APRIL 26, 2015: A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING: THE RAMBLER AMERICAN IN BEAST MODE

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Rambler was a name long associated with a conservative family-oriented automobile.

 

Few car guys dreamed of the day they could finally own an Ambassador and show it off to the world.

 

The post-war Rambler was a steady workhorse for Nash before and after its 1954 merger with Hudson that begat American Motors.

 

 

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Most of us barely knew about AMC during their Rambler era. We were kids who called them all Ramblers and few among us noticed a new Rebel or Ambassador when it showed up in our neighborhoods.

 

The most notable feature of Ramblers was factory air conditioning on many models for most young car guys, but there was much more to these AMCs than met the eye.

 

 

Ramblers were well-built vehicles and leaned heavily upon substance over style during their early years under the AMC flag. They were innovative and had a careful approach to cars, not unlike their non-Big Three colleague Studebaker.

 

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Things started to change in the mid-60s when the Marlin hit the streets. The radical fastback design was not typical of a Rambler by any means and gave AMC a car to compete in the young single buyer market.

 

 

The Javelin and AMX hit the AMC lineup a few years later in the late 60s and suddenly a “Rambler” was not just a mild-mannered four door sedan. Even the Rebel was heavily muscled-up as a Machine.

 

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One Rambler flew under the radar during AMC’s demographic market shift in the mid to late 60s: a mild-mannered little compact with the patriotic name, the Rambler American.

 

The first Rambler American was built in 1958 and was designed to compete as a smaller car with a low sticker price. They were not flashy, nor were they fast, but they were a solid choice for families on a budget, or to fill a second car need in the new suburbs.

 

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The Rambler American stayed in this understated role until the 1966 model which was the third year for the third generation of this AMC compact. The sheet metal was completely modernized in ’64 and the ’66 model offered modern performance with the first V-8 version of American.

 

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Small block V-8s really woke up the performance in the lightweight ’66 American but, as Frank Sinatra said in song, the best was yet to come for the little Rambler.

 

1967 Rambler Americans got even badder and faster when AMC fitted them with a high compression 343 cubic inch small block.

 

 

This was an unlikely little compact that could burn off the bias ply factory rear tires about ten minutes after the car left the dealership.

 

However, the muscle car stakes got even higher for AMC during the final model year for the Rambler name in 1969 when they unleashed the SC/Rambler.

 

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The “Scrambler” was a fire-breathing monster with a 390 cubic inch small block heart that put out 315 horsepower in factory form. Things got a whole lot nastier if you added a few of the Group 19 high performance parts from an AMC dealership.

 

The SC/Ramblers had unique paint schemes that were essentially a warning to the competition: we will destroy you in a street showdown.

 

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The image of a mild-mannered little family-hauler was completely blown away when the SC/Rambler hit the street-just like the competition.

 

The “SC” in SC/Rambler was short for Super Car, and few car guys would argue with that handle if they saw one in action.

 

We at MSCC would like to salute the little car that could-the Rambler American.

 

Jim Sutherland

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