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

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 1970 AMC AMX base model
Samsung

 1970 AMC AMX with “Ram Air” 390 V8
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 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

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

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 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
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 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

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 1971 AMX concept car
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 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

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 Stock 1969 AMX at AACA car show
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 1969 SS Hurst (documented car #23) “Performance Automotive” at Daytona Florida show
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 Stock 1970 AMX with BBO and “shadow mask” finish at a car show
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 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

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 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

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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

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 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

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 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

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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

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 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

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 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

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 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

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 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 I

Rambler (automobile)

Rambler logo, 1960s

Rambler was an automobile brand name used by the

Thomas B. Jeffery Company

Thomas B. Jeffery Company

Thomas B Jeffery Company Logo.jpg

The Thomas B. Jeffery Company was an American automobile manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin from 1902 until 1916. The company manufactured the Rambler and Jeffery brand motorcars. It was preceded by the Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Company, a bicycle manufacturer. It was the parent company to Nash Motors, thus one of the parent companies of American Motors and Chrysler.

Thomas B. Jeffery

 Thomas B. Jeffery
1897 Thomas B. Jeffery and his 1897 Rambler prototype

 Thomas B. Jeffery and his 1897 Rambler prototype

Thomas B. Jeffery was an inventor and an industrialist. He was one of America’s first entrepreneurs interested in automobiles in the late 19th century. In 1897, he built his first prototype motorcar. Thomas B. Jeffery was serious enough about automobiles to sell his stake in Gormully & Jeffery to the American Bicycle Company to finance the new car company.

Business

1901 Rambler A -CT Jeffery

 Charles T. Jeffery driving a 1901 Rambler model A

Charles T. Jeffery (left) Charles W. Nash (right)

Charles T. Jeffery‘s (Thomas’ son) experimental prototypes of 1901 (Models A & B) used at least two radical innovations – steering wheels and front-mounted engines. By the time Charles was ready for production in 1902, his father had talked him out of these wild dreams and convinced him to stick with tillers and engines under the seat.

From 1902 until 1908, Jeffery moved steadily to bigger, more reliable models. Jeffery cars were built on assembly lines (the second manufacturer to adopt them — Ransom E. Olds was first), and in 1903 Jeffery sold 1,350 Ramblers. By 1905, Jeffery more than doubled this number. One reason may have been because Charles went back to the steering wheel before 1904. In 1907, Jeffery was building a large variety of different body styles and sizes. Among them was a five-passenger, US$ 2,500 Rambler weighing 2,600 pounds (1179 kg) and powered by a 40-horsepower (30 kW) engine.

In April, 1910, Thomas B. Jeffery, died in Pompeii, Italy and in June of that year the business was incorporated under the name of the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, with Charles T. Jeffery as the president and general manager, H. W. Jeffery, vice president and treasurer.

In 1915, Charles T. Jeffery, changed the automotive branding from Rambler to Jeffery to honor the founder, his father, Thomas B. Jeffery.

As of 1916, G. H. Eddy replaced H.W. Jeffery as the treasurer so H.W. Jeffery could focus on the position of vice president. G. W. Greiner was the secretary, L. H. Bill the general manager, J. W. DeCou the factory manager, and Al Recke was the sales manager.

Charles T. Jeffery survived the sinking of the RMS Lusitania (a British luxury liner torpedoed by the Germans in World War I) in 1915 and decided to spend the rest of his life in a more enjoyable manner. Charles W. Nash resigned from General Motors, saw an opportunity and bought the Thomas B. Jeffery Company in August 1916.

The Factory

1915 Jeffery works circa 1915

The sprawling Jeffery works circa 1915

Jeffery factory building

Jeffery company employees

Jeffery, with the money from his sale of Gormully & Jeffery, bought the old Sterling Bicycle Company’s factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The original factory building was only 600 x 100 feet (183 x 30 m) in size. However, by 1916, the company’s buildings expanded over 20 acres (8 ha) under roof and the facilities had grown to over 100 acres (40 ha) including a test track.

Jeffery Quad

Main article: Jeffery Quad

The Jeffrey Quad, also known as the Nash Quad or Quad is a four-wheel drive truck that was developed and built in Kenosha from 1913, and after 1916, by Nash Motors, as well as under license by other truck makers.. The Quad introduced numerous engineering innovations. Its design and durability proved effective in traversing the muddy, rough, and unpaved roads of the times. The Quad also became one of the effective work vehicles in World War I. The Quad was also one of the first successful four-wheel drive vehicles ever to be made, and its production continued unchanged through 1928, or 15 years, with a total of 41,674 units made.

Timeline

1897 – Jeffery builds a rear-engine Rambler prototype using the Rambler name previously used on a highly successful line of bicycles made by Gormully & Jeffery.

1899 – Positive reviews at the 1899 Chicago International Exhibition & Tournament and the first National Automobile Show in New York City prompt the Jefferys to enter the automobile business.

1900 (Dec 6) – Thomas B. Jeffery finalizes a US$65,000 deal to buy the Kenosha, Wisconsin, factory of the defunct Sterling Bicycle with money from the sale of his interest in Gormully & Jeffery.

1901 – Two more prototypes, Models A and B, are made.

1902 – First production Ramblers – the US$ 750 Model C open runabout and the $850 Model D (the same car with a folding top). Both are powered by an 8-horsepower (6 kW; 8 PS), 98-cubic-inch (1.6 L) one-cylinder engine mounted beneath the seat, and are steered by a right-side tiller. First-year production totals 1,500 units making Jeffery the second-largest car maker behind Oldsmobile.

1910 (Mar 21) – Thomas B. Jeffery dies while on vacation in Italy.

1910 (Jun 10) – Charles incorporates the firm as a $3 million (US$75,932,143 in 2015 dollars) public stock company.

1914 – The Rambler name is replaced with the Jeffery moniker in honor of the founder.

1916 (Aug) – Charles Jeffery sells the company to former General Motors Corp. President Charles W. Nash.

1917 – Charles Nash renames the Jeffery Motor Company, Nash Motors after himself.

Rambler was an automobile brand name used by the

1900 Emblem Rambler

between 1900 and 1914, then by its successor, Nash Motors from 1950 to 1954, and finally by Nash’s successor, American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1969. It was often nicknamed the “Kenosha Cadillac” after its place of manufacture.

1897-1914

1903 Rambler 6HP Runabout

 Rambler 6HP Runabout 1903
1903 Rambler 6.5 HP Runabout

 Rambler 6 1/2HP Runabout 1903
1904 Rambler 7HP Rear-entrance tonneau1904 Rambler

 Rambler 7HP Rear-entrance tonneau 1904
1905 Rambler
1905 Rambler
1908 Rambler advertisement
 1908 Rambler advertisement
1913 Rambler Touring
 1913 Rambler 5-passenger touring car

The first use of the name Rambler for an American made automobile dates to 1897 when Thomas B. Jeffery of Chicago, Illinois and builder of the Rambler bicycle, constructed his first prototype automobile.

After receiving positive reviews at the 1899 Chicago International Exhibition & Tournament and the first National Automobile Show in New York City, Jeffery decided to enter the automobile business. In 1900, he bought the old Sterling Bicycle Co. factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and set up shop.

Jeffery started commercially mass-producing automobiles in 1902 and by the end of the year had produced 1,500 motorcars, one-sixth of all existing in the USA at the time. The Thomas B. Jeffery Company was the second largest auto manufacturer at that time, (behind Oldsmobile).

Rambler experimented such early technical innovations as a steering wheel (as opposed to a tiller), but it was decided that such features were too advanced for the motoring public of the day, so the first production Ramblers were tiller-steered. Rambler innovated various design features and was the first to equip cars with a spare wheel-and-tire assembly. This allowed the driver, when experiencing a common puncture (flat tires) to exchange the spare wheel & tire for the flat one.

In 1914, Charles T. Jeffery, Thomas B. Jeffery’s son, replaced the Rambler brand name with Jeffery in honor of his now deceased father.

In 1916, the Thomas B. Jeffery Company was purchased by Charles W. Nash and became Nash Motors Company in 1917. The Jeffery brand name was dropped at the time of the sale and the manufacture of Nash branded automobiles commenced. In 1937, the concern became the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation through a merger with the well-known appliance maker.

1950-1957

1959 Rambler American 2-door compact sedan by American Motors Corporation (AMC) -- the first generation design. Painted in optional factory two-tone blue.

 Nash Rambler served as the platform for the first generation Rambler American
Main article: Nash Rambler

Under the direction of Charles Nash’s successor George W. Mason, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation began development of a small car that could be produced inexpensively for the post World War II economy.

However, steel shortages limited the amount of raw materials that Nash could get, so Mason turned the compact, now designated the Rambler, into a two-door sedan with a convertible top and the cars were equipped with many standard features that were typically options, to maximize profits for the company. When introduced, the Rambler was an immediate success for Nash. As steel quotas (related to the Korean War) eased, the Rambler line was broadened in both its model types (first a station wagon and 2-door hardtop dubbed “Country Club”, and later a 2-door sedan. A further expansion of the line for 1954 included a four-door sedan and station wagon called “Cross Country”) on a stretched wheelbase, which proved to be as successful as the first generation of two-door sedan convertibles.

The first generation of modern Ramblers carried a modified version of Nash’s Airflyte styling, which included closed wheel openings. Where the wheel openings of any car are a major source of wind resistance, the design was rather primarily an engineering design to increase the strength of the car for impact resistance. Many people surmised that the skirted fenders limited the turning radius of the wheels but was not an actual handicap for having a comparatively narrow front track. Ramblers continued to use this styling until 1955, when the front wheels were revealed by a periodic design update. In 1954 the Rambler offered the first industry combination heating and air conditioning unit that could be an add-on or installed at the factory for $395.00, which at that time was about the lowest cost unit available in an American car.

In 1954, American Motors Corporation (AMC) was formed from the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and the Hudson Motor Car Company. Following the merger, 1955 and 1956 Ramblers were badged as both Nashes and Hudsons, with no visible difference between the two. Rambler became a marque in its own right for the 1957 model year. The Nash and Hudson makes were continued as senior model only through 1957, after which all of AMC’s offerings were marketed as Ramblers, with the exception of the imported 1958-1962 Metropolitan.

1958-1969

1958 Rambler sedan

 1958 Rambler sedan
1963 Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country station wagon

 1963 Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country station wagon
1965 Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country station wagon
 1965 Rambler Classic 660 Cross Country station wagon
1958 Train unloading 1958 Ramblers for a car rental company in Florida.
 Train unloading 1958 Ramblers for a car rental company in Florida.

At the start of the 1960s George Romney made a marketing decision that more fully unified the various Rambler model names under the Rambler brand. In 1962, the Ambassador, a top-trim level model, was officially brought under the Rambler name (it had previously been named the “Ambassador by Rambler”), and the former Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 were renamed the Rambler Classic. (Note: while the top-line models for 1958-1961 were advertised as the “Ambassador V-8 by Rambler”, on the cars themselves, the nomenclature was “Rambler Ambassador”.) Back in 1958, AMC introduced America’s first “compact car,” the Rambler American. This car was essentially the 1950 Nash Rambler, slightly restyled and modernized for the late 1950s. However the car was an instant success and lost sales only after the “Big Three” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) each introduced compact cars of their own.

Romney also put into play his plan to slash production costs, which involved more common parts sharing between the Ambassador and Classic models. Beginning in 1962, all “senior” Rambler models would share the same automobile platform with identical wheelbase and body parts, but the engines, trims, and equipment levels distinguished the Classic from the Ambassador. The Rambler’s compact size (by US standards) also made it an international competitor, and between 1961 and 1965 AMC opened thirteen foreign assembly plants, from Costa Rica to the Philippines.

In 1963, the entire Rambler line received the Motor Trend Car of the Year award. However, Romney’s departure to become Michigan governor opened the door for his successor, Roy Abernethy, to redirect the company towards a strategy of competing head to head with the Big Three (General Motors, Chrysler Corporation, and Ford Motor Company) with a variety of bodies and automobile platforms. This new plan also included marketing the various models apart from the Rambler brand name, which Abernethy felt would be a hindrance in the market segments he hoped to pursue.

One of the first moves in that direction was the creation of the 1965 line of Ramblers, which split the Classic from the Ambassador visually, while still sharing a significant number of parts. Once again the Ambassador had a unique, extended wheelbase. In addition, AMC introduced the Marlin, a hardtop coupe intended to give AMC a toe-hold in the sporty fastback market while also functioning as a “halo” vehicle. AMC chief stylist Richard Teague introduced a totally restyled and attractive Rambler American in 1964, which was a sales success. This basic body remained in its original shape through 1969.

Backed by marketing reports, Abernethy next made a persuasive argument to the AMC board that the Rambler name had not only acquired a stodgy image and was a hindrance to increasing sales, but that consumers associated it with compact cars. In what hindsight would show to be an ill-conceived decision, American Motors began to phase it out in favor of an AMC marque beginning in 1966, as it attempted to become a multiplatform automobile manufacturer. Retention of the well-known Rambler brand name and its association with compact economy models could have served AMC well in the 1970s.

By 1968, the only vehicle produced by AMC to carry the Rambler marque, was the compact Rambler American. Although designed as a no-nonsense economy car, the American spawned the audacious SC/Ramblerdeveloped with Hurst Performance. While AMC planned to produce only 500 for the 1969 model year, the “Scrambler” proved so popular two more groups of about 500 each were built. All featured the same 390 cu in (6.4 l) V8, four-barrel carburetor, and close-ratio four-speed transmission of the AMX, plus Hurst shifter, Twin-Grip (limited slip) differential, and cold air hood. For the final year in 1969 the models were simply called Rambler. The 1969 Rambler (and Chevrolet Corvair and Dodge Dart) were the only U.S. compact cars available that year in a two-door hardtop body style; Ford compacts were only available as sedans.

The last U.S. built Rambler was produced on 30 June 1969, and it was one of over 4.2 million cars to carry the Rambler name that rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha.

1970–1983

The Rambler marque was continued in numerous international markets. Examples include contemporary versions of the AMC Hornet, AMC Javelin and AMC Matador assembled in Australia by Australian Motor Industries(AMI) from complete knock down (CKD) kits which continued to be badged as Ramblers until 1978.

The Rambler nameplate was last used on automobiles in 1983 by Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) in Mexico.

In Argentina, Rambler passenger cars were assembled by Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) commencing 1962. A special model based on the third generation Rambler American became the IKA Torino in 1967. It later was named the Renault Torino and was offered until 1980. However, U.S. Rambler Classic and Ambassador models were also assembled in Argentina through 1972.

Rambler brand cars

Historic
  • Rambler: 1901 – 1913
Compact

Nash Rambler

Nash Rambler
1952 Nash Rambler blue wagon front.jpg

1952 Nash Rambler Custom station wagon
Overview
Manufacturer
Production 1950–55
Assembly
Designer
  • Meade Moore (chief engineer)
  • Theodore Ulrich (body & styling)
Body and chassis
Class Compact
Layout FR layout
Chronology
Successor Rambler American

The Nash Rambler is a North American automobile that was produced by the Nash Motors division of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation from 1950 to 1954. On May 1, 1954, Nash-Kelvinator merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company to form American Motors Corporation (AMC). The Nash Rambler was then built by AMC in Kenosha, Wisconsin through 1955.

The Nash Rambler established a new segment in the automobile market and is widely acknowledged to be the first successful modern American compact car.

The 1950-1955 Nash Rambler was the first model run for this automobile platform. Using the same tooling, AMC reintroduced an almost identical “new” 1958 Rambler American for a second model run. This was a rare feat of having two distinct and successful model runs, an almost unheard of phenomenon in automobile history.

Development

Nash-Kelvinator’s President George W. Mason saw that the company needed to compete more effectively and insisted a new car had to be different from the existing models in the market offered by the “Big Three” U.S. automakers. The Rambler was designed to be smaller than contemporary cars, yet still accommodate five passengers comfortably. Nash engineers had originally penned the styling during World War II.

The new model was the company’s entry in the lower-price segment dominated by models from Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth (automobile). The Rambler was designed to be lighter and have smaller dimensions than the other popular cars. A strategy of efficiency, Nash could save on materials in its production while owners would have better fuel economy compared to the other cars of the era. The Nash Rambler rode on a 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase, and power came from Nash’s proven 173 cu in (2.8 L) L-head (flathead)Straight-6 cylinder engine that produced 82 hp (61 kW; 83 PS).

Following the design of the larger “senior” Nash models, the compact Rambler’s styling was rounded in form and also had an envelope body with fender skirts that also enclosed the front wheels. This design feature did not impair the car’s cornering ability significantly.

1950 Nash Rambler Custom Landau Convertible Coupe

The compact Rambler line was designed with several body styles, but the inaugural year was limited to a single model: a fully equipped 2-door convertible. The decision to bring the new car out first in a higher market segment with more standard features was a calculated risk by Mason. Foremost in this strategy was the need to give the new Rambler a positive public image. Mason knew the car would fail if seen by the public as a “cheap little car”. This was confirmed in small car comparisons in the media that described the “well-equipped and stylish, the little Rambler is economical and easy to drive” with no “stripped-down” versions, but in only high end convertible, station wagon, or hardtop (no “B-pillar”) body styles. He knew what Crosley was just finding out with its line of mini cars, and what the Henry J would teach Kaiser Motors; namely, that Americans would rather buy a nice used car than a new car that is perceived as inferior or substandard.

Unlike almost all traditional convertibles of the era that used frame-free side windows, the Rambler retained the fixed roof structure above the car’s doors and rear-side window frames. This metal structure served as the side guides or rails for the retractable waterproof canvas top. This design allowed Nash to utilize its monocoque (unibody) construction on its new compact. It made the Rambler body very rigid for an open-top car, without the additional bracing required in other convertible models. The convertible top was cable-driven and electrically operated.

In developing this new car, Nash had originally planned to call it the Diplomat. This name would have rounded out the Nash family of cars; as for 1950, the 600 line was renamed the Statesman, and the Ambassador remained the flagship line. When it was learned that Dodge had already reserved the Diplomat name for a planned two-door hardtop body style, Nash delved into its own past, and resurrected the Rambler name from an 1897 prototype and its first production model, in 1902. Rambler was also one of the popular early American automobile brands.

Additional historical context of the Nash Rambler, along with the Nash-Healey and the Metropolitan, was that U.S. citizens were exposed to and gained experience with the smaller, more efficient compact and sporty European cars during the Second World War. Along with the styling cues of European designs, the car’s input included the approach of more compact cars, which came from Nash-Kelvinator having a wide market overseas. This influence is seen directly in the Pininfarina designed models. AMC would later continue to import European design and styling flair for its products, such as the Hornet Sportabouts by Gucci, the Javelins by Pierre Cardin, and the Matador coupes by Oleg Cassini.

Model years

1950

1950–1952
1951 Nash Rambler yellow 2-door hardtop.jpg

1951 Nash “Country Club” 2-door hardtop
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine 173 cu in (2.8 L) I6
Dimensions
Wheelbase 100 in (2,540 mm)
Length 176 in (4,470 mm)

The Nash Rambler was introduced on April 13, 1950; in the middle of the model year. The new Rambler was available only as an upmarket two-door convertible — designated the “Landau“. Without the weight of a roof, and with a low wind resistance body design for the time, the inline 6-cylinder engine could deliver solid performance and deliver fuel economy up to 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp).

Several factors were incorporated into the compact Nash Rambler’s marketing mix that including making the most from the limited steel supplies during the Korean War, as well as the automaker selecting a strategyfor profit maximization from the new Rambler line. The new Nash Rambler came only in a convertible body, a style that had a higher price in the marketplace and incorporating more standard features that make the open top models suitable more for leisure-type use than ordinary transportation. With a base price of $1,808 (equivalent to approximately $17,722 in today’s funds), the Nash Rambler was priced slightly lower than the base convertible models convertibles from its intended competition. To further increase the value to buyers, the Nash Rambler was well equipped compared to the competition and included numerous items as standard equipment such as whitewall tires, full wheel covers, electric clock, and even a pushbutton AM radio that were available at extra cost on all other cars at that time.

In summary, “it was a smartly styled small car. People also liked its low price and the money-saving economy of its peppy 6-cylinder engine.” The abbreviated first year of production saw sales of 9,330 Nash Rambler convertibles.

Nash Rambler Custom convertible

1951

In 1951, the Nash Rambler line was enlarged to include a two-door station wagon and a two-door pillarless hardtop — designated the Country Club. Both the hardtop and convertible models included additional safety features.

Two levels of trim were available: Custom and Super.

A car tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1951 had a top speed of 80.9 mph (130 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 21.0 seconds. Fuel consumption of 25.2 mpg-imp (11.2 L/100 km; 21.0 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost $1,808 in the U.S., but British sales had not at the time started.

1952 Nash Rambler “Custom Greenbrier” station wagon

1952 interior

1952

There were no major changes for the 1952 model year. Models included a new Deliveryman 2-door utility wagon for $1,892. The “Custom” models featured Nash’s Weather Eye conditioning system and an AM radio as standard equipment. The new Greenbrier station wagons received upgraded trim with two-tone painted exteriors and they were priced at $2,119, the same as the Custom Landau Convertible model.

The 1950-1952 Nash Ramblers “gained instant popularity with buyers who liked its looks, as well as loyalty among customers who appreciated its quality engineering and performance.” A total of 53,000 Nash Ramblers were made for the year.

1953

1953-1955
Nash Rambler Cross Country 1955.jpg

1955 Nash Rambler 4-door Cross Country wagon
Body and chassis
Body style
Powertrain
Engine
  • 184 cu in (3.0 L) I6 (with manual)
  • 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6

(with automatic)

Dimensions
Wheelbase
  • 100 in (2,540 mm) all 2-door models
  • 108 in (2,743 mm) 4-door sedan & wagon
Length
  • 176 in (4,470 mm) all 2-door models
  • 186.4 in (4,735 mm) 4-door sedan & wagon

The Rambler received its first restyling in 1953, and resembled the “senior” Nash models that had received all-new “Airflyte” styling the year before. The new styling was again credited to Italian automobile designer Battista “Pinin” Farina. The hood line was lowered and a new hood ornament, designed by George Petty was optional. The “racy” ornament “was a sexy woman leaning into the future, bust down and pointing the way.”

The standard engines were increased with manual transmission cars receiving a 184 cu in (3.0 L) I6 producing 85 hp (63 kW; 86 PS), while a 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6 powered cars with the optional “Hydra-Matic” automatic supplied by General Motors. The Custom models added Nash’s “Weather Eye” heating and ventilation system, as well as a radio as standard equipment, with the convertible and hardtop versions all getting a continental tire at no extra cost.

1953 Nash Rambler Deliveryman

The marketing campaign focused on the Nash Rambler as a second family car. Advertisements also featured the wife of Jimmy Stewart and her Country Club 2-door hardtop she described as “a woman’s dream-of-a-car come true!” and promoting buyers to spend “one wonderful hour” test driving to discover how “among two-car families – four out of five prefer to drive their Rambler.”

A survey of owners of 1953 Ramblers conducted by Popular Mechanics indicated the majority listed their car’s economy as the feature they like best. After they had driven a total of 1,500,000 miles (2,400,000 km), owners’ complaints included a lack of rear seat legroom, water leaks, and poor dimmer switch position, but none of the Rambler drivers rated acceleration as unsatisfactory. Fully 29 percent had no complaints and “only four percent of Rambler owners described the car as too small and 67 percent rated their Ramblers as excellent over-all.”

Production for the model year was 31,788 and included 9 Deliveryman models in the station wagon body, 15,255 Country Club hardtops, 10,598 Convertible Landaus, 10,600 Custom station wagons (of which 3,536 were in the Greenbrier trim and 7,035 with 3M‘s “Di-Noc” simulated wood-grain trim), and 1,114 standard wagons.

1954

Nash Rambler 4-door sedan Custom with continental tire

After offering only two-door-only models, Nash introduced a four-door sedan and a four-door station wagon in the Nash Rambler line starting with the 1954 model year. This was the automaker’s response to demands of larger families for more roomy Ramblers. The four-door body styles rode on a longer, 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase. Following the industry practice at the time, the heater and radio were now made optional. Added to the option list was Nash’s exclusive integrated automobile air conditioning system, a “very sophisticated setup” for the time incorporated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in one system that was “priced lower than any other competing system; at $345, it was a remarkable advance.”

The four-door Rambler sedan was at first only available in “Custom” trim. The “Country Club” hardtop became available in the lower-priced “Super” trim and without the “Custom” model’s standard Continental tire (external spare tire carrier). The 4-door station wagons were designated Cross Country and featured an unusual roofline that followed the slope of the sedan’s roof and then dipped down before leveling and continuing rearward. The design by Bill Reddig allowed the use of the same dies to produce door framing for sedans and station wagons, while the dip in the rear portion of the roof included a roof rack as standard equipment to reduce the visual effect of the wagon’s lowered roofline.

There was turmoil in the U.S. automobile market as the Ford-Chevy sales war broke out and the two largest domestic automakers cut prices to gain sales volume.[20] This battle decimated the remaining independent automakers in their search for customers. This marketing war put a squeeze on the much smaller independent automakers so even though the Nash Rambler economy cars proved popular, they were not particularly profitable.

On May 1, 1954, Nash and Hudson Motor Car Company announced a merger, and the successor corporation was named American Motors Corporation (AMC). Following the merger, Hudson dealers began receiving Ramblers that were badged as Hudson brand cars. The Hudson Ramblers and Nash Ramblers were identical, save for the brand name and minor badging.

1955

1955 Nash Rambler brochure describing the interiors

1955 Hudson Rambler Super 2-door

1955 Rambler Country Club

The Nash Rambler’s most significant change for the 1955 model year was opening the front wheel wells resulting in a 6-foot (2 m) decrease in the turn-circle diameter from previous year’s versions, with the two-door models having the smallest in the industry at 36 ft (11 m). The “traditional” Nash fixed fender skirts were removed and the front track (the distance between the center points of the wheels on the axle as they come in contact with the road) was increased to be even greater than was the Rambler’s rear tread. Designers Edmund Anderson, Pinin Farina, and Meade Moore did not like the design element that was insisted by George Mason, so soon as Mason died, “Anderson hastily redesigned the front fenders.” Tongue-in-cheek, Popular Science magazine described the altered design for 1955: the “little Rambler loses its pants.”

As part of the facelift for 1955, the Rambler’s grille was also redesigned with only the center emblem differentiating the cars now sold by both Nash and Hudson dealers. The Rambler was a new model for Hudson dealers and it replaced the compact Hudson Jet.

The interiors of the economical Nash Rambler were designed by Helene Rother to also appeal to the feminine eye. American Motors featured “Created to Your Discriminating Taste” in the car’s marketing knowing what women looked for in a car and Rother’s designs featured elegant, stylish, and expensive fabrics that coordinated in colors and trim.

Model and trim combinations were again reshuffled with a two-door Suburban and Club two-door sedans available in “Deluxe” or “Super” versions. Four-door sedans and wagons came as Super or Custom models, while a new Deluxe four-door sedan was introduced. The pillarless Country Club hardtop was reduced to only the “Custom” trim, while the convertible model was no longer available.

Fleet sales only versions included a Deliveryman wagon that was not shown in the regular catalog, as well as another new model, a three-passenger business coupe: a two-door sedan with no rear seat.

The automaker’s marketing efforts included sponsorship of the Disneyland television show on the ABC network. The inaugural broadcast was on 25 October 1955; just five days after the new Ramblers debuted in both Nash and Hudson dealerships, and the Disney show quickly become one of the top watched programs in the U.S., thus helping AMC sell more cars.

The focus continued on economy and a Rambler four-door set an all-time record for cars with automatic transmissions of 27.47 mpg-US (8.56 L/100 km; 32.99 mpg-imp) in the 1955 the Mobil Economy Run.

The U.S. domestic market was turning to bigger and bigger cars; therefore, prospects for the compact Nash Rambler line was limited and production was discontinued after the 1955 model year.

Motorsports

The smallest car in the July 13, 1951, 400-lap NASCAR sanctioned Short Track Late Model Division race in Lanham, Maryland, was a Nash Rambler Country Club (two-door hardtop). Owned by Williams Nash Motors of Bethesda, Maryland, the car was driven to victory by Tony Bonadies. He stayed in the back of the 25-car field on the quarter-mile track until making a steady move up to the lead position. The Nash Rambler was also the only car to run the entire 100-mile (161 km) race without making a pit stop.

On July 18, 1952, the NASCAR Short Track race at the Lanham Speedway, was 400 laps on 0.2-mile paved oval for a total of 80 mi (129 km) miles. Tony Bonadies finished the race in 4th place in a 1952 Nash.

Replacement

The sales war between Ford and Chevrolet that took place during 1953 and 1954 reduced the market share for the remaining automakers trying to compete against the standard-sized models offered by the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). American Motors responded to the changing market by focusing development on the 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase four-door versions that it had introduced in 1954. Production of the original compact Nash Rambler ended in 1955 as AMC introduced an all-new Rambler for the 1956 model year. These used the 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase and became larger cars, but were “compact” compared to ones made by the Big Three. The bigger Rambler models were sold by both Nash and Hudson dealers and they carried respective Nash and Hudson brand logos.

The new for 1956 Rambler was arguably “the most important car American Motors ever built” in that it not only created and defined a new market segment, emphasized the virtues of compact design, but also enabled the automaker to prosper in the post-World War II marketplace that shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. The new Ramblers came only as four-door models. Along with the usual four-door sedan and station wagon was a new four-door hardtop sedan, as well as an industry first, a four-door hardtop station wagon. An OHV version of the 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) engine was also introduced for 1956 to replace the L-head version that was used in previous models. The OHV I6 was the only engine available in the 1956 Ramblers as the new AMC V8s did not appear until the 1957 model year.

Revival

The revived Rambler American

With AMC’s focus on economical automobiles, management saw an opportunity with the economic recession of 1958 to revive the small 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase Nash Rambler. The automaker had retained the old tooling and the old model would fit between the bigger 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase family-sized Ramblers and the imported two-seat 85 in (2,159 mm) wheelbase Nash Metropolitan. This would be a smaller and more efficient alternative to the standard-sized cars that were marketed by the domestic Big Three at that time. The old Nash design was slightly modified and used for AMC’s “new” 1958 Rambler American.

Epilogue

The book listing the 75 noteworthy American automobiles that made news from 1895 to 1970, documents “the 1950 Nash Rambler was a historic car on two counts: its ancestry and its small size.” While other compact-sized cars were introduced by the small independent automakers, such as the Henry J, Hudson Jet, and Willys Aero, only the Rambler survived long enough to establish a real place in automotive history.

Moreover, the compact-sized Nash Rambler automobile evolved into a business strategy for American Motors as the company firmly associated itself with small cars in the U.S. marketplace. In the 1960s, the automaker “prospered on the back of the Nash Rambler, the compact that recalled the name of the vehicle Thomas B. Jeffrey built in 1902 at the Kenosha, Wisconsin factory that continued to be AMC’s main production plant.”

The Nash Rambler succeeded where others “tried to entice US consumers looking for practical, economical automobiles” during an era “when all Detroit had to offer were pricey, ostentatious behemoths.” The Big Three domestic automakers exited the entry-level car market to foreign makes starting in the early 1950s. Nash was the only American manufacturer to get the compact formula right by offering Rambler “well equipped and priced sensibly”; “styling that was fresh, distinctive, and attractive”; and for “the original Rambler’s run in 1950–55 was that there was a full line of Ramblers in many body styles, including a jaunty convertible.”

According to automotive historian Bill Vance, the Nash Ramblers “are not much remembered, but they did provide reliable, economical and sturdy service.”[5] “Nash’s reputation for building eminently sensible vehicles means that their products are often overlooked by the modern-day enthusiast.”

Rambler American

Rambler American
1962 Rambler American - 2-door convertible

Second generation – 1962 convertible
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors (AMC)
Production 1958 – 1969
Assembly Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Tehran, Iran (Pars Khodro)
Mexico City, Mexico (VAM)
Pretoria, South Africa
Port Melbourne, Australia (AMI)
Body and chassis
Class Compact
Layout FR layout
Platform AMC’s “junior cars”
Chronology
Predecessor Nash Rambler
Successor AMC Hornet
1959 Rambler American 2dr-sedan Blue-NJ first generation

 First generation 1959 2-door sedan
1966 Rambler American 4door-blue Third generation

 Third generation – 1966 4-door sedan. This example sports a 1969 grille.
1965_Rambler_American_440_convertible_white_mdD-6

 Rambler American badge

The Rambler American is an automobile manufactured by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) between 1958 and 1969. The American was the second incarnation of AMC’s forerunner Nash Motors second-generation Rambler compact that was sold under the Nash and Hudson Motors marques from 1954 and 1955.

The American can be classified in three distinct model year generations: 1958 to 1960, 1961 to 1963, and 1964 to 1969. During the entire length of its production, the car was sold under the Rambler brand name, and was the last Rambler named automobile marketed in the Canadian and United States markets.

The compact Rambler American was most often the lowest priced car built in the U.S. It was popular for its economy in ownership, as was proven by numerous Mobilgas Economy Run championships. After an optional second-generation AMC V8 engine was added in 1966, it also became known as a powerful compact performance model that also included the 390 cu in (6.4 L) version built in conjunction with Hurst, the 1969 SC/Rambler.

A special youth-oriented concept car, the 1964 Rambler Tarpon, was built on an Rambler American platform that foretold the fastback design of the 1965 Rambler Marlin, as well as future trends in sporty-type pony cars, including the 1968 AMC Javelin.

The compact Rambler Americans were exported from the U.S. and Canada, as well as produced in other markets by AMC subsidiaries or assembled under license. It was manufactured in Australia, Iran, Mexico, and in Argentina, an offspring of the third generation American restyled by Pininfarina, the IKA Torino, later Renault Torino, was developed and made between 1966 and 1982. In Iran it was assembled from completely knocked down (CKD) kits and the models were named Aria and Shahin. Rambler Americans were built in South Africa starting in 1961 by Stanley Motors (controlled by the Rootes Group) and from 1964 by American Motors South Africa (Pty) Ltd.

Development

The genesis of the Rambler American began with the Nash Rambler, introduced in 1950. AMC President George Mason believed in small cars, and had introduced the Austin built/Nash designed Metropolitan in 1954. The Rambler line grew to a larger size (108″) in 1956. The cost to produce the Metropolitan were rising, so AMC decided to reintroduce a modified version of the 1955 Nash Rambler (the last 100″ wheelbase model). The domestically produced replacement let AMC control costs more closely. New AMC president George Romney also wanted to build momentum in AMC’s challenge to the domestic Big Three automakers by adding a third car line. The introduction of the new low priced sub compact Rambler was ideal—America had just entered into a recession in 1958 as the car was introduced.

The first proposals were to modify AMC’s captive import by extending the Metropolitan with a station wagon type roof design to make room for four passengers.[2] However the 85-inch (2,159 mm) wheelbase of the Met severely limited the necessary interior room, and costs of the overseas built model were harder to control. On the other hand, the company had retained the tooling from its 1955 model Rambler. The old model’s 100-inch (2,540 mm) wheelbase fit between its bigger family-sized 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Ramblers and the small import. The old design could be slightly modified and then used for the basis of the “new” American.

American Motors’ financial condition meant it could not afford to develop an entirely new model. The reintroduction of the old model leveraged the Rambler’s renown for fuel economy and wins in the Mobil Economy Runs, with the consumer’s need for a smaller and more efficient alternative to the standard-sized cars that were marketed by the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) at that time.

First generation

First generation
1959 Rambler_American_1st-generation_black_sedan

1959 Rambler American sedan
Overview
Production 1958 – 1960
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door station wagon
4-door sedan
Powertrain
Engine 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6
Dimensions
Wheelbase 100 in (2,540 mm)
Length 178.25 in (4,528 mm)
Width 73 in (1,854 mm)
Height 57.32 in (1,456 mm)

1958

American Motors’ designers gave the car a new grille and more open rear fender wells, giving the car a lighter appearance than that of the earlier car, which had hidden its rear wheels behind deeply skirted fenders. The original taillights were turned upside down, saving money on retooling. This design was originally mandated by Nash’s Airflyte styling motif, which sought to reach for the blinding optimism of post-World War II transportation. The car’s seemingly narrow 55-inch (1,397 mm) track was not much different from the industry standard, but rather an illusion fostered by the bulbous bodywork.

Romney worried about cannibalizing sales of his larger, more profitable senior Ramblers, so for 1958, the American was available only as a two-door sedan (senior Ramblers came only in a variety of 4-door body styles.) The only engine was a 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) flathead six producing 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS). The American went on sale late January 1958, with a minimum of marketing and promotion. It was available in two trims, a base Deluxe model priced at US$ 1,789 allowing AMC to claim the lowest-priced car made in America (adjusted only for inflation, equal to US$14,624 in 2015 dollars) and as a Super trim version for $1,874 offering more “luxuries”. The car was advertised as being the only small car with an automatic transmission. All Americans were completely dipped in rust proofing.

The automotive press was positive to the reintroduced model. Tom McCahill wrote in Mechanix Illustrated, “There isn’t a better buy in the world today.” He continued, “The Rambler American … is an ideal-size small family car… It will give up to 30 miles on a gallon of gas (and more, with overdrive) and will outperform any imported sedan selling for under $2,000 except in the cornering department… It is by far the most rattle-and-squeak-free 1958 Detroit product I’ve driven-and I’ve driven them all!”

Reports by owners praised the car’s economy of operation, but ranked at the top its ease of handling. A “workhorse” priced at under $2,000 “it doesn’t look as though every penny was pinched out of it”, but retains a “chic look”. The American found 30,640 buyers during the abbreviated 1958 model year and helped Rambler become the only domestic make to post an increase in sales that year.

1959

1959 Rambler American 2-door compact sedan by American Motors Corporation (AMC) -- the first generation design. Painted in optional factory two-tone blue.

 1959 Rambler American 2-door sedan

A two-door station wagon was added to the line in 1959. With the larger Rambler Six wagons offered only as four-door models, AMC’s management thought there would be little sales cannibalization from the American. The Deluxe wagon was priced at $2,060, while the $2,145 Super version included a standard cargo-area mat and roof rack. A Deliveryman commercial wagon, with no rear seat and an extended cargo floor, was available, but found few takers. Self-adjusting brakes were added in 1959.

Rambler sales increased in 1959, and AMC struggled to keep up with demand as production tripled to 91,491 Americans, with 32,639 (almost 36 percent) made up by the new wagon. The two-door sedans each sold nearly as well, also, at 29,954 for the lower-priced Deluxe and 28,449 for the top-line Super.

1960

1960 Rambler American Custom wagon

 1960 Rambler American Custom wagon

For the 1960 model year, the Rambler American line added a four-door sedan body style and a third trim level, a top-of-the line Custom. The new four-door rode on the same 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase as the other models and was meant to battle the newly introduced compacts from the Big Three, the Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Corvair, and Plymouth Valiant.

The new Custom model came standard with a new 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) overhead valve engine with a slightly higher compression ratio of 8.7:1 producing an additional 37 hp (28 kW; 38 PS), for a total output of 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), while the base models retained the flathead as the standard engine. The flathead six had no visible intake manifold since it was integrated within the cylinder head, while the exhaust manifold is a “log-type” that looks like a long tube. All models received an enlarged gas tank, now 22 US gal (83 L; 18 imp gal) capacity, while power steering was a new option.

Even in the face of the new competition from much larger automakers, the compact Rambler American enjoyed appeal not only because of its low initial price, economy and high gas mileage, but also because its resale values ranked among the highest. The suggested delivered price for the Deluxe 2-door sedan was $1,795, and it was advertised as the lowest priced car in America. Demand for the traditional American continued to grow as sales increased to 120,603 units (of which 44,817 were two-door sedans, 46,973 four-door sedans, and 28,813 station wagons), thus helping AMC reach 7.5 percent of the U.S. market with a total Rambler sales of 485,745 automobiles and third place among domestic brands.

Second generation

Second generation
1963_Rambler_American_440-H_black-red_MD_fl

1963 American 440-H hardtop
Overview
Production 1961 – 1963
Designer Edmund E. Anderson
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door convertible
2-door hardtop (1963)
4-door sedan
2-door station wagon
4-door station wagon
Powertrain
Engine 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6
Dimensions
Wheelbase 100 in (2,540 mm)
Length 173.1 in (4,397 mm)
Width 70 in (1,778 mm)
Height 56.2 in (1,427 mm)

The second generation Rambler American was achieved through a heavy restyling of the previous year’s model under AMC’s styling Vice President Edmund E. Anderson. While mechanically identical to the 1960 model, Anderson’s restyle resulted in a car that was three inches (76 mm) narrower and shorter in its exterior dimensions with an overall length of 173.1 inches (4,397 mm), but increased in its cargo capacity. Continuing to ride on the 100-inch (2,540 mm) wheelbase, the American’s new styling was more square (sometimes described as “breadbox”) instead of the round “rolly-polly” shape (or “bathtub”), and the visual connection with the original 1950 Nash model had finally disappeared. Popular Mechanics wrote “seldom has a car been completely restyled as the 1961 Rambler American and yet retain the same engine, driveline, suspension on the same unit body”. All outside sheetmetal was changed, but the side window frames remained the same as previous models. Only the back glass changed to conform to the new roof line. The firewall and dash board were new stampings, with the brakes moved from under the floor to the firewall.

1961

American Rambler 400 PreKcrop

 Rambler American 400

For 1961 the American line added a four-door station wagon, as well as a two-door convertible for the first time since 1954. It featured a power-operated folding top with roll-down door glass, rather than the fixed side-window frames of the original design. Passenger room increased from five to six.

The straight six was modernized with an overhead-valve cylinder head for higher-grade models, but the base cars continued with the flathead engine.

American Motors built a new assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, for the production of Rambler Americans as well as the larger Rambler Classics.

1962

1962_Rambler_American_400_conv_3rd_Rock_rear

 The 1962 Rambler American used in the 3rd Rock from the Sun TV show

Setting new sales records, American Motors continued its “policy of making changes only when they truly benefit the customer.” The 1962 model year Rambler American lineup was essentially the same as in 1961. Model designations were changed with the Custom trim becoming a 400.

A new “E-stick” option combined a manual 3-speed transmission with an automatic clutch as a low-cost alternative to the fully automatic transmission. The E-stick was also available in conjunction with an overdrive unit. The system cost $59.50, but offered stick-shift economy, performance, and driver control without a clutch pedal by using engine oil pressure and intake manifold vacuum to engage and disengage the clutch when shifting gears.

Although the “Big Three” domestic automakers had introduced competitive compact models by 1962, the Rambler American remained the oldest, smallest, “stubbornly unique” refusing “to conform to Detroit’s standard pattern for scaled-down automobiles” and “free of gimmicky come-ons.” A 10,000-mile (16,093 km) road test by Popular Science described the 1962 Rambler American as “sturdy, solid, dependable little automobile, comfortable to drive … a good buy for what it’s built for – transportation, not a status symbol.”

The automaker’s president, George W. Romney, appeared prominently in advertisements asking potential customers to “think hard” about new cars and describing “more than 100 improvements in the 1962 Ramblers” and why they are not available in competitive cars, as well as AMC “workers as progress-sharing partners” so that buyers can “expect superior craftsmanship.”

1963

For 1963, model designations were changed once again with the 400 now called 440. A new hardtop (no B-pillar) coupe body design debuted, whose steel roof was designed to mimic the appearance of a closed convertible top. This was a one-model-year-only design with a thin profile, clean lines, stamped faux-convertible ribs, and a textured finish. A special top-of-the-line model called the 440-H was equipped with sports-type features including individually adjustable reclining front bucket seats and a center console, as well as a more powerful 138 hp (103 kW; 140 PS) version of Rambler’s stalwart 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) inline-6 engine. An optional console shifted “Twin-Stick” manual overdrive transmission was introduced. This transmission has a bigger gap between 2nd and 3rd gears compared to the regular three-speed transmissions with overdrive (that operated like a four-speed although the driver needed to know the governor cut-in speed, free-wheeling, as well as when to lock the overdrive in or out). This allowed the transmission to be shifted as a five-speed (1, 2, 2+OD, 3, and 3+OD). The Twin-Stick shifter had the kick-down button on top of the shift lever knob to facilitate five-speed shifting.

The entire product line from AMC earned the Motor Trend Car of the Year award for 1963. The recognition was used by AMC to promote the carryover Rambler American models.

First as the Nash Rambler and then as two generations of the Rambler American, this automobile platform performed the rare feat of having two distinct and successful model runs, an almost unheard of phenomenon in automobile history. The convertible and hardtop were the sportiest of the final 100-inch (2,540 mm) wheelbase Rambler Americans, and arguably the most desirable now.

Third generation

Third generation
1964_Rambler_440H-2door-HT_front_NJ-show

1964 Rambler American 440-H hardtop
Overview
Also called Pars Khodro Aria and Shahin Iran
Production 1964 – 1969
Designer Richard A. Teague
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door convertible
2-door hardtop
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Related IKA Torino, (Argentina)
Powertrain
Engine 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6
199 cu in (3.3 L) I6
232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 2-bbl
290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 4-bbl
343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 4-bbl
390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 4-bbl
Transmission 3-speed manual
3-speed with overdrive
4-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 106 in (2,692 mm)
Length 177.25 in (4,502 mm) (1964-65)
181 in (4,597 mm) (1966-69)
Width 70.8 in (1,798 mm)
Height 54.5 in (1,384 mm) (approx)
Curb weight 2,504 lbs (1135.8 kg)

For its third generation, the American emerged with what would be its only completely new design. The entire line was treated to neat and trim lines with pleasing simplicity (compared to the more boxy predecessors) with characteristic tunneled headlights with a simple horizontal grille between them. The Rambler American’s wheelbase grew by six-inches or 152 mm (to 106 in or 2692 mm) and the interiors were made more spacious.The station wagons in the restyled 1964 series came with four doors and gained 17% more cargo space compared to the previous design. They all featured a new roll-down disappearing rear window for the bottom-hinged tailgate. Full coil front springs along with soft rear leaf units, gave the new American an unusually smooth ride, better than many larger domestic cars. The new models also incorporated various parts and components (such as doors) that were interchangeable with AMC’s larger cars. In essence, the new body was a shorter, narrower version of the previous years new Rambler Classic.

The new styling was the work of designer Richard A. Teague, who would go on to design the 1968 Javelin and AMX. Many viewed the newly designed station wagon as the best looking of any American wagon, with its new, trim lines and ample passenger and cargo room. Led by the top-line 440-series convertible, they were arguably the 1964’s most attractive Detroit compacts. Car Life magazine titled its road test of the 1964 Rambler American: “The Original Plain Jane Compact Car Just Got Back From the Beauty Parlor”.

1964

1964_Rambler_American_440_convertible-red_NJ

 1964 American 440 convertible

In addition to the top-of-the-line 440 models, the cheaper 330 and 220 models were also available, and Rambler American sales soared to a record 160,000-plus. The old 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6 was a gas stingy champ in the Mobil Economy Runs and available in 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS), 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), and 138 hp (103 kW; 140 PS) versions.

However, American Motors focused its marketing on the economy of the new models, an advertising of a kind that was previously only popular during the Great Depression. The company’s series of “Love Letters to Rambler” advertisements included “ordinary user testimonial” about the economy and reliability of their Ramblers, rather than in pursuit of buyers in the whole compact car market segment, a strategy that was copied ten years later by Datsun.

1965

1965 Rambler 440 Convertable Front Cropped

 1965 American 440 convertible

The 1965 Americans were little changed, but were advertised as “The Sensible Spectaculars”. This was part of Roy Abernethy‘s strategy for AMC to shed its “economy car” reputation and take on the domestic Big Three automakers in new market segments. There were few changes to AMC’s smallest models, as Abernethy pinned his hopes for recovery not so much on the low-priced Rambler American as on the medium and higher-priced Classic and Ambassador lines.

The year also saw the introduction of an entirely new 232 cu in (3.8 L) overhead valve straight-6 engine that AMC would use through 1979, with a smaller 199 cu in (3.3 L) version being used only during 1966-1970. The same engine was later available in a larger 258 cu in (4.2 L) version (used from 1971–89) and the fuel injected 242 cu in (4.0 L) versions that debuted in 1987, known as the Jeep 4.0, which Chrysler would continue their production after its purchase of AMC in 1987, all the way through 2006.

The 1965 models was the last year for the venerable flathead six. It was the last flathead engine to be used in a domestic U.S. car.

1966

1966_Rambler_American_Convertible_(Orange_Julep)

 1966 American 440 convertible

As the automobile marketplace in the U.S. was moving away from economy and toward performance and upmarket vehicles, American Motors began removing the historic Rambler name from its larger models. However, the American and Classic models retained their economy car marketing image and their traditional nameplate. To cement this image, a Rambler American was again the overall winner in the Mobil Economy Run. The mid-trim level 330 model was dropped, leaving the top 440 and base 220 models in the lineup for 1966. The top of the line model, available only as a two-door hardtop, saw its name changed from 440-H toRogue.

The American models were facelifted for the 1966 model year with more squared-off front and rear styling. The front of the car was extended to add three inches (76 mm) to the inside of the engine compartment. This allowed air conditioning to be used with the new 199 and 232 in-line six-cylinder engines., which were longer than the old 195.6 models.

A completely new 290 cu in (4.8 L) “Typhoon” V8 engine was developed by AMC and it saw its introduction in a special mid-1966 Rogue model. Available in 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) two-barrel carburetor version or producing 225 hp (168 kW; 228 PS) with a 4-barrel carburetor and high compression, the new engines utilized “thin-wall” casting technology and weighed only 540 pounds (245 kg). The newly powered Rogue came with a 3-speed automatic transmission or a floor mounted 4-speed manual, and made the car “suitable for the Stoplight Grand Prix.” American Motors’ new engine design would expand in power and in applications across the company’s passenger cars, as well as eventually in Jeeps, and then continue to be assembled through 1991 for the Jeep Grand Wagoneer; long after AMC was sold to Chrysler.

1967

1967_Rambler_Rogue_2-door-HT_NJ-2003show

 1967 Rambler Rogue 2-door hardtop
1967 Rambler_Rogue_convertible_NJ-2003show

 1967 Rambler Rogue convertible
1967_Rambler_American_2-door_220_green_azr

 1967 Rambler 220 2-door sedan

The 1967 model year Rambler American used the same body styling as the previous year’s models, with only minor changes that included new taillamps and full-length body moldings on 440 and Rogue models that was now positioned lower on the sides. The last convertible available in the American series was in 1967, and it was moved up from 440 models to join the hardtop in the Rogue trim version. The American was available in nine models, and was the only U.S. compact to be available in “all” body styles (2-door, 4-door, sedan, wagon, pillar-less hardtop, and convertible).

For 1967 only, AMC’s new high-compression (10.2:1), high (octane rating) 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor that produced 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS) and 365 pound force-feet (495 N·m) of torque @ 3000rpm, was optional in Rogue and 440 models. Factory installations of this engine were in 58 Rogues and just 55 in the 440 models, with seven of them being in the convertible version. Out of the total production of 69,912 Rambler Americans for the 1967 model year, 921 were Rogue convertibles.

Rogues also received grille trim that wrapped around the fender sides. All Rambler Americans received a new grille insert with prominent chromed horizontal bars. The 1967 Rogue models were available in new two-tone paint schemes for the roof, trunk lid and hood that included border trim along the upper body line. The two-door hardtops were also available with a black or white vinyl roof cover. Taillight lenses were more sculptured into the rear panel.

The 1967 model year also saw the addition of the new safety standards for passenger cars mandated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The regulations began with seat belts on automobiles produced after March 1, 1967. The 1967 Rambler Americans also included a collapsible, energy-absorbing steering column and steering wheel, more padding on interior surfaces, 4-way hazard flashers, and locking seat back latches for 2-door models. The instrument cluster was changed from the previous rectangular design, to round gauges: the center dial housing the speedometer and odometer, the with twin smaller fuel and engine temperature gauges and matching warning light pods flanking each side of the speedometer.

All 1967 Americans were covered by AMC’s comprehensive warranty designed to increase customer confidence in their vehicles with the tagline: quality built in, so the value stays in. It was the strongest backing among all the automakers up to that time: 2-years or 25,000 miles (40,000 km) on the entire automobile, as well as 5-years or 50,000 miles (80,000 km) on the engine and power train. American Motors continued its industry exclusive ceramic-coated exhaust system as standard on Rambler Americans.

Newly appointed as AMC’s new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Roy D. Chapin, Jr. began to promote and reposition the Rambler American, the automaker’s least popular line. He bet on the Rambler American to improve the automaker’s financial performance after George W. Romney. Chapin also saw a price gap between U.S. cars and inexpensive imports (primarily the Volkswagen) and lowered the price to make the Rambler American’s “total value superior to the imports, as well as superior in both price and range of choice to U.S. compacts”. The suggested retail price of the base two-door Rambler American sedan dropped to $1,839 (US$ 13,007 in 2015 dollars) (its closest U.S. competitor was the $2,117 Plymouth Valiant), making the larger and more powerful American only $200 more than the Volkswagen Beetle.

American Motors announced that it was forgoing the annual styling changeovers that were expected among the domestic firms, thus saving retooling costs and passing on the savings to consumers by keeping the car’s price low. The automaker promised in a special $300,000 ($2,121,856 in 2015 dollars) advertising campaign that future changes to the car will be to enhance the safety and reliability of these cars. The Rambler American’s recent (1966) redesign was then continued mostly unchanged through the 1969 model year.

1968

Samsung

 1968 Rambler American station wagon

For 1968, the line was further simplified from nine to five models, with the 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan comprising the base line (with the 220 designation no longer used), 4-door sedan and station wagon being offered in uplevel 440 guise, and a lone hardtop coupe making up the top-line Rogue trim line. The American, along with “A-body” Chryslers, were the only domestics that came as a hardtop coupe model, the Ford Falcon and Chevy Nova being only available as pillared sedans (and a wagon in the Ford Falcon line).

All Americans received a new chrome horizontal grille bar that extended outboard to the headlights, while the grille sections got an attractive “blackout” treatment. The wraparound rear window on the sedans was modified to a flat unit, with a more squared-off “C” pillar, which changed the appearance from the earlier sedans with their overhanging rooflines. The overall affect was a more formal-looking car. The 440 and Rogue versions picked up a stainless steel trim piece running stem to stern on either body side, straight back between the wheel wells and the belt line. At each end of the strip were the newly safety-mandated body side reflectors, amber for the front fenders, red for the rear. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards for all passenger cars sold in America for 1968 also called for shoulder harness for the front seats and elimination of reflective interior trim. Other requirements for all cars manufactured after 1 January 1968, included exhaust control systems to help reduce unburned hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions.

However, the biggest change was the decision to keep the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) of the base two-door model to within US$200 of the Volkswagen Beetle. The domestic Big Three automakers did not respond to this strategy, thus giving AMC a big price differential over the competing domestic models. Sales of the Rambler American increased and the showroom traffic boosted morale among AMC’s independent dealerships. This was backed up by a marketing campaign stating, “Either we’re charging too little for our cars or everyone else is charging too much.” The promotion and lower prices were designed to rekindle the Rambler American as a practical and economical car in customers’ minds. Advertisements by AMC’s new agency, Wells, Rich, and Greene, headed by Mary Wells Lawrence violated the accepted rule of not attacking the competition.

1969

1969 Rambler_American_Sedan_(Cruisin'_At_The_Boardwalk_'10)

 1969 Rambler sedan

Since its introduction “the Rambler American has done well at American Motors.” For its final model year, 1969, the “American” name was dropped as the car was now referred to as the “American Motors Rambler”. Continuing the tradition of minimal changes, the models received a new “suspended” accelerator pedal and cable throttle linkage. Additional safety equipment for the 1969 models included front shoulder belts and headrests for both front outboard seating positions and the front parking lights stayed on with the headlights. On the exterior, the center horizontal chrome grille bar was deleted.

As a true compact-sized car on a 106 in (2,692 mm) wheelbase, the Rambler station wagon had no domestic competitors, and it offered interior space advantage compared to imported models with its 66 cubic feet (1,869 L) of cargo space. Available only in 440 trim, the wagons came with a roll down rear window with drop-down tailgate, as well as a roof rack.

In part to commemorate the impending passing of the Rambler name, American Motors added the Rogue-based SC/Rambler to the line (detailed separately).

A total production for the 1969 model year was 96,029. The last U.S.-made Rambler was assembled in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on 30 June, making the production total of 4,204,925 units.

After the 1969 model year, a completely redesigned model, the AMC Hornet, replaced the American.

SC/Rambler

1969_AMC_SCRambler_ADV-quarter_mile

 The SC/Rambler was purposefully promoted by AMC as a potent drag strip challenger
1969_AMC_SC-Rambler_front_Shore-of_Lake_Michigan_in_Kenosha_WI

 SC/Rambler in “A” trim
1969_AMC_SC-Rambler_rear_B-paint_trim

 SC/Rambler in “B” trim

One of the muscle car era “most visually arresting examples” was a special model was produced during 1969 in collaboration with Hurst Performance, the Hurst SC/Rambler. “Likely the most outrageous musclecar from AMC” with 1,512 built, it was probably the only production model made and promoted for a specific drag racing class, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) F/Stock class.

The SC/Rambler “became one of the most potent cars of its time, throwing down quarter-mile times that only Hemis and Cobra Jets had previously touched.” A true muscle car with zero options and a suggested retail price(MSRP) of less than US$3,000, it would take down some much more vaunted cars.

Equipment

Each Hurst SC/Rambler came equipped with the 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8 engine from the AMX. There were no factory options to this package. Standard clutch was a 10.5-inch (267 mm) with a three finger long-style Borg and Beck pressure plate. The 390 engine was mated to a manual transmission four-speed T-10 with close gear ratios. A Hurst shifter came with a large metal “T” handle. The rear end was an AMC 3.54:1 “Twin-Grip” limited slip differential using Dana internals, with outer wheel hubs attached through a spline and keyway system. The hub attachment method was the only weak point in the rear end assembly.

Factory cast iron manifolds exited to a true dual exhaust with Thrush (a Tenneco brand) two-chamber oval mufflers with Woodpecker logos. These were standard baffled mufflers, not glass packs. Minimal baffeling gave a deep throaty sound, similar to modern Flowmasters. The exhaust exited through chrome tips attached with hose clamps.

While similar Rogue and American models had drum brakes, the SC package came with front discs, a heavier sway bar, as well as strengthened drive train and body components. These included connectors between the front and rear subframes. The rear end used staggered (fore and aft) rear shock absorbers to eliminate wheel hop (axle wrap) under extreme acceleration conditions with leaf spring suspensions. The staggered shocks required a special plate riveted in the trunk pan, as well as brackets for the subframe end of upper torque links. Other body modifications differentiating all Hurst SC Ramblers from regular hardtop Ramblers included rolling back front and rear wheel openings to allow for larger tires. American Motors called on Hurst to help develop a vehicle for the racing market. Because of stock class rules, a minimum of 500 identical vehicles had to be produced and sold. This led to the SC Hurst Rambler, (SC) meaning “Super Car”. This vehicle is commonly referred to as a “Scrambler”, although Jeeps later used the SCRAMBLER name.

Available only as a two-door hardtop, the interior came in standard gray charcoal vinyl upholstered reclining seats with a headliner embossed with small squares. The front seats reclined, and the newly safety mandated head restraints were upholstered in red, white, and blue stripes. The SC/Rambler included a standard 90-degree wide arc scale Sun tachometer. It was attached to the right side or top of the steering column with a stainless hose clamp. The only factory option was an AM radio.

The SC/Ramblers came with the wildest factory paint jobs ever put on a muscle car. All featured a forward-facing functioning box-type hood scoop with “390 CU. IN.” and “AIR” in large letters on both sides of it. The hood scoop air flapper was vacuum operated, allowing higher pressure cool air to pressurize a Carter AFB carburetor. A blue arrow on the hood pointed towards the air intake. The Scrambler came only in two types of red, white, and blue color schemes (“A” or “B” trims) with no other options available, with the exception of an AM radio. These schemes appeared randomly through early production.

Some AMC historians incorrectly claim that American Motors built a lot of 500 “A” scheme SC/Ramblers before switching to the “B” scheme, with 500 “B” models were built before AMC switched the final lot of 512 SC/Ramblers back to the “A” pattern. However, there are “B” scheme cars in the Hurst SC/Rambler registry with very early build dates putting their manufacture among the “A” scheme versions. AMC used the same paint code for all special paint schemes, so there is no way to determine exactly how the cars rolled out of the factory.

Some of the other unique standard items on this model included racing mirrors, anti-hop rear axle links, and blue Magnum 500 steel wheels (common to Fords) with chrome beauty rings and AMC hub centers. Tires were E-70-14 fiberglass belted 4-ply tires with red stripe Goodyear Polyglas tires. American Motors priced the SC/Rambler at $2,998 (after adjusting for only inflation, equivalent to US$19,280 in 2015dollars) a serious dragstrip contender because in its as-sold condition it could do the quarter mile in the low 14 seconds at about 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). For example, Road Test magazine reported 14.4 at 100.44 mph and reached 109 miles per hour (175 km/h) without topping out. With a few simple bolt on modifications they would run low 12’s. Modified SC/Ramblers have run the quarter-mile in the 9-second bracket.

The automaker provided AMC dealers with numerous “Group 19” parts and upgrades to make customer’s SC/Ramblers even quicker. Well-tuned legal stock S/C’s with allowable changes have run in the 12-second range. Charles Rauch set a D/S quarter mile record of 12.54 seconds at Detroit Dragway. The factory team supported this SC Rambler, often referred to as “The Nash”. Modifications included a special cast iron manifold, advanced camshaft timing, heavier valve springs, factory supplied carburetor, six cylinder front springs with factory supplied bottom shims to restore stock height, 90/10 front shocks, lightened chassis components, exhaust system modifications, Chevrolet 10.5-inch diaphragm pressure plate, wide ratio transmission gear set, 4.44 rear axle ratio, as well as larger, softer, G70-15 rear tires on identical design Magnum 500 15″ Ford wheels painted AMC blue. The manifold and some other parts were specially selected factory components for the stock 340 hp (254 kW; 345 PS) 1970 Rebel Machine engine, but legal for use in the big bore, short stroke 1969 AMC 390 engine.

IKA Torino

Main article: IKA-Renault Torino
IKA Torino_TS

 IKA Torino TS sedan

From 1966 to 1982, Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) produced in Argentina a hybrid of the second-generation Rambler American and Classic platforms. The car was called IKA Torino, later Renault Torino, and featured AMC’s Automobile platform with a facelifted front and rear design and instrument panel by Pininfarina to create a new car. The Torino was received by journalists and the public as The Argentinean car.[70] It was available in two-door hardtop and four-door sedan body styles and all came with luxurious interior appointments.

The Torino’s engine, transmission, and upgraded interior fittings were unique to Argentina, and were not used on any of the U.S. market Ramblers. The engine was the Kaiser 230 cu in (3.8 L) overhead cam (OHC) six originally developed for the new 1963 Jeeps. The car was actually a 1963-1964 Rambler Classic passenger compartment with 1964-1965 Rambler American front and rear sections. The front suspension sills extended all the way under the floor to meet the rear suspension sills, a feature that made the Torino much stiffer than its U.S. produced cousins (The Rambler Marlin also used these long sills, but other models did not). The Torino handled the roads of the interior of the country very well while its engine acquired fame for being robust and reliable. The car was successful in Argentina. It was also entered in races against famous sport cars, including the “84 hours of Nürburgring” endurance race in 1969, where a Torino finished with the most laps, but was classified in fourth place due to penalties.

Aria and Shahin

Sherkate Sahami Jeep company built Ramblers in Iran

 Sherkate Sahami Jeep company built Ramblers in Iran

From 1967 to 1974, the 1966 version of the AMC Rambler American was assembled by the Sherkate Sahami Jeep company in Iran. The American was offered in two trim levels as Aria (sometimes spelled “Arya”) and Shahin. The Aria was a more luxurious version that came with a 3-speed automatic transmission, while the Shahin was the base model with a manual transmission. The engine used was AMC’s 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) inline-six producing 128 hp (95 kW; 130 PS). The cars were available with factory air conditioning, a unique feature for the Iranian market during that time.

The Aria and Shahin were assembled under the license of AMC by Pars Khodro starting in 1967. The factory in Tehran was dedicated by the last Shah of Iran. Five-year projections called for the Pars Khodro plant to build 75,000 Rambler Americans. The target was the upper and middle classes that had grown prosperous under the Shah. The Arya and Shahin versions of the Rambler American, as well as the Jeep Aho (Grand Wagoneer), “were among the best domestically produced vehicles.”

Production was continued by the Iran Jeep Company plant in Tehran. The Iran Jeep Company (Sherkate Sahami) formed a new company called General Motors Iran Ltd. in June 1972, and after production of Rambler Americans ended in early 1974, they continued to produce selected Opel Rekord, Chevrolet Nova and Pickup, Buick Skylark, and Cadillac Seville models from 1974 until 1987.

Australian production

The Rambler American was introduced to the Australian market in 1964. It was built by Australian Motor Industries in Port Melbourne from complete knock down (CKD) kits shipped from the U.S. The driver’s position was moved from left to right hand to comply with Australian law. There were also differences and overlaps in the Australian production and equipment compared to U.S. model years. The 1965 model Ramblers were produced trough 1966, mostly in 440 trim and with the smaller 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) engine. Because AMI assembled other automobile brands at its facility (including Toyotas and Triumphs), there were some sharing of colors, options, and interior trims. By 1967, the local content of the Rambler Americans had been progressively raised to 53%. Important for the Australian market, the Rambler was considered reliable, with the mechanicals being generally solid and trouble free.

Mexican production

The Rambler American was introduced to the Mexican market in 1958 through direct importation from the US. Early in the year, American Motors signed an agreement with an assembly plant based in Monterrey, Nuevo León, that produced a number of vehicles for different makes and had its own dealership network. Virtually, the whole Rambler line was available. However, the production and sales volumes were fairly low and the agreement was terminated in late 1959. American Motors resumed the importation of its products into the country until a new partner was located. Early in 1960, the company signed a new agreement with Willys Mexicana S.A. de C.V. and the first model produced was none other than the Rambler American, becoming the first American Motors product made and sold by what would become Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos S.A.

The 1960 Rambler American produced under Willys Mexicana was available in two-door sedan, four-door sedan and two-door station wagon body styles. They were powered by a 90 hp L-head 195.6 cubic inches six cylinder engine with 8.0:1 compression ratio and single-barrel carburetor coupled to a three speed manual transmission with column shift. Among its characteristics it featured a built-in flow through ventilation, four-wheel drum brakes, standard suspension, pull-handle parking brake, front parking lights, marker lights, bench seats, four side armrests, vacuum wipers, cigarette lighter, front ashtray, hood ornament, glove box, driver’s side remote mirror and hubcaps over standard wheels.

For 1961 the Rambler American for Mexico was available as the new second generation of the line, growing from three to four body styles with the introduction of the four-door station wagon. Wipers and washers changed to electric units, an Motorola AM radio with antenna and twin-circuit brakes became standard. The line continued with minor changes in 1962 and 1963. The most important aspect came in 1963 with the introduction of a fifth body style (two-door hardtop) that would become VAM’s first limited edition; the Rambler American Hardtop, Mexican equivalent to the Rambler American 440H model in the US. The car became the company’s first sporty compact as well as its first luxury one.

For 1964, the third generation Rambler American debuted in Mexico. The year’s line can be described as consolidated since it was available only as a two-door sedan, four-door sedan and four-door station wagon. The only engine available was still the L-head 90 hp 195.6 cubic inches inline six cylinder, but not much later it was replaced by the one-barrel 127 hp OHV version. The Rambler American line for 1965 switched to the new one-barrel 145 hp 232 cubic inches inline six cylinder engine, an aspect that was hidden from the public. The cars were advertised as being equipped with the also new 199 cubic inches six cylinder series, which wouldn’t be available until the midyear. The 232 engine series was already being produced in Mexico while the 195.6 engine series was imported from the US. In terms of product line volumes, warrantly claims among others, having those two engines available was not a cost-effective procedure. The company intended to consolidate and standardize production as much as possible, which was achieved by terminating the 195.6 engines and offer both the Rambler Classic and Rambler American lines with the 232 engines until the 199 was available for the latter. Had VAM announced the 232 six cylinder engine from the beginning in the Rambler American line and subsequently announcing the change to smaller less powerful engine would have taken its toll on the company’s image among the public. Also, announcing the 232 in the Rambler American from the beginning would most probably reduce any reasons to buy a Rambler Classic instead; a problem American Motors had to bear with under Roy Abernethy when the 287 cubic inch V8 was offered in the 1963 Rambler Classic, drawing several customers away from the more profitable Rambler Ambassador models that shared the same styling.

The two new engines were not the only outstanding novelties of the year, the Rambler American Hardtop was resurrected. The model kept the same luxury and sporty touches of the 1963 model and was once again a low volume limited edition. The cars came standard with the two-barrel 155 hp version of the 232 engine coupled to a Borg-Warner “Flash-o-Matic” three speed automatic transmission with floor shift. This was followed by individual reclining seats, high-trim upholstery, center console with locking compartment, two-point front seatbelts, custom wheel covers and bright molding package.

The Mexican Rambler American for 1966 and 1967 saw mostly the same cosmetic changes as its US counterparts. The hardtop model departed once more and the line was restricted to the 199 six cylinder with three speed manual transmission on the column. The 1968 models saw stronger changes in the form of the 232 engine as included standard equipment in the station wagon while becoming optional equipment in both sedan models. The 1969 models were almost the same with only minor changes. The most important aspect of the year for the line was the creation of VAM’s own original performance model in the form of an optional package for the two-door sedan. The model in question being the Rambler American Rally. This model was inspired by VAM’s successful 1965 racing season using Rambler American sedans and hardtop as well as the still building enthusiasm for the new muscle cars. The Rambler American Rally coincided in several aspects with the 1965 Rambler American Hardtop model. The package consisted of a two-barrel 155 hp 232 six cylinder, power drum brakes, fender-mounted “232 SIX” rectangular emblems and individual reclining front seats with center folding armrest. The only transmission available was still the three-speed manual with column-mounted shifter, even though a floor-mounted gearshift was available as an option. Other optional items applicable to performance included an over-dash 8,000 RPM tachometer and the sport steering wheel used in the Javelin models. The closest probable equivalent to this model in the US is the Rambler American Rogue, despite being a hardtop instead of a sedan and the lack of a V8 engine.

Like in the US, the Rambler American line was discontinued in 1969 in Mexico to make way for the all-new Hornet models. While the line was changed, the “Rambler American” name lived on the new Mexican-made compact. The Rambler American in Mexico always kept a high popularity and positive image among the Mexican public. For these reasons, the relatively similar styling and overall appearance between the old and the new model, and because VAM felt that the name “Hornet” would have no connotation whatsoever in the local market it was decided keep the predecessor’s name for the new line. The Rambler American model lived on as a “fourth generation” until its discontinuation in 1974; replaced with the updated and expanded new VAM American line for 1975.

The last hurrah for the true original Rambler American models in Mexico came in 1970 in the form of the four-door station wagon. While American Motors had two station wagons models to offer in 1970, the Rebel and Ambassador units, VAM had no station wagon other than the Rambler American-based unit. With the introduction of the new Hornet-based Rambler American that did not have a station wagon body style available, VAM could not afford the luxury of not offering one. The company decided to carry over the third generation station wagon for one more full year. The 1970 Camioneta Rambler American became the first VAM regular production compact model to offer a three speed automatic transmission as an option. Among other unique options was a bright molding package that included “440” emblems, even though there really were no different trim levels or versions that existed. The model was replaced in 1971 with the equivalent Hornet Sportabout version.

Rambler Tarpon

Main article: Rambler Tarpon

The Rambler American also served as the basis for the Rambler Tarpon, a sporty 2 plus 2 “youth-oriented” concept car. The semi-boat tail roofed fastback hardtop coupe was developed in 1963 from the tooling that was already set for the 1964 model year Rambler Americans. Shown before the introduction of Ford’s compact Falcon-based Mustang, AMC’s show car was “an instant success” with 60 percent of surveyed potential buyers stating they would buy one. The Tarpon was aimed at the Plymouth Valiant and anticipated a new market segment that later became known as the pony cars; however, AMC executives introduced the Rambler Marlin, a larger personal luxury car. The automaker waited until the 1968 model year to introduce the Javelin, a small fastback aimed directly at the market segment that was created by the Ford Mustang.

Records

Economy

1962_Rambler_ChampionPlug_MobilEconRun_AD

 1962 American winning the Mobil Economy Run in an advertisement for Champion spark plugs

The American was introduced as the North American economy was in a recession and buyers were looking for smaller and more economical cars and the Rambler brand was known as a fuel miser. The Rambler American was a yearly winner of the best fuel economy in the Mobil Economy Run and the Pure Oil Company Economy Trials, even during later years when fuel efficiency was not a major factor in the purchase of automobiles.

For example, at the conclusion of the five-day event in 1959, that covered 1,898 miles (3,055 km), a Rambler American Deluxe topped the 47-car Mobilgas Economy Run field with an average 25.2878 miles per US gallon (9.3015 L/100 km; 30.3694 mpg-imp). The 1959 Pure Oil Trials were conducted from Los Angeles to Miami, featuring 2,837 miles (4,566 km) covering over all types of terrain and driving types, where a Rambler American with overdrive set the all time NASCAR-supervised coast-to-coast average economy record of 35.4 miles per US gallon (6.64 L/100 km; 42.5 mpg-imp).

In the 1960 Mobilgas Economy Run, a Custom two-door sedan returned 28.35 miles per US gallon (8.30 L/100 km; 34.05 mpg-imp) over a route of more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km), finishing first in the compact class. Further proof of the American’s exceptional fuel economy came when an overdrive-equipped car driven coast to coast under NASCAR’s watchful eyes averaged 38.9 miles per US gallon (6.05 L/100 km; 46.7 mpg-imp). However, the most astounding demonstration was the record set in the Pure Oil Economy Trials, another NASCAR-supervised event: 51.281 miles per US gallon (4.5868 L/100 km; 61.586 mpg-imp), which AMC sagely noted, “No car owner should expect to approach in everyday driving.”

In the 1964 run, a 6-cylinder Rambler American 440 sedan averaged 27.8336 miles per US gallon (8.4507 L/100 km; 33.4268 mpg-imp); once again, the best of all the cars that year.

Economy claims for stock cars could be confirmed by these open and sanctioned trials. American Motors (as well as its OEM suppliers, such as the print advertisement for Champion spark plugs) promoted the results of this popular event in its advertising as a marketing technique that further emphasized the thriftiness of the Rambler Americans.

Rambler’s emphasis on economy over performance can be observed through the example of automatic transmission use in a Rambler American where the 1959 owner’s handbook describes leaving the gear selector in the D-2 position (1.47:1 gear ratio) blocks access to low gear (2.40 ratio) when starting out from a stop; therefore, given the car’s 3.31 axle, this yields an initial 4.86:1 final drive ratio reducing crankshaft revolutions for maximum fuel economy.

Music

In 1958, the Playmates recorded a novelty song called “Beep Beep” about a duel between a Cadillac driver who just cannot shake a “little Nash Rambler” following him. The song uses an accelerating (accelerando) tempo and ends with the Rambler passing the Cadillac “…in second gear!” The song was on Billboard Top 40 charts for twelve weeks while also selling over one million copies, and it was awarded a gold disc. Concurrently with the popularity of this song, AMC was setting production and sales records for the Rambler models. This was also the same year the old Rambler reappeared as the new American, with the song popularizing the re-released car and making AMC the only automaker have increased sales during the recession of 1958.

Off-road

Mexico hosted a grueling mostly off-road race, the Baja 500. In July 1967, a Rambler American in the passenger-car category was driven by Spencer Murray and Ralph Poole and finished the run in a record 31 hours.

American Motors then got serious in this type of racing and signed up James Garner‘s “American International Racers” (AIR) team to a three-year contract. Garner’s shops prepared ten 1969 SC/Ramblers provided by AMC. The cars were modified for the punishing Baja 500 race. Raising the suspension and using Goodyear tires on 10×15-inch wheels increased ground clearance. All window glass was removed and roll cages were installed. The cars had 44 US gal (167 L; 37 imp gal) fuel tanks. Two cars were further modified with four-wheel drive. The AIR team built AMC’s 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engines to blueprint tolerances, thus increasing horsepower to 410 hp (306 kW; 416 PS) at the flywheel. The cars were capable of 140 mph (230 km/h) runs along smooth straights at about 7000 rpm in fourth gear.

On 11 June 1969, eight of the Ramblers were entered into the passenger-car category and the two 4WD versions were in the Experimental class. Garner did not drive in the race because of a film commitment in Spain. Seven of the Ramblers finished the grueling race, taking three of the top five places in the passenger-car class. One of the four-wheel-drive cars came in fourth in its class. The AIR team included a car with Bob Bondurant and Tony Murphy that took first place. For one of the winning Rambler drivers, this was his first ever race and the experience launched the career of Walker Evans.

Rally racing

Rambler Americans raced with good results in the Shell 4000 Rally that was held in Canada. In 1968, for example, the grueling 4,000-mile (6,437 km) rally over the often-tortuous muddy road from Calgary to Halifax, the AMC team finished 2nd, 3rd, and 5th winning the Manufacturers Team Award.

Drag racing

American Motors was not actively involved in auto racing during the early 1960s as not to glamorize dangerous speeds and driving. The automaker ran national advertisements: “Why don’t we enter high-performance Rambler V-8s in racing? Because the only race Rambler cares about is the human race.”

However, independent AMC dealerships began sponsoring cars in drag racing events. Preston Honea achieved fame with the 1964 “Bill Kraft Rambler” American from Norwalk, California. The car had a transplanted AMC V8 engine that was bored out to 418 cu in (6.8 L) with four carburetors on special intake manifold and featured a transistorized ignition system as well as an Isky 505-A camshaft. The big engine from an Ambassador added only 80 pounds (36.3 kg) more than the venerable 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) straight-6normally found in the small two-door American. However, with its 8200 rpm redline, the Rambler ran 112 mph (180 km/h) at the Fontana dragstrip.

After the departure of Roy Abernethy, AMC eagerly sponsored Rambler Americans in various motorsport venues and produced a factory-ready Rambler American for drag racing — as noted above with the 1969 SC/Rambler.

Battery power experiments

In 1959, AMC and Sonotone Corporation announced work on a car to be powered by a “self-charging” battery. It was to have sintered plate nickel-cadmium batteries. During the 1960s, AMC partnered with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and to use an advanced speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. However, the actual running prototype was a 1969 Rambler American station wagon converted from 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 to an all car electric using nickel–cadmium batteries. Power consisted of 160 cells, each rated at 75 ampere-hours (Gulton KO-75), arranged in two banks of 80 cells each, and connected in parallel. The equipment Wouk designed “gave it good acceleration, but there was still a problem with the car’s range.” Later, AMC and Gulton developed the Amitron and the similar Electron city cars.

Legacy

1965 Rambler_65_Ben_Vaughn_album_cover

 Rambler ’65 album cover
1962_Rambler_American_400_conv_3rd_Rock_panel

 3rd Rock from the Sun museum display

American Motors used the compact Rambler American chassis as the basis for the 1968 Javelin, a two-door hardtop marketed as a “hip”, dashing, and affordable pony car, as well as available in several muscle carperformance versions.

In 1988 Ben Vaughn, a musician and a longtime Rambler automobile fan, released El Rambler Dorado on his Blows Your Mind album. He later recorded an entire album in his 1965 Rambler American. Released in 1997 by Rhino Records and titled Rambler ’65, Vaughn turned his car into a makeshift studio. Putting the recording equipment inside his Rambler was a gimmick or an act of showmanship, but according to most reviews, the music he created inside his car is “timeless” rock roll. The Rambler ’65 24-minute music video also includes vintage AMC TV advertising clips.

Vaughn also achieved success in Hollywood as the composer for the hit NBC television series 3rd Rock from the Sun in which the main characters use a 1962 Rambler American convertible. The car is featured in posters and in the 100th episode (during season 5) entitled “The Fifth Solomon”, the space aliens “learn that it’s possible to get emotionally attached to a car” after they crash their Rambler and have no insurance.

During his 2006-2007 campaign for U.S. president, Mitt Romney sat in a Rambler American at fund-raising events as a way to emphasize the need for more efficient cars. He also stated that his father (George W. Romney) “was a man ahead of his time,” at campaign stops and that “He also coined the term ‘gas-guzzling dinosaurs.’ That’s what we’re driving today and that’s got to change.”

Collectibility

At more than 50 years after it was produced, the mission of the first generation Rambler American as “an affordable, stylish people hasn’t changed – though now it’s rolling stingily down the road as a collector’s item rather than a daily beater.” The economical car “that put Detroit on notice is one of today’s most affordable, fun collectibles.”

Benefiting from network television exposure, the 1962 Rambler American convertible became “a hot ticket item” for collectors after it began to appear regularly on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun with owners of rusty cars asking high prices and prime examples commanding upward of $14,000. A fully restored 1962 convertible was given to Mitt Romney on his 60th birthday by his son, Tagg, in 2008.

The “outlandishly adorned” limited-edition, mid-model year addition to the Rambler line “built under the aegis of the Hurst shifter people” is unique. The SC/Rambler has a strong collector following, with websites, clubs, and a registry.

The SC/Rambler has become a popular muscle car to replicate because of the ease of installing a powerful AMC V8 drivetrain into one of the large number of inexpensive 1966 through 1969 Rambler Americans. To identify a true SC/Rambler, it must be a hardtop and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) must have the letter M in the third digit and the engine code of X as the seventh digit.

Most SC/Ramblers took extensive abuse as they were raced hard, and there are stories of cars being sold with their time slips passing along with the vehicle. According to Old Cars Weekly magazine, “a No. 1 condition example can still be had for mid five figures. A muscle devotee looking for a fun machine with lots of investment potential can’t miss with a SC/Rambler.”

  • Rambler 1969
Mid-sized

Rambler Six and V8

Rambler Six and Rambler V8
1960 Rambler Six 6015-2 photographed in Centreville, Virginia, USA.

1960 Rambler Six sedan
Overview
Manufacturer American Motors Corporation(AMC)
Production 1956 – 1960
Assembly
Designer Edmund E. Anderson
Body and chassis
Body style
Layout FR layout
Powertrain
Engine
  • 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6 120 bhp (89 kW) (1956 only)
  • 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) I6 125 or 135 bhp
  • 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 190 bhp (140 kW) (except 1956)
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108 in (2,743 mm)
Chronology
Successor Rambler Classic

The Rambler Six and the Rambler V8 are intermediate sized automobiles that were built and marketed by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1956 to 1960.

Launched on 15 December 1955, the 1956 model year Rambler Six ushered a “new era in motoring has begun” according to George W. Romney, President of AMC. In 1956, the Rambler was sold through bothNash and Hudson networks of dealerships. This resulted from the merger of the two companies to form AMC in 1954.

The new Rambler line created and defined a new market segment, the “compact car” as the automobile classification was called at that time. A V8 engine powered model, the Rambler V8, was added in 1957.

Background

The new for 1956 Rambler was arguably “the most important car American Motors ever built” in that it not only created and defined a new market segment, emphasized the virtues of compact design, but also enabled the automaker to prosper in the post-World War II marketplace that shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. The sales war between Ford and Chevrolet conducted during 1953 and 1954 had left little business for the much smaller “independent” automakers trying to compete against the standard models offered by the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler).

American Motors focused its resources to introduce a line of smaller cars than were then available from the domestic Big Three for the 1957 model year. The designs were developed by its Styling Director, Edmund E. Anderson and they were aimed at a new market segment. Although conventional business thinking states that bigger profits were made from sales of bigger cars, American Motors lacked the resources to develop a full range of models targeting different market segments. As the chairman and president of AMC, George W. Romney also avoided a head-to-head battle with the U.S. automakers by focusing the company on the compact car.[3] He “felt that with the Rambler I had the car of the future” and Romney “bet the farm on the Rambler” by spending US$5.4 million on a “crash program to bring the 1957 Rambler to market a year earlier.”

Model years

1956

1956 Hudson Rambler Custom sedan, with dealer accessory window insect screens

 1956 Hudson Rambler Custom sedan, with dealer accessory window insect screens

The four-door Ramblers for the 1956 model year were completely redesigned, with a characteristic swept-back C-pillars (the Fashion Safety Arch), unusual wing windows on the rear doors, inboard, grille-mounted headlamps, as well as “the widest windshield” of any car. The short-wheelbase two-door (Nash Rambler) versions were no longer available. The new line retained the 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase that was used for the previous four-door versions of the Nash Rambler, but the overall length was increased by 5 inches (127 mm), to 191.14 in (4,855 mm). The Rambler was substantially smaller outside compared to the other popular domestic cars of the era, but its interior room was equal to the top-selling “low-priced” field. Construction was also unusual, being unit body (what Nash called Double Safe Single Unit).

The 1956 Rambler models were marketed under both the Nash and Hudson brand names. The cars were almost identical except for minor badge engineeringthat included different logos on the hubcaps, grille insert, and hood emblem.

The new Ramblers came only as four-door models. Along with the usual four-door sedan and station wagon was a new four-door hardtop sedan. Rambler also introduced the industry’s first four-door hardtop station wagon in 1956. The station wagons used the same rear doors as the sedans with the back roof dipped lower over the cargo area and featured a standard roof rack. The wagon models were called Cross Country. An innovation for station wagons was Rambler’s roll-down tailgate window; competitors’ models used upward-hinged windows.

The new car was described as “distinct and different …. can be recognized at any angle from its wide-open competition- type grille to the pronounced arch over rear window.” According to automobile journalist Floyd Clymer, “economy and high-performance do not go hand in hand, but in the Rambler, the owner will find a happy medium … though smaller, is safer than many cars. The welded, unitized body-frame construction offers above-average protection in collisions.” The single-unit construction that was used by AMC on all of its models provided a marketing advantage by offering buyers a $25,000 personal automobile injury insurance policy at no extra cost.

The Typhoon straight-six for the new Rambler was based on the previous 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) block, but was improved and featured overhead valves and produced 120 bhp (89 kW; 122 PS). It was the only engine available in the 1956 Rambler because the automaker was still developing its own V8. This engine was said to deliver 33% more power than the 1955 version, and – at up to 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) – provided better fuel economy than the competition. The new Rambler also changed to a 12-volt electrical system. The automatic transmission was the GM-produced Hydramatic (called Flashaway by AMC). A torque tube drive system was used with a four-wheel coil spring suspension instead of the previous Hotchkiss drive setup.

The interiors were offered in fifteen colors, and offered “genuine leather” (in six colors) as an option. The station wagons were popular with buyers, and in addition to power brakes (standard on Custom models), frequently ordered options included power steering, two- and three-tone exterior color schemes, a continental tire, Weather Eye heating and air conditioning system, as well as dealer accessory window insect screens to use with the individually adjustable and reclining front seats that could be used as a bed.

The new Rambler model became the replacement for the large-sized Nash and Hudson “legacy” models that were now suffering from dwindling sales. On the other hand, the Rambler was the only completely new “popular-priced” car in 1956. Consumer reaction to the 1956 Rambler was very positive. Advertising for the new car urged potential buyers to “Drive the Rambler – You’ll Make the Smart Switch for 1956.” Almost 74 percent of surveyed Rambler owners by Popular Mechanics described their cars as small and roomy, as well as easy to park and operate.

Sales for the inaugural year totaled 66,573. Of these, 20,496 were badged as Hudsons. Soon, the all-new “compact-sized” (as vehicles were defined at that time) models experienced a “sales explosion”.

1957

1957 Rambler Cross-Country Custom

 1957 Rambler Cross-Country Custom

In 1957, the Rambler was established as a separate marque and these models became the foundation for the new company’s best sales performance through the late 1950s. Sales increased to 82,000.

The four-door sedans and station wagons were offered as well as a four-door hardtop body style with no “B” pillar. The most basic trim level, Deluxe, was essentially for fleet customers and only available with the I6 engine. The Super and Custom trimmed models came with the I6 or AMC’s new V8 engine. The Deluxe had no exterior side trim or series name, the Super came with a single full-length body side molding and a “Super” script emblem, and the Custom featured dual full body side moldings with a “Custom” script emblem and a round “R” medallion on the top of the front fenders.

The new Rambler Cross Country was “typical of the stylish, yet highly practical wagons built by AMC in the 1950s” and was offered in solid colors or two- or three-tone paint schemes. Only a few station wagons “were available in 1957 with the very vogue hardtop configuration”, and Rambler’s Cross Country station wagon in Custom trim carried a relatively low price of $2,715. Options included seat belts, padded dash, and child proof door locks.

This was the first year the Rambler offered a new 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 engine, producing 190 bhp (142 kW; 193 PS). A companion model in four-door hardtop style and featuring AMC’s new high-performance 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 was also introduced in 1957. This was the Rambler Rebel and it was an early “muscle car.” With overdrive, the 1957 model was capable of up to 32 mpg-US (38 mpg-imp; 7.4 L/100 km).

The first American journalist to drive a U.S. automobile uncensored through the Soviet Union was Harry Walton in a brand new 1957 Rambler station wagon assembled in Belgium. The engine was detuned at the Brussels assembly plant to run on 74 octane gasoline available only in certain gas stations, and on one occasion, “to the Rambler’s eternal credit it swallowed the [ordinary Soviet] stuff, protesting mildly.” The heavily loaded wagon cruised at 60 mph (97 km/h) and travelled 22.35 miles per US gallon (10.52 L/100 km; 26.84 mpg-imp). The journalist drove 3,500 miles (5,633 km) from the Polish border near Brest to the port city of Yalta, and reported the Rambler station wagon “galvanized Russians into attention everywhere.”

1958

1958 Rambler sedan

 1958 Rambler Custom sedan
1958 Train unloading 1958 Ramblers for a car rental company in Florida.

 Fifty-six carloads of new 1958 Ramblers for Avis Rent a Car in Florida
1958 Rambler Six's tailfinned rear

The 1958 Rambler Six’s tailfinned rear

George W. Romney stated “the Hudson and Nash would remain distinctive in size from the Rambler in 1958.” Designs were developed for the big-car Hudson and Nash models to share the Rambler automobile platform by stretching the body about nine inches ahead of the cowl. However, the Rambler become the new AMC division following the discontinuation of both the Nash and Hudson lines after the 1957 model year.

The larger-sized 1958 Ramblers incorporated “more than 100 changes and were outwardly quite different from their predecessors.” The cars received “a complete reskin that made the 1956 bodies look a bit bulkier”. This major redesign featured new front and rear fenders. A new front end moved the headlamps from inside the grille to the top of the front fenders and featured twin headlamps on each side on the “Super” and “Custom” models, as well as full-length bodyside moldings. The basic “Deluxe” trim models had no side trim and came standard with single headlights, but the new “quad” headlights were optional.

The 1958 Ramblers now had the industry’s requisite flared tailfins. The Rambler line was one of the last among the domestic automobiles to incorporate tailfins to its body design (and also one of the first to eliminate them). When asked why the 1958 Ramblers featured this styling feature, AMC’s Chairman and CEO George W. Romney responded, “If we have to use tail fins to get people to try compact cars, we’ll use tail fins. Later on we will certainly be able to do away with them, and to build clean, simple, uncluttered cars.”

By 1958, Rambler was selling half of its production as station wagons, proportionately more of that body style than any other automaker. All Rambler station wagons carried the Cross Country name. The innovative hardtop(no “B-pillar”) station wagon body style was no longer available in the Rambler line, as it was reserved for the 1958 Ambassador models. The Rambler station wagons featured a step down roof over their rear cargo area and a standard roof rack. The new design also featured wider rear openings with a frame-less roll-down rear window and a “one-finger” latch on the spring-assisted tailgate. Rambler’s new one-piece, fold-down station wagon tailgate was adopted by all the U.S. automakers by 1961. A horizontal roller-type “window blind” was available to hide the lower half of the wagon’s 80 cubic feet (2,265 l) cargo area. Motor Trend did a comparison test of four 1958 station wagons (Rambler, Ford, DeSoto, and Oldsmobile) and found the compact Rambler could hold as much

The Rambler models continued to be the shortest cars in the U.S. – at 191 inches (4,851 mm) in total length – with room for six-passengers. Rambler’s marketing focused on having “the best of both: 1. American big car room and comfort. 2. European small car economy and handling ease.” Powering the Rambler Six was AMC’s new 127 hp (95 kW; 129 PS) overhead valve (OHV) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) straight-six. NASCAR tests showed the Rambler Six had a $0.01 per mile gasoline cost when equipped with overdrive transmission. A V8 engine was available in the Rambler Rebel models.

A Borg-Warner torque converter “Flash-O-Matic” automatic transmission, with the “then-trendy pushbutton” gear selection on the far left side of the instrument panel, was optional. Also new on the left side for the driver was a step-on parking brake pedal.

American Motors instituted a new paint system for the 1958 model year. All Ramblers received rust-inhibiting by submerging assembled bodies up to their roof into a large 40-foot (12 m) vat of primer (not sprayed on) before the color coat was applied, a revolutionary process that was later copied by other automakers. After drying, an additional wax-based compound was sprayed inside girders, rocker panels, fenders, and other hidden areas in the car bodies.

American Motors promoted the 1958 Rambler in several advertising campaigns. One approach featured George W. Romney challenging “the big car concept.” A series of print ads also mocked the domestic Big Three automakers’ standard-sized cars featuring illustrations by famous cartoonists showing the compact Rambler easily getting through places that would get the large “gas guzzling dinosaur” automobiles stuck. An example is the story, “The Millionaire and The Rambler” by Otto SoglowChon Day illustrated a story on how “Rambler foils bank robbery.”

Sales of the Rambler six and V8 increased to 119,000 during a year when all U.S. cars were down in volume. The 1958 Ramblers “sold like hotcakes” and returned the smallest U.S. automaker to profitability. Together with the smaller Rambler American line, AMC “broke sales records” in 1958 as consumers valued basic transportation from their automobiles and no longer cared “how big their cars were.” Although in the midst of the Recession of 1958, Rambler captured seventh place in automobile sales.

1959

1959 Rambler Six sedan

 1959 Rambler Six sedan

Improvements to the Rambler included new side trim with a full-width die-cast grille, as well as thicker brake linings and larger brakes for V8-powered cars. Engineering changes included fuel economy improvements with lower axle ratios and more efficient carburetor for the I6 engines. An electrically engaged overdrive unit behind the three-speed manual transmission was also available. To increase longevity, Rambler mufflers were aluminum-coated on the inside and zinc-coated on the outside. On cars with automatic transmission, engine starting was now incorporated into the neutral pushbutton, thus eliminating the ignition key start switch. Accidental starter engagement was prevented by a lockout when the engine was running.

1959 Rambler Country Club hardtop with optional continental tire

 1959 Rambler Country Club hardtop with optional continental tire

A total of 11 models were offered for 1959, all four-door versions of sedans, station wagons, and Country Club hardtop (no B-pillar) body styles. Premium options and conveniences continued to be offered including “Weather Eye” air-conditioning, air suspension on V8s, limited slip differentials, an exterior mounted continental tire, as well as the American Motors’ exclusive individually adjustable and reclining front seats with headrests. Sales of the Rambler Six and V8 continued to increase.

1960

1960 Rambler Six Deluxe sedan, the lowest-priced equipment level

 1960 Rambler Six Deluxe sedan, the lowest-priced equipment level

The 1960 models featured numerous exterior and interior design changes. The greenhouse was made “lighter” with a narrower C-pillar and roof profile, as well as slanting both the windshield and rear window at a greater angle providing for an “airy cabin.” The front end was simplified, while the tailfins became smaller thus highlighting the new tall taillamps. The overall length was trimmed by 1.6 inches (41 mm) because of a new spit-bumper design. Riding on 15-inch wheels the Rambler appeared to be larger than it actually was. The interior was also revised and the instrument panel now incorporated all instrumentation within a large oval in front of the driver.

1960 Rambler Super Cross Country, rear view

 1960 Rambler Super Cross Country, rear view

The practice of separate Six and Rebel V8 models now ended with the focus on the Rambler name and the trim three levels: “Deluxe”, “Super”, and “Custom”. Each was offered with “Economy 6 or Rebel V-8 engines.”

In 1960, the Rambler line reached third place in total annual industry sales in the United States. The 1960 Rambler Six with its 127 hp (95 kW; 129 PS) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) engine became the best selling model for AMC with 297,368 sold for the year.

Overseas assembly

Belgium

American Motors established agreement with French automaker Renault to assemble Ramblers from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits in the Vilvoorde Renault Factory in Haren, Belgium. The cars were sold and serviced through Renault dealers in Algeria, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Rambler was sold as an “executive car” in these markets.

Mexico

Midsize Rambler models were assembled in Mexico during two different periods, the first under Armadora Mexicana based in Mexico City between 1956 and 1957, and the second under Planta REO based in Monterrey, between 1958 and 1959. Due to low sales volume, American Motors terminated its contract with Armadora Mexicana that dated back to 1950, Rambler models were again imported from the United States (between 1957 and 1958), sold through a limited network of dealerships of which most were located in Mexico City, until the agreement with Planta REO was formalized. The problem of low sales continued under Planta REO and AMC cancelled the contract. Importation of AMC vehicles into Mexico resumed until a third domestic production partner was established. Willys Mexicana, the company what would become Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) was the third local company that AMC would sign an agreement in 1960, but VAM did not assemble the Rambler Six and Rambler V8 models.

Legacy

American Motors began the process of differentiating the Rambler brand name from its various sizes and similar model names. New nameplates were introduced; the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 were both renamed the Rambler Classic in 1961.

This is the end of part I

Show cars
International

International production

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