By on February 20, 2015

06 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI went back to Martin’s Salvage, located midway between Denver and Cheyenne, earlier this week. The last time I’d been there was in 2011, and the place is still full of so many staggeringly great 1930-1970 vehicles that I get overwhelmed and can’t shoot individual cars for this series. This trip, though, I held still long enough to shoot this crazy-rare example from the final years of the Rambler marque.
05 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis Classic has the optional V8, but I’m not enough of an AMC expert to tell a 287 from a 327 at a glance.
01 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI like the little orange ball used as the AM radio’s tuning indicator.
08 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior has not benefited from years in the High Plains sun.
13 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Weather Eye name goes all the way back to prewar Nashes.
09 - 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinKeeping true to the penny-pinching nature of AMC buyers, this car’s last owner wasn’t the type to squander money on top-shelf hooch.


What better car is there for showing the benefits of “localized” fuel?

The 1966 Classic 770 hardtop coupe (yes, I know, this is an ad for the ’65) with 287-cubic-inch V8 engine and automatic transmission listed for $2,656. If you went across the street to your Chevy dealer, you could get a Malibu coupe with 283 V8 and Powerglide automatic for $2,668; the Ford salesman would put you in a Fairlane 500 coupe with 289 and Cruise-O-Matic automatic for an identical $2,668. With that kind of competition at roughly the same price, American Motors didn’t sell many Classic 770s.

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57 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Coupe...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Very cool car.
    Do they use widowmakers to prop all the hoods or I wonder if that was just a random piece that made it in there. Maybe vintage?

    What was this cars disadvantage to the chevy or the Ford?

    Pink belair beside it, or…
    Man I want to go here.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The disadvantage, AFAICT, was that it was the same price as a comparable Ford or Chevy, but still gave you the AMC-based reputation as a skinflint.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        One awesome thing about AMC is that at one point instead of polished chromed pot metal they used aluminum for window trim which meant that it didn’t pit and rust and dull as fast as the rest of Detroit.

        But yes, AMC never had the development budget of the Big 3 and always looked a bit “also ran” especially as the final decade of life for the company ticked by. The irony of this is that Kenosha Assembly had such a reputation for high quality assembly (regardless of the actual quality of the parts) that when AMC was bought by Chrysler, Iaccoca picked Kenosha to assemble Chrysler Fifth Avenues.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Ramblers were actually known as “sensible” cars that lasted longer and were cheaper to run. I actually owned a ’63 Rambler 770 and 990 (ambassador), and they were more economical to run than the GM and Ford competition.

        Both Chevy and Ford got 13 mpg overall, while my ’66 990 with a detuned 327 and Borg Warner 3-speed auto with overdrive got 16 mpg, 20 on the freeway, while full sized cars like my ’65 Impala (283, Powerglide) were getting 12 on the freeway and 9-10 average.

        The problem in 1966 sales was the boxy styling that replaced the more sculpted look of the earlier generation. The Malibu was much more stylish, and even Ford made their boxy Fairlane look more rakish.

        The Rambler 770 sedan was, I believe, the last year for the square front seats that reclined into a bed. By the mid-’60s, there were a lot more available places to “do it” than a car.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In some ways these Ramblers had better build quality than the Big Three competition. Rambler was also putting some high-quality interiors in its Classics and Ambassadors during these years.

      Unfortunately, the company kept too many rustic touches like torque-tube drive and vacuum-powered windshield wipers on its cars.

      That was AMC’s schizophrenic nature on display – you could order disc brakes on a 1965 Rambler Classic when the Big Three intermediates didn’t even offer this option, but you had to specify that you wanted electric instead of vacuum-powered windshield wipers.

      Plus, as Drzhivago138 notes, Ramblers had a reputation as the favorite car of spinster librarians and skinflints. Compare this car to a Pontiac LeMans or Chevrolet Malibu, and AMC’s image alone made it a tough sale.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      What is the thing propping the hood used for?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Serious? That’s a jack

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I was. It doesn’t look like any jack I’ve seen, ever. Is that how they used to look back in the day?

          • 0 avatar
            greaseyknight

            Back in the day cars came with bumper jacks that are smaller flimsier versions of what is pictured. As Hummer said, thats a widowmaker, Hi-lift, handyman jack, or insert your favorite cuss words here, they are about the most dangerous form of jack around.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Similar to this .

            That one is a Ranch Jack , you’ll often see them tied across the front of Ranch trucks as they’re *very* useful for getting unstuck , pulling fences tight before you bolt ’em up and so on .

            Back when American Cars were made of real steel , the bumpers were used to jack them up the changing flat tires , they were stamped steel ratcheting things , some hooked directly into slots punched into the 1/4″ thick steel bumper , others had a sort of ” C ” shaped attachment that clipped onto the jack and then hooked under the bumper .

            They often failed suddenly , dropping the entire vehicle onto the ground and so were known as ” Widow Makers ” .

            I still see them being used in the Hood or Barrio as some fool changes the brake shoes….

            BTW : my step Grand Mother in Rochester , New York, bought a 1966 Rambler 770 two door , 6 Banger and three speed , I drove it once after she died ~ no power anything .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks, that answers my question. Just seems like a terrible idea. And often since you get a flat and pull over on a soft shoulder or other dirt (and not flat) area – seems like that would NOT work so well with a thin piece of metal which much remain upright to hold the whole car.

            Slippy slippy.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            It’s been decades since my last car that had one, but the ones we did have had a steel base plate that was about 6″x9″ to prevent the jack from sinking into the ground. The cars my family had with these jacks were both Chrysler products, so generally better engineered than the other Detroit brands. Because of these jacks perhaps, I was taught the correct way to change a tire. Lugs were broken loose before the car was raised, and they were tightened after the car was back on the ground. Chocking the opposite corner tire was non-optional.

          • 0 avatar
            ClayT

            Keep in mind, the jack hooked to the bumper.
            To change the tire you had to lift the body until the eleven miles of suspension travel were overcome, before the tire was off the ground.
            The jack starts out perpendicular to the ground but once the rear is four feet in the air, the jack is leaning toward the front.
            The lug wrench was a single socket on one end and a flattened screwdriver end on the other. The screwdriver was used to pry off the hubcap. Then it was inserted in the jack to ratchet the car up.
            The ratchet worked fine going up.
            To go down, you flipped a lever and the ratchet worked backwards. Push the lug wrench down until it clicked, then the wrench tries to launch you up in the air as the weight of the car pushes it back up.
            Push down >click> let it rise up.
            If you were cool, you flipped the switch then inserted the lug wrench just a tiny bit so you could lever it down to the first click. Pull the wrench out and the ratchet goes into automatic.
            ZZZZZZ… and the car is on the ground.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “Pull the wrench out and the ratchet goes into automatic.
            ZZZZZZ… and the car is on the ground.”

            I gotta admit, that was something that was a lot of fun about those jacks- just as long as nobody or nothing important was underneath the car!

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      AMCs had a reputation for reliability. The engines, while not powerful, ran forever. And the bodies were much less prone to rust. I don’t know if it’s anecdotal or was ever tested, but I’ve read they were less prone to overheating. They also offered more options as standard on the base models. So the main difference between the 440,550,and 770 levels were seat configurations, trim, and in some cases the engine.
      Unfortunately, as has been pointed out, they were mostly seen as Grannymobiles.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Pity, this would have been an easy restoration. And it’s nicely optioned.

    A friend of mine’s dad kept one of these he’d bought new all the way into the early 1980’s. His was cream yellow with a white top. Nice car.

    If you notice its side profile, it’s very similar to that of similar-vintage Mercedes coupes. Not sure who might have copied who, or if it’s pure coincidence.

    PS – Murilee, do you have any close up pics of the odometer area? These had a pretty cool thermometer-type speedometer, plus big Rambler lettering behind “glass” beside it.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The car looks solid, but it’s my understanding that the exterior and interior trim parts are tough to find for AMC cars of this vintage.

      It looks as though someone has already removed various interior and exterior bits from this car for the restoration of another car.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’m going to guess that this was the 287 V8. The 327 was usually reserved for the top of the line Ambassador and the “sporty” Marlin

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      This month’s issue of Hot Rod has a heavily customized AMX from an owner who has owned the car for 30 plus years. Lots of metal fabrication, no expense spared, etc… but then when it came time for an engine he chose an LSX. :-( I wanted to cry. Are you an AMC fan or not? If you’re going to spend silly amounts of money on a toy why not find someone to build up a genuine AMC engine?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        There was no ’66 AMX, 1968 was the first year and it had the 390 V8

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        +1,000,000
        Don’t tell me your a fan of XXX if it’s running an engine from a different make. I understand LSX love, completely, I understand fuel injection love, completely.

        But come on.
        You can put fuel injection on pre-fuel injected engine, there are several old IH V8s running TBI that left the factory with carbs. That Keeps the engine original and uses parts that are easily replaced with another carb.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I feel that old engines benefit quite a lot from a new exhaust system, a TBI retrofit, and an overdrive transmission. LS motors are great, but even Chevy powered classic Olds and Pontiacs are kinda…wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            There are certain instances that I can understand the need for a different engine, but it really hurts to see 50 year old classics with a different engine. Of course Hotrods simply p-me off so whether my opinions worth anything is up to you.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol, the Marlin. What an odd thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      I agree it’s a 287 because our 65 classic 770 had, to my young eyes a huge air cleaner assembly atop it’s 327 that dwarfed the one pictured.

      That was a fast car and my dad used to have us and our friends in the back of the station wagon and would swerve back and forth to send us in the back rolling all over the place and each other…

      Another era!

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Oh boy. This is pretty close to the car of my childhood. My mom had a ’66 Rambler Classic 4-door, in a roughly mouse-coloured grey/brown. 232 six. No air conditioning, and if memory serves, no radio. Mom never listened to the radio – ever – so it’s possible that it had a radio but it was never used.

    I know the car was bought used, in roughly 1969. I know it replaced a Rambler Rebel, but I have no memory of that car (I would have been about three years old at the time).

    We kept it until 1977, at which point the radiator leaked (it would hilariously pee coolant out the front after you turned off the engine if it was fully warmed up!), the vacuum-operated windshield wipers didn’t work (dad tied a rope to them and pulled them by hand from inside the car!), the tailpipe had broken from rust so dad cut out the rusted-out piece over the axle and re-attached the tailpipe so that it came out in front of the rear wheel, and when you had the trunk lid open, you could see the back wheels through rust holes in the wheel-wells. But the engine still ran well. Dad drove it to the junkyard, where they stuck a fork in it and carried it off to a giant pile of cars.

    The replacement was a Hornet … and that was the last American car that by dad ever bought.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I am sure Granny loved it…..

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The Rambler or the Vodka?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Well given that “Granny” would have likely kept alcohol around for “medicinal purposes” she would have bought higher quality stuff. Cheap vodka or whiskey is for the crazy uncle you only have to see a few times a year. ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The crazy uncle always knew it was the cheap stuff, but if you poured the whiskey into a Chivas Regal bottle, he’d appreciate the effort by raving over the taste. At least my crazy uncle did. He’d bring a little flask and ask for some to take home, while pouring it into the flask. Sometimes he didn’t bother to ask.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    In ’66 we flew from the Bay Area back to San Antonio for 2 reasons:
    1) visit family
    2) get a car and drive it home.

    AMC lost the sale when Dad took us for a ride in a new ’66 American. After a summer cloudburst, we noticed the right side passenger window / door interface was letting water into the car.

    He chose a ’62 Olds Dynamic 88 with the 394 V-8 instead, first car we ever had with A/C and it came in handy for the trip home across 66.

    That said, to Principal Dan’s point, the AMC’s dash was nicer than the new Chevelles that were just coming out. GM had discovered the cheap joys of chrome plated plastic for their dash surrounds and they ended up looking trashy after just a few years. In contrast, this one carries the look of higher quality, die castings and all, and it’s a pleasing evolution from the ’63 models.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Those 62 full-size Olds were cool, with the front-end-within-a-front-end. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        55_wrench

        They did have a nice front end.. The back end, not so much..it’s like they gave up and said, oh well, slap some football-shaped lenses on the back end and we’ll call it a day..

        I preferred the ’61 models, more of a spaceship theme.

        Brakes were atrocious. 4-wheel drums and the forces were not well balanced between front and back. Not a good combination with such a torquey engine. It could really pull, 20-80 in second gear was a hoot.

        The best ’62s were the Starfire convertibles. The stainless cladding on the side really made them stand out.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The “wrap”? Yes and those miles of stainless steel sheeting on the sides

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Bucket seats, console, floor shifter, seat belts, back window cranks… salesman must have had to wipe the dust off the options booklet to write this one up.

  • avatar
    rdsymmes

    We had a ’64 Classic 440 with 2 tone aqua/metallic green paint. Stripper. Rambler must have gotten a heck of a deal on that aqua, because it showed up everywhere from the late 50’s until the late 60’s. The Classic was an ageless attractive car. Our Gremlin, not so much.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Hummer Wrote : ” There are certain instances that I can understand the need for a different engine, but it really hurts to see 50 year old classics with a different engine.”

    This is a very subjective thing indeed .

    Most simply plop in a V-ate and call it a day , they don’t need it but it’s easier I guess .

    I only have oldies and mostly with original engines that may not win races but I pt more miles on than anyone else I know .

    My comment when folks ask me why I didn’t Hot Rod it like they did theirs : ” O.K. , sounds good to me ~ let’s go have lunch at a little place I know 75 miles over the mountains from here , MY TREAT ” so far , NOT ONE Hot Rodder has ever taken up this generous offer although the guys often enjoy riding far afield in _my_ rigs…

    Drive what you like seems right to me .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I don’t see how people justify HotRods, everyone built is subjective to what the builder likes.
      You destroy perfectly good examples of classics to build something that is uncomfortable to be in, completely impractical, and has little value to very much anyone.
      And maybe it’s years of magazines and TV shows that have created the following, but I can’t find an ounce of interest in them. I’d much rather look at a untouched NOS 80s Detroit pos.

      The only swap(s) off the top of my head I’ve ever been fascinated by, is a Kubota diesel in an S10, and a cummins Diesel in a Scout 800.

      I mean it’s not my money being spent or my cars being destroyed, but it still makes me hurt.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I found a 1948 Cadillac with a later Caddy 472 swapped in for sale in the classifieds. Now that was interesting.

        And the 500 Cadillac powered ’63 IH pickup someone linked on a…Scout Junkyard find? I forget.

      • 0 avatar
        roger628

        Very often hot rods started out as basket cases that were too far gone to restore properly. In that context I have no problem with them.

      • 0 avatar
        JP-65770

        I have a ’65 Rambler Classic 770 Station Wagon and I run a early-90s 5.0 Ford V-8 and 5-speed manual transmission. I bought the car with no drivetrain and already had the drivetrain I ended up using. I used because it makes my life easier being able to find parts and upgrades for the car.

        It also has coil-over front suspension with adjustable billet caster-camber plates, power disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering with a converted GM steering column. The rear end has also been converted to a Ford Posi 8.8″ 3.73 out of an Explorer. Other than wheels, the exterior look of the wagon is unchanged. The interior (other than the column, which is chrome and looks nice) is unchanged.

        People give you hard time about not having the same make-model engine as the car. I get that. But most people don’t understand what it takes to put in hours of work and go through the ups-and-downs of restoring a classic. There are also different circumstances around each build. If I was to build this wagon for “matching numbers” I would be doing it to please others. I love the steering, brakes and suspension upgrades for drive-ability and safety.

        When people want to give me a hard time I just tell them that it’s easy to talk about it but actually doing it is another story. If someone takes the time to bring an old car back to life, as long as it doesn’t completely make the car look terrible, I’m all for it. Do I love my AMC? Yes. Am I an AMC purist (or any other) ? Obviously not. Thanks to all who enjoy these cars. JP from San Diego, CA.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    New Zealand had a lot of Ramblers, but probably only One hard top like this… The importers were a firm called motor holdings who also imported Bradford trucks (look them up if you want to see something really strange) .
    When Arab fuel crises hit in the early 70’s I was an Apprentice and one of my fellow Apprentices being as short of money as me decided his six banger rambler was going to be impossible to drive so we fitted a diesel. Not just any diesel but a peugeot indenor diesel from his dads boat… all 40 hp of it. But as the government of the day mandated a speed limit of 50 MPH that was OK as we could just make that after a run up .But it was cheap to run (we worked at a diesel service place) .The master cylinder failed so we fitted one from a drum brake holden. It is the only car I have ever driven that required you to slow down before applying the brakes..
    And Motor Holdings were also known for not having Rambler spare parts so many simply faded away ,not because they were bad cars,on the contrary,they were great cars but things like ball joints etc were simply not available to us.

    AND… There was also a Nash/Rambler engined Indy car built in the 1960’s. A turbo six no less. Didn’t ever see any blueflame sixes running there.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    That looks like the exact same rad as in my ’90 Jeep Wagoneer

  • avatar
    USguyinMTL

    In 1973, I bought my first car. It was a 1965 Rambler Classic 660 with the 232ci 6 and the FLASH-O-MATIC transmission. I paid $90 for it and after driving it for 3 years sold it for $50. The vacuum wipers were truly dangerous as the speed required to make them work did not always fit with traffic or road conditions.

    Despite everything that was really awful about that car, I still have a warm spot in my heart for it.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    My wife and her brother shared a 66 Rambler sedan as teenagers. It was the same color as this one. I remember it had a really well-trimmed interior as compared to GM and Ford intermediates.

    My wife and I were dating and I got into a street race with my future brother in law. He in the Rambler with 232 6 auto and me in my 66 Comet 289 V8 3 speed. He won and I was embarrassed.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I see this came equipped with the floor shifter and console. AMC also offered in these and the Marlin something called a Twin Stick. It was a 3 speed manual with a second shifter for the overdrive replacing the under dash pull lever.

    http://www.marlinautoclub.com/marlin-guy/twin.html

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    I’ve seen the Weather Eye name in Ramblers and in Gremlins and Hornets, but I thought it was just a catchy name they put on their heater and defroster controls. After reading the linked wikipedia entry, it makes sense that AMC would deploy their crack engineers over at Kelvinator.

    My favorite Ramblers remain the 1967-69s, which with their stark workingman’s design have certain hipster je ne sais quoi (sorry if I got this wrong, Quebecois commenters).

  • avatar
    Joss

    1966 dad was operating a Citroen DS in Belgium. This beast looks positively prehistoric.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Compared to our 66 Citroen DS in Brussells at the time. This Rambler looks prehistoric.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My friend currently has the Rebel version of this car but oddly lacks the floor shifter and V8 of this example despite being a sportier model. It is a neat but miserable driving car, especially the fade after one stop non power disk brakes and the leaning onto it’s sidewalls handling.

    The later 60’s Comets and
    Nova’s seem to drive much better in comparison. The replaced 232 six, that came out of a 1969 model, runs with it’s characteristic lumpy rattly idle and water puddles sometimes stall it out in traffic despite a new cap and rotor and wires etc. This car truly defines the term “labor of love”. The points require periodic adjustment and yearly replacement. The carburetor has been rebuilt umpteen times probably due to today’s gas and finally last year an ethonal resistant kit became available. Both front springs have been replaced several times in the past 8 years and we fear the passenger side just broke again because she is leaning quite a bit on that side and clunks mercilessly on turns. The interior was decent when he got it 10 years ago but it pretty shot now due to use with ripped seat material, shot door seals and windows that rattle relentlessly. The radiator is also leaking again after several re-cores and weld repairs so that will probably need replacing. The exhaust loosens up on a monthly basis.

    When it rains out I cringe. Those rebuilt vacuum wipers barely keep up with the rain, especially in a downpour. We are always messing around with the brakes or have the hood popped for some reason or other.

    The 232 and Flashomatic are very unremarkable with 15 second 0-60 times and 17-18 overall MPG, even on highway trips. This setup is best when you ease it up to speed instead of expect a burst of power that isn’t there. Worse the engine is racing when your doing 65 making for a noisy tiresome ride. The transmission is slowly losing 2nd gear and it takes a long time for it to shift to high gear. I know what we’ll be doing this Summer.

    The best feature of this car- the seat recliners. But even those have a catch. The adjustments are few and far between meaning you are either sitting bolt upright or too reclined or flat into the back seat which does make spending the night at Hershey car show a lot cheaper than getting a hotel.

    This car reminds me why I don’t care for AMC products and drive something from the 60’s as a classic today. There is just not enough time in the day to keep up with it.

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