By on March 1, 2010

It’s morning on a bright summer day in Iowa City in 1962. I may have fallen asleep with pictures of Marilyn and the Corvette, but now they’re lost somewhere in the folds of my sheets. The fantasy is over, and its time to face a reality of rampant Rambler Classic wagons with wheezing sixes piloted by boozy but anything but sexy Moms. Instead of a fancy night club where a jazz band is playing, we’re off to the pool, and if we’re lucky a stop at the Purple Cow drive-in for milkshakes and floats afterward. The distinctive pattern of Rambler upholstery seared into the backs of my thighs and the stain of artificial strawberry on my trunks will be the tell-tale of having crowded in with half a dozen other hot (the wrong kind) and sticky kids in the back seat. Why did I have to find you, Rambler Classic Wagon? I was so enjoying my fantasy memories.

These Rambler wagons were everywhere at the time, the choice of the younger families that were so busy birthing and brooding baby boomers. This picture, which includes a house that is much more Iowa then Oregon, takes me back to riding in my friend Chris’ identical family Classic wagon, wishing it was a Pontiac Bonneville like the family across the street. Lets face it, Ramblers were about on the same pecking order of a passionate nine-year old piston head in 1962 as a ten year old Kia does today. These cars were the Kias of their time: the most frugal and pragmatic transportation in the land, if you needed more room than a VW. [Updtate: Ironically, it turns out that Eugene's Kia dealer was once the Rambler dealer, and a Daewoo dealer in between. Hat tip to Littlecarrot]. Rambler wisely turned away from trying to compete with the Big Three after a couple of disastrous years in 1954-1956, and identified a niche for frugal midwesterners, no matter what part of the country they lived in.

And it worked like a charm, as plenty of folks were sick of the over-sized chrome-winged flash the big guys were serving up in the late fifties. In 1960, Rambler set new records for an independent, and in 1961, a recession year, Rambler was Number Three in the land! A truly remarkable accomplishment; kind of like Hyundai in the past year, but  shooting all the way to third.

Of course it wouldn’t last. The Big Three threw their barrage of compacts and mid-sized cars at Rambler, the Studebaker Lark, and the imports, and it hit hard. Rambler’s heyday was brief and inglorious, inasmuch as the cars were utterly dreadful bores, and horribly styled, like the truly wretched 1961 American and this somewhat but only slightly better Classic. The Ambassador? That was truly a joke, trying to compete with the stylish and toned-down new ’61s from GM, especially the Pontiacs.

Obviously, a nine-year old isn’t thinking about the practical virtues of a Rambler. This Classic Cross Country was the Volvo 245 of its times, with a healthy sprinkle of chromium-laced fairy dust in two tones. It had practical big 15″ wheels when everyone was doing 14 and 13 inch mini-donuts. And AMC actually dropped the V8 option in the Classic line, which probably had everything to do with the fact that the ’62 Ambassador lost its larger platform and was now just a tarted-up Classic. That made all Classics dogs, because that six was a pretty feeble affair.

The 195.6 cubic inch 127 (gross) hp engine had its origins in 1941, and was updated with an OHV head along the way. But it was an old school chuffer, with a tiny 3.13″ bore and a massive 4.25″ stroke. Plenty of low-end torque to haul the kids around with, but I remember seeing these struggling in the Rocky Mountains, with the camping gear lashed to the standard luggage rack over that weird lowered rear roof section. And if memory serves me right, there was an all-aluminum version for a couple of years, in that brief US fad that resulted in lots of warped heads and the scratching heads of unhappy owners. Cast iron was here to stay, for another forty years or so.

This 1961 Rambler was one year away from the end of the line for the 108″ wheelbase platform it sat on, having first seen the light of day in 1954. Of course, it was a unibody, a fairly light one at that; even this wagon barely topped 3,000 lbs. The next year, the Classic got the handsome new body that we praised in one of our first Curbside Classics. It was long overdue; eight years was an eternity back then, and it was all-too obvious to me at the time that this ’61 was already a rolling antique. Enough Rambler ragging; I’m not nine anymore, but childhood impressions are hard to totally purge. And fantasies are infinitely more pleasurable.

More Curbside Classics are here

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

66 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    Before even reading what you wrote I said to myself, “That looks like a happy car.”

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Great looking dash, is that a pair of bottle openers above the clock?

  • avatar
    Turbo60640

    I like the look of these! This one seems to be in great original shape. It’s great that the cars don’t really rust out there. You’d never see one like this in the Midwest.

  • avatar
    red60r

    My Mom had a similar ’64 Rambler wagon. The dealer selling them exemplified the problems besetting the whole product line: he didn’t know that the power steering had a quicker ratio than the manual. The car we got had the basic 4-bearing I6 and a BW(?) 3-speed auto. Using the term “Power train” was a misnomer. There was at least one innovation in that AMC lineup worth mentioning — their use of extruded aluminum window frames meant that at least one piece wouldn’t rust like crazy.

  • avatar
    relton

    American Motors was the Rodney Dangerfield of car companies: no one respected them.

    They only got to be #3 in 1961 because Chrysler was having one of their periodic meltdowns. When Chrysler got healthy, AM was back to a distant 4th.

    There were lots of more practical cars then, too. AM and reliability wren’t often spoken in the same sentence. And lots of big 3 cars got equivalent gas mileage with much better performance.

    Sure, it’s fun to root for the plucky underdog. But spending hard-earned money on a sub-standard car is another matter, which is why AM finally perished. After a number of amazing cliff-hangers, both financially and in terms of product. The ghost of AM stillruns through Chrysler-FIAT.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Actually, it was Pontiac and Buick that passed Rambler in 1962, pushing it out of the number three spot.
      But Chrysler’s resurgence, especially the restyled A-Bodies after 1963, clearly were one of the many coffin nails for Rambler.

  • avatar
    ott

    “I may have fallen asleep with pictures of Marilyn and the Corvette, but now they’re crumpled somewhere down in the folds of my sheets.”

    –ewwwww… -TMI.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Just out of high school an older friend with a young family had a used one. Truly an awful car, when compared to the competition of the day. but thanks for the memory.

  • avatar
    stationwagon

    wow this baby weighs just over 3,000 lbs, thats less than my acura cl or a current mustang, it’s amazing how much pounds cars have packed on through the years.

  • avatar
    Littlecarrot

    I believe this is a 1961 model. The tail-fins in the 62’s were kind of rounded off.
    My parents bought a 1962 Rambler Ambassador wagon brand new at the local AMC dealer in Eugene. It was the premium version of the classic wagon. My dad was a commercial painter, and he used it to haul around his paint and equipment. I guess he thought trucks were for farmers. I always remember being “embarrased” in this car–always wishing we had purchased a Ford or Chevy instead.
    The push button transmission was very difficult to engage-requiring a strong thumb. After my dad passed away in 1971, we sold it for $100.
    I think the AMC dealer on 7th street eventually became a Daewoo dealer. Who knows what it is now.

  • avatar

    Thanks Paul, you hit it out of the park and broke a window across the street with this car.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    My dad had two of these wagons for work. Riding in them was a treat because he worked nights, so we usually ended up riding in Mom’s Buick or Oldsmobile – (depending on the years we had the wagons). The Rambler was gone when we came home from school, and we only got a chance to be in them on weekends, when we saw my dad.

    As a result, I have many nice memories of these Ramblers. Unlike the Buick or the Oldsmobile, these Ramblers didn’t try to be luxurious. They had manual shifters on the steering columns and they didn’t look trendy. I especially liked the 1960 Rambler front clip styling. It was a nice interpretation of the popular late 1950’s headlight bezel styling. These wagons are cute and really, a perfect size.

    Many Chicagoland working class families drove these cars. There were a lot of kids back then. When they wore out, he started driving Beetles.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    The old man had the sedan in tan. He traded in a fifty-something Pontiac for his brand new Classic–an ideal car for a new family of four. Flashomatic push button activated transmission told the world how modern it was, and the front seats went down flat; four could sleep in the thing if necessary.

    The old man drove it longer than nature intended, and then replaced the engine (I’m thinking a J.C. Whitney purchase). Seats eventually had to be covered in plastic when the original cloth-like material disintegrated. But, all good things come to an end, and the Rambler’s transmission began failing. By that time there was really nothing left to salvage, and even if so, no one wanted it.

    We towed the sedan behind our new 1970 Cutlass (now THAT was a car!) to its final resting place: a sink hole out in the middle of nowhere, finally pushing it over the cliff to join other various makes already “down under.” It was the American equivalent to the Elephant’s Graveyard highlighted in those old Tarzan movies. Where old cars went to die. Very sad. But that’s what you did back in the day, before the EPA and other governmental agencies controlled all aspects of life.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I found an old basement out in the boonies near here into which someone had shoved a ’36 Ford coupe body. That had to have happened waay back in the day – although it was far too rusty to be useful to anyone when I saw it, it had been quite straight when it went into the hole.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I find some old AMC’S appealing, the ones that were weird and oddball looking, but in a cool way. Like the metropolitan, gremlin, pacer and matador coupe.
    But the ramblers like this are just downright ugly, I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would want to drive something that looks like this. It’s every bit as ugly as a volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      davvo

      I quite disagree, this car has a ton of character, most Volvos are boxes. When you look at this – at least the profile – it looks like something to take a long trip in, maybe outer space! AMC had a penchant for coming up with something on the daring, unique side in their styling. The average Joe probably couldn’t handle the look, but then that’s what happens when you innovate instead of playing to the conventional… I like the fact that there are unpredictable touches in the lines of this piece of history.
       

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I love all things AMC, just for the sheer differentness of it. My fave was a Rambler classic converible where the restorer had replaced the orginal I-6 with the 4.0 I-6 out of a Jeep Wrangler even cutting a hole in the floor for the ugly Jeep slushbox shifter. I’m sure it was much more livable with the fuel injected 190hp out of the Jeep. I also appreciated the delicious irony of the heart transplant given AMCs eventual ownership of Jeep.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Your memory didn’t fail you, Paul. My first car was a ’63 Classic 770 handed down from my sister when she got married in ’68. It had the 195.6 aluminum I6, and the Borg Warner auto with overdrive.

    Unfortunately, my sister didn’t bother with maintenance, especially oil changes. When I took it to her old mechanic, he noted it hadn’t had the oil changed in over 23,000 miles. I told him it was newer oil, because she had gone shopping, 25 miles each way, when the oil light came on, and asked my dad to look at it.

    My dad asked when the oil light came on, and she answered “before I left to go shopping”. There was no oil on the dipstick, so my dad added a quart. Then he added a second quart and the oil barely got on the tip. A third quart got it just below full, and my dad topped it off.

    Six months later I was passing a guy on the freeway at 65 when a main bearing blew up. My brother in law towed me 40 miles with a 1935 Dodge stakebed truck, and my mechanic installed a cast iron version from a junkyard. Then four months later the transmission blew up, and I bought a ’62 Buick from my mechanic.

    It was a nice car and reliable except for those two “problems”, producing 20-21 mpg overall. With a fake foxtail on the antenna, it was sporty too, the envy of my college classmates (*cough*).

  • avatar
    210delray

    I’m glad my family stuck with GM cars back then. We kids used to make fun of Ramblers. I always hated how the speedos read 0, 1, 2, 3…12 instead of 0, 10, 20, 30…120 mph.

    I can’t believe how well-preserved that ’61 is though. You NEVER see these anymore in my neck of the woods (central VA), even at car shows.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    If I remember right, the rectangular chrome piece below the dash , was a tissue dispenser.

  • avatar

    Some friends had a ’58 or ’59 wagon. Might have had an 8. I do remember its engine felt a lot more competent than our 6cyl 57 Chevy, although I never would have admitted it to myself.

  • avatar

    that thing is ugly, yet intresting looking. Has just a touch of the Citroen Ami look.

  • avatar
    essen

    When I look at the Nissan Armada I think of the Rambler station wagon.
    http://redcarpetleasing.com/images/2009.NISSAN.ARMADA1.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      davvo

      Wow, good call!  And to think someone paid $40 grand plus for the Armada…
      And compare the profile of the Gremlin with a Nissan Murano! Maybe Nissan has secretly raised Dick Teague from the grave and is tapping his mind for styling themes…
      The Cross Country and the Armada fill pretty much similar roles for different eras. Too bad the Armada has to do it with double the weight of the Rambler…

  • avatar
    NickR

    Huh, this car (well a 58, doing the math) actually features in one of the books by my favourite author, Bill Bryson. I quote from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: “…my dad bought a blue Rambler station wagon, a car so cruddy and styleless that even Edsel owners would slow down to laugh at you,”. His account of a road trip in that wagon is priceless.

    Funnily enough, he grew up in Des Moines…maybe he and Paul crossed paths.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    Excellent catch, essen. I thought the same thing for years.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I can’t stop wondering what the designers were thinking with the way that roofline dips down toward the back. After all, wasn’t cargo space the main criteria for a staion wagon?

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      It was about saving money on tooling. It allowed them to use the same rear doors as the sedan and also to use the sedan roof panel, with an extension tacked on, rather than create a completely different roof stamping for the wagon.

      The Volvo 240 wagon uses the sedan rear doors (look at the window frames) for the same reason.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      They were thinking, “We can avoid the cost of tooling for the station wagon roof if we just design and produce another stamping to graft onto the sedan version’s roof!”

      Really, that’s exactly what was done.

      EDIT: I see MadHungarian beat me to it…

    • 0 avatar
      JSF22

      Maybe the same thing Nissan was thinking with the truly hideous Armada and QX56, which always make me think of a Rambler wagon. Luckily, they seem to be just about as successful with them.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    On the subject of what your local Rambler dealer is now, our former Rambler shop in Savannah, GA now sells Acuras. It is also the last dealer remaining downtown. Nashes were being sold at the same location going back at least to the 1940’s and possibly earlier.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    At one time, the name “Rambler” was almost synonymous with “practical, understated compact car.”

    So much so that a former colleague once told a story of how his father brought home a new Mercedes-Benz 220 in the early 1960s, causing my colleague’s mother to gush, “Oh, what a lovely RAMBLER!”

    At that moment, it was decided that the new car was to be driven primarily be the man of the house…

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The tailfins on the fintail Mercedes models look like the tailfins on the 1958-59 “standard” Ramblers and Ambassadors.

      The roofline of later Mercedes models looks like the one used on the 1964-65 American.

      Given that Porsche later copped the Pacer’s rear greenhouse/hatch treatment for the 928, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Mercedes stylists were influenced by Ramblers.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Spartan. Boxy. Practical. Ugly. Funky. Family-hauler. Rambler. Volvo. Cross-Country.

    So many similarities I find my self wondering: did hit have AWD too? ;o)

    BTW, Volvos and Armada also reminded me of the funky roofline too.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Wow, where do you find stuff like this? (I know, I know, Eugene Oregon…) But seriously, what a time capsule! We had a neighbor who had one of these back in the day. To my very young eye, it was alternately the ugliest and most fascinating car I had seen at that time.

    The example here, though, would make a killer resto-mod, shove in a LSx, airbag the suspension, high gloss candy apple red paint, some nice billet wheels… how much fun could this thing be at the local cruise night?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      This Rambler lives on the street. This is a couple of blocks from my house. But they split up, and now it lives down in the Whiteaker district.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Looking back in retrospect, it seems like most people that owned ramblers were kinda weird, either weird or elderly. Like your weird bachelor uncle that drove his rambler to the elks club every tuesday.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    One rambler I wouldn’t mind having would be a 69 hurst s/c. There was a nice one at chryslers at carlisle last summer.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It’s an ironic twist of fate that the one, lone shining star of Fiatsler is that final remaining vestige of AMC (Jeep), and then the most ancient vehicle line (Wrangler).

  • avatar

    The ’64 Rambler American and Classic were both really nice looking cars.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I love AMCs. I have a ’63 Classic and a ’67 American.

    After dumping on the Falcon last week, I’m going to have to be honest and say Ramblers were 3rd rate products from a 3rd rate manufacturer – which I guess is why I like them so much.

    Those unibodies were a good feature. My ’63 Classic still feels reasonably tight and solid – at least compared to my brother’s ’61 Lark, which is BOF.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Stop dumping on Rambler. My dad was a Rambler/AMC man. They got us there and back, every summer vacation, and I hardly ever remember him having to take ‘em apart in the driveway, like he had to do with later Fords and Chryslers that he owned. I know the “invisible hand” of the market deselected them for survival, but they were lovely, distinctive rebels in a sea of bland conformity in the 60’s and 70’s….

    • 0 avatar
      ramblerman1

      I agree- stop dumping on the rambler…It was an excellent car for the money and a lot
      of Americans who couldn’t afford the outragious bottom lines of Chevy and Ford back
      then decided that rambler was the way to go….we couldn’t help the fact that the companies
      management didn’t know their — from a hole in the ground!! AMC really could’ve made something of themselves had they not been so picky and selfish. My Dad was also a Rambler man as well. Those Rebel wagons were a well made vehicle, especially the ones with the 304 c.i., 2bbl. My dad would take us on vacation, also- hauling a tent trailer and a grummen canoe, 5 people and their luggage- 1850 miles one way…those wagons were amazing!!! ….& also got 22 mpg hwy!!

    • 0 avatar
      davvo

      My dad was also an AMC man, even though he had Caddies and Lincolns too. We got a 62 Ramlber Classic 400 convertible which was similar in styling to this wagon but a shorter car (if you can imagine a convertible looking like that); it was cherry red with matching interior and a white top. It was no road machine (handling was ox cart like) but it was reliable and had a robust spirit about it. Wish I had it today – it was quite outrageous looking! I think AMC appealed to the individualistic types, who refused to follow the crowd.  That is always going to lead to failure for a car company to rely on iconoclasts.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Another score, Mr. N. Love these. My folks bought a 6 year old 62 Classic wagon , the same as this except without the fins, for $600.00.

    It had had an engine rebuild and burnt up on the way home from the Letterkenny Army Depot [my Dad worked there] pool, where my Mother had driven us for the day. Sad.

    As it turned out the person who rebuilt the engine used the wrong head gasket and had basically blocked the water jacket on one side.

    My Mother called it the “Gutless Wonder” and thought it was tacky.

    Quite unlike the the 60 Ambassador Wagon my Grandmother owned from new [and sold before she left CA and moved to PA.]. That thing had the 327 with 4 barrel and would knock your head into the back seat when you hit the gas. She used to lay rubber in front of the house in it.

    When she would put her foot into it, they’d say “You can feel the Gs”.

    BTW: the 61 Ambassador front end has not been topped for ugly since the 74 Matador Sedan, the 03-05 Saturn Aura and the [dare I say it again ? ] current Mazda 3………

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      DweezilSFV,

      My father worked at Letterkenny Army Depot, too, having retired from there in 1991. We used to go to the Letterkenny pool in the summer during the early and mid-1970s. The pool is gone now.

      When I was born, my parents had a 1959 Rambler station wagon. It was all white, with a black-and-red interior. They didn’t do much to maintain it, and by 1968, it was burning so much oil that a trip from Shippensburg and Harrisburg required them to add a quart of oil once on each leg of the trip. From what they have said, the Rambler wasn’t a bad car…there just wasn’t anything special about it.

      They traded that Rambler on a used 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air wagon, which wasn’t much better over the long haul. The car was in a shambles by the time the odometer hit 100,000 miles, and it was recalled for the infamous Chevy motor-mount issue (the equivalent of today’s Toyota recalls).

      They finally bought a neighbor’s cherry 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 in 1972 (19,000 miles, and never driven in rain or snow). THAT was a great car.

  • avatar
    thebanana

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the fold down front seats! A perfect choice of vehicle for the hormonally challenged youth of the late ’50’s and early ’60’s! I had a ’59 Ambassador, a ’61 American and a ’64 Clasic ragtop in my younger days….and maybe no taste in cars :)

    • 0 avatar
      autotronic

      Bananna, you must be mistaken with regard to having owned a ’64 Classic ragtop; the first one was in ’65 when the Classic and Ambassador got a restyle away from stunningly perfect, Mercedes-esque ’63 and ’64 models. How do I know, I have five AMCs myself, a ’64 American 440 ragtop (the only drop top in the line in ’64), a ’68 Rogue 2-door hardtop, a ’69 American 440 station wagon, a ’78 Concord hatchback (V8-powered) and an ’88 last-year Eagle.

      If you really want to look at an AMC time capsule, check out the last AMC dealership in North Carolina. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/yz9plf4. Attached to the same article is another blog about an auction of 50 low mileage AMC cars. Here’s the link to that article. http://tinyurl.com/yjvwf8j

      And attached to that article is a collection of images of many of the cars sold at the auction, http://tinyurl.com/ykybdvg. It’s a virtual supermarket of photos of exceptionally clean AMC cars from the seventies and eighties, including a ’74 Javelin with just 1,300 miles on the clock.

      Say what you want about AMC, they built some interesting cars over the years, from sensibly reliable Americans and Classics, to sporty high performance cars like the ’57 Rebel as well as the Javelins and AMXs along with truly innovative cars like the original crossover, the ’80-’88 AWD Eagle.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    My dad once told me that my grandfather had a Rambler in the early 60s. My grandfather was a welder with a fencing company who at the time was doing contract work constructing the guard rails and fencing along the DC Beltway. I believe he commuted from Northern VA to the worksites in the Rambler and claimed he could nearly hit 30 mpg in the thing. I somehow doubt it was an automatic, but I’ll have to call up my grandfather and see if he remembers.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Another great article, Paul. You really captured the essence of these cars. The 1961 model is a rare bird – I’ve seen plenty of 1958-59 Ramblers at the various Carlisle events and the big Hershey Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) fall meet. The 1962 models turn up occasionally, but the 1961 is a rare bird. There is a mint 1961 Ambassador wagon that shows up at AACA events…it is one strange looking car.

    One minor quibble – AMC did not use the same body from 1954 through 1962 for its “standard” Ramblers and Ambassadors. The 1954 and 1955 Ramblers offered a stretched version of the old “Farina” Ramblers, which debuted in 1953. They were the first Ramblers with four doors. The four-door sedans and wagons featured the 108-inch wheelbase; the two-door versions retained the shorter wheelbase. The skirted front wheels were opened up for 1955, and then this model was phased out for 1956. The shorter wheelbase version was brought back in 1958 as the Rambler American, only with the skirted rear fenders eliminated as well.

    This 1961 model uses a heavily facelifted version of the body that debuted in 1956. That Rambler shared the same 108-inch wheelbase, but the body was all new. It literally saved the company. George Romney – father of Mitt – decided to accelerate the introduction of this Rambler, which meant that there was no money for new Hudsons and Nashes. He figured that the big Hudsons and Nashes were completely unable to match the offerings of the Big Three, and that the only hope for AMC was to offer something that the big boys didn’t. He was correct, of course, and AMC had its brief moment of glory in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      The 58 Ambassador was supposed to cover the market deserted by Hudson and Nash and was even “mocked up” with Nash and Hudson names.

      I am tripping that your Dad worked at Letterkenny too.Wonder if they knew each other.

      When we first went to PA we stayed for 3 months in a cottage @ Lincoln Manor,there on the Lincoln Highway before moving to PA “permanently”and winding up in Edenville.

      BTW: the guy from Hal Lowry Ford who sold my grandmother the Maverick Grabber sold the Rambler wagon to my parents.

      Anyone remember the “Love Letters To Rambler” ads in the back of National Geographics of the period ?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      My father’s name is Donald Beckenbaugh. He worked there from early 1955 until his retirement in 1991 (except for a four-year stint in the army from 1956-60).

      Interestingly, the Hudson version of the Ambassador was supposed to be called the Hudson Rebel, at least according to the mock-ups I’ve seen.

      More coincidences…my grandmother bought a used 1973 Maverick sedan from Hal Lowry Ford in 1977. It was baby blue – and didn’t get very good gas mileage, despite having the six. But it had the best radio I had ever heard in a car up until that point, and the interior was a cut above a comparable Dart, Valiant and Nova. (It didn’t have the LDO option.)

      She preferred her Dodge Darts – first her 1966 270 sedan that was traded on the Maverick, followed by a 1973 Dodge Dart Custom sedan that replaced the Maverick when it was wrecked.

      Hal Lowry Ford is long gone – a restaurant now occupies the site. A new Ford dealer is located just off the Lincoln Way exit of I-81.

      I remember those old “Love Letters to Rambler” ads, too! I also remember seeing the ad where the company president declared that, “The only race we are interested in is the human race!”.

      The ads decried increasing emphasis on performance and racing. That obviously didn’t work, because AMC went racing by the late 1960s, and then brought out the Javelin, AMX, S/C Rambler, Rebel Machine and Hornet SC 360. AMC also offered a V-8 in the Gremlin from 1972-76.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    A neighbor had the ’58 sedan version of this, 6 automatic in two-tone pink. He was the kind of guy who turned on his turn signal at the end of his driveway to pull out onto the road. His sons, my contemporaries, both hated the car.

    Does the driver’s side rear door on that wagon really fit that badly, or wasn’t it shut tight?

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I have always liked AMCs. But the build was awful. They used duct tape to secure the cruise control up under the dash on the wagoneers. The bodys leaked water from day one too.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    GM gets credit for downsizing the fullsized car in 77, but actually AMC did that very thing a decade earlier with the rebel and ambassador.
    Those cars were about a foot shorter than the fullsized ford, chevy and plymouth with similar room inside. The rebel was marketed as a midsize, but I think only the front clip was a bit shorter than the ambassador.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Geeber: my Dad’s name was Eddie Gregory. We were there from 68-70. He was in supply and working on their computer system at the time. Did your Dad golf? Mine did. What a small world.

    I mentioned the coincidence to my Mother last night and she was wrecked. That was a wonderful period in all of our lives growing up.

    The Rambler Classic wagon got used as a club house after it was towed back home. We’d sleep out in it because the seats folded down and there was so much room. Eventually it was towed again to a junk yard near St. Thomas. They really should have hooked it up with another engine from a JY. It was really too nice to just let go the way they did. A waste.

    Fincar: Granny’s 60 Ambassador Wagon was that same pink with a maroon top.

    Mr N: You struck a chord on a lot of fronts with this issue of CC. My parents last two AMCs were purchased in Davenport Iowa, where we lived for 10 years.I went to L.A. They went to Az., then to Newport Or. Thanks for this virtual trip all over the map, Paul.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      My father worked in computers for the Army Depot, not DESCOM, so he may have worked with your father. He golfed a little in the mid-1970s, but he was never a serious golfer. Letterkenny Army Depot was seriously scaled back in the early 1990s, as part of the concerted, bipartisan effort to close and consolidate military bases and supply centers.

      Chambersburg has changed considerably since those times. Most of the old stores in downtown Chambersburg have closed, replaced by stores in nearby malls. Lots of sprawl around the town…there are many new subdivisions and shopping centers, particularly out Lincoln Way (Route 30) towards Fayetteville and out Route 11 towards Greencastle.

      The Igloo ice cream drive-in is still there (one of my favorite places – I stop when I visit Chambersburg).

      Do you by chance remember the old Uptown Sales hobby shop in downtown Chambersburg? We used to buy our Matchbox and Corgi cars, Aurora/AFX slot cars and model train supplies, too. It’s also long gone…

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      Not the hobby shop so much but I do remember that little magazine shop that was as wide as a closet where I would always get my comic books when we went into town. And the Lincoln Diner and Molly Pitcher cafes.My favorite places to eat.

      The gov’t also scaled back Rock Island and Tooele [Utah]as well,in the 90s too I think.My Dad worked at those installations too.

      Chambersburg had a nice down town.Nephew was born at the hospital there, or would that have been Shippensberg?

      Time marches on I guess. It’s been quite a trip.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The hospital is in Chambersburg. It’s still there, and bigger than ever. Don’t know if the Lincoln Diner and Molly Pitcher cafe are still there. The area itself has been growing. Retirees from the Baltimore-D.C. area sell their house for big bucks, and then come to the Chambersburg-Shippensburg-Greencastle-Waynesboro area for the lower cost of living and slower pace of life.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My buddy is a Rambler fanatic and has a 59, several 63 Classic 660’s including a wagon and a 66 Rebel coupe with the 232 L6. A few things that stood out about these cars was the divided seats with reclining feature for those trips to the drive in with your girlfriend, loads of interior space relative to exterior size, stone simple engine bay that a 7 year old could figure out how to work on, unibody contruction which was ahead of it’s time on lower end cheap cars like this and the relatively lively pep from the 195-232 AMC 6 cylinder engines. Those 63 Classics also were great on gas offering up to 32 highway MPG with the 4 speed overdrive stick which was also something you didn’t see much back then. For all the lumps these cars get today they did offer a lot of innovations and features for the money back in the day, dared to be different and many of todays cars would be flat out embaressed when comparing interior room relative to exterior size and curbweight so I must give credit where it’s due.

  • avatar
    buickbaby

    My parents bought a 1961 Rambler Classic (?) Station Wagon new and drove it for 8 years. It was driven in the snows of Portsmouth, NH for 5 years and then shipped on water to the Canal Zone and driven there until Sepember of 1969. I can remember some front suspension problems with it in NH, but no other real troubles. My mom was a pilots wife and wouldn’t have been left alone with a car that wasn’t dependable for her. They sold it to our gardener when we left Panama for the States. Did I like the car?  No!  Our neighbors in NH in ’61 bought a brand new Mercury Colony Park that I fell in love with immediately which turned me off of Ramblers forever!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States