Popular Mechanics wrote that the 1969 “AMX preserves the status quo this year, being virtually unchanged, remains an absolute delight to drive.”

California 500

A specially equipped version was sold by West Coast AMC dealers in 1969. The cars came with several options that included “Trendsetter Sidewinder” sidepipes and brass plaques on the hood blisters.

Super Stock AMX

1969_AMC_AMX_SS_Hurst_at_Kenosha_show

 1969 Super Stock AMX

AMC also introduced the Super Stock AMX. To maximize quarter-mile performance, the 390 engine was equipped with twin Holley carburetors and 12.3:1 compression-ratio cylinder heads, plus aftermarket Doug’s headers and exhaust system, and the tires were drag-radial slicks. Hurst Performance carried out several additional modifications.

American Motors rated the car at 340 hp (250 kW), but the National Hot Rod Association ultimately rated it at 420 horsepower (310 kW) and shuffled it among various competition classes: SS/G, SS/D, and SS/C. Its best recorded quarter-mile was 10.73 seconds at 128 mph (206 km/h).

The Super Stock AMX was meant for the race track and lacked comfort equipment such as a heater. The car could be ordered all white, or in the vertical bands of red, white, and blue that distinguished numerous AMC competition cars of the day. Base price was $5,994, some $1,900 more than a fully loaded regular 1969 AMX. There was no factory warranty.

Playmate AMX

Playboy magazine’s 1968 Playmate of the Year, Angela Dorian, was awarded a specially painted “Playmate Pink” 1968 AMX. It was powered by the base 290 V8 with automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt wheel, AM/8-track radio and optional rear bumper guards. Aside from the unique color, it differed from other AMXs with its dashboard number plate containing Dorian’s measurements, making her car AMX 36-24-35.

Some sources describe other AMXs to have been painted Playmate Pink at the factory. AMC’s marketing vice-president, Bill McNealy, who handed over the keys to Angela Dorian’s car mentioned that “a number of them” were finished in pink.

In late 1968, a Playmate Pink AMX was special-ordered by a dealership in rural Potosi, Missouri. This 1969 model year car’s door tag indicates a “00” paint code (meaning a special-order color) and it has a 390 V8 with automatic transmission, as well as the performance “GO” Package, air conditioning, and leather seats.

Pikes Peak cars

1969_AMC_AMX_Pikes_Peak_car_at_Kenosha_show

 1969 AMX Pikes Peak pace car

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb used 1969 AMXs as pace cars for the hillclimb race to the summit of Pikes Peak that was held on 29 June 1969 in Colorado.

The AMX Pace and Courtesy cars were used by racers (including Bobby Unser) to practice the week prior to the race up the mountain. There were 12 (10 according to some sources) pace/courtesy AMXs, and all were equipped with the “390 Go-Pac” option and finished in “Frost White” with red stripes and red interiors.

A number of AMC and Jeep vehicles have participated in the annual race, winning class titles and setting records, but the only two-seat AMX that was officially raced in the hillclimb was a 1969 model piloted by Larry G. Mitchell in the 1987 “Vintage” class.

AMX-R

The original AMX’s “Ramble” seat idea was considered for possible production. A working prototype was built in 1968 from a regular AMX by James Jeffords, a designer-customizer, and was named the AMX-R. Jeffords was also head of the Javelin Trans Am Racing Team for AMC. Together with industrial designer Brooks Stevens, they decided to also “plush up” the interior, add custom paint treatment and hood with Jeffords’s name in badge form, as well as a modified suspension as part of their plan to offer an optional Ramble seat for 500 production cars. The first prototype was prepared by Dave Puhl’s House of Kustoms in Palatine, Illinois. However, numerous problems prevented serial production, including safety and product liability concerns, AMC’s refusal to sell him the cars to modify, as well as the negative reaction from Ralph Nader to the exposed exterior seating idea. The AMX-R’s special blacked-out hood treatment would later to be offered as “shadow mask” option on 1970 AMX models.

1970

1970_AMX_Big_Bad_Green_390_Go_Pac_in_WI_show

 1970 AMC AMX base model
Samsung

 1970 AMC AMX with “Ram Air” 390 V8
1970_AMX_yellow_with_black_shadow_mask

 1970 AMC AMX with black shadow mask
1970_AMX_BBO-interior

 1970 AMX interior
1970_AMC_AMX_1

 1970 AMC AMX

American Motors 1970 AMX advertising headlined, “We made the AMX look tougher this year because it’s tougher this year”. They were mildly facelifted resembling the first two model years, but the changes were different enough to be a separate design for 1970. Featured was a new front end design with a longer hood that had a “power blister” with two large openings. These were a functional cold ram-air induction system with the popular “Go Package” available with the 360 and 390 engines. The new grille was flush and full-width incorporating the headlamps. The revised rear end also featured full-width taillamps and a single center mounted backup light. Side marker lights were now shared with several other AMC models. Riding on the same wheelbase 97-inch (2,464 mm) as before, the changes increased the AMX’s overall body length by about two inches (51 millimeters) to 179 in (4,547 mm).

American Motors also changed the AMX’s engine lineup for 1970 with the introduction of a new 360 cu in (5.9 L) four-barrel (290 hp (220 kW), P-code) to replace the 343 V8. The smallest 290 was dropped and AMC could claim 65 more base horsepower than the AMXs had previously. The 390 V8 engine continued, but upgraded to new heads with 51 cc combustion chambers that increased power to 325 hp (242 kW). The code remained “X” for the engine on the vehicle identification number (VIN). The “Go package” was available with the 360 engine (including power front disc brakes, F70x14 raised white letter tires, handling package, and the ram-air induction system) for $298.85, or including the 390 engine for $383.90.

Also new, the double-wishbone front suspension had ball joints, upper and lower control arms, coil springs and shock absorbers above the upper control arms; as well as trailing struts on the lower control arms. The “Magnum 500” road wheels were now standard, but the new “Machine” 15×7 inch slot-styled wheels were optional.

The interiors of the AMX were also redesigned. The broad wood-grained dashboard, center console, and two-spoke “Rim Blow” steering wheel were new. Tall bucket seats now featured a “clamshell” design integrating the headrests. Leather upholstery was $34 extra. The exterior rear view mirror featured a new design and in some cases matched the car’s body color. The three “Big Bad” exterior paints continued to be optional on the 1970 AMXs, but they now came with regular chrome bumpers. A new “shadow mask” exterior finish applied over any available AMX color was a $52 option, which included a satin black-painted hood, engine compartment, front fender tops, and side window surrounds offset by thin silver striping. The optional “C-stripe” was $32.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the base model was US$ 3,395 (US$ 20,617 in 2015 dollars) as AMC promoted the 1970 AMX as, “A sports car for the price of a sporty car.”

Motor Trend summed up a road test of a 1970 AMX with the 390 engine as “one of better constructed cars around.” Described as “the best version yet of this blend of muscle car and sports car”, the 1970 model was also the last “true AMX”.

Performance figures

Original road test of a 390 AMX by Car and Driver (1968)

  • 0 to 60 mph = 6.6 seconds
  • 0-100 mph = 16.3 seconds
  • Dragstrip quarter-mile acceleration = 14.8 seconds @ 95 mph (153 km/h)
  • Top speed = 122 mph (196 km/h)

Original road test of a 390 AMX by Motor Trend (December 1969)

  • 0 to 60 mph = 6.56 seconds
  • Dragstrip quarter-mile acceleration = 14.68 seconds @ 92 mph (148 km/h)
AMC_AMX_Adkins_burnout_before_dragrace

 AMX dragracing burnout
Two_AMC_AMXs_dragrace_takeoff

 Two AMX dragsters taking off

In 1969, the TV show Car and Track posted the following times with an AMX 390 cu in (6.4 L) running a standard 4-barrel carburetor and 10.2:1 compression ratio:

  • 0 to 60 mph acceleration = 6.5 seconds
  • Dragstrip quarter-mile acceleration = 14.1 seconds

Racing

The AMC AMX, while not a Corvette, was a high-performance car with few equals. The cars were regular performers on dragstrips around the country. Drivers included Shirley Shahan, better known as the “Drag-On Lady”, and Lou Downy. National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) champion Wally Booth raced AMXs in the both the Super Stock and the Pro Stock classes. Herman Lewis, often described “as ‘the Godfather of AMC Racing’ … won 200 events in his hellacious red, white, and blue AMX.”

The 1968 and 1969 AMXs with AMC’s 390 cu in (6.4 L) engines compete in contemporary Nostalgia Super Stock drag racing. Owners have also modified AMXs to compete in modern Pro Touring car racing.

The AMX was campaigned in amateur Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) competition. An AMX was in second place in the 1969 SCCA national championship. Dwight Knupp drove his AMX just 1 minute and 14 seconds behind a Corvette’s winning average of 102.385 mph (165 km/h) on 30 November 1969, at the Daytona International Speedway with 16 cars in the B production class, and placed sixth overall out of the total of 28 A and B class cars competing in the race.

A 1969 AMX was entered in the 1971 and 1972 Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an unofficial automobile race from New York City and Darien, CT, on the US Atlantic (east) coast, to Redondo Beach, a Los Angeles suburb on the Pacific (west) coast. This was during the time of the newly imposed 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit set by the National Maximum Speed Law. A team of enthusiastic brothers, Tom and Ed Bruerton, finished the 1971 competition in fifth place. They drove 2,897 miles (4,662 km) in 37 hours and 48 minutes at an average of 77.3 mph (124 km/h), with no speeding tickets. Their AMX already had 90,000 miles (144,841 km) on the odometer and the brothers had previously taken it on numerous endurance rides, including “a rocky ride the entire length of the Baja California peninsula.” They again entered “their battlescarred AMX one more time” in the 1972 run. The brothers finished in eighth place, making the coast-to-coast outlaw race in 39 hours and 42 minutes at an average of 72.3 mph (116 km/h).

Production

1969_AACA_museum_AMC_AMX_flv

 1969 AMX in “Big Bad Orange” with 390 Go-Package at the AACA Museum
1969_AMC_AMX_Castilian_Gray_mdD-1

 1969 AMC AMX after a drag strip run

The two-seat AMX was built for three model years following its debut as a mid-year model on February 15, 1968. The first 1968 model year cars were scheduled to appear in dealer showrooms on March 19, 1968.

AMC AMX model year production totals in the U.S., by engine and transmission:

1968 1969 1970 Total
290 manual 525 619 n.a. 1,144
290 automatic 484 299 n.a. 783
343 manual 415 843 n.a. 1,258
343 automatic 902 729 n.a. 1,631
360 manual n.a. n.a. 836 836
360 automatic n.a. n.a. 747 747
390 manual 2,112 3,690 1,632 7,364
390 automatic 2,287 2,183 901 5,371
Model year and grand totals 6,725 8,293 4,116 19,134

In 1969, American Motors showed the next generation AMX/2 concept car in the automobile show circuit. As the two-seater AMX production ceased in 1970, AMC was developing a sophisticated European-engineered alternative, the AMX/3 for 1971 introduction. However, overall economic conditions changed with spiraling inflation pushing sales of smaller cars along with the insurance companies’ decision to penalize high-powered automobiles resulting in decreasing the sports-type car market segment, and the AMX was made into a high-performance model of the 4-seat Javelin starting in 1971.

Assembly in Australia

1969 Rambler_AMX_1969_advert

 1969 Rambler AMX assembled by AMI

A total of 24 right hand drive 1969 model year AMXs were hand assembled under license in Australia by Australian Motor Industries (AMI) between August, 1969, and July, 1970. They used the name Rambler AMX as AMI produced the Rambler range of cars since October 1960. Complete knock down (CKD) kits were shipped from Kenosha, Wisconsin to AMI’s facilities at Port Melbourne in Victoria.

Differences to the RHD Australian AMXs (compared to the U.S. models) included different outside rear-view mirrors, and black vinyl trim inside the “AMX” circle logo on the C-pillars, As with Rambler sedans built in right hand drive, windscreen wipers were not reversed, remaining LHD pattern, but the power brake booster and heater on the firewall were swapped over. Although the power steering pump remained in its usual left location, the remainder of the steering components were on the right side of the car. The cars came with 343 cu in (5.6 L) and automatic transmission, power steering, power disk brakes, “twin-grip” rear axle, and other items that were optional on the U.S. models. All of the Australian AMX interiors were finished in black and featured unique seats, door panels, and a fiberglass RHD dashboard with a wood-grained instrument cluster in front of the driver. The Australian AMXs came with a large high level of equipment and were promoted as “super” personal luxury cars.

Concept and show cars

AMX/2

Vince Gardner, an outside consultant, designed the fiberglass-bodied AMX II concept car in 1966 as part of AMC’s “Project IV” exhibit. Corporation president Roy Abernethy sanctioned the Turin coachbuilder Vignale to construct an operational car in steel. Delivered in 78 days and known as the “AMX Vignale”, it was first displayed at the 1966 New York International Auto Show.

AMX GT

Main article: AMC AMX-GT

Developed for the 1968 auto show circuit, the AMX GT is a concept car based on a shortened and “chopped” Javelin with a Kammback rear end. The AMX GT show car provided several design clues to future production models and performance options.

AMX-400

In the late-1960s, George Barris made bolt-on customizing kits for the AMX that were marketed through AMC dealers. He also performed a radical custom treatment on a 1969 AMX. The car was built for the second Banacek TV season episode. The car was lowered and its body was heavily modified. Its roof was cut down almost 5 in (127 mm) and the car was lengthened by 18 in (457 mm). Featuring a sculpted body with louvered accents, it became known as the AMX-400. The car featured a taillight system that glowed green during acceleration, amber during deceleration, and red during braking.

AMX/3

AMC_AMX3_Front

 AMC AMX/3 concept car
1970_AMC_AMX.3_proto,_rL

 Mid-engined AMC AMX/3

Widely considered as the best AMC design of all time, a third-generation AMX concept car, the AMX/3, debuted at the 1970 Chicago Auto Show. Engine-less and fashioned in fiberglass, the original AMC/3 prototype was a show car only.

American Motors placed an order for 30 operational cars. The AMX/3 body mold was sent to Italian GT maker Giotto Bizzarrini, whose Turin facility hand made drivable mid-engined, steel bodied cars. Built on a 105.3-inch (2,675 mm) wheelbase, the Bizzarrini prototypes used the AMC 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 and an Italian OTO Melara four-speed transaxle. Road testing was done by BMW, which declared the AMX/3’s chassis one of the stiffest and most neutral handling they had ever tested.

The steel Italian cars differed from the original AMC design in having fewer but functional rear decklid louvers, louvered hoods, and, in some cases, hood scoops to direct fresh air into the heating-A/C system.

Five completed cars were produced before the US$ 2,000,000 program was cancelled. Escalating costs and pending bumper regulations put a stop to the mid-engined AMX/3. The remaining extra parts were used by erstwhile Bizzarini collaborator Salvatore Diomante to assemble a sixth car.

1971 Teague AMX

1971_AMC_AMX_concept_at_Kenosha_100-f

 1971 AMX concept car
1971_AMC_AMX_concept_at_Kenosha_100-r

 Teague’s two-seat 1971 AMX

Sales of the two-seat AMX were not up to the numbers that American Motors management wanted, but AMC’s vice president for styling, Richard A. Teague, wanted to continue the sports model. American Motors’ Advanced Design Studio made design proposals for a 1971 AMX and Teague requested—and received permission—to produce a fully workingconcept car.

Starting with a Frost White 1968 AMX coupe as the development mule, Teague updated its front end to the grille and swooping front fenders of what was incorporated into the production 1971 Javelin. The concept car also featured the interior to what was to become AMC’s characteristic high-backed bucket seats and corduroy upholstery introduced in 1970. The concept car was repainted light metallic blue with red striping to match the interior. A short-wheelbase, two-seat 1971 AMX was not approved for production by the automaker, but Teague used this car as his daily driver.

Collectibility

1969_AMX_black_with_red_stripes_VA_r

 Stock 1969 AMX at AACA car show
1969_AMC_AMX_SS_Hurst_at_Florida_show

 1969 SS Hurst (documented car #23) “Performance Automotive” at Daytona Florida show
1970_AMX_BBO-exteriorF

 Stock 1970 AMX with BBO and “shadow mask” finish at a car show
1970_AMX_Big_Bad_Orange_with_C-stripe_MD-e1

 Stock 1970 AMX 390 engine at classic car show

Automotive historian and author, Richard M. Langworth noted that the AMX has “all the right sports-car stuff” and that the “little machine that can only go up in value over the long haul.”

Prior to 2004 the AMX had been under-appreciated from an investment standpoint, according to CNN.

In 2004, there was considerable variation between the values of two-seat AMXs and four-seat Javelin AMXs. Craig Fitzgerald mentioned “the satisfaction in owning a car that you don’t see every single day, or on the cover of every single magazine,” and favored the two-seater, on the grounds of its rarity; but he noted that parts for either car were extremely expensive.

In 2006, the editors of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine said that AMCs had “experienced notable value increases over the last few years–especially AMXs…” The book Keith Martin’s Guide to Car Collecting, in collaboration with the editors of the monthly Sports Car Market, lists the 1970 AMX as one of the picks under $40,000 among “Nine Muscle Car Sleepers”.

Unique versions, such as the California 500 Specials and the 52 Hurst-modified SS/AMX drag race cars are perhaps the most highly sought after by collectors. In 2006, a California 500 AMX sold for $54,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, while a regular AMX went for over $55,000 at the Mecum collector auction in Belvidere, Illinois. In 2007, Hemmings wrote that only about 39 of the original SS/AMX turn-key race cars may have survived.

By 2007, the AMX was “among the most highly sought AMC cars” and “really taking off in the muscle-car market”. Also in 2007, Hemmings said that the two-seater AMX had “a strong following among old car hobbyists and collectors of historic vehicles and nearly every one of the 19,134 built…remains in circulation and in demand, ensuring a good future for the first-generation AMX as a collectible muscle car.” The 2007 book Classic Carsstates that AMC’s small and powerful AMX “had tire-burning speed” and “all have become collector’s items.”

Noting the increasing values of the 1968-1970 AMXs, Hemmings listed them among the “21 hottest cars” that enthusiasts wanted in 2007 “and will want tomorrow.”

In 2008, Hemmings said that buyers had “only recently ‘discovered’ the AMX; they’re now snapping them up left and right. Prices … are on the rise, though they still represent a relative bargain compared to many more common muscle machines.”

In 2010, Hemmings Classic Car included the two-seat AMXs in their list of 32 best cars to restore in terms of economic sense after factoring purchase price, parts availability, as well as restored value and desirability.

Although low in production, the AMX shared parts and components with other AMC models. There are many active AMC car clubs for these cars. Parts, including reproduction components, are available. However, “AMC did not build cars in the vast numbers the Big Three did back in the day; therefore, there are fewer to restore and not as many parts to go around.” As of 2010, Hemmings Classic Car wrote that the AMXs are “pretty basic” so they are not hard to restore, and that “reproduction parts are available” and continues to grow with many mechanical parts interchanging with other cars.

More valuable according to automotive historian and author, James C. Mays, is the “wow factor”. His book, The Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction, explains this important and measurable pleasure to an owner, whether their car is driven or sits in a climate-controlled garage, such as a red 1969 AMX that attracts more attention than the more prestigious Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

Number matching

American Motors did not provide identification on the engine block, known as VIN stamping, as some other car manufacturers had been doing at that time. Other than the actual displacement, there was no way to associate a vehicle with the original “born with” engine. Since this was common practice at the GM and Chrysler plants it is much easier to verify that the exact engine in the car is actually the factory original unit. Each AMC vehicle was inspected to confirm that the engine displacement (identified by numbers cast on the block under the engine mounts) corresponded to its corresponding engine code in the vehicle identification number (VIN). A tag screwed to the valve cover provides an engine’s build date, and that date code always preceded a specific car’s production sequence. However, there is no engine “numbers matching” test for AMXs or any other AMC automobiles.

As a marketing move for the AMX, AMC affixed a small plate with a number to the center of the dash (1968-1969) or to the glovebox door (1970). These are random numbers. They do not coincide with any other identifying number such as the car’s VIN code, dealer or zone order, production sequence, nor build date. For example, the numbers on the 1970 models ranged from 014469 to 18584.

Scale models

A variety of scale models of the AMX are available including promotional 1/25-scale model manufactured under license from AMC by Jo-Han in factory colors. Hot Wheels offered a 1969 AMX custom in 1:64 scale, and in 1971 issued the AMX/2 show car model. Newer models in 1:18 scale diecast were issued, including the Playboy Pink version in the “Best of the Best” series, as well as the modified “Drag-On Lady” race car. According to the editors of Die Cast X Magazine, “muscle cars are the largest, most popular category in die-cast” collectors, and they included the AMC AMX among the 34 models that represent “the best and most important from the genre … performance and style that are the hallmarks of the high point of American automotive history.”

AMC Hornet

AMC Hornet
1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout

1976 AMC Hornet Sportabout wagon
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation(AMC)
Also called
Production 1969–1977
Model years 1970–1977
Assembly
Designer Richard A. Teague
Body and chassis
Class Compact
Body style
Layout FR layout
Platform AMC’s “junior cars”
Related AMC Gremlin
Powertrain
Engine
  • 199 cu in (3.3 L) I6
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
  • 250 cu in (4.1 L) GM I6 – South Africa only
  • 252 cu in (4.1 L) VAM I6 – Mexico only
  • 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
  • 282 cu in (4.6 L) VAM I6 – Mexico only
  • 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
  • 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)
Length
  • 179.3 in (4,554 mm) (1970–1972)
  • 185.8 in (4,719 mm) (1973–1977)
Width 70.6 in (1,793 mm)
Chronology
Predecessor Rambler American
Successor AMC Concord

The AMC Hornet is a compact automobile which was manufactured and marketed by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) in a single generation from model years 1970 through 1977. The Hornet replaced the compact Rambler American marking the end of the Rambler marque in the American and Canadian markets. Hornets were also marketed in foreign markets, as well as assembled under license agreements with AMC that included Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM), Australian Motor Industries (AMI), and by Toyota S.A. Ltd. in South Africa.

The new Hornet became an important vehicle and platform for AMC. It served the company in one form or another for eighteen years, until the 1988 model year. It would outlast all other compact platforms from the competition that included the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick, and Plymouth Valiant. The Hornet was also the basis for AMC’s Gremlin, Concord, Spirit, and the innovative all-wheel drive AMC Eagle.

The AMC Hornet served as an experimental platform for alternative fuel and other automotive technologies. Hornets were campaigned in various motorsports events with some corporate support. A hatchback version was also was featured as part of a special aerial jump in The Man with the Golden Gun, a James Bond film released in 1974.

Origins of the “Hornet” name

The Hornet name plate goes back to the mid-1950s. The name originated from the merger of Hudson Motor Company and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation in 1954. Hudson introduced the first Hudson Hornet in 1951. The automaker formed a stock car racing team centered on the car, and the “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” soon became famous for its wins and stock-car title sweeps between 1951 and 1954. American Motors, the resulting corporation formed by the merger of Nash Motors and Hudson, continued to produce Nash-based Hornets, which were sold under the Hudson marque from 1955 to 1957. The automaker retained rights to the name while it was dormant from 1958 to 1969. The rights to the “Hornet” nameplate then passed to Chrysler with that company’s acquisition of AMC in 1987.

History

1971_AMC_Hornet_SC360_red_md-Dn

 AMC Hornet badge
1971+1972 AMC_Hornets_in_Kenosha_Wisconsin

 1971 2-door sedan and 1972 Hornet Sportabout

The Hornet’s styling was based on the AMC Cavalier and Vixen show cars. The Hornet, as well as the Ford Maverick, were considered a response by the domestic automakers to battle with the imports.

Development of the new model took AMC three years, a million man-hours, and US$40 million. The Hornet was an all-new design sharing no major body components, but utilizing some of the Rambler American’s chassis and drivetrain. An all-new front suspension with anti-brake dive was developed for AMC’s large-sized “senior” 1970 models, and instead of developing lighter components for the new compact-size platform, the same parts were incorporated into the Hornet.

Introduced in 1969 for the 1970 model year, the Hornet was the first car in a line of new models that AMC would introduce over the following three years, and it set the tone for what designer Richard A. Teague and chief executive officer Roy D. Chapin, Jr., had in mind for the company for the 1970s. The Hornet marked the return of AMC to its original role as a “niche” marketer specializing in small cars. It also became one of AMCs best sellers.

With its manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) of US$ 1,994 for the base model, the Hornet was an economical small family car. However, it took design cues from the popular Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, and the company’s own Javelin with a long hood, short rear deck and sporty looks. The Hornet’s 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase platform (two inches or 5.08 centimeters longer than its predecessor, the Rambler American) evolved into a number of other models (including the four-wheel-drive Eagle) and was produced through 1988. The Hornet was initially available in a choice of two thrifty straight-six engines or a 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8.

The Hornet was offered as a two-door and four-door notchback sedan in its introductory year. The hardtop (no “B” pillar) coupe body style was not continued from the 1969 Rambler American. A four-door station wagonvariant named the “Sportabout” was added to the 1971 lineup. Also for 1971, the SC/360 was added. This was a 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 powered compact muscle car that was available only as a two-door sedan. (The tire pressure sticker on the first 1970 models hinted at the SC/360). For 1973, a semi-fastback hatchback coupe with fold down rear seats was added to the lineup.

AMC used the Hornet as the basis for its AMC Gremlin, which consisted of the front half of the two-door Hornet’s body and a truncated rear section with a window hatchback.

In 1973 a Levi’s Jeans trim package – based on the world-famous jeans manufacturer – was added. The Levi’s trim package was popular and was available for several years. The Hornet station wagon version was offered for two model years with a luxury trim package designed by Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci. It is notable for being one of the first American cars to offer an upscale fashion “designer” trim level.

The AMC Hornet was also the first U.S. made automobile to feature guardrail beam doors to protect occupants in the event of a side impact. The 1973 Hornet hatchback was the first U.S.-made compact hatchback design, introduced one year ahead of the 1974 Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Nova hatchback versions.

The Hornet was phased out after 1977 and transformed into a new “luxury compact” line of automobiles, the AMC Concord. It also served as the basis of an innovative “crossover” all-wheel drive vehicle, the AMC Eagle that was introduced in 1979.

Year-by-year changes

1970

1970_AMC_Hornet_SST_2-door_green_Kenosha-f1970_AMC_Hornet_SST_2-door_green_Kenosha-r
1970 Hornet SST model

Introduced in September 1969, the first year Hornets came in “base” and higher trim SST models, and in 2 and 4-door sedans. The 199 cu in (3.3 L) straight-6 engine was standard on the base models with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) standard on the SST. The 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine was optional.

The annual new car issue of Popular Science introduced the 1970 model by entitling its article: “Rambler is dead – long live the Hornet!” The authors not only compared the new Hornet with the outgoing Rambler American, but also with its primary competition, the Ford Maverick and finding the Hornet better to Ford’s new model in several factors that are significant to consumers, as well as “certainly superior among economy cars” in ride-and-handling and “way ahead” in performance.

Popular Mechanics road test of a SST model with V8 engine and automatic transmission summarized the findings in the article’s sub-title: “it has a lot of good things in a not-too-small package.”

Popular Science conducted a road test of four of lowest priced U.S. cars (AMC Hornet, Ford Maverick, Plymouth Duster, and Chevrolet Nova) describing the 1970 Hornet offering more interior and trunk room, excellent visibility in all directions, achieved the highest fuel economy, needed the optional disk brakes, and the authors concluded that it was the “practical family car … better value than any of the others”.

1970 production:

2-door base: 43,610
4-door base: 17,948
2-door SST: 19,748
4-door SST: 19,786

1971

1971_AMC_Hornet_2-door_sedan_blue_f
1971 AMC Hornet badge
1971 Hornet “base” model

The 1971 model year was the introduction of the Sportabout, a 4-door wagon using a single hatch design in place of the traditional tailgate. The 2- and 4-door sedans were carryovers. The 232 I6 engine was now standard across the range.

A marketing promotion in the Spring made available a new fabric folding sunroof on specially equipped Hornets, as well as on the Gremlin. The opening roof feature was included with the purchase of whitewall tires, custom wheel covers, pinstripes or rally stripes, a light group, and a special visibility group.

SC360

1971_AMC_Hornet_SC360_red_md-Da

 1971 AMC Hornet SC 360

A notable addition was the SC360 version, a compact 2-door muscle car that was intended as a follow-up to the 1969 SC Rambler. Powered by the AMC’s 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8, the SC was distinguished by styled wheels, hood scoop, body striping, and other performance and appearance upgrades. In standard form, with two-barrel carburetor, the 360 produced 245 hp (183 kW; 248 PS) (gross) and was priced at just US$ 2,663 (about $40 below the 1971 Plymouth Duster 340). With the addition of the $199 “Go” package’s four-barrel carburetor and ram-air induction, the SC’s power increased to 285 hp (213 kW; 289 PS). Optional in place of the standard three-speed was a Hurst-shifted four-speed or an automatic transmission. Goodyear Polyglas D70x14 tires were standard, with upgrades running to the handling package and the “Twin-Grip” limited slip differential with 3.54:1 or 3.90:1 gears.

Although the SC/360 could not compete with the holdover big-engined muscle cars, the SC combined respectable quickness (0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and the 1/4 mile dragstrip in 14.9 at 95 mph (153 km/h) with a taut suspension, big tires, and modest size; thus Motor Trend magazine described it as “just a plain gas to drive … it handles like a dream.”

American Motors originally planned to build as many as 10,000 of the cars, but high insurance premiums killed the SC/360 after a single year’s production of just 784 examples.

The Sportabout on the other hand was the most popular model by far, outselling all other Hornet models combined in its debut year. For most of its life it was the only American-made station wagon in its size class.

1971 production:

2-door base: 19,395
4-door base: 10,403
2-door SST: 8,600
4-door SST: 10,651
Wagon SST: 73,471
SC360: 784

1972

1972_AMC_Hornet_Sportabout_and_sports_bar

 1972 Hornet Sportabout

American Motors established a new focus on quality with the 1972 model year. The “Buyer Protection Plan”, was the industry’s first 12 month or 12,000 miles (19,000 km) comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper warranty. This innovative AMC Buyer Protection Plan included numerous mechanical upgrades to increase durability, as well as a focus on quality in sourcing and production.

The 1972 Hornet was promoted by AMC as “a Tough Little Car”. American Motors promised to repair anything wrong with the car (except for the tires), owners were provided with a toll-free telephone number to the company and a free loaner car if a warranty repair took overnight.

To consolidate AMC’s product offering, reduce production costs, and offer more value to consumers, the base models were dropped in 1972 and all models were designated as “SST”. The SST offered more items standard than the previous year’s base model at about the same price. Hornets now came with comfort and convenience items that most consumers expected, and these items were typically standard on imported cars.

Other changes included dropping the SC/360 compact muscle car, but the two-barrel version of the 360 cu in (5.9 L) remained optional in addition to the 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine. For those desiring more performance, a four-barrel carburetor was a dealer-installed option on the 360 V8. Automatic transmissions were now the Torque Flites sourced from Chrysler, and AMC called it the “Torque-Command”.

New for 1972 were the “X” package that tried to repeat the success AMC had with this trim option on the 1971 Gremlin. The Hornet X trim was optional on the two-door and the Sportabout, adding among others slot-styled steel wheels, rally stripes, and sports steering wheel. A performance oriented “Rallye” package was also introduced. It included among other items: special lower body stripes, bucket seats, handling package, front disc brakes, quick-ratio manual steering, and a sports steering wheel.

1972 production:

2-door SST: 27,122
4-door SST: 24,254
Wagon SST: 34,065 (Gucci version: 2,583)

Gucci Sportabout

The 1972 Hornet was notable for being one of the first American cars to offer a special luxury trim package created by a fashion designer. Named for Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci, the Gucci package was offered only on the Sportabout, the four-door wagon with a single sloping hatch replacing the then traditional window/tailgate door. The option included special beige-colored upholstery fabrics on thickly padded seats and inside door panels (with red and green striping) along with Gucci logo emblems and a choice of four exterior colors: Snow White; Hunter Green; Grasshopper Green, and Yuca Tan. The Gucci model proved to be a success, with 2,583 produced in 1972 (and 2,252 more for 1973) Sportabouts so equipped.

AMC also produced a one-off Sportabout for Gucci’s personal use. The car was powered by a 5-litre V8 engine and had a three-speed automatic transmission. The interior featured leather was door panels, cargo area as well as the front and rear centre arm rests. The doors and custom-designed bucket seats received red and green striped inserts. The instrument panel was given a centrally located, pull-out writing desk, graced with a scribbler and a sterling silver bamboo pen. A map light at the end of a flexible arm extended from the right side of the desk, the left carried a vanity mirror, also on a flex stem.[26] The back of the front seats popped open. The one on the passenger’s side served as a snack table or provided a flat surface for playing games. The compartment behind the driver concealed a miniature liquor cabinet, complete with four sterling silver tumbles and two decanters—all decorated with red and green enamel stripes.

American Motors followed this designer influence in successive years with the Cardin Javelin in 1973 and the Cassini Matador in 1974, but there were no new signature designer versions after those. This trim package concept inspired other automakers – including Ford‘s luxury marque, Lincoln in 1976 – to offer packages styled by other famous fashion designers.

1973

1973_Hornet_hatchback_V8_red_MD-fr1973_Hornet_hatchback_V8_red_MD-rl
1973_Hornet_hatchback_V8_red_eng
1973 AMC Hornet hatchback with 5.0 L engine

The biggest visible changes among all AMC automobiles for the 1973 model year were to the Hornet line and its new model, a two-door hatchbackCar and Driver magazine called it “the styling coup of 1973”. Other changes included a new front-end design and bodywork with a V-shaped grille, a slightly recessed and longer hood, and longer peaked front fenders. The facelift incorporated a new stronger and larger energy-absorbing recoverable front bumper system with a horizontal rubber strip that met the new no-damage at 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h) NHTSA safety legislation. The rear also received a new 2.5 miles per hour (4.0 km/h) bumper with twin vertical rubber guards, but the 5 mph unit (matching the front) was optional. The overall length of the Hornet increased 6 inches (152 mm).

For the 1973 model year, the SST designation was dropped from the Hornet line, and all were simply called Hornet. The newly introduced two-door hatchback incorporated a fold-down rear seat for increased cargo volume from 9.5 to 30.5 cubic feet (269 to 864 l). An optional hinged floor made a hidden storage space that housed a temporary use “space-saver” spare tire, and created a flat load area totaling 23 cu ft (650 l). An optional dealer accessory was available to convert the open hatchback area into a tent camper with mosquito net windows. The new hatchback was available with a Levis bucket seat interior trim option that was actually made of spunnylon fabric, rather than real cotton denim, to comply with flammability standards as well as offer greater wear and stain resistance.

The two- and four-door sedan models were carried over while the Sportabout wagon received a new optional upscale “D/L” package. This trim package included exterior woodgrain body side decal panels, a roof rack with rear air deflector, and individual reclining seats upholstered in plush cloth. The Gucci edition wagon was continued for one more year with five exterior color choices. The “X” package was now available only for the Sportabout and hatchback.

Spurred by AMC’s success in its strategy of improving product quality, and an advertising campaign focusing on “we back them better because we build them better”, the automaker achieved record profits. American Motors’ comprehensive “Buyer Protection Plan” warranty was expanded for the 1973 models to cover lodging expenses should a car require overnight repairs when the owner is away from home.

Engines incorporated new emissions controls and the choices on all Hornet models included two I6s, the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) or a 258 cu in (4.2 L) version, as well as two V8s, the base 304 cu in (5.0 L) or the 175 hp (130 kW; 177 PS) 360 cu in (5.9 L).

Research sponsored by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve front and side crashworthiness was first applied into production compact vehicles starting with the 1973 Hornet, which included stronger doors designed to withstand 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg) penetration in the first 6 inches (152 mm) of crush.

Suggested prices began at $2,298 for the base model two-door sedan with the more popular new hatchback going for $2,449.

1973 production:

2-door: 23,187
4-door: 25,452
Wagon: 44,719 (Gucci version: 2,251)
Hatchback: 40,110

1974

1974_AMC_Hornet_4-door_-_base_model_2014-AMO-NC_1

 1974 AMC Hornet base model
AMC Hornet Station Wagon

 AMC Hornet station wagon

All four versions of the Hornet were mostly carryovers in 1974, with minimal trim changes. The car’s front bumper lost its full-width vinyl rub strip, but gained two rubber-faced bumper guards. A larger rear bumper was added to meet new 5 mph legislation, and the license plate was moved up to a position between the taillights.

New inertial-reel seat/shoulder belts were standard, along with a new electronic system requiring front seat passengers to buckle up before the engine would start.

1974 production:

2-door: 29,950
4-door: 29,754
Wagon: 71,413
Hatchback: 55,158

1975

1975_AMC_Hornet_Two_Door_Sedan_Front

 1975 Hornet

Focusing on the new Pacer, AMC kept the Hornet mostly the same. A new grille with vertical grating was the primary change. A new “Touring Package” included special upholstery and luxury features. In a return to its philosophy of economical compact cars, AMC emphasized its comprehensive “Buyer Protection Plan” warranty in marketing the Hornets.

Six-cylinder Hornets could be ordered with a new British supplied Laycock de Normanville “J-type” overdrive. Optional on cars with a manual three-speed transmission, the unit was controlled by a pushbutton at the end of the turn signal stalk. The overdrive unit engages automatically at speeds above 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) and drops out at 32 mph (51 km/h). It also included an accelerator pedal kickdown switch for faster passing.

All U.S. market Hornets featured catalytic converters and now required gasoline without tetraethyl lead. “Unleaded Fuel Only” warnings were displayed on both the fuel gauge and on a decal by the fuel filler. Consumers complained loudly about the 1974 “mandatory seat belt” system, and it was replaced in 1975 with a simple reminder buzzer and light.

The U.S. economy was experiencing inflation, and new car sales fell for all the automakers. The industry sold 8.2 million units, a drop of more than 2.5 million from the record pace in 1973. Sales of the Hornet also suffered.

1975 production:

2-door: 12,392
4-door: 20,565
Wagon: 39,593
Hatchback: 13,441

1976

In its sixth year as a carryover, AMC priced the sedan and hatchback at the same identically, with the Sportabout slightly higher. That year, the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare were introduced; the line included a station wagon, ending AMC’s monopoly on 6-cylinder domestic compact wagons.

1976 production:

Total: 71,577

1977

The Hornet line was mostly unchanged for 1977 with improvements made to engines and transmissions for increased fuel efficiency and the effects of new nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission standards. All 3-speed manual transmissions were now on the floor. A new “AMX” model also appeared.

1977 production:

2-door: 6,076
4-door: 31,331
Wagon: 28,891
Hatchback: 11,545

In fall 1977, the Hornet was reengineered and restyled to become the 1978 Concord and helped establish the “luxury compact” market segment. With its upgraded design, components, and more standard features, the new Concord was moved upscale from the economy-focused Hornet. Changes to the AMC’s “junior” platform made the new Concord more comfortable and desirable to buyers seeking an image of luxury, as well as greater value.

AMX

A new sports oriented model, the AMX, was introduced to appeal to young, performance-oriented car buyers. The AMX was available only as a hatchback with the six or the V8 engine featuring a floor shifted four-speed manual or automatic transmission. Standard was an upgraded black or tan interior with a floor console, “rally” instrumentation with tachometer, and “soft-feel” sports steering wheel. The special “Hornet AMX” was only available in four exterior colors that included matching painted bumpers with a wraparound rubber guard strip, body side rubber guard strip and contrasting AMX model identification bodyside decals ahead of the rear wheels. The exterior included a front spoiler integrated into the front lower fender extensions, rear lower fender flares, sport-styled road wheels, brushed aluminumTarga top” band over the B-pillars and roof, black left and right outside mirrors, and louvers for the rear hatch window. Options included bright aluminum road wheels and large Hornet-graphic decals on the hood and on the decklid. This model marked the return of a famous name that evoked AMC’s original AMX two-seat sports car.

International markets

The AMC Hornet was exported to international markets, as well as assembled under license from Complete knock down (CKD) kits that were shipped from AMC’s factories the U.S. or Canada. The foreign built cars incorporated numerous components and parts that were produced by local manufacturers to gain tax or tariff preferences.

Australia

1973_Rambler_Hornet_Sedan

 Rambler Hornet built by Australian Motor Industries

A total of 1,825 Hornets were built at the Australian Motor Industries (AMI) factory at Port Melbourne in Victoria, Australia between 1970 and 1975. The Hornet was sold in Australia as the Rambler Hornet, only in four-door sedan body style. It was fitted with either a 232 cu in (3.8 L) or 258 cu in (4.2 L) six-cylinder engine and with an automatic transmission.

While the Hornet was the least expensive compact model in the United States, the Hornet in Australia was a luxury model, with high levels of trim, carpet, tires, and accessories. These included high-back seats, fully lined boot and covered spare wheel. The Hornet used a PBR fully assisted dual braking system, and front disc brakes from the Javelin Trans Am. The Hornet sold for $3,999 in 1970, with 407 cars being sold in Australia in that year.

Mexico

1977_AMC_Hornet_Sedan

 1977 four-door sedan, regular use in Chile (2011)

American Motors has partial ownership of Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) and produced Hornets in Mexico from 1970 through 1977. The VAM built cars continued to be called VAM Rambler following the tradition of the VAM-built Rambler American models up to 1974. The Mexican models included:

  • VAM Rambler American (up to 1974) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet
  • VAM Rambler American Rally – U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet X sedan instead of hatchback
  • VAM American (after 1975) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet base model
  • VAM American Rally – U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet X sedan instead of hatchback
  • VAM American ECD (1975–1977) U.S. equivalent – AMC Hornet DL two- and four-door sedans
  • VAM American GFS (1977) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet DL two-door sedan, replaces two-door ECD
  • VAM Camioneta American automática (1977) U.S. equivalent: AMC Hornet DL wagon with automatic transmission

The VAM cars came with different trims and interiors than the equivalent AMC-made models. The models also combined different front clips, such as the 1977 VAM American came with the shorter U.S. and Canadian market 1977 Gremlin front end, while its interior trim featured premium seats and upholstery.

VAM Rambler American

The initial VAM Rambler Americans were available in a single nameless trim level (equivalent to the U.S. SST models), with only an optional performance-minded “Rally” package for the two-door sedans that was carried over from 1969.

1970

The Hornet-based 1970 VAM Rambler American featured a standard a 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 producing 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) with a 244 degree camshaft, 8.5:1 compression ratio, and a single-barrel Carter RBS or YF carburetor. A fully synchronized three-speed manual transmission with column-mounted shifter, heavy duty clutch, and a 3.54:1 rear differential gear ratio were standard. The cars came with four-wheel drum brakes, manual steering, four-rigid-bladed engine fan, and regular-duty cooling system. Convenience equipment included a two-tone padded dashboard with a three-pod instrument cluster, “RAMBLER” emblem on the glove box door, electric windshield wipers and washers, a 200 km/h speedometer, side marker lights, four-way hazard lights, antitheft steering column locking mechanism, base steering wheel, brake system warning light, AM radio, front ashtray, cigarette lighter, locking glove box, padded sunvisors, day/night rearview mirror, cardboard-type sound-absorbing headliner, round dome light, dual coat hooks, flip-open rear side vents, full carpeting, driver’s side rubber floor mat sewed to the carpet, front bench seat with split folding backs on two door sedan or with a fixed back on the four door, bench rear seat, two-point front seatbelts, dual rear ashtrays, front and rear side armrests, vinyl-cloth upholstery on seats and side door panels, aluminum grille, backup lights, steel wheels with center hubcaps, dual “232 SIX” rear quarter panel emblems, dual “bulleye” emblems on the lower corner of the rear side vents, script “American” emblems on both front fenders, capital lettered “RAMBLER” rectangular emblem between the right taillight and the gas filler, non-locking gas cap, manual driver’s side remote mirror, and radio antenna. Factory options consisted of a heating system with windshield defroster, power drum brakes, power steering, bright molding package, protective side moldings, parcel shelf, courtesy lights (separate or in-shelf), 6000 RPM VDO tachometer with dual hands, luxury wheel covers, sports steering wheel, custom steering wheel, passenger’s side remote mirror, remote-controlled driver’s side remote mirror, bright panel between taillights, metal bumper guards with rubber edges, full vinyl roof with additional bright moldings, and a heavy-duty suspension (front sway bar and stiffer adjustable shock absorbers).

1971

The VAM Rambler American sedans for 1971 were carried over from 1970. Among the changes was the incorporation of VAM’s 266 degree camshaft to the 232 engine replacing AMC’s 244 degree unit. Despite power increase, the official announced output of the engine was still 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) at 4,400 rpm. New interior colors, side armrest and side panel designs were available. The AM radio was updated to a newer model. The new year introduced the Hornet Sportabout-based Camioneta Rambler American. The station wagon version included the same equipment as the two sedan models with a several additional features. The Camioneta Rambler American included the parcel shelf with courtesy lights as standard equipment and was the only Mexican Hornet version to be available with a three-speed automatic transmission as optional equipment. Cars with the automatic transmission included the one-barrel 145 hp 232 six, while those with manual transmission had the 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS) 232 six with Carter WCD carburetor.

1972

The 1972 model year VAM models incorporated the same engineering revisions and upgrades of the U.S. market AMC-built counterparts. All VAM Rambler Americans were limited to the 145 hp 232 engine and featured a front sway bar as standard equipment. The 1972 models also included a new plastic grille with a revised hood latch, along with a new tail light design with larger backup lights, a new optional wheel cover design, a third AM radio model (shared with the VAM Javelin), and new interior door panels. This was also the first year of the seatbelt warning buzzer located above the light and wiper knobs. The Camioneta Rambler American featured the Chrysler-built TorqueFlite A904 automatic transmission, replacing the previous Borg-Warner “Shift-Command” units.

1973

The 1973 model year VAM Hornets were redesigned and incorporated a new front end design with larger horizontal rectangular side marker lights, semi-square headlight bezels, and a “V”-shaped grille and hood edge. The front bumper included AMC’s five-mile-per-hour design, but without the recovering shocks; in their place were regular rigid bumper mounts as in previous years. The automobile product standards in Mexico were less restrictive than in the U.S.; thus, VAM’s mounted the bumpers placed closer to the body than their AMC counterparts. The 232 engine was replaced by the AMC 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6 rated at 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) gross with Carter RBS/YF one-barrel carburetor, 266 degree camshaft, and a 8.5:1 compression ratio. The three-speed automatic transmission for the first time became available in the sedan models as an option and the rear differential gear ratio changed to 3.31:1 in all units. Other features included new door panels, longer narrower inside door latches, controls for the cigarette lighter, wiper/washer, and lights knobs had rubber knobs, modified tail light lenses, the deletion of the rectangular “RAMBLER” emblem in favor of “American” script on the rear panel, “258” emblems replacing the “232 SIX” rectangular ones, and the removal of the bullseye emblems on the C-pillar base.

1974

The 1974 Rambler American was a carryover. The only difference was the presence of the rear five-mile-per-hour bumper and the rear license plate was relocated to the center of the rear panel over the gas filler. The standard wheels for the year were VAM’s new 14×6-inch five-spoke design with volcano hubcaps. The 258 six included an evaporative canister to reduce emissions, and a slightly lower 8.3:1 compression ratio. However, during the mid-year, the compression ratio was lowered even more to 7.6:1. In both cases, the engines were still advertised as having an output of 170 hp. The Seat and door panel designs were revised.

VAM American

The introduction of the Gremlin line by VAM in 1974, which became the company’s most affordable model, created a gap between the lower end Rambler American line and the larger, top Classic line (the situation was also applicable to the Javelin line despite being discontinued in 1973). The VAM Rambler American was restricted to the economy segment since its introduction to the Mexican market, the only exceptions to this being the luxury limited edition Rambler American Hartop (Rambler American 440H in US) for 1963 and 1965, as well as the sporty Rambler American Rally (Rambler American Rogue and Hornet Rallye X/Hornet X in US) from 1969 through 1974. By this time, the Hornet-based Rambler American had been on the market for five years and saw continued sales and positive image. The model was shifted from the economy to the mid-segment, as an all new generation was introduced for 1975. The name was simplified from Rambler American to just American, marking the discontinuation of the Rambler brand in Mexico. The greatest change was the creation of the new luxury American ECD trim level followed by revised and improved American Rally and American base models, which helped to distance the line further from the Gremlin. The cars in all versions obtained substantial updates and upgrades.

The American base model in its first year was characterized by incorporating all-new designs for the parking lights, grille and headlight bezels. Manual front disk brakes were standard and the 258 six cylinder engine featured electronic ignition. This engine was carried over with a 7.6:1 compression ratio, 266 degree camshaft, 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS), and a single-barrel Carter carburetor. Interiors included new door panels, seats, and upholstery patterns. The two-tone dashboard was replaced by a color-keyed unit with a new “American” emblem on the glove box door and a standard fuel economy gauge. Cars equipped with automatic transmission included a heater and power steering. The 1976 models were almost the same; their differences were limited to a compression ratio increase for the 258 six from 7.6:1 to 8.0:1. New gauges appeared in the form of a 160 km/h speedometer and revised warning lights, sunvisors were redesigned to larger units with bending portions, a new dome light lens, new seat and side panel designs, while a rear defroster was added to the options. The 1977 models had numerous changes. Most noticeable was a new front end that AMC intended to make exclusive for the Gremlin line. The two-point seatbelts were replaced by fixed three-point units. The Carter RBS carburetor was discontinued leaving only the YF model on the 258 six. Two-door sedans with the manual transmissions now featured a floor-mounted gearshift with low-back fold-down individual seats, while models with automatic transmissions retained the bench seat with split folding backs and a column-mounted shifter. The seats and door panels were modified. A new “American” emblem with new typograhpy was applied to glove box door.

Rambler American Rally and VAM American Rally

The sporty Rally package in 1970 consisted of a sports steering wheel, wide reclining individual front seats, floor-mounted Hurst Performance shifter three-speed manual transmission with locking mechanism connected to the steering wheel ignition switch, full bright molding package including rear panel overlay between the tail lights, two courtesy lights, and a 160 hp (119 kW; 162 PS), 9.8:1 compression ratio 232 six cylinder with Carter WCD carburetor designed by VAM. It was a continuation of the 1969 version with a longer list of equipment and several engineering improvements. The “Rally” model as a sporty Hornet was available a full year ahead of AMC’s Hornet SC/360 and two years ahead of the Hornet X and Hornet Rallye-X models. The Rambler American Rally for 1971 saw only minor changes; the script “American” fender emblems were replaced by script “Rally” units, seat controls were revised and new side panels and steering wheel designs became present along a with a different AM radio. The Rally package became a trim level for 1972, losing the shifter locking mechanism and having front sway bar, while the previously optional 8000 RPM tachometer became standard equipment along with AMC’s new three-spoke sports steering wheel. Smaller more bucket-like front seats were new, and the floor shift base was changed from round to a squared design. The bright rear panel and taillight lenses featured new designs and the grille was changed from aluminum to plastic. The 1972 Rally engine was the VAM 252 six producing 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) at 4,600 rpm, 9.5:1 compression ratio, with a high-flow Carter RBS-PV1 single-barrel carburetor and the 266 degree camshaft. A 170 gross HP, 8.5:1 compression ratio AMC 258 with 266 degree camshaft and single-barrel Carter RBS or YF carburetor was used for 1973. This year also saw, aside from the new front end design, the first set of high-back bucket seats and standard parcel shelf, even though the reclining mechanism of the seats was removed. The front end was completely updated as in the standard Rambler American models except for the unique characteristic of the blackout grille. The 1974 Rallys incorporated the first set of VAM side decals and five-spoke wheels plus a T-shaped Hurst shifter, aside from new five-mile-per-hour rear bumper and relocated rear license plate.

The marketing concept for VAM’s compact model was also included for its sporty version. The 1975 American Rally gained electronic ignition, manual front disk brakes, and a TREMEC 170-F four-speed manual transmission with Hurst linkage (on most units) and a lower 7.6:1 compression ratio on the 258 six. The interiors were revised to a higher level of luxury and sportiness, plus the presence of the heater as standard equipment (most units). All previously exposed metal parts like the inner faceof the B pillars, top edge of the doors and sides were covered; the dashboard changed from being two-tone to color-keyed, and the door panels obtained an etched “Rally” emblem on their top front corners. The 1976 Rally models switched to the 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) 7.7:1 compression ratio VAM 282 with Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor and 266 degree camshaft, power front disk brakes, power steering and tinted windshield were now standard equipment. The four-speed transmission and heater were fully standardized this year. New seat patterns and side panel designs (without the etched Rally emblem) were used, while gauges were changed to a 160 km/h speedometer and 6,000 RPM tachometer. The 1977 American Rallys obtained a more powerful 8.0:1 compression ratio 282 with an upgraded head design, a new aluminum intake manifold, high-back bucket seats with new patterns and reclining mechanism (for the first time since 1972), three-point retractable front seatbelts, a VAM-designed digital tachometer, as well as AMC’s Gremlin front clip for the year. Like the three luxury versions of the year, the 1977 American Rally was the first sports model to offer the air conditioning system as a factory option. At the mid-1976 discontinuation of the Classic AMX (Matador X) model, the American Rally became VAM’s top-of-the-line performance model.

The Rally included D70x14 radial tires in all years and rear gear ratios of 3.54:1 (1970–1972), 3.31:1 (1973–1976) and 3.07:1 (1977). The American Rally was discontinued in 1977 along with all other Hornet-based VAM Americans. It would find a successor in the 1978 American Rally AMX model (VAM’s version of the 1978 AMC Concord AMX) meaning a change from being a sedan into a hacthback coupe.

American ECD and American GFS

In 1975, the VAM American obtained its third trim level to accompany the nameless base and Rally. This was the American ECD or Edición Cantos Dorados (Golden Touches Edition), the first regular-production luxury compact made by VAM. They were the equivalent of the U.S. Hornet DL models. The American ECD was available on both sedan models, while the wagon remained without a model designation. The ECD included a 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6, automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes (since 1977), heater, luxury steering wheel, vacuum gauge (1975 only), electric clock (since 1976), high-trim upholstery, parcel shelf, courtesy lights, tinted windshield (since 1976), full bright molding package, wheel covers, vinil roof, and golden “ECD” emblems on the base of each C-pillar. The two-door American ECD featured individual high back seats with floor-mounted transmission, while the four-door versions had a bench seat with column-mounted shifter. For 1977 the two-door model gained an exclusive designation: the American GFS (Grand Formula Sport), thus reserving the ECD nameplate to the four-door sedan. The 1977 American GFS incorporated a half Landau-type vinyl top carrying the roof Targa band AMC used for the 1977 Hornet AMX models and shortened rear side windows. AMC liked this styling touch and used it for its 1978–1979 Concord DL/Limited two-door models (except for the Targa band). Unlike the 1977 American ECD, the 1977 American GFS featured the 282 cu in (4.6 L) engine with a 3.07:1 rear differential gear ratio, instead of the 258 I6 with a 3.31:1 rear ratio. The station wagon (Camioneta American) offered an optional package for 1977. If the automatic transmission was ordered, it included all the accessories and features of the GFS/ECD models, as well as the 282. These station wagons the “Camioneta Automática” (automatic wagon) model name.

The engines in VAM models were based on AMC designs, but modified and built by VAM. Unique to Mexico included the 252 cu in (4.1 L) and 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 engines. These were designed to cope with low octane fuel and the high altitudes encountered in Mexico.

South Africa

Both Nash and Hudson models were assembled under license in South Africa for many years. In the 1960s, AMC’s compact Rambler model had entered the market and was assembled at the Jacobs plant in Durban by Motor Assemblies Limited. In South Africa, the Hornet’s predecessor (the Rambler American) was marketed through the 1970 model year. The Ramblers were assembled by Toyota South Africa Ltd, a company that was wholly owned by South Africans, and the cars were marketed and serviced by 220 Toyota dealers.

Starting in 1971, the new Hornet was built and continued to be marketed under the Rambler brand. American Motors South America (Proprietary) Limited was the official license holder for production of the Rambler Hornet at the Motor Assemblies Ltd plant. However, sales after 1971 were hampered by problems arising from regulations. The nation’s tariff structure considered only the weight of parts or materials made in South Africa would be calculated toward local content requirements. The objective was to increase indigenous production. As a result, the last of the South African-built Rambler Hornets had 4.1 L (250 cu in) Chevrolet straight-6 engines. The objective was to standardize the manufacture of vehicle components within South Africa. In this case, a large component, the Hornet’s original AMC engine was eliminated from the marketplace, while the switch also provided greater local production volume to the General Motors engine.

Motorsports

AMC Hornets were campaigned in various motorsports events. Some technical and financial support was provided by the automaker in the early years.

Stock Car Racing

Bobby Allison was AMC’s factory-backed NASCAR driver, racing #12 Matadors fielded by Roger Penske. Bobby also did a lot of short-track racing, often using a modified stock car he rebodied using Hornet sheet metal, painted red/white/blue in the AMC scheme and numbered 12.

Drag racing[

Hornets were campaigned on dragstrips from 1972 and became well known by their bold red, white, and blue graphics. Dave Street was an early Hornet racer in Northeast Pro Stock events. Drivers on the Pro Stock circuit included Wally Booth (backed by AMC until 1974), as well as Rich Maskin and Dave Kanners captured top awards. Booth drove a Hornet to the top qualifying spot at the 1975 NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Some drivers converted from AMC Gremlins when tests with identical engines in 1973 showed that the hatchback Hornet had an advantage with higher speeds and lower times. The 1974 Gatornationals, as well as the 1976 NHRA U.S. Nationals and the World Finals were won by Wally Booth driving an AMC Hornet. The Hornets would do the quarter-mile in 8 seconds reaching 150 mph (240 km/h).

The last AMC Pro Stocker was campaigned through the 1982 season in American Hot Rod Association events. It was a Hornet AMX with nitrous injection.

Endurance

1970_AMC_Hornet_Champion_spark_plug_ADV_Argentina_to_Alaska

 Champion spark plug ad with endurance record AMC Hornet

In 1970, Lou Haratz drove an AMC Hornet over 14,000 miles (22,531 km) to set a new Trans-Americas record by going from Ushuaia, Argentina to Fairbanks, Alaska in 30 days and 45 minutes. He also went on to be the first to drive completely around the widest practical perimeter of the North, Central, and South American continents for a distance of 38,472 miles (61,915 km) in 143 days. The Hornet received a tune-up service in Caracas as well as in Lima, and the endurance record was promoted in various popular magazine advertisements for Champion spark plugs that were standard equipment in AMC engines.

IMSA racing

From 1971 the AMC Hornet was campaigned in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) races. Hornets ran in GTO class (Grand Touring type with engines of 2.5 L or more) and American Challenge (AC) class. American Motors provided only limited support in the form of technical help. The cars were gutted and powered by highly modified AMC 232 straight-six engines.

In 1973, AMC cars very nearly placed 1-2-3, in a BF Goodrich Radial Challenge Series race, but Bob Hennig driving an AMC Hornet went out while in third place with only six laps to go. BMW driver Nick Craw and AMC Hornet driver Amos Johnson ended the IMSA series as co-champions in Class B.

On 6 February 1977, out of 57 cars that started the 24 Hours of Daytona, Championship of Makes, at Daytona International Speedway, an AMC Hornet driven by Tom Waugh, John Rulon-Miller, and Bob Punch drove car #15 to 22nd place overall and 12th in the GTO class by completing 394 laps in 1,582 miles (2,546 km).

Amos Johnson drove car #7, an AC Class Hornet, in the 100 mile Road Atlanta race on 17 April 1977, as well as with co-driver Dennis Shaw to finish 11th in the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit on 24 July 1977.

A 1977 Hornet AMX was prepared by “Team Highball” from North Carolina and driven by Amos Johnson and Dennis Shaw. Car #77 finished in 34th place in the GTO class out of the 68 that started the race by completing 475 laps, 1,824 miles (2,935 km) in the 17th Annual 24 Hours of Daytona Camel GT Challenge.

The AMC cars “were killers at places like Daytona. Despite being about as aerodynamic as a brick they had those nice, big, reliable straight sixes …”

SCCA Trans Am

Buzz Dyer drove a 1977 AMC Hornet AMX (car #77) with a V8 engine in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Trans Am events at the Laguna Seca Raceway on 8 October 1978 and finished 46 laps.

Coast-to-coast run

Two Hot Rod staffers, John Fuchs and Clyde Baker, entered a 1972 AMC Hornet in the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. This was an unofficial automobile race from New York City and Darien, CT, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to Redondo Beach, a Los Angeles suburb on the Pacific coast during the time of the newly imposed 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit set by the National Maximum Speed Law. The Hornet X hatchback was modified with a 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 and auxiliary racing fuel cells to increase gasoline capacity. They finished in 13th place after driving for 41 hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of 70.4 mph (113 km/h).

James Bond movie

1280px-AMC_Hornet_(1974 Hornet X Hatchback The_Man_with_the_Golden_Gun)_front-left_National_Motor_Museum,_Beaulieu

The 1974 Hornet X Hatchback featured in The Man with the Golden Gun on display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

As part of a significant product placement movie appearance by AMC, a 1974 Hornet X Hatchback is featured in the James Bond film: The Man with the Golden Gun, where Roger Moore made his second appearance as the British secret agent.

The film’s “most outrageous sequence” begins with Sheriff J.W. Pepper, who on holiday in Thailand with his wife, admiring a new red AMC Hornet in a Bangkok showroom. He is about to test drive the car. The action begins as secret agent 007 commandeers the Hornet from the dealership with Pepper in it for a car chase. The Hornet performs an “airborne pirouette as it makes a hold-your-breath jump across a broken bridge”.

The stunt car is significantly modified with a redesigned chassis to place the steering wheel in the center and a lower stance, as well as larger wheel wells compared to the stock Hornet used in all the other movie shots. The 360-degree mid-air twisting corkscrew was captured in just one filming sequence. Seven tests were performed in advance before the one jump performed by an uncredited British stuntman “Bumps” Williard for the film with six (or 8, depending on the source) cameras simultaneously rolling. Two frogmen were positioned in the water, as well as an emergency vehicle and a crane were ready, but not needed. The Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory(CAL) was used for computer modeling to calculate the stunt. The modeling called for a 1,460.06 kg (3,219 lb) weight of car and driver, the exact angles and the 15.86-metre (52 ft) distance between the ramps, as well as the 64.36-kilometre-per-hour (40 mph) launch speed.

This stunt was adapted from Jay Milligan’s Astro Spiral Javelin show cars. These were jumps performed in AMC sponsored thrill shows at fairs around the US, including the Houston Astrodome, where Gremlins and Hornets were also used to drive around in circles on their side two wheels in the arena. Using exactly the same ramp design, movie artists made the ramps convincingly look like a rickety old bridge that was falling apart. The movie’s director ruined the continuous spiral effect of the stunt. By cutting camera shots as the car was in mid-air, it looks like trick photography to get the car upside-down instead of one continuous actual jump.

Months of difficult work went into the scene that lasts only fifteen seconds in the movie. The Guinness World Records 2010 book describes this “revolutionary jump” as the “first astro spiral used in a movie” and lists it as third among the top ten James Bond film stunts.

The actual Bond Hornet is preserved in the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK together with other famous items owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation and used in the 007 films.

The AMC Hornet is one of Hagerty’s favorites Bond cars for vintage automobile collectors on a budget. Several scale models of the AMC Hornet are available that include the James Bond hatchback versions made by Corgi Toys and Johnny Lightning.

Experimental Hornets

The AMC Hornet served as a vehicle for several experimental alternative power sources.

Gas turbine

In the aftermath of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970, research grants were funded by the government in further developing automotive gas turbine technology. This included conceptual design studies and vehicles for improved passenger-car gas-turbine systems that were conducted by Chrysler, General Motors (through its Detroit Diesel Allison Division), Ford in collaboration with AiResearch, and Williams Research teamed with American Motors. In 1971, a long-term test was conducted to evaluate actual road experience with a turbine powered passenger car. An AMC Hornet was converted to a WR-26 regenerative gas turbine power made by Williams International.

A Williams gas turbine powered 1973 Hornet was used by New York City to evaluate comparable cost efficiency with piston engines and funded by a grant from the National Air Pollution Control Administration, a predecessor of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Hornet’s experimental power source was developed by inventor Sam B. Williams. Weighing in at 250 lb (113 kg) and measuring 26 in (660 mm) by 24 in (610 mm) by 16 in (406 mm), it produced 80 hp (60 kW; 81 PS) at 4450 rpm with a clean exhaust.

Gasoline direct injection

Research to develop a Straticharge Continuous Fuel-Injection (SCFI) system (an early gasoline direct injection (GDI) design) was conducted with the backing of AMC. The Hornet’s conventional spark ignited internal combustion straight-6-cylinder engine was a modified with a redesigned cylinder head, and road testing performed using a 1973 AMC Hornet. This SCFI system was a mechanical device that automatically responded to the engine’s airflow and loading conditions with two separate fuel-control pressures supplied to two sets of continuous-flow injectors. It was “a dual-chamber, three-valve, fuel-injected, stratified-charge” engine. Flexibility was designed into the SCFI system for trimming it to a particular engine.

Hybrid

In 1976, the California Air Resources Board bought and converted AMC Hornets for its design research into hybrids.

Natural gas

The Consumers Gas Company (now Consumers Energy) operated a fleet of 1970 AMC Hornets converted dual-fuel system with compressed natural gas (CNG). This was an early demonstration project for clean and efficient vehicles.

Plug-in electric

In 1971, the Electric Fuel Propulsion Company began marketing the Electrosport, a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) based on the Hornet Sportabout wagon. It was designed to be a supplementary battery electric vehicle for commuting or daily chores, and to be recharged at home using household current or at “Charge Stations away from home to replenish power in 45 minutes, while you shop or have lunch.”

LaForce Vertur-E

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted extensive tests of 1974 and 1975 AMC Hornets to evaluate the fuel economy claims made for the LaForce Ventue-E modifications. The LaForce prepared Hornet included a special carburetor that was designed to vary the fuel to air mixture under all operating conditions. Other modifications were made to the camshaft, a smaller combustion area, special “dual” exhaust manifolds, and the installation of solid valve lifters (in place of the standard hydraulic tappets. The manifold was designed to intercept gasoline between the carburetor and engine and “to use even the harder to burn heavy gasoline molecules” – thus, claiming mileage increases of 40 to 57%. However, the EPA tests did not fully support the performance and economy claims that were to be achieved by these modifications in comparison to standard factory tuned vehicles.

Concept cars

The AMC Hornet platform served as the basis for evaluating design and styling ideas by AMC. In the late-2000s, the Hornet name was revived for a Dodge concept car.

Cowboy

AMC_Cowboy_pickup_truck_Kenosha-s

 AMC Cowboy concept pickup truck

In the early 1970s, AMC was planning a compact coupé utility (pickup) based on the Hornet to compete with the increasing sales of Japanese compact pickup models. A prototype called the Cowboy was developed under the leadership of Jim Alexander. The prototype vehicle featured a modified AMC Gremlin front design and a cargo box with a Jeep logo on the tailgate. The standard I6 engine would be more powerful than the 4-cylinders found in the imported pickups. The only surviving prototype was built using a 1971 Hornet SC360 with the 360 V8 and 4-speed manual transmission. It was used by AMC on their proving grounds for several years before being sold to an employee, who later installed a 1973 Hornet updated front end. However, with the increasing sales of the Hornet models, and the 1970 acquisition of Jeep and no 4WD option ready for the Cowboy (at the time ALL Jeeps were 4WD), AMC’s product planners shelved the Cowboy truck program. A 4WD system was developed and later used on the 1980 AMC Eagle, and the “uniframe” construction (“frame” rails under the truck bed made of folded sheet metal and incorporated into the cab structure as one piece) resurfaced for the 1985 Jeep Comanche pickup, based on the unit body XJ Cherokee.

Hornet GT

In 1973, the Hornet GT toured auto shows as an asymmetrical styling exercise. The left (or driver’s) side featured more glass area and a narrower “C” pillar for better visibility in comparison to the concept car‘s different design on its right side. Using different designs on each side is common practice within automobile styling studios, especially when money was tight; however, showing such an example to the public was unusual and AMC was not afraid to measure consumer reaction to new ideas. Other design elements and ideas presented on the Hornet GT show car included sealed glass to allowing hollow doors that could house easily accessible components while freeing up space in the dashboard area, as well as a stronger roof and support pillars for additional crash and rollover protection.

Hornet by Dodge

Main article: Dodge Hornet

A mini-sized front-wheel-drive, concept car called Hornet was designed and developed by Dodge in 2006 for possible production in 2008 as the brand was entering European markets and attract younger customers. As the price of fuel increased, Chrysler continued work to launch the Hornet in 2010 in Europe, the United States and other markets. This Hornet project may have been cancelled as part of Fiat‘s partnership with Chrysler; but it was also rumored that the Hornet nameplate would instead be applied to a small Dodge sedan slated for introduction in 2012 based on the same “C-Evo” platform as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

In October 2011, Chrysler trademarked four names: Hornet, Dart, Duster, and Camber. One month later, the head of the Dodge brand, Reid Biglund, stated that Hornet will not be used for the new car. The automaker “surprised industry pundits and insiders” with an announcement that the small sedan for 2013 will be called the Dodge Dart (PF).For a long time, both company insiders and industry experts “had insisted that the compact Dodge would be called the Dodge Hornet, in homage not only to the well-received 2006 concept car that carried the name but also to an ancestry of vehicles stretching back 60 years to the original Hudson Hornet.”

International production

Companies which undertook the production of Rambler vehicles outside of the United States included the following:

RAMBLER automobile Kenosha Wisconsin USA Part II

1900 Emblem Rambler

RAMBLER automobile

1960 Rambler R

Kenosha Wisconsin USA Part II

for part one: 

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/20/rambler-automobile-kenosha-wisconsin-usa-part-i/

for nash:

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/19/nash-automobile-manufacturer-kenosha-wisconsin-united-states-1916-1954/

for hudson:

https://myntransportblog.com/2015/03/12/hudson-motor-car-company-detroit-michigan-united-states-1901-1957/

now we can start with Rambler Cars Part II

Rambler Rebel

Rambler Rebel
1957_Rambler_Rebel_hardtop_rfd-Cecil'10

1957 Rambler Rebel
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation(AMC)
Model years
  • 1957-1960
  • 1966-1967
Assembly Kenosha, Wisconsin
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size
Layout FR layout
1960_Rambler_Rebel_V8_green_Ann-lo

 1960 Rebel V8 emblems

The Rambler Rebel is an automobile that was produced by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) of Kenosha, Wisconsin for the 1957–1960 model years, as well as again for 1966 and 1967.

Introduced as a stand-alone model in one body style, the 1957 Rambler Rebel is credited for being the first factory-produced intermediate-sized high-performance car. This later became known as the muscle car market segment. It was also to be among the earliest production cars equipped with electronic fuel injection.

The second and third generations essentially became the equivalent Rambler Six models, but equipped with a V8 engine. The Rebel nameplate was reintroduced in 1966 as the top-line intermediate-sized two-door hardtop. For the 1967 model year, AMC’s all-new intermediate line took the Rebel name. American Motors dropped the historic “Ramblermarque from these intermediate sized models to become the AMC Rebel starting with the 1968 model year.

The cars were also produced in Argentina by Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA).

History

The strategy of American Motors President, George W. Romney, was to avoid a head-to-head battle with the domestic Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) by focusing AMC on cars that were smaller than the “standard” models in the marketplace. The “legacy” large-sized Nash and Hudson models were suffering from dwindling sales in a marketplace where consumers were only offered large-sized sedans and small economy cars. The new Rambler was designed “to split the market wide open with a mid-size model that featured aggressive styling and plenty of power.”

Development of AMC’s new overhead-valve V8 engine began in 1955, under the automaker’s chief engineer, Meade Moore, as well as David Potter who was hired from Kaiser-Frazer. The new engine evolved because component sharing relationships with Packard were terminated and AMC managers decided to manufacture a V8 engine in-house. The new engine debuted in mid-1956 in the Nash Ambassador Special and the Hudson Hornet Special. At that time, the 250 cu in (4.1 L) engine was the smallest American V8, butits 190 hp (142 kW; 193 PS) was more than either of Chevrolet’s contemporary two-barrel V8s.

The 1956 model year four-door Rambler models were completely redesigned. Edmund E. Anderson and Bill Reddig styled the new model with a “dramatic reverse-sloped C-pillar” as well as borrowing the Nash-Healey‘s Pinin Farina-designed inboard, grille-mounted headlamps.

For the 1957 model year the Rambler was established as a separate marque. The 1957 Rambler Rebel debuted as a special model in the Rambler line showcasing AMC’s big new V8 engine. The Rebel became the first factory-produced lightweight muscle car.

First generation

First generation
1957_Rambler_Rebel_rear Muscle car Pillarless AMC

1957 Rambler Rebel with continental tire
Overview
Model years 1957
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door hardtop sedan
Powertrain
Engine 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)
Length
  • 191.14 in (4,855 mm)
  • 198.89 in (5,052 mm) with optional continental tire mount
Width 71.32 in (1,812 mm)
Height 58.48 in (1,485 mm)

1957

1957_Rambler_Rebel_interior

 All Rebels were 4-door hardtops (no“B” pillar)

American Motors surprised most observers with the December 1956 introduction of the Rambler Rebel – “a veritable supercar”. The new 1957 model debuted as a high-performance vehicle that combined AMC’s lightweight 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Rambler four-door hardtop body with AMC’s newly introduced 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 engine. This made it the first-time that a large block V8 was installed in a mid-size carin the post-World War II marketplace. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler offered no intermediate-sized cars whatsoever.

Although AMC was best known for their reliable economy cars, this special model came with a bigger engine than anything found at Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth—the Rambler’s most popular competitors at that time. The Rebel’s US$ 2,786 MSRP base price was economical for the amount of power provided. It was the fastest stock American sedan, according to Motor Trend.

All Rebels came with a manual (with overdrive unit) or GM’s four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, as well as other performance enhancements such as a dual exhaust system, heavy-duty suspension with Gabriel (brand) shock absorbers, and front sway bar. The Rebel was capable of 0 to 60 mph (0-97  km/h) acceleration in just 7.5 seconds with its standard 255 hp (190 kW; 259 PS) carbureted engine. The car’s light monocoque (unibody) construction afforded a power-to-weight ratio of about 13 pounds per horsepower, a better ratio than other 1957 model year automobiles and a contrast to Volkswagen’s 45.

The Rebel’s engine also differed from the 327s installed in the 1957 Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models because it used mechanical valve lifters and a higher compression ratio. Since both engines were rated at 255 hp, it is probable that the Rebel’s was underrated.

Power steering and power drum brakes were also standard, as on all Rambler Custom models. The car was available only in silver metallic paint accented with gold anodized aluminum inserts along the sides. Padded dashboards and visors, rear child proof door locks, and seat belts were all optional. A total of 1,500 Rebels were produced in 1957. Integrated air conditioning system, the All Weather Eye was a $345 option.

The Rebel is considered to be a precursor of the muscle cars (rear-wheel drive mid-size cars with a powerful V8 engines and special trims) that became so popular in the 1960s. It also foretold that muscle-type performance would be included among AMC’s models.

Fuel injection option

The Bendix “Electrojector” electronic fuel injection (EFI) was to be optional on the 1957 Rambler Rebel with a flashy introduction at the Daytona Beach Road Course trials. The Rebel’s Electrojector equipped engine was rated at 288 bhp (214.8 kW). This was to have been the first mass-produced engine with a transistorized “brain box” fuel injection system. A Rambler Rebel with the optional EFI was tested by Motor Trend, and they recorded this sedan going faster from a standing start than the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette with mechanical fuel injection.

The Bendix system’s public debut in December 1956 was followed by a March 1957 price bulletin listing it as a US$ 395 option, but because supplier difficulties, EFI Rebels would only be available after June 15. This was to have been the first production EFI engine, but Electrojector’s teething problems meant only pre-production cars were so equipped: thus, very few cars so equipped were ever sold, and none were made available to the public. The Rambler’s EFI was more advanced than the mechanical types then appearing on the market and the engines ran fine in warm weather, but suffered hard starting in cooler temperatures. As a result, all of the production Rebels used a four-barrel carburetor. Nevertheless, the EFI option remained in the published owner’s manual.

Second generation

Second generation
1959 Rambler Country Club hardtop with optional continental tire

1959 Rambler Rebel 4-door hardtop
Overview
Also called IKA 5829-2 (RA)
Model years 1958-1959
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8
  • 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)

1958

For the 1958 model year, the Rebel name returned, but no longer with the 327 engine. Rather than identifying a specialty model, the name was applied to all Ramblers powered by AMC’s 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 engine. Rebel came with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts rated at 215 hp (160 kW; 218 PS) with 260 lb·ft (353 N·m) of torque. The 327 engine was made standard in the more luxurious Rambler Ambassador models. The 1958 Rebel lineup encompassed six models: Super or Custom trimmed four-door sedans and Cross Country station wagons, plus a base Deluxe four-door sedan that was reserved for fleet sales. A four-door hardtop in the top-line Custom trim was now Rebel’s sole pillarless model.

These Rebels were no longer the muscle car of 1957, but did offer more power than regular Rambler models. A test by Motor Trend concluded “the V8 powered Rebel is now able to reach a true 60-mph from a standstill in an estimated 12.0 seconds”—significantly slower than the limited-production ’57 Rebel, and this was pretty good for that era.

The 1958 Rambler Rebel and Rambler Six shared revised styling with new grille, front fenders containing quad headlamps, as well as a new hood design while the rear received new fenders with impressive tailfins.

1959

The 1959 model year Rambler Rebels featured hoods without ornaments, a new full-width grille with large inset turn signal lamps, bumpers and bumper guards that reduced overall length by 1.6 inches (41 mm), a thinner roof panel look with narrower C-pillars, windshield and rear window slanted at a greater angle reducing wind resistance, simpler bodyside trim, and restyled rear doors and fenders with a smooth line to the smaller tailfins. Car Life magazine called the 1959 Rambler “one of the most attractive cars on the road”.

All Rambler Rebels benefitted from bigger brakes, improved automatic transmission controls, and numerically lower axle ratios for improved fuel economy. A new option was adjustable headrests. The 1959 Rebel came with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts rated at 215 hp (160 kW) with 260 lb·ft (353 N·m) of torque.

Third generation

Third generation
1960_Rambler_Rebel_V8_green_Ann-fl

1960 Rambler Rebel V8 sedan
Overview
Also called IKA 5829-2 (RA)
Model years 1960
Body and chassis
Body style
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)
Length 185.9 in (4,722 mm)
Width 72.32 in (1,837 mm)
Height 57.1 in (1,450 mm)

1960

American Motors downplayed the Rambler Rebel name in 1960. Rather than focus on the separate Six and Rebel models, as in previous years, emphasis was placed on the Rambler name and the trim levels, with the notation that each series was offered with “Economy 6” or “Rebel V8” engines. The 1960 model year saw the Rebel available with a lower compression 2-barrel version rated at 200 hp (149 kW).

The Rambler Rebel was all new, but retained the same styling concept. The front end featured a full-width die-cast grille, while the two-piece front and rear bumpers were promoted to cut repair costs. The C-pillars were made narrower and the tail fins were now smaller.

Station wagons with two rows of seats came with a conventional tailgate (roll down rear window and drop down gate) while three-row models received a new side-hinged door. All station wagons included a standard roof rack. A big feature was the 80 cubic feet (2.27 m3) of space, compared for example to the much larger-sized Oldsmobile station wagons that offered only 80 cubic feet (2.3 m3) of cargo room. Among the 17 different station wagons that were marketed by AMC for 1960, the Rambler Six Cross Country Super was the most popular.

After the 1960 model year all of the 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase models took the Rambler Classic name.

Fourth generation

Fourth generation
1966 Rambler Rebel 2-door hardtop

1966 Rambler Rebel 2-door hardtop
Overview
Model years 1966
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop coupe
Dimensions
Wheelbase 112 in (2,845 mm)

1966

The Rebel name reappeared for the 1966 model year on a version of the Rambler Classic two-door hardtop.

This model featured bucket seats, special interior and exterior trim, as well as a revised roofline. The base price of this top-of-the-line model was US$2,523 with the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6; however, more sports oriented options were available that included a new-for-1966 Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual floor-mounted transmission, dash mounted tachometer, as well as the 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 producing 270 bhp (200 kW), which was only an extra $65.

This effort moved AMC once again toward the muscle car market segment; however the Rebel was criticized for its antiquated torque tube suspension system. The Rebel also suffered from Rambler’s “economy” reputation, but the Rebel model offered the recipe common to most of early muscle cars including the biggest-available engine, bucket seats, and special trim, but the Rebel did not have a non-functional hood scoop.

Total production of the Rebel model was 7,512. The 1966 Rambler Rebel “poses a great bargain for the muscle-car enthusiast [today] … rarity and performance wrapped up into a single cost-efficient package.

Fifth generation

Fifth generation
1967_AMC_Rambler_Rebel_sedan_aqua

1967 Rambler Rebel 4-door sedan
Overview
Also called
  • American Motors Rebel
  • Rambler-Renault Rebel
Model years 1967-1970
Assembly
Body and chassis
Body style
Dimensions
Wheelbase 114 in (2,896 mm)

1967

For the 1967 model year, all of AMC’s intermediates took the Rambler Rebel name. They were of a completely new design from the predecessor models. The new Rebels were bigger and rode on a longer 114-inch (2,896 mm) wheelbase allowing for more passenger space and cargo capacity. The new styling featured sweeping rooflines with more glass area, as well as a smooth, rounded “coke-bottle” body design. The Rebel was now available not only in 4-door sedan, 4-door station wagon, and 2-door hardtop versions, but also for 1967 as 2-door sedan (coupé) with a thin B-pillar and flip out rear side windows, as well as a convertible.

Traditional Rambler economy came standard with the redesigned Rebels featuring six-cylinder engines and overdrive transmissions. However, the Rebels were upgraded in numerous areas including a new four-link, trailing-arm rear suspension system. American Motors also introduced advanced V8 engines, and Rebels could now be turned “into a decent budget-priced muscle car” with the new 343 cu in (5.6 L).

Moreover, American Motors expanded its racing activities in 1967 by partnering with automotive performance parts company, Grant Industries, to build the Grant Rambler Rebel, a “Funny Car” racer to compete in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) X/S (Experimental Stock) and Super Experimental Stock classes. The relationship provided both companies with national exposure and publicity. The racing Rebel had an altered wheelbase 122-inch (3,099 mm) with chrome moly steel tube chassis and powered by the 343 cu in (5.6 L) AMC V8 engine that was bored and stroked to 438 cu in (7.2 L). The engine featured a GMC 6-71 blower and Enderle fuel injection, producing 1,200 hp (895 kW; 1,217 PS) at up to 9000 rpm on a mixture of alcohol and nitromethane. In 1967, Hayden Proffitt drove the Rebel on the quarter-mile (402 m) from a standing start in 8.11 seconds at 180.85 mph (291.0 km/h).

1968

1968_AMC_Rebel_convertible

 1968 AMC Rebel SST convertible

For the 1968 model year, the historic “Ramblermarque was dropped and the line was named AMC Rebel. The cars received only a modest restyle, but incorporated new safety features mandated by the U.S.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), engine control systems to reduce unburned hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions, and the availability of the “AMX” 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine.

Declining sales of convertibles in general during the late 1960s saw discontinuance of this body style by AMC after only 823 were built in 1968.

Production of Rebels continued through the 1970 model year until replaced by the similar AMC Matador for the 1971 model year.

Production

Fifth generation Rebels were built at Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Foreign assembly from Partial Knock Down (PKD) kits was undertaken by Australian Motor Industries in Australia and by Campbell Motor Industries in Thames, New Zealand and from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits by Renault in Europe and by Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos in Mexico.

See also

AMC Ambassador

AMC Ambassador
1958_Ambassador_4-d_hardtop_wagon_1

1958 Ambassador hardtop station wagon
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation(AMC)
Also called
  • Ambassador by Rambler
  • American Motors Ambassador
  • Rambler Ambassador
  • IKA Ambassador
Production 1957–1974
Model years 1958–1974
Assembly
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size/Full-size
Layout FR layout
1967_Ambassador_990_4-d_aqua_pa-t
 Ambassador emblem (1958–1961) and name badge (1967–1973)

The Ambassador was the top-of-the-line automobile produced by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1958 until 1974. The vehicle was known as the AMC Ambassador, Ambassador V-8 by Rambler, and Rambler Ambassador at various times during its tenure in production. Previously, the name Ambassador had applied to Nash’s “senior” full-size cars.

The Ambassador nameplate was used continuously from 1927 until 1974 (the name being a top-level trim line between 1927 and 1931); at the time it was discontinued, Ambassador was the longest continuously used nameplate in automotive history.

Most Ambassador models were built in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They were also built at AMC’s Brampton Assembly in Brampton, Ontario from 1963 to 1966. Australian Motor Industries (AMI) assembled Ambassadors from knock-down kits with right-hand drive. The U.S. fifth generation Ambassadors were produced by Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) in Córdoba, Argentina from 1965 to 1972, as well as assembled by ECASA in Costa Rica from 1965 to 1970. Fifth and seventh generation Ambassadors were modified into custom stretch limousines in Argentina and the U.S.

Prologue

Following George W. Mason‘s unexpected death in the fall of 1954, George Romney (whom Mason had been grooming as his eventual successor), succeeded him as president and CEO of the newly formed American Motors. Romney recognized that to be successful in the postwar marketplace, an automobile manufacturer would have to be able to produce and sell cars in sufficient volume to amortize the high cost of tooling. Toward that end, he set out to increase AMC’s market share with its Rambler models that were selling in market segment in which the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler) automakers did not yet compete. While development of a redesigned 1958 Nash Ambassador, based on a stretched and reskinned 1956 Rambler body, was almost complete, AMC’s designers were also working on a retrimmed Hudson equivalent, called Rebel, to offer Hudson dealers.

However, as sales of the large-sized Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models slowed, it became clear to Romney that consumer confidence in the historic Nash and Hudson nameplates had collapsed. Reluctantly, he decided that 1957 would be the end of both nameplates, and the company would concentrate on the new Rambler line, which was registered as a separate marque for 1957.

First generation

First generation
1958 Rambler_Ambassador_(3893707660)

1958 Ambassador V8, Custom sedan
Overview
Also called Ambassador V8 by Rambler
Model years 1958–1959
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Transmission 3-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 117 in (2,972 mm)

1958

Samsung

 1958 Ambassador Custom hardtop sedan with continental tire
1958_Ambassador_4-d_hardtop_wagon_2

 Ambassador hardtop (pillarless) Cross Country station wagon

American Motors planned to produce a stretched a 117-inch (2,972 mm) wheelbase version of the Rambler platform for Nash dealers to be the new Nash Ambassador, and another for Hudson dealers. Shortly before committing to production of the new long-wheelbase versions of the Hudson and the Nash, CEO Romney decided to abandon the Nash and Hudson marques.

Despite the fact that the Nash and Hudson names were canceled, work on the car itself continued, and American Motors introduced debuted in the fall of 1957, the 1958 “Ambassador V-8 by Rambler” on a 117-inch (2,972 mm) wheelbase. Its features included a 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 (equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts and rated at 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) and 360 pound force-feet (490 N·m) of torque) mated to a BorgWarner supplied 3-speed automatic transmission with push button gear selection.

In 1956, AMC first produced its own V8, a modern overhead valve V8 displacing 250 cu in (4.1 L), with a forged steel crank shaft, which when equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor was rated at 215 hp (160 kW; 218 PS). In 1957, AMC bored and stroked the 250 CID V8 to 327 cu in (5.4 L) displacement which when offered in the Rambler Rebel used solid lifters and Bendix electronic fuel injection was rated at 288 hp (215 kW; 292 PS).

In 1958, the Ambassador was equipped with a hydraulic lifter version of AMC’s 327 CID V8 rated at 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS). Although AMC’s 327 CID V8 shares its displacement with the Chevrolet small-block, AMC’s 327 came out six years before Chevrolet first offered its 327 in 1962.

The Ambassador was available in a body style exclusive to its line, a pillarless hardtop Cross Country station wagon. The 1958 Ambassador was offered in a single high level trim level and came equipped with such luxury items as electric clock, twin front and rear ashtrays, Nash tradition “deep coil” spring suspension front and rear, split back reclining front seats that fold down into a bed, as well as upscale fabrics for the interior.

Management had found that the public associated the Rambler name with small economy cars, and did not want the upscale nature of the new Ambassador to be so closely associated with Rambler’s favorable, but economical image. Therefore, a decision was made that the larger Ambassador would be marketed as the Ambassador V-8 by Rambler in order to identify it with the Rambler name’s burgeoning success, but to indicate an air of exclusivity by showing it to be a different kind of vehicle. However, the car wore “Rambler Ambassador” badges on its front fenders.

The 1958 Ambassador is a substantially longer car than the 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Rambler Six and Rebel V8, although both lines shared the same basic body, styling, and visual cues. However, all of the Ambassador’s extra nine inches (230 mm) of wheelbase (and, therefore, overall length) were added ahead of the cowl, meaning that the passenger compartment had the same volume as the smaller Ramblers. The Ambassadors came with plusher interior and exterior trims while the front end incorporated the Rebel “V-Line” grille from the prototype Hudson model. Through effective market segmentation, the Ambassador was positioned to compete with the larger models offered by other automakers.

Model identification was located on the car’s front fenders and deck lid. Super trim level Ambassadors featured painted side trim in a color that complemented the body color; Custom models featured a silver anodized aluminum panel on sedans and vinyl woodgrain decals on station wagons. Ambassador body styles included a four-door sedan and a hardtop sedan, a four-door pillared station wagon, and the aforementioned hardtop station wagon, a body style that first saw duty as an industry first in the 1956 Nash and Hudson Rambler line, on which all of the 1958 Ramblers were based.

The Ambassador had an excellent power-to-weight ratio for its time and provided spirited performance with 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) times of less than 10-seconds, and low 17-second times through a quarter-mile (402 m)dragstrip. It could be equipped with a limited slip differential, as well as power brakes, power steering, power windows, and air conditioning. Numerous safety features came standard, while lap seat belts were optional.

1959

For 1959, the Ambassador received a revised grille, side trim, and redesigned rear door skins that swept into the tailfins instead of terminating at the C-pillar. Scotchlite reflectors were also added to the rear of the tailfins to increase visibility at night. Front and rear bumpers were over 20% thicker, and featured recessed center sections to protect license plates. Adjustable headrests were now available as an option for the front seats, an industry first. AMC touted the added comfort the headrests provided, as well as their potential for reducing whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision. Other changes included the activation of the starter through the neutral pushbutton (on automatic transmission equipped cars), and the addition of an optional “Powr-Saver” engine fan, which featured a fluid-filled clutch for quieter high-speed operation.

The 1959 model year also saw the addition of an optional “Air-Coil Ride” air suspension system, utilizing air bags installed within the rear coil springs. An engine-driven compressor, reservoir, and ride-height control valve comprised the rest of the system, but as other automakers discovered, the troublesome nature of air-suspension outweighed its benefits. AMC discontinued the unpopular option at the end of the model year.

Ambassador sales improved considerably over 1958, reaching an output of 23,769; nearly half of which were Custom four-door sedans. Much rarer was the hardtop station wagon, of which only 578 were built.

Second generation

Second generation
1960_AMC_Rambler_Ambassador_sedan_green_NJ

1960 Ambassador V8 by Rambler
Overview
Also called Rambler Ambassador
Model years 1960–1961
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 117 in (2,972 mm)

1960

1960 saw the Ambassador lineup totally reskinned, wearing new fenders, hood, deck lid, door skins, roofline, grille, taillights, bumpers, windshield, and backlight. Significant were the lower hood line, lower windshield cowl, simplified side trim, egg crate grill, while the tailfins were reduced in height and were canted to either side making for a modern and integrated appearance. The overall effect was rather fresh, as the new roof had a lower, lighter look, to complement the lower fins and grille.

All Ambassadors came equipped with the American Motors 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8, but for the first time it was available in two versions. First was the original 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS), 360 lb·ft (490 N·m) of torque, performance version equipped with the 4-barrel carburetor and a 9.7:1 compression ratio, which required premium fuel, and a second economy version running on regular gasoline making 250 hp (186 kW), 340 lb·ft (460 N·m) of torque, equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor and an 8.7:1 compression ratio.

Ambassadors now came with a unique compound curved windshield that cut into the roof. This improved visibility, did away with the “knee knocker” dogleg design of AMC’s first generation wrap-around windshield, and resulted in an even stiffer unitized structure. The 1960 Ambassador had a low cowl which with the compound windshield afforded excellent visibility. The Ambassador was offered in higher end Custom or entry level Super trim levels. All 1960 Ambassadors came with a new instrument cluster under a padded cowl, as well as illuminated controls for lights, wipers, fan, and defrost functions. The 1960 Ambassadors continued with an enclosed drive shaft (torque tube) and coil springs at all four corners, although the suspension was revised resulting in better handling. The top-of-the-line Ambassador models came standard with individual “airliner” reclining front seats that now had even more luxurious fabrics than in previous years.

The Ambassador was the only American midsize, luxury high-performance car offered in 1960. The 1960 Ambassador came in 4-door sedan, 4-door pillarless hardtop, 4-door station wagon, and a 4-door pillarless (hardtop) station wagon. Equipped with the 270 horsepower 327 cu in V8, and the Borg Warner pushbutton-operated 3-speed planetary gear and torque converter automatic transmission, the Ambassadors reached 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) in just over 9 seconds and passed the quarter-mile in 17 seconds.

1961

1961_Rambler_Ambassador_Custom_blue-fl

 1961 Rambler Ambassador Custom
1961_AMC_Rambler_Ambassador_4-door_pink_rear

 1961 Rambler Ambassador sedan

The 1961 Ambassador continued the previous year’s 117-inch (2,972 mm) basic unitized platform, but received an unusual new front-end styling that was overseen by AMC’s in-house design department headed by Edmund Anderson. The new face consisted of a trapezoidal grille and headlights that floated in a body-colored panel, while the front fenders arched downward and forward of the leading edge of the hood. Different from anything else on the market, AMC’s marketing department promoted the look as “European.” While the new look was meant to distinguish the Ambassador from the lower-priced Ramblers, it was neither a consumer success nor well received in the automotive press. Overall sales fell as the entire industry was experiencing a recession. The hardtop sedan and wagon models did not return for 1961.

Standard was the 250 hp (186 kW; 253 PS) 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 with a synchromesh manual transmission. Optional was the 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) “power pack” version with dual exhaust system featuring new ceramic-coated mufflers guaranteed for the life of the car.

Third generation

Third generation
1962_Rambler_Ambassador_2-door_sedan_Kenosha_green-f

1962 Rambler Ambassador
Overview
Also called Rambler Ambassador
Model years 1962
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)

1962[edit]

By the 1962 model year, the Ambassador’s chassis was in its fifth season on the market. And while Rambler sales had been good enough for third place in industry sales (behind Chevrolet and Ford), AMC’s management was working on a revolutionary and somewhat costly design set to debut for the 1963 model year. In the meantime, American Motors needed to save money, and since the Ambassador’s sales had fallen in 1961, it was decided that the car would be downsized for 1962 to share its body, windshield and 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase with its Classic line mate. Accordingly, the car was marketed as a Rambler Ambassador.

The 1962 Ambassador received a new front end that was very similar to the 1961–62 Classic’s, but with a crosshatch design, recessed center section, and Ambassador lettering. New, rectangular taillights were seen at the ends of restyled rear fenders, which lost their fins entirely. Exterior trim was reshuffled, and a new 2-door pillared sedan debuted. A new ‘400’ trim line was added at the top of the line, with Super and Custom models remaining. The Ambassador offered even more luxurious interiors, perhaps to make up for the fact that it now shared its wheelbase with the Rambler Classic. The 400 could be had with vinyl bucket seats, headrests, and color coordinated shag carpets.

The only available engine was AMC’s 327 cu in (5.4 L) OHV V8, in either the regular fuel, 2-barrel carburetor and 8.7:1 compression ratio, 250 hp (186 kW; 253 PS) version or the premium gasoline, 4-barrel version with 9.7:1 compression ratio, 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) version. The 1962 Ambassador came with a dual chamber master brake cylinder that separated the front and rear brakes so that in the event of the failure of one chamber some braking function would remain. This design was offered by only a few cars at that time. The 1962 models were equipped with “Walker” (brand) flow-through mufflers. The 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase 1962 Ambassador was lighter than its 117-inch (2,972 mm) wheelbase predecessors and when equipped with the 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8, it was a spirited performer.

The 1962, 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 Ambassador for the first time used the same 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase structure as did the 1957 Rambler Rebel which was also equipped with an earlier solid lifter version of the AMC 327. The 1957 Rambler Rebel equipped with a 3-speed column mounted manual transmission, was the quickest 4-door sedan made in the United States, achieving 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) acceleration in just over 7 seconds, making it faster than the Hemi Chrysler 300C, the DeSoto Adventurer, the Dodge D500, the Plymouth Fury, and the Chevrolet fuel-injected 283. The 1962 Ambassador was available with a 3-speed manual transmission and being basically the same vehicle, should also reach 60 mph about as quickly as did the 1957 Rambler Rebel.

Fourth generation

Fourth generation
1963_Rambler_Ambassador_880_sedan_gold-white_K-f

1963 Rambler Ambassador 880 Sedan
Overview
Model years 1963–1964
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 112 in (2,845 mm)
Length 188.8 in (4,796 mm)
Width 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
Height 55.3 in (1,405 mm)

1963

In 1962 Romney left AMC to run for Governor of Michigan, a position that he won. The automaker’s new president, Roy Abernethy, who was responsible for the increasing sales under Romney, reacted to the mounting competition (in 1963 AMC built as many cars as they had in 1960, but overall total car sales had increased so much that it gave AMC only sixth place in production; the same output in 1960 had put them third) in a logical way: “Let’s get rid of this Romney image.”

A completely redesigned larger Rambler lineup appeared. The new cars continued the philosophy in building smaller cars than its larger “Big Three” competitors that also had a high degree of interchangeability in parts to keep tooling costs and production complexity to a minimum. The company, which pioneered “styling continuity”, introduced all-new styling for the 1963 model year Ambassadors and claimed that these were “functional changes …. not change just for the sake of change.” The Ambassadors featured a 4-inch (102 mm) longer wheelbase, but were 1.2-inch (30 mm) shorter due to reduced front and rear body overhangs, as well as a 3-inch (76 mm) drop in over-all height.

Designed by Richard A. Teague, the 1963 Ambassador’s shape was much tighter, cleaner, and smoother, with almost all of its parts interchangeable between it and the new Classic. All Ambassadors used unitized structure instead of the more rattl-prone, traditional body-on-frame construction which was still the industry standard. In 1963, AMC’s new 112 in (2,845 mm) wheelbase cars (Ambassadors and Classics) used a revolutionary method of unit construction which has since been almost universally adopted by automobile manufacturers. AMC Ambassador and Classics used outerpanels stamped from single sheet metal panels which included both door frames and outer rocker panels. This resulted in an extremely rigid and rattle-free structure, better fit of doors into frames, production cost savings and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. The “uniside” structure was superior to the conventional production methods in which multiple smaller pieces were welded together. There were 30% fewer parts and the result was greater structural rigidity, quieter car operation, and an over-all weight reduction of about 150 pounds (68 kilograms).

Curved side glass and push-button door handles were new and costly upgrades, but contributed to the new Rambler’s handsome, elegant, and modern Mercedes-like bodyside styling, by adding greater elegance in detail. At the time, curved side glass was used only in much more expensive luxury cars, but increased interior room and visibility, as well as reducing wind noise and improved proportions and styling of the cars. The Ambassador also featured a squared-off Thunderbird-type roofline. The front end featured a forward-thrusting upper and lower ends with a vertical bar “electric shaver” chrome grille insert. The Ambassador’s grille was differentiated from the Classic’s grille by its use of the Ambassador name in script in the small horizontal bar between the upper and lower grille sections. Round quad headlights were slightly recessed in chrome bezels mounted side-by-side within the grille at its outermost edges. Overall, the new Ambassadors were described by the staff of Automotive Fleet magazine as “probably the finest looking cars ever produced by American Motors.”

Ambassadors once again came in 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and 4-door wagon body styles, but new trim lines debuted. A “Mercedes-like three-number model designation was developed” with the 800 as the Ambassador’s base line (replacing the previous year’s Super model) for the police, taxi, and fleet market, a 880 model (in place of the Custom), and the up level 990 trim (replacing the previous 400 models).

The 1963 Ambassadors were offered only with the 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8, in either 250 hp (186 kW; 253 PS) 2-barrel or 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) 4-barrel versions. AMC’s smaller 287 cu in (4.7 L) V8 engine was only offered in the Classic line. The automatic transmission was controlled by a steering column mounted lever, replacing the previous pushbutton system. Maintenance was reduced with service intervals of the front wheel bearings increased from 12,000–25,000 miles (19,312–40,234 kilometres), the recommended engine oil change was at 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometres), and all Ambassador models included an alternator and a electronic voltage regulator as standard equipment.

Sales were brisk, and the redesign was billed a success, with Motor Trend Magazine bestowing Car of the Year status on the entire 1963 Rambler line, including the Ambassador. The marketing formula for the Ambassador generated record sales for the model with buyers favoring more luxury and features as evidenced by the Ambassador 990 models outselling the 880 versions by nearly 2-to-1, while the base 800 model had a total of only 43 two-door sedans built. The automaker did not have the resources of GM, Ford, and Chrysler, nor the sales volume to spread out its new model tooling and advertising costs over large production volumes; however, Richard Teague “turned these economical cars into smooth, streamlined beauties with tons of options and V-8 pep.”

1964

The 1964 model year introduced minor trim changes and new options. The “electric-shaver” grille on the 1963 model was replaced with a flush-mounted design, and the engine and transmission options were widened. A two-door hardtop body style called 990-H was added for the first time since 1957. Base 880 and the 880 models were dropped from the line.

The 1964 Ambassadors featured the 250 hp (186 kW; 253 PS) 2-barrel 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 as standard, with the 4-barrel 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) version as optional. The automaker did not offer a 4-speed manual transmission to compete with the sporty mid-size V8 offerings from Ford or GM. Instead, AMC offered its innovative “Twin-Stick” manual transmission. The “Twin stick” option consisted a three-speed manual transmission, operated by one of the two console mounted “sticks” in conjunction with an overdrive unit that was controlled by the second “stick” in both 2nd and 3rd gears. This give the driver the option of using five forward gears. One magazine noted the Twin-Stick, 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) Ambassador was heading for a sub 16-second quarter-mile when they blew up the clutch.

Fifth generation

Fifth generation
1965_AMC_Ambassador_black_2door-HT_in_NJ

1965 Rambler Ambassador 990 2-door hardtop
Overview
Also called Rambler Ambassador
AMC Ambassador
Model years 1965–1966
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
  • 287 cu in (4.7 L) V8
  • 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Transmission
  • 3-speed manual
  • 3-speed with overdrive
  • “Twin-Stick” on console (1965)
  • 4-speed manual (1966)
  • 3-speed automatic
  • 3-speed “Shift-Command” on console
Dimensions
Wheelbase 116 in (2,946 mm)
Length 200 in (5,080 mm)

1965

1965_Ambassador_990_convertible_yellow_pb-rr

 1965 Ambassador 990 convertible

No matter how much success the new Ramblers achieved in the marketplace, Roy Abernethy was not completely satisfied. Using the experience he gained as an outstanding salesman as a guide, Abernethy closely looked at the direction that American Motors’ competition was going and decided that the company would be much more successful if its products competed more directly with the Big Three. He would achieve this by pushing all AMC vehicles further upmarket among the various market segments, shaking off the company’s economy car image, and offering vehicles once again in all three major American car size classes: compact, intermediate, and full-size. The American and Classic were strong competitors in the former two segments, so for the 1965 model year, he set his sights on turning the Ambassador into a proper full-size car by stretching the Classic’s wheelbase and giving it much different styling. The general sizes of automobiles at that time were based on industry standard wheelbase lengths, rather than on the vehicle’s interior and cargo space. The 1965 Ambassador represented a fundamental shift in corporate ideology, a shift away from primarily fuel-efficient vehicles, to bigger, faster, and potentially more profitable cars.

Although the Ambassador rode the same platform as its 1963–64 forebears, the 1965 models looked all-new. American Motors’ designer Richard A. Teague styled the 1965 Ambassador with panache and gave the car an overall integrated look. Motor Trend magazine agreed, calling it a “strikingly handsome automobile.” Built on a 116-inch (2,946 mm) wheelbase four inches (100 mm) longer than the Classic, Teague extended the beltline level from the stacked quad headlights to the vertical taillights. The new Ambassadors were as attractive as anything built by AMC’s Detroit-based competitors, and with a list price of around $ 3,000, few could quibble about the cost of ownership. New disc brakes with a power brakes were optional.

The Ambassador received longer, squared-off rear fenders with vertical wrap-around taillights, taller decklid, squared off rear bumper mounted low, and squarer rear wheel arches. At the front, the Ambassador again sparked minor controversy with its new vertically stacked quad headlights, which were slightly recessed in their bezels, as they flanked an all-new horizontal bar grille. This new wall-to-wall grille projected forward, horizontally, in the center, to create an effect somewhat opposite to 1963’s grille treatment. The front end design provided a bold, rugged appearance.

Once again, the Ambassador’s entire extra wheelbase was ahead of the cowl, meaning that interior volume was the same as the intermediate-sized Classic. Another new body style debuted in the Ambassador lineup for 1965: an attractive new convertible offered as part of the 990 series. This was the first time a convertible was offered in the Ambassador line since 1948.

Ambassadors also saw an expanded list of trim lines, convenience options, and engine choices. The 990 and 990-H models were back, while 880 models were the new economy leaders in the 1965 Ambassador line, but even the $2,512 price for the two-door sedan was not attractive compared to the models with better trim, buckets seats, and special interiors. Ambassadors came standard with AMC’s new 232 cu in (3.8 L)Inline-6 engine, which was the first time since 1956 that an Ambassador was available with six cylinders. Far more popular in the Ambassador, however, were the two time-tested 287 and 327 cu in (4.7 and 5.4 L)AMC V8 engines.

American Motors’ management decided that the Ambassador could once again accept a standard six-cylinder engine, since its full-size competitors (e. g. Bel Air and Impala, Ford Custom 500 and Galaxie, as well as Plymouth Fury) came with six-cylinder engines as standard equipment. They therefore appealed to a wider range of customers than the Ambassador was getting. Also, since the Classic was now smaller and styled differently, the Ambassador six-cylinder would not threaten to cannibalize Classic 6 sales, which were the company’s sales volume leaders. The changes were on target as sales of the repositioned Ambassador more than tripled.

Motor Trend magazine tested an Ambassador convertible with a Twin-Stick overdrive transmission and found it commendably economical, averaging 16.4 mpg-US (14.3 L/100 km; 19.7 mpg-imp) over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) run, and noting that … “Traveling comfort was the Ambassador’s biggest selling point, along with its exceptionally powerful Bendix duo-servo drum brakes …With the thin bucket seats that recline, driver and passengers can enjoy a high degree of riding comfort… Many passers-by commented on the car’s good looks… Our summary: a nice, comfortable, quiet, well built family automobile that rather neglects the performance market.”

1966

1966_AMC_Ambassador_DPL_NJ-show

 1966 hardtops featured a formal roof design – DPL model
Samsung

 1966 AMC Ambassador 990 convertible
1966_Ambassador_990_wagon_azrr

 1966 Ambassador 990 Cross Country wagon

For 1966, minor changes greeted the Ambassador range. The V-shaped horizontal louver spanned unbroken between the headlamps and the effect was continued with twin rectangular trim pieces attached to the side of the front fenders at their leading edges by the headlamps. The effect was repeated in the new vertical wraparound taillamps with the top-line models receiving a twin set of horizontal ribbed moldings across the back of the trunk lid that simulated the look of the front grille. Hardtop coupes received a redesigned roofline that was angular in appearance with an angle cut rear side windows and rectangular rear window. The backlight no longer curved and wrapped slightly around the C-pillars. The changes made for a more “formal” notchback look that was popular at the time.

Station wagons also received a new roof (that did not have as pronounced dip over the rear cargo area) as well as a redesigned tailgate and optional simulated woodgrain exterior side panels. Available with two-rows of seats with a standard bottom hinged tailgate with electric, fully retracting rear window or with an optional rear-facing third row that featured a left side hinged rear door, with a regular exterior door handle on the right side. All station wagons carried a Cross Country badge.

The 880 served as the base model line. The two-door sedan was the price leader at $2,404, but finished with the least sales for the model year. The more popular and better trimmed 990 models were available in sedan, wagon, hardtop, and convertible versions. Options included a vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, AM/FM radio, adjustable steering wheel, and cruise control. A new luxury DPL (short for “Diplomat”) two-door hardtop debuted at the top of the range.

The DPL included special lower body side trim, numerous standard convenience items such as reclining bucket seats upholstered in brocade fabrics or optional vinyl. An optional interior trim featured houndstooth fabric and included two throw pillows. The DPL model was aimed to compete with the new, more upscale trimmed Plymouth VIP, Ford LTD, Chevrolet Caprice and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

The 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6, as well as the 287 and 327 cu in (4.7 and 5.4 L) V8s remained in the line, but transmission selections now included a new console mounted four-speed manual. Most Ambassadors continued to be ordered with automatic transmissions.

Motor Trend magazine tested a 1966 DPL equipped with a 327 engine that “definitely has snap we hadn’t felt before” and even with an automatic transmission experienced “healthy wheelspin from both rear wheels [because of the Twin-Grip limited slip differential]… Subtle changes in this year’s suspension, which include longer shocks and different springs, have a pronounced effect on the way the car feels and handles. Most welcome is the improved steering response. The car has a new feet-on-the-ground feeling, and body lean seems to have been reduced. The ride remains very good… As before, the interior’s the outstanding feature of the Ambassador. Its quality is such that other luxury cars, even higher priced ones, could well imitate it…”

Perhaps the biggest change, however, was that the Ambassador lost its historic Rambler nameplate, as the car was now marketed as the “American Motors Ambassador” or “AMC Ambassador”. Abernethy was again responsible for this marketing move, as he attempted to move the stylish new Ambassador even further upmarket. To him, that meant that the Rambler name, and its economy car image would be eschewed to give the car a clean slate in a market that was turning away from economy and toward V8 performance. The evidence suggests that Abernethy was on the right track with moving the Ambassador upscale to compete with other manufacturers’ luxury models as sales of the AMC’s flagship jumped from 18,647 in 1964 to over 64,000 in 1965, and then in 1966 they went to more than 71,000. Although the Ambassador accounted for a mere fraction of total passenger car sales in the U.S., it was an important step in bringing the AMC’s products in line with what the consumer of the day wanted.

Sixth generation

Sixth generation
1967_Ambassador_DPL_conv_top-up-winter-WV

1967 AMC Ambassador DPL convertible
Overview
Model years 1967–1968
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
  • 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8
  • 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8
  • 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 118 in (2,997 mm)
Length 202.5 in (5,144 mm)

1967

American Motors introduced a completely restyled longer, lower, and wider Ambassador for the 1967 model year, now riding on a 118-inch (2,997 mm) wheelbase, or two inches (51 mm) longer than before. The Ambassador’s platform was four inches (100 mm) longer than the new Rambler Rebel’s 114-inch (2,896 mm) wheelbase. The Ambassador was positioned in the standard-size category, against traditional big cars such as Ford Galaxie, Chevrolet Impala, and Plymouth Fury. The convertible was offered again—this time in DPL trim—for 1967; but it would be the final year with only 1,260 built. It featured an all new “split stack” folding mechanism with concealed side rails that did not intrude into the backseat area, thus offering room for three adult passengers in the rear.

The car once again looked completely new, with a more rounded appearance that sported sweeping rooflines, “coke-bottle” fenders, greater glass area, and a recessed grille that bowed forward less than that of the 1965–66 models. Taillights were wider, rectangular, and divided by one central vertical bar. Motor Trend magazine described the all-new styling of the new Ambassador as “attractive” and “more graceful and easier on the eye in ’67.”

1967_Ambassador_990_4-d_aqua_pa-i

 1967 Ambassador 990 standard interior
1967_AMC_Ambassador_DPL_yellow

 1967 Ambassador DPL hardtop with satin chrome trim

The 880 two-door sedans sported the identical roofline as the hardtops, but had slim B-pillars that gave them a more open-air coupe appearance. Adding more elegance to DPL two-door hardtops and convertibles was an optional was a “Satin-Chrome” finish (paint code P-42) for the lower body side replacing the standard full-length stainless steel rocker moldings. A black or white vinyl cover was optional on 990 and DPL sedans and hardtops. The 990 Cross Country station wagons were available with 3M‘s “dinoc” simulated wood-grain body side panels trimmed in a slim stainless steel frame.

The fastback Marlin two-door hardtop that was previously built on the Rambler Classic platform in 1965 and 1966, was continued for 1967, but was now based on the larger Ambassador platform. It featured the Ambassador’s front end, longer hood, and luxury appointments with an even longer fastback roofline than the previous version.

The Ambassador featured a lengthy list of standard features and options. The interiors “rival more expensive cars for luxury and quality, yet are durable enough to take years of normal wear.” The premium materials and fittings included wood-grain trim, and even an optional “Custom” package with special upholstery and two matching pillows. Ambassador DPL hardtops included reclining bucket seats with a center armrest between them (with a center cushion for a third occupant or a floor console with gear selector), as well as a foldaway center armrest for the rear seat. The new safety-oriented instrument panel grouped all gauges and controls in front of the driver, with the rest of the dashboard pushed forward and away from the passengers. Focusing on safety, there were now no protruding knobs, the steering column was designed to collapse under impact, and the steering wheel was smaller than previous Ambassadors.

AMC’s long-lived “GEN-1” family of V8 engines was finally replaced by an all-new line of 290 and 343 cu in (4.8 and 5.6 L) engines debuted for 1966 in the Rambler American. With a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, the 343 V8 produced 280 bhp (210 kW) at 4800 rpm and 365 pound force-feet (495 N·m) of torque at 3000 rpm. The old torque tube design was eliminated by a new four-link, trailing-arm rear suspension system providing a more comfortable coil spring ride.

American Motors promoted the new 1967 Ambassador as an “uncompromising automobile with the red carpet ride” in print advertisements, as well as in an innovative TV commercial. Unfortunately, sales of the redesigned models were disappointing, due to customer confusion caused by the entire company’s abrupt upmarket push, which seemed uncomfortably “me too” to the traditional domestic Big Three‘s customers, and they also alienated American Motors’ loyal buyer base. Abernethy’s ideas of entering new markets were not working. These strategy changes resulted in a new round of financial problems for American Motors. Because of this, Abernathy was released from AMC by its board of directors later that year, and was replaced by William V. Luneberg and Roy D. Chapin, Jr.

1968

1968_Ambassador_SST_4-d_green_pa-s

 1968 AMC Ambassador SST sedan
1968_AMC_Ambassador_yellow_2-door

 1968 AMC Ambassador base model
1968_AMC_Ambassador_DPL_station_wagon_FL-fl

 1968 AMC Ambassador DPL wagon

For the 1968 model year, a new SST trim line was placed above the now mid-line DPL trim for the Ambassador. American Motors was a pioneer in the field of air conditioning through its Kelvinator refrigerator division, and AMC’s marketing chief Bill McNealy wanted to make the Ambassador stand out in a crowded market segment and decided to add greater distinction to the Ambassador line by making the All Weather A/C system as standard equipment. This was the first time any volume car manufacturer had done so, something that even Cadillac and Lincoln had not offered on their luxury cars – although some of them were priced at more than twice as much as Ambassador. While all Ambassadors came with air conditioning as standard, consumers could order the car without air as a “delete option” and decrease the price by $ 218. As AMC pointed out in their advertising campaign for the Ambassador, the only other major automaker that offered air conditioning as standard equipment in 1968 was Rolls-Royce.

Due to slow sales, both the convertible and the pillared coupe models were dropped from the line, leaving the 990 hardtop coupe and sedan, DPL hardtop coupe, sedan, and wagon, and new SST hardtop coupe and sedan in the Ambassador line. The personal luxury fastback Marlin was also discontinued to make way for the smaller new AMC Javelin in the pony car segment. The top-of-the line 1968 Ambassador SST version was “especially appealing” and “a very luxurious package” with standard V8 power, air conditioning, expensive upholstery, individual reclining front seats, wood-look interior trim, upgraded exterior trim, as well as numerous conveniences such as an electric clock and a headlights-on buzzer.

Styling changes were minor. Taillights were now recessed in body-color bezels that were divided by a single central horizontal bar. Front headlight bezels were now made of nylon and similarly body colored. A new injection molded ABS plastic grille was dominated by a horizontal bar that extended forward in the center from the sides, while its outline had squared off edges that wrapped forward into the inner headlight extensions. Fender-mounted marker lights were added at the front and rear as standard equipment, as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations mandated their application (along with seat belts beginning January 1, 1968) to all passenger cars sold in the United States for 1968.

However, AMC’s most enduring styling feature debuted on the Ambassador for 1968, as flush-mounted paddle-style door handles replaced the former push-button units on all American Motors cars, save the Rambler American. The practical and “disarmingly simple design” predated safety-related mandates and industry norms. The interior locking was no longer by the traditional windowsill pushbutton, but a lever set into the armrest.

Front-wheel alignment was made easier with and with greater accuracy by moving the camber adjustment from the upper to the lower control arm on the double wishbone suspension, and the caster angle adjustments also moved from the upper control arm to the drag strut. At midyear, AMC’s new top engine, the AMX 390 cu in (6.4 L) 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) V8 became an option in the Ambassador line, bringing the total engine options up to four.

In June 1967, American Motors started a new advertising campaign created by Mary Wells Lawrence of Wells, Rich, and Greene marketing agency. The US$12 million AMC account was high-profile assignment and helped established the agency as innovative and daring in its approach. The new advertising violated the convention of not attacking the competition, and AMC’s campaigns became highly controversial. The publicity worked with AMC’s total retail sales improving 13% for the fiscal year, but 1968 Ambassador numbers were slightly down.

Seventh generation

Seventh generation
1969_AMC_Ambassador_SST_sedan_green-e

1969 AMC Ambassador SST 4-door sedan
Overview
Also called
  • American Motors Ambassador
  • Rambler Ambassador
Model years 1969–1973
Body and chassis
Class Full-size
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
  • 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
  • 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8
  • 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
  • 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8
  • 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
  • 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8
  • 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 122 in (3,099 mm)
Length
  • 206.5 in (5,245 mm) (1969)
  • 208 in (5,283 mm) (1970)
  • 210.8 in (5,354 mm) (1971–72)
  • 212.8 in (5,405 mm) (1973)

1969

In 1969, the Ambassador received a major restyling, with a 4-inch (102 mm) gain in overall length and wheelbase. The 122-inch (3,099 mm) wheelbase was accompanied by an increase in front and rear track from 58.5 to 60 inches (1,486 to 1,524 mm). The front end appearance was revised with new quad headlight clusters mounted horizontally in a new molded plastic grille. The grille itself was blackout with a chrome horizontal bar that connected the headlight clusters. The hood was redesigned to accommodate the grille’s raised center portion, and it faintly recalled Packard’s classic grille/hood combination. Richard A. Teague, AMC’s Vice President of Styling, had worked at the luxury car manufacturer before joining AMC. Parking lights were rectangular and mounted horizontally in recessed wells in the front bumper, just beneath each set of headlights. The entire front fascia leaned forward slightly to lend an air of forward motion to the car’s appearance.

1969 AMC_Ambassador_Hardtop_ca_1969_in_Vlaams-Brabant

 1969 Ambassador hardtop in the Netherlands
1969_AMC_Ambassador_SST_sedan_green-i

 1969 Ambassador sedan standard interior

At the rear, ribbed rectangular taillights were mounted inboard the Ambassadors rearward-thrusting rear fenders. Square ribbed marker lights of similar height were mounted at the trailing edge of each fender side. The deck lid had a slightly higher lift over. The base and DPL models had no decorative panel connecting the taillights while the top-line SST versions featured a panel painted red to match the taillights. Station wagons saw vertical wraparound taillights replacing the previous “hooded” units, which were not visible from the side. The 1969 AMC Ambassador was a smooth, powerful, well-proportioned sedan that did not look like anything else on the road.

The interiors were upgraded and a new deeply hooded dashboard clustered instruments and controls in front of the driver. There was an increased emphasis on luxury-type trim and features. The base model two-door hardtop was dropped for 1969.

The 1969 Ambassador stressed luxury, with the marketing tagline developed by Mary Wells Lawrence at the Wells Rich Greene agency, tying the car’s value, “It will remind you of the days when money really bought something.” The combination of rich velour upholstery, individually adjustable reclining seats, standard air conditioning, and the longer wheelbase were highlighted in advertisements with Ambassador’s posh”limousine” ride at an economical price. One aspect of this new advertising theme included many AMC dealers inviting prospective customers to call and request a “demonstration ride”, in which a uniformed chauffeur would arrive at the prospect’s home and drive them around in an Ambassador SST sedan. AMC’s efforts worked, and Ambassador sales shot up again.

1969_AMC_Ambassador_limousine_in_Wisconsin_sideR

 1969 Ambassador Royale Stretch Limo by Armbruster/Stageway

Not only did AMC promote the 1969 Ambassador as having a “limousine” ride and deluxe appointments, but Chicago auto leasing executive, Robert Estes, had the Armbruster/Stageway Company convert Ambassadors into real 24-foot (7.3 m) limousines riding on a 158-inch (4,013 mm) wheelbase. Known as the Royale Stretch Limo, one was owned by the State of Wisconsin as the official vehicle for Governor Warren Knowles. The conversions were unusual in that they did not keep the stock rear doors—as is typical in most limos. The back doors were welded shut and the Ambassadors were lengthened by inserting a section just behind the original B-pillar that had an entirely new central door in this center making a large opening for entry and egress. Four-inch (100 mm) steel “I-beams” bridge the expanse created by stretch. Power comes from the “AMX” 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine backed with the BorgWarner automatic transmission and a “Twin-Grip” limited-slip differential with 3.15 gears.

American Motors exported Ambassadors from the United States, as well as assembled under license from complete knock down (CKD) kits. They were adapted to the requirements of different markets, including right-hand drive (RHD) versions.

1970

1970_AMC_Ambassador_SST_hardtop_yellow-black_K-s

 1970 Ambassador SST 2-door hardtop

For the 1970 model year, the rear half of Ambassador hardtop coupes and sedans was treated to an overhaul that was also shared by the intermediate 1970 AMC Rebel. On hardtop coupes, this restyling resulted in a sloping roofline that saw upswept reverse-angle quarter windows. The belt line kicked up at the point the hardtop’s rear windows swept upward, and tapered back to the fender end, meeting a new loop-type rear bumper.

On sedans, the roof line showed a slimmer “C-pillar”, squared-off rear door windows, and met a belt line that kicked up beneath the trailing edge of each rear door window. The belt line tapered back to the same rear fascia as the hardtop coupe’s. This rear fascia contained a new ribbed taillight lens that stretched wall-to-wall and included twin square white reverse light lenses in its center.

Station wagons received no change to their rooflines, doors, and rear fascias. However, all Ambassadors received a new extruded aluminum grille at the front, featuring several widely spaced bright horizontal bars with one wide, body colored horizontal grille bar extending to each headlight cluster. The 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 was replaced for 1970 by a new 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine. This 210 hp (157 kW; 213 PS) at 4400 rpm and 305 pound force-feet (414 N·m) of torque at 2800 rpm was the standard engine on all DPL and SST models. The 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 was also supplanted by a 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine available in either 2-barrel, regular gasoline, or high-output, 4-barrel, premium fuel versions. The 4-barrel “AMX” 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine was optional, producing 325 hp (242 kW; 330 PS) at 3200 rpm and 420 pound force-feet (569 N·m) of torque at 3200 rpm.

1971

1971_AMC_Ambassador_2-door_hardtop_coupe

 1971 Ambassador hardtop with TurboCast II wheels from 1979–83
1971_AMC_Ambassador_wagon_green_NJ

 1971 Ambassador station wagon

Following the previous year’s redesign, the 1971 Ambassadors received only minor changes and improvements. The marketing tag line for the year was the underdog asking, “If you had to compete with GM, Ford and Chrysler, what would you do?”—that was answered by AMC including more features, advantages, and benefits for buyers of its cars compared to the models from its much larger competitors. This was reflected by shuffling the Ambassador models for 1971 and by including more equipment in the standard feature list. The previously nameless base models were dropped, as the sedan-only DPL trim line was relegated to base model status, and a new top-line Brougham trim line was added above mid-line SST models. Both SST and Brougham models came as hardtop coupes, sedans, and wagons.

The DPL came with AMC’s new 258 cu in (4.2 L) 150 hp (112 kW; 152 PS) Inline-6 with seven main bearings. All the SSTs and Broughams featured the 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 engine with 210 hp (157 kW) as standard. BorgWarner’s “Shift-Command” automatic transmissions were standard equipment across the line. Two of AMC’s 360 cu in (5.9 L) were optional; an 8.5:1 compression version with a two-barrel carburetor or a high-compression four-barrel V8 that required premium-fuel. The previous “AMX 390” V8 gave way to a new 401 cu in (6.6 L) 335 hp (250 kW) V8 as the top engine option.

Styling changes consisted of a new fascia up front. It featured headlights contained in their own chrome pods separate from, but flanking the new grille with a bright rectangular surround, with rounded edges. The “natural” cast pot metal grille insert was recessed and featured a bright vertical bar pattern. A second set of parking lights was added outboard of the headlight clusters, and they were integrated into the fender extension to eliminate the need for separate front marker lights.

Taillights on hardtop coupes and sedans still ran wall-to-wall, but the twin backup lights were moved from the center to further outboard—approximately eight inches in from either fender side. Once again, the wagon received few changes at the rear, but added a new design for its optional woodgrain side trim, which filled in its upper bodysides. Its lower edge flowed downward aft of its peak at the leading edge above each front wheelhouse, in similar fashion to the Buick Skylark‘s side “sweepspear” styling cue.

Ambassador base models were offered to fleet buyers with various police, taxicab, and other heavy-duty packages. Governments and police departments in the U.S. historically used standard-size, low-price line four-door sedans. Equipped with the 360 or 401 engines, the base Ambassadors saw use as police cruisers and support vehicles.

1972

Minor changes greeted 1972 Ambassadors, as AMC’s biggest news for the year was the addition of the innovative AMC Buyer Protection Plan, that included the industry’s first 12-month or 12,000-mile (19,000 km) bumper-to-bumper warranty. This was the first time an automaker promised to repair anything wrong with the car (except for tires) and owners were provided with a toll-free telephone number to the company, as well as a free loaner car if a warranty repair took overnight. This backing also included mechanical upgrades to increase durability and quality, such as the standardization of electric windshield wipers on all model lines, replacing AMC’s vacuum-powered units, as well as better interior trims. By focusing on quality the smallest domestic automaker was solidly profitable for 1972, earning US$30.2 million (the highest net profit achieved by AMC since 1964) on $4 billion in sales.

The base Ambassador DPL model was canceled, with three body styles now available in SST and Brougham trim. A six-cylinder engine was no longer available; thus, Ambassador became a V8-only car for the first time since 1964. This made the Ambassador the only volume-produced American car that included air conditioning, an automatic transmission, and a V8 engine as standard equipment; all while being priced less than the Big Three’s full-sized cars. The Borg-Warner transmission was replaced by the “Torque-Command” (TorqueFlite) three-speed automatic sourced from Chrysler.

Styling changes on the 1972 Ambassador were limited to a new crosshatch cast metal grille with bright trim and new integrated fender extension mounted side marker lamps on the front.

A Popular Mechanics magazine survey after driving a total of 1,000,000 miles (1,609,344 km) found Ambassador owners were pleased with their cars, describing them to be “very comfortable to drive and ride in” with handling listed as a top “specific like” by half of the drivers. A very a high percentage (92%) would buy one again. Although the Buyer Protection Plan was listed by only 8.5% as a reason to buy an Ambassador, owners valued the smaller AMC dealers that “had more time to be courteous and to pay personal attention to customers.”

1973

1973_Ambassador Brougham sedan_4-d_401 6.6litre.V8

 1973 Ambassador Brougham sedan with 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8

The SST models were dropped from the line, as all Ambassadors now came in one high-level Brougham trim. An AM radio and tinted glass were added to the extensive standard equipment list. Heftier front and rear bumpers were included to comply with new U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations that required all passenger cars to withstand a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) front and a 2.5-mile-per-hour (4 km/h) rear impacts without damage to the engine, lights, and safety equipment.

Ambassadors complied with the regulation by incorporating a stronger front bumper equipped with self-restoring telescoping shock-absorbers. Designed to “give” as much as 3.5 in (89 mm), it jutted slightly forward from the front fascia and incorporated flexible trim matching the body paint. This bumper also featured a more prominent horizontal rubber guard at its upper portion near the grille, thus eliminating the need for a pair of vertical chrome bumper guards that was optional before. The rear bumper gained vertical black rubber bumper guards that also replaced a pair of similar and previously optional chrome bumper guards. The grille gained heavier horizontal bars and headlight bezels took on blackout trim in their recessed portions.

Eighth generation

Eighth generation
1974_AMC_Ambassador_Brougham_4-door_sedan_beige

1974 Ambassador Brougham sedan
Overview
Model years 1974
Body and chassis
Class Full-size
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
  • 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8
  • 401 cu in (6.6 L) V8
Transmission 3-speed Torque Commandautomatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 122 in (3,099 mm)
Length 217.8 in (5,532 mm)

1974

1974_AMC_Ambassador_sedan_blue-white_Kenosha-r

 1974 AMC Ambassador sedan

Ambassador sales had remained steady since 1970, despite the lack of major changes to the vehicle. However, the 1974 model year would bring out the biggest Ambassador—just as the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo sparked gasoline rationing across the nation. The Ambassador sedan was stretched seven inches (180 mm) compared with the 1973 versions. This additional length was due to a new front end design and stronger energy absorbing bumpers with hydraulic backup.

The 1974 Ambassador Brougham was no longer available as a 2-door (pillar-less) hardtop, leaving the 4-door sedan and station wagon body styles in the line. The hardtop’s cancellation was due in part to low sales volume of the Ambassador 2-door versions, as well as the introduction of an all-new 1974 Matador coupe that featured a very long hood and a short rear deck. The new coupe was selected as the “Best Styled Car of 1974” by the editors of Car and Driver magazine and did not have the requisite share the typical mid- to late-1970s styling hallmarks that included an upright grille, a notchback roof, and imitation “landau bars” or opera lights. It was probably viable for AMC to build a “formal”-styled, personal luxury Ambassador version from the same platform.

Styling changes for the sedan and wagon included new front fender caps on the same fenders as used since 1969, and hood, grille, bumpers, rear fascia, instrument panel, interior trim, hood ornament, and a new font for the Ambassador nameplate. The grille showed off a new squared-off loop-type design surrounding the circular recessed quad headlights, and featured a forward-protruding center. The insert held a crosshatch pattern dominated by two thick horizontal bars that connected the headlight bezels and contained new parking lights between them. These parking lights had amber lenses, followed the grille protrusion forward, and were overlaid by the grille’s crosshatch trim. Headlamp bezels were once again blacked out in their recessed areas. The new hood and front bumper followed the grille’s central protrusion forward, giving the car a slight “coffin nose” look. The contemporary Matador saw a similar frontal treatment, but with a much more pronounced effect and with different single headlamp clusters, hood, and grille insert.

At the rear, the new bumper was much larger and backed by shock absorbers, as it was beefed up to comply with new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations for standardized front and rear bumpers on passenger cars that could sustain a 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) impact with no damage. Fiberglass end caps were added to the ends of each rear fender on sedans. They wrapped inward to create a recessed space that met a carryover decklid. In this space was mounted the new rectangular taillight housings, which featured taller white backup lights mounted inboard of the new taillights. The license plate moved from the rear bumper to the area between the new taillight assemblies, and the whole taillight and license plate system on the sedans was surrounded its own loop of chrome trim.

The cargo area and the rear design of station wagons remained similar to previous Ambassadors, save for a massive new bumper and revised taillamps. The wagon was available with two-row bench seats for six passengers or with a rear-facing third row for a total eight seat-belted passengers. All came with numerous practical, appearance, and comfort items as standard. These included a two-way opening tail gate: (1) hinged at the bottom for convenient loading or hauling long cargo and (2) hinged at the side to open as door for ease of entry and exit for passengers or cargo; wood grained semi-transparent vinyl side and rear trim, a full-length roof rack; as well as a chrome and wood grain roof air deflector to help keep the tailgate window clean.

Powertrain selections remained the same as in 1973, with only V8 engines and automatic transmissions available. When ordered with a trailer package (special wiring harness with heavy-duty flasher and heavy-duty suspension with rear sway bar), the Ambassador was rated for up to 5,000-pound (2,268 kg) towing capacity. Other increases for 1974 included a larger capacity fuel tank, 24.9 US gal (94 L; 21 imp gal), and an alternator producing 62 amperes. New sound insulation made the Ambassador even quieter. All came with a very lengthy list of standard equipment that was typically optional on competing makes. These included comfort items such as air conditioning, an AM radio and vanity mirror to appearance enhancements such as pin striping and whitewall tires.

Sales of all full-size vehicles, regardless of the automaker, fell significantly in 1974 as America’s focus shifted to smaller cars. Ambassador sales were no different, and in June 1974, the final AMC Ambassador rolled off the Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly line, ending a nameplate that had been in continuous production in some form for 48 years.

Overseas production

Argentina

Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) produced the U.S. fifth generation Ambassadors in Córdoba, Argentina from 1965 to 1972. The vehicles were powered by the 3.77 L (230 cu in) overhead camshaft (OHC) straight-six “Tornado Interpector” engines that were originally developed by Kaiser Motors in the U.S. in 1963 for the new Jeep Gladiator pickups and Wagoneer vehicles. This engine was later produced in Argentina and it increased the domestic (local sourced) content of the automobiles. Stretch versions of the IKA Ambassador were used as official government limousines.

Australia

1969 Ambassador hardtop New Zealand with RDH 3a

 1969 Ambassador hardtop, a New Zealand model with RHD

Australian Motor Industries (AMI) obtained the rights to assemble and distribute Ramblers, and the 1961, 1962, and 1963 model year Ambassadors were built in Australia. The 1961 sedan, which was powered by a 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8, was the most powerful car being assembled in Australia at that time. Knock-down kits featuring right-hand drive were shipped from Kenosha to AMI’s facilities in Port Melbourne, Victoria. The Australian-built Ambassadors included a significant a percentage of “local content” to gain import tariff (tax) concessions by using parts and components (such as interiors and upholstery) that were sourced from Australian manufacturers.

Costa Rica

Rambler vehicles were marketed in Costa Rica since 1959. New local content regulations enacted during the 1960s effectively required vehicles sold in those markets to be assembled from knock-down kits. An assembly plant for Rambler and Toyota vehicles was established, ECASA, and the first Ramblers were produced in Costa Rica by the end of 1965. The company built Ambassadors and other AMC models through 1970, with Toyota increasing ownership of ECASA.

Epilogue

Because AMC was focusing its attentions on their newly acquired Jeep line, the redesigned 1974 Matador coupe, and the AMC Pacer, which would debut in 1975, the company would not put forth the investment to continue the full-size Ambassador line after its 1974 redesign. Instead, the automaker upgraded the Matador sedan and wagon counterparts starting with the 1975 model year. The basic automobile platform was used by AMC since the 1967 model year, and the full-size automobile market segment was declining. American Motors strategy now aimed at smaller cars and sport-utility vehicles. However, the Ambassador basically continued as the similarly sized and styled Matador sedans and wagons became available in uplevel “Brougham” trim from 1975, as well as in a unique top-of-the-line Barcelona trim in its final year of production, 1978.

Rambler Classic

Rambler Classic
1965_Rambler_Classic_770_convertible-white

1965 Rambler Classic 770 convertible
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation (AMC)
Also called Rambler-Renault Classic (RIB)
Production 1961–1966
Assembly
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size
Layout FR layout
Chronology
Predecessor Rambler Six and V8
Successor AMC Rebel

The Rambler Classic is an intermediate sized automobile that was built and sold by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from the 1961 to 1966 model years. The Classic took the place of the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V-8 names, which were retired at the end of the 1960 model year.

Introduced at first only as six-passenger four-door sedan and station wagon versions, additional body styles were added with two-door models available as a “post” sedan and in 1964 as a sporty pillar-less hardtop, as well as a convertible for 1965 and 1966.

Motor Trend magazine selected AMC’s Classic line as Car of the Year award for 1963.

The Rambler Rebel name replaced Classic on AMC’s completely redesigned large-line of cars in 1967, and for 1968 the Rebel was renamed the AMC Rebel as AMC began the process of phasing out the Rambler marque.

Throughout its life in the AMC model line-up, the Classic was the high-volume seller for the independent automaker.

First generation

First generation
1961_Rambler_Classic_four-door_sedan-NJ

1961 Rambler Classic 4-door sedan
Overview
Production 1961–1962
Designer Edmund E. Anderson
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 195.5 cu in (3.2 L) I6
  • 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 (1961)
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)
Length 189.8 in (4,821 mm)
Width 72.4 in (1,839 mm)
Height 57.3 in (1,455 mm)
Curb weight
  • 2,915 lb (1,322 kg) I6
  • 3,255 lb (1,476 kg) V8

The Rambler was the focus of AMC’s management strategy under the leadership of George W. Romney. American Motors designed and built some of the most fuel-efficient, best-styled and well-made cars of the 1950s and 1960s. Their compact cars (for the era) helped AMC to achieve sales and corporate profit successes. In 1961, the Rambler marque ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales.

Ramblers were available in two sizes and built on different automobile platforms. The larger-sized Rambler series was based on a 1956 design and was renamed as the Classic for the 1961 model year to help create a stronger individual identity and contrast from the smaller Rambler American line. American Motor’s Edmund E. Anderson designed the new 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Ramblers “that looked new and fresh, but were in fact inexpensive reskinned models.”

1961

1961_Rambler_Classic_sedan-green

 1961 Rambler Classic sedan

The 1961 Classic featured a new front end with a one-piece, rectangular extruded-aluminum grille, new fenders, hood, sculptured door panels, and side trim, as well as one-piece bumpers. Models included the Deluxe, the Super, and the Custom (featuring bucket seats in a four-door sedan). The suggested retail price for the basic Deluxe four-door sedan was US$ 2,098 and was only $339 more for a station wagon.

In 1961, the Classic was available in either an I6 – 195.5 cu in (3.2 L) – or with a V8 – 250 cu in (4.1 L) – engine. A lighter by 80 pounds (36 kg) aluminum block version of the OHV I6 engine, sometimes referred to as the 196, was offered as an option on Deluxe and Super models. The die cast block features iron “sleeves” or cylinder liners with a cast iron alloy cylinder head and produces the same 127.5 horsepower (95 kW) as the cast iron version.

American Motors “defied the detractors” with its emphasis on economical and compact-sized cars achieving a sales total of 370,600 vehicles in 1961, “lifting the Rambler to an unprecedented third place in the charts behind Chevrolet and Ford”.

1962

1962_Rambler_4-door_2-green_MD_um-rl

 1962 Rambler Classic 4-door sedan

For the 1962 model year, the Super models were dropped and replaced by a 400 model. Also for 1962, AMC’s flagship Ambassador models were shortened to the same 108-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase as the Classic’s at the same time as the V8 engine was no longer available in the Classic models. This meant the Ambassador models were the only models with V8s in the AMC lineup. The two-door sedan bodystyle Rambler Classic was a unique one year offering for 1962.

The front grille was modified for 1962, but the free-standing Rambler lettering in the lower center remained. The revised rear end received new round tail lamps, while the previous tailfins were “shaved off”. Rambler was one of the last cars to incorporate the tail fin design and became one of the first to “do away with them, and to build clean, simple, uncluttered cars.” The back door upper window points were also rounded off for 1962.

Starting in 1962, AMC took a leadership role with safer brake systems in all Ramblers featuring twin-circuit brakes, a design offered by only a few cars at that time. Classics with an automatic transmission continued to use push-buttons mounted on the left side of the dashboard with a separate sliding pull tab for the “park” position. The cast-iron block six-cylinder engine was standard on Deluxe and Custom models with the aluminum version optional. The 400 received the aluminum block, but the cast-iron was a no cost option. Other improvements for 1962 included a price cut of $176 on the popular Custom Classic sedan.

The popularity of the compact-sized Classic continued in the face of a dozen new competitors. Sales of the 1962 model year Classics increased by over 56,000 in the first six months compared to the same period in 1961. A Popular Mechanics nationwide survey of owners that had driven a total of 1,227,553 miles (1,975,555 km) revealed that the Rambler is likeable, easy handling, providing stability and comfortable, roomy ride with low-cost operation. Flaws included inadequate power and poor workmanship.

Centaur

American Motors highlighted the Rambler Centaur at the 1962 Chicago Auto Show on a raised platform in the center of automaker’s exhibit area. The car was based on a two-door sedan that did “not look remarkably different from regular production models.”

Second generation

Second generation
1963 Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country station wagon

1963 Rambler Classic 660 wagon
Overview
Also called
Production 1963–1964
Assembly
Designer
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 195.5 cu in (3.2 L) I6
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 (Typhoon only)
  • 287 cu in (4.7 L) V8
Transmission
Dimensions
Wheelbase 112 in (2,845 mm)
Length 188.8 in (4,796 mm)
Width 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
Height 54.6 in (1,387 mm)
Curb weight 2,650 lb (1,200 kg) approximate

For the 1963 model year, the Rambler Classic line was completely redesigned with subtle body sculpturing. Outgoing design director, Edmund E. Anderson, shaped the Classic that was named Motor Trendmagazine’s 1963 “Car of the Year.” These were also the first AMC models that were influenced by Richard A. Teague, the company’s new principal designer. He “turned these economical cars into smooth, streamlined beauties with tons of options and V-8 pep.”

Being of a suitable size for international markets, this Rambler was assembled in a number of countries. In Europe, Renault built this car in their Haren, Belgium plant and marketed it as a luxury car, filling the gap above the tiny Renault Dauphine.

The 1963 Classics were also the first all-new cars developed by AMC since 1956. Keeping the philosophy of the company, they were more compact – shorter and narrower by one inch (25 mm), as well as over two inches (56 mm) lower – than the preceding models; but lost none of their “family-sized” passenger room or luggage capacity featuring a longer 112-inch (2,845 mm) wheelbase.

1963

1963 Rambler Classic 770 four-door gold-NJ

 1963 Rambler Classic 770 sedan

American Motors’ “senior” cars (Classic and Ambassador) shared the same wheelbase and body parts, with only trim differences and standard equipment levels to distinguish the models. Classics came in pillared two- and four-door sedans, as well as four-door wagons. The model designations now became “a Mercedes-like three-number model designation” going from the lowest 550 (essentially fleet cars), 660, to highest 770 trims (replacing the Deluxe, Custom, and 400 versions).

As in 1962, the 1963 Classics were initially available only as 6-cylinder 195.5 cu in (3.2 L) models. The Ambassador’s standard V8 power, featuring AMC’s 327 cu in (5.4 L) engine, was the chief distinguishing feature from the Classic model line.

In mid-1963, a new 287 cu in (4.7 L) V8 option was announced for the Classic models. The 198 hp (148 kW; 201 PS) V8 equipped Rambler Classics combined good performance with good mileage; even with the optional “Flash-O-Matic” automatic transmission, they reached 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in about 10 seconds and returned fuel economy from 16 miles per US gallon (15 L/100 km; 19 mpg-imp) to 20 miles per US gallon (12 L/100 km; 24 mpg-imp).

The new AMC cars incorporated numerous engineering solutions. Among these was curved side glass, one of the earliest popular-priced cars with this feature. Another engineering breakthrough was combining separate parts in the monocoque (unit construction) body into single stampings. One example was the “uniside” door surround that was made from a single stamping of steel. Not only did it replace 52 parts and reduce weight and assembly costs, it also increased structural rigidity and provided for better fitting of the doors.

American Motors’ imaginative engineering prompted Motor Trend magazine to give the Classic – and the similar Ambassador models – their Car of the Year award for 1963.[20] Motor Trend’s “award is based on pure progress in design, we like to make sure the car is also worthy of the title in the critical areas of performance, dependability, value, and potential buyer satisfaction.”

1964

1964_Rambler_Classic_770_wagon-green

 1964 Rambler Classic 770 wagon

The 1964 model year Classics, were refined with stainless steel rocker moldings, a flush single-plane aluminum grille replacing the previous year’s deep concave design, and oval tail-lamps replacing the flush mounted lenses of the 1963’s. Classics with bucket seats and V8 engine could be ordered with a new “Shift-Command” three-speed automatic transmission mounted on the center console that could be shifted manually.

A new two-door model joined the line only available in the top 770 trim. The pillar-less hardtop offered a large glass area, and “its sales were brisk.” A sporty 770-H version featured individually adjustable reclining bucket seats, as well as center a console. Consumers continued to perceive Ramblers as economy cars and the six-cylinder models outsold V8-powered versions.

Typhoon

1964_Rambler_Classic_Typhoon_2D-hardtop-NJ

 1964 Rambler Typhoon two-door hardtop

American Motors unveiled the Typhoon in April 1964. This mid-1964 model year introduction was a sporty variant of the Classic 770 2-door hardtop. This special model was introduced to highlight AMC’s completely new short-stroke, seven main bearing, 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) 8.5:1 compression ratio 232 cu in (3.8 L) “Typhoon” modern era inline-6.

Production of this commemorative model was limited to 2,520 units and it was only available in a two-tone Solar Yellow body with a Classic Black roof, and a sporty all-vinyl interior for US$2,509. The car also featured a distinctive “Typhoon” script in place of the usual “Classic” name insignia, as well as a unique grille with black out accents. All other AMC options (except engine choices and colors) were available on the Typhoon.

The engine became the mainstay six-cylinder engine for AMC and Jeep vehicles. It was produced, albeit in a modified form, up until 2006. The 232 I6 engine’s name was soon changed to “Torque Command”, with Typhoon to describe AMC’s new line of V8s introduced in 1966.

Cheyenne

The 1964 Chicago Auto Show was used by AMC to exhibit the Rambler Cheyenne in a viewing area made from knotty pine planks. The show car was based on the top-of-the-line Classic Cross Country station wagon finished in white highlighting its full-length gold-tone anodized aluminum trim along the upper part of the bodysides (replacing the side spear that was standard on 770 models) as well as matching gold trim on the lower part of the tailgate between the tail-lights.

Third generation

Third generation
1965_Rambler_Classic_770_convertible-NJ

1965 Rambler Classic 770 convertible
Overview
Production 1965–1966
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 199 cu in (3.3 L) I6
  • 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
  • 258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
  • 287 cu in (4.7 L) V8
  • 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8
Transmission
  • 3-speed manual
  • 3-speed with overdrive
  • “Twin-Stick” on console (1965)
  • 4-speed manual (1966)
  • 3-speed automatic
  • 3-speed “Shift-Command” on center console
Dimensions
Wheelbase 112 in (2,845 mm)
Length 195 in (4,953 mm)
Width 74.5 in (1,892 mm)
Height 55 in (1,397 mm)
Curb weight 2,980 lb (1,350 kg) V8 hardtop

The 1965 model year Classics underwent a major redesign of the new platform that was introduced in 1963; essentially the 1963–1964 design with a rectilinear reskin similar to that of concurrent Ambassadors. Fresh sheet metal design was applied to the original 112 in (2,800 mm) wheelbase and 195 in (5,000 mm) long integral body-frame with only the roof, doors, and windshield as carryovers. Unchanged was the suspension system including a torque tube with coil springs with a Panhard rod.

The Rambler Classic was now shorter than – as well as visually distinctive from – the Ambassador line, while still sharing the basic body structure from the windshield back. For the first time a convertible model was available in the 770 trim version. The two-door sedan was dropped from the 770 model lineup.

1965

1965_Rambler_Classic_770_4-door_white_umr

 1965 Rambler Classic 770 sedan

The 1965 Classic models were billed as the “Sensible Spectaculars,” with emphasis on their new styling, powerful engines, and their expanded comfort and sports-type options, in contrast to the previous “economy car” image.

American Motors now only offered its modern straight-six engine design, retiring the aging 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) versions. The 1965 Classic base 550 models featured the modern and economical 128 hp (95 kW; 130 PS) 199 cu in (3.3 L) six-cylinder, which was basically a destroked 232 engine. The 660 and 770 series received the 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) 232 cu in (3.8 L) six, while a 155 hp (116 kW; 157 PS) version was optional. Additionally, the 198 hp (148 kW; 201 PS) 287 cu in (4.7 L) or 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 engines were optional.

Popular Science magazine reported, “you can have a 1965 Classic as a penny-pinching economy car or a storming performance job.” Additional performance options for 1965 included power front disk brakes with four-piston calipers that were supplied by Bendix. The standard 4-wheel drum brakes also continued to feature AMC’s “Double-Safety” master cylinder system. The dual master cylinder was available in only one “Big Three” car: Cadillac.

Marlin

Main article: Rambler Marlin

At mid-model year, AMC introduced the 1965 Marlin, a halo car for the company. It was a mid-sized fastback design using the Rambler Classic platform. Marketed as a personal luxury car, the Marlin had unique styling and featured an exceptional array of standard equipment.

1966

1966 Rambler Classic 770 Sedan dark blue 77066

 1966 Rambler Classic 770 sedan

The 1966 model year Rambler Classics received minor trim changes and additional standard safety features, including padded dash and visors, left outside mirror, as well as seat belts for the front and rear passengers. The 660 mid-trim level was dropped leaving the 550 and 770 models for 1966. Available for the first time was a floor mounted four-speed manual transmission and a dash-mounted tachometer.

Classics received particular attention to the styling of the roofs for 1966. The two-door hardtop models received a rectangular rear window and more formal and angular “crisp-line” roofline that could be covered with vinyl trim. Sedans had an optional trim-outlined “halo” roof accent color. The station wagon’s roof area over the cargo compartment was at the same level with the rest of the roof, no longer dipped down as in prior years. The wagons carried Cross Country insignia and featured 83 cubic feet (2.35 m3) of cargo space, as well as a standard roof rack. Two wagon seating capacities were available: a standard six-passenger version with two-rows of seats with a drop-down bottom-hinged tailgate incorporating a fully retracting rear window for accessing cargo, or in an optional eight-passenger version with three-rows of seats (the third rear-facing) and a left-side hinged rear fifth door.

The name Classic was no longer considered a positive factor in the marketplace and AMC began reshuffling model names in 1966.

Rambler Rebel