One thing that is sure to start a car guy fistfight is to call everything built by American Motors Corporation (and its historical partner Nash) a “Rambler”–even though most of us who remember AMC cars referred to the cars as Ramblers.
Some of us were too young to know better and engaged in automotive stereotyping because we were unable to turn the corner on an AMC movement away from the Rambler name after the company decided to forge its own identity during the mid to late 1960s.
The Rambler name maintained a reputation as an unusual vehicle produced by a small auto builder (AMC) that had limited capital, but still wanted to run with the Big Three dogs in the domestic auto sales race.
The result was an array of cars that offered reliability along with unusual designs during the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Consequently, we at MyStarCollectorCar want to showcase our favorite Ramblers (aka AMC cars) from the post-merger era for American Motors.
The first vehicle that comes to mind is a car model that basked in the glory of the Rambler name: the 1958 Rambler Ambassador. The car represented the first newly designed post-merger model from AMC and was a major departure from their Nash influence in terms of style.
The Rambler Ambassador had four headlights and modest rear fins that lent a then-contemporary style to the car. The ‘58 Rambler Ambassador even looked sleek by AMC standards, a company that wanted to exorcise the bland Hudson ghosts from the new AMC direction.
Hudson had a firm grip on an early 1950s automotive style that had no place in the rocket age of the late 1950s, so the new look Ramblers were a huge departure from the Hudson hangover at AMC.
The second vehicle that comes to mind is the 1965 Marlin. The Marlin was built to give a much-needed sporty image to AMC; and MyStarCollectorCar believes the Marlin was a big home run in this department.
MSCC chose the ’65 Marlin because the car was such a radical departure for AMC because it was a fastback performance car that steered the company right into the fast lane of domestic competition. Incidentally, the cars were called Rambler Marlins in 1965.
The 1965 and ’66 Marlins were based upon the Rambler Classic model and seemed like a good fit with the intermediate-sized AMC car’s body style. However, AMC may have jumped the shark with their 1967 Marlin models because these cars used the full-sized Ambassador as their base platform. Not a great idea in our view here at MyStarCollectorCar in a neither-fish-nor-fowl way.
The Marlin was a preview of coming attractions because the exit of the trail-blazing AMC after the 1967 production year preceded the debut of the Javelin/AMX models in 1968; the third American Motors/Rambler car model example(s) on our MSCC list. Most MSCC readers will already know the AMX was a shortened two-seater version of the Javelin-and both car models were built to compete in the muscle car/pony car wars of the late 1960s.
The Rambler label was nowhere to be found on either of the two AMC models because the little car company wanted to shed its image as a reliable, but not exciting, car manufacturer.
A surprising turn of events occurred in 1969 with the debut of the muscled-out AMC Hurst SC/Rambler. The resurrection of the Rambler name on the little AMC compact muscle car that gave it a unique twist when the label was attached to their version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
AMC wanted to bury the notion that all Ramblers were unable to be fast and furious- and it was mission accomplished with the Hurst SC/Rambler.
Last, but most certainly not least, on MyStarCollectorCar’s favorite Rambler list is the 1970 AMC Rebel Machine. The Rebel models were 3 years removed from their Rambler handle and AMC had forged a strong reputation for performance by the 1970 production year when the Rebel Machine hit the street.
The medium-sized Rebel was a good fit for muscle car enthusiasts who wanted a competitive ride from AMC. The Machine was AMC’s answer to their shopping list and it became an instant legend in the muscle car wars.
There were plenty of reasons to love Ramblers during the years. Even more reasons after AMC underwent a name change that was also an image change.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.
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