The Truth About Cars » rambler The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » rambler BODACIOUS BEATERS—and road-going derelicts: RAMBLE ON! Thu, 04 Apr 2013 19:50:01 +0000 Even though I was just a mere boy growing up during the ‘60’s in SoCal, I have no problem recalling the variety of impressions motor vehicles of all stripes made on me back then. Of course, I was especially into the noisier and flashier examples, be they airplanes, auto, boats, motorcycles, or trucks.

I distinctly recall the “Rambler” nameplate, but not because they were noisy or flashy—nor, did it seem, were their drivers. (There were a few exceptions to this—the most noteworthy being the SC/Rambler, AMX, and first production Javelin.)

n their stodgy quirkiness, they were memorable, nevertheless; and I have come to appreciate such qualities as actual attributes. I mean, they did indeed have a distinctive character—personality, if you will—that, while not exactly one I wanted to emulate, certainly gave me “cause for pause”.

Looking at the featured example—what appears to be a 1965 Classic Cross-Country Station Wagon, in mid-level “660” trim—tends to emphasize my point. Granted, the ’65 model received a redesign that helped update and integrate the styling a bit over the previous generation; but still, I find that the visual impact is less than the sum of its parts. By this, I mean that if you view a separate section of the vehicle, that section might indeed appear artsy (as the photos bear out). But when connected together, well, something gets lost in the translation.

Stodgy? Maybe. Quirky? For DEFINITES. Cool? Well, that’s still a subjective matter—but I say, at this point, YES!

That roof rack! The tailgate wind deflectors (Did those things actually WORK?)! The BADGING! Whoa, baby!

Added to all of that designed and manufactured funkiness, there’s always the “antiquing process” that each individual vehicle has been subject to.

The damage to the leading edge of the driver’s door speaks of inattention that would have, no doubt, resulted in much more extensive damage on any modern production car. On this unit, it resulted in something more akin to a “character line”.

I’m really digging the broken-out left side rear view mirror, though: “…becoss whass behind ees no importaunt!”. 


 Phil has written features and columns for a number of automotive periodicals and web-based information companies. He has run a successful Auto Repair Business in the past for many years (See “Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner” on this ttac site). He can be contacted through this very site, or

]]> 25
Junkyard Find: 1965 Rambler Classic 770 Convertible Tue, 04 Oct 2011 13:00:54 +0000 Many of the older cars you find in the junkyard clearly spent a decade or three moldering in a side yard or driveway before taking that final ride behind the tow truck. The project that never gets started, or the once-reliable car that needs a new transmission, or sometimes just Grandpa’s forgotten daily driver. We don’t know that this Rambler ran when parked, but we can tell when it was parked: 1986.
That’s because the trunk is still full of Denver newspapers and phone books from 25 years ago.
This convertible is pretty well thrashed, far beyond the point of being a worthwhile restoration. You can get a fairly straight restoration candidate for cheap, so why pour ten grand into a basket case to make it worth five grand?
Still, it is sad to see this car headed to The Crusher. Perhaps some rat-rod Rat Fink type will save this 287-cube V8 for a fenderless ’26 Nash Ajax project (though a Jeep Tornado OHC six in a Graham-Page 612 would be even cooler).
Weather Eye!

DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-14 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-01 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-02 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-03 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-04 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-05 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-06 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-07 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-08 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-09 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-10 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-11 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-12 DOTJ-65RamblerConvert-13 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 18
Curbside Classic: 1968 Rambler American Tue, 12 Oct 2010 15:16:28 +0000

Our recent deep immersion in eccentric little French cars might have been a bit much for some of you, so I decided to give you something as all-American as possible: a loaf of Wonder Bread instead of a baguette.

This American certainly isn’t challenging; visually, technically or otherwise. A big, cast-iron six resides under the hood, with more than six times the displacement of the Citroen Ami 8′s little twin. Instead of an umbrella handle, a column mounted shifter operates the fully automatic transmission. And its output is sent back to a solid rear axle suspended by cart springs. The Rambler American and the Ami 8 are both from the same era, but approach their task about as differently as possible, in almost every conceivable way. And today, two of the best selling small cars in both countries, the Nissan Versa and Renault Clio/Modus are essentially siblings. That’s why I find haunting the streets more interesting than an auto show.

Yes, the challenge of finding solutions to the needs basic transportation based on local conditions once resulted in very different approaches and solutions, and the Ami 8 and American are graphic examples of that. The fact that today’s compact cars are much more influenced by the little Citroen is indisputable. In fact, by 1968, the American and Detroit’s other compacts were already in terminal decline, after their brief heyday. And the American was the pioneer in the field, arriving in 1958.

That first American was a hastily refreshed version of the original 1950 Nash Rambler, a rather gutsy move AMC President George Romney, considering that it was an almost ten year-old design. Unlike the original, the ’58 American was a stripped-down, budget-priced import fighter. Its reasonable success speaks volumes to the fact that many buyers in the import/compact market were much less concerned about the latest styling fad than other qualities. The success of the VW Beetle made that obvious, but it was a lesson that Detroit forgot, or never quite got, at its peril.

The American found acceptance, despite its late-forties styling, but in 1961 it received a re-skin, not a very successful one in my opinion. Still sitting on the same 100″ Nash Rambler platform, the boxy American looked oddly proportioned. It’s about as close as an American car ever got to the Ami 8, stylistically anyway.

AMC’s new styling chief Dick Teague did a fine job of the completely new 1964 Rambler line, and the American was perhaps the most balanced of the family. (See here for ’64 Classic CC and the Kaiser Torino offshoot). In 1964, this was a handsome and contemporary car, certainly ahead of its competition stylistically. The clean new look swelled American sales to an all-time high of over 160k units.

By 1968, American sales had drooped to less then half that amount. What happened? The American got caught between two trends, each going in different directions. The Big Three compacts, especially the Chevy Nova and Ford Falcon swelled in size and sported stylish and curvaceous new bodies, becoming almost intermediate in size. Meanwhile, buyers looking for something small and different increasingly abandoned the American brands in favor of the VW and other imports, including the now rapidly ascending Toyota Corona and Datsun 510. The compact market was having its own cultural revolution, and the American was left behind. What was innovative in 1958 now looked dull, boring and old hat in 1968.

It was a crisis for AMC, which had pinned so much of its success on catering to the small end of the market. The solution was ambitious and ultimately ill-fated: to go head-to-head against the Big Three, and start emphasizing the very qualities AMC had left behind: style, performance, and youthful appeal. We all know how well that turned out. But it did result in some memorable cars, like the AMX, Javelin, and perhaps the most outrageous, the SC/Rambler.

Talk about extremes. From the dowdy little grandma’s car, AMC created one of the most over-the-top performance car of the late sixties. Developed in conjunction with Hurst, only some 1,512 SC/Ramblers were built, but its purpose was more to shake up the American’s staid image than to sell large numbers. It certainly did that.

Our featured American is quite the other end of the spectrum, a plain-Jane stripper. It does have the larger 232 CID six, instead of the standard 199 incher version, and an automatic. Maybe even power steering, but I wouldn’t bet on it. But that six was an excellent unit, which arrived in 1965 to replace the ancient old long-stroke six whose origins probably dated back to the twenties. The new AMC six went on to have a long life, ending only in 2006, in the Jeep Wrangler.

Ironically, although young folks shied away from the American when it was new, this is the daily driver of a hip young Eugenean, the kind that are now drawn to cars like this and old Falcons in particular.

The American of this vintage suffered from the image of being a grandma’s car, SC/Rambler or not. Those wanting style headed elsewhere, and the rest fell into the import camp. The fairly handsome Hornet that replaced the American in 1970 never gained much traction either. But then it largely used the the American’s suspension and underpinnings, and that was not a good thing. For whatever reason, the redesigned Rambler family from 1964 had a rep of being very mediocre handling cars, and that at a time when most US cars weren’t exactly brimming with that particular quality.

Slow and unresponsive steering, and general incompetence at anything other than a gentle ride to the grocery store hampered the rep of the Ramblers. They just didn’t have any real chassis competence, perhaps due to a lack of resources. That alone made them toxic, especially compared to the fairly limber Chrysler A-Bodies, which pretty much dominated the segment after the Nova and Falcon’s obesity crisis.

One could say that AMC went down because it never really broke out of the basic configuration of its 1950 Rambler. What might have been innovative in 1950 became a rut, and the company wasted its final resources on disasters like the Pacer and Matador Coupe, all still in the conventional mold, while the world was quickly changing. Ironically, it would be Renault that finally brought some fresh blood to AMC, but that’s a story for another day, if I can ever find an Alliance. Wish me luck.

More Curbside Classics are here

]]> 44
Curbside Classic: 1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country Mon, 01 Mar 2010 21:36:30 +0000

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

]]> 66