The fact that this 1966 Rambler Rebel, listed for sale on Hemmings.com, is still around shouldn’t come as a surprise: Well-equipped or sporty versions of any car tend to have higher survival rates than the bare-bones models. Go to any AMC show, though, and you’re far more likely to see restored Rebels than you are ones left essentially untouched, like this example. That legendary straight-six is just getting broken in, with the odometer reporting 65,000 miles. The body shows some wear on the trunklid but no rust, and that interior might have suffered some sun fading but remains intact and clean. The only modification we can see is the addition of the modern radio and speakers. This nice Rambler shows how these cars were originally put together. From the seller’s description:
This Teal Rambler Rebel has a black vinyl hard top and Rambler hubcaps with teal accented wheels making this a cool Survivor Classic. This Rambler started its life at the Kenosha Wisconsin assembly plant as verified by the VIN. The original inline 6 with 3 speed automatic glides through the gears and is an original numbers matching survivor.
Does a $4,500 project get the gears turning in your head? This one is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, now, wearing Tennessee license plates, but the McDowell Motors dealership badge on this 1963 Rambler American 330 indicates it was sold new in Toronto, Ontario, Canada—and probably built at the American Motors factory in Brampton, Ontario. The years and the international travel have spoiled the Frost White paint, but according to the seller’s description, the 196.5-cu.in. OHV six-cylinder and Borg-Warner three-speed automatic are rebuilt and functional, and the Rambler comes with a new old stock blue interior.
It just so happens that I had a Rambler American 330 at one time, and I loved it. Mine was a ’64, however, which was bigger, riding a 106-inch wheelbase and using panels derived from the 1963 Rambler Classic and Ambassador. The ’63s were the last of the 100-inch models, which originated with the 1950 Nash Rambler. I’ve always liked them, particularly in the 1961-’63 “breadbox” years, which were when squared-up sheetmetal was used to obscure the early ’50s roots of the chassis
Now, the odds are that this example will become some kind of semi-beater. It’s a four-door economy car, after all, and for the most part people neither restore them nor hot rod them. It will certainly make a fun driver, as it sits. The Rambler OHV six from these years was derived from the old Nash flathead (which was itself still available—my ’64 had one) and it came in 125-hp one-barrel or 138-hp two-barrel form. The downside is a steadily dwindling parts supply for those engines.
Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. Lee Iaccoca made sure everyone associated him with the success of the Mustang, but who is to blame for the Edsel? Digging into those stories illuminates business culture even today.One interesting anecdote, largely unexplored, is the question of where the American Motors Corporation V-8 that debuted in 1956 came from. AMC only came into existence when Nash and Hudson merged in 1954.
Neither marque previously had a V-8, though Nash had long used overhead valves. Hudson was well known for its powerful flathead straight-sixes. To compete in the mid-’50s, though, a company absolutely had to have a V-8.At first, it appeared that the solution was to purchase Packard’s new V-8 engine, which had debuted for 1955. A detuned version was available in both the Nash Ambassador and the Hudson Hornet for 1955 and part of 1956.
Unfortunately, the arrangement between the companies broke down, leaving AMC to fend for itself.In a remarkably brief time, AMC replaced the Packard engine with its own design, a 250-cu.in. V-8 that grew to 327-cu.in. by 1957, when it made a big splash under the hood of the compact-sized Rambler Rebel.
The Rebel wound up being the fastest American sedan that year—beating out the likes of the supercharged F-code Ford, the fuel-injected Chevrolet, and even the vaunted Chrysler 300C.
I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I like my action movies loud, my adult beverages cold, and my Ramblers to be a curious mid-century-styled blend of panache and performance with a specific mix of functionality and technology with select modern upgrades. I mean, you can’t really ask for much less than that, right?To keep from going stir crazy these last several months—and particularly since I messed up my shoulder—I’ve started going through all the boxes full of old stuff in the attic and basement. I came across my old models, which was great fun for a femtosecond, as well as a notebook full of ideas for classic cars as I felt they should have been built or as I would have built them had I a sugar momma and a garage that didn’t constantly get filled up with other projects.
Some of those ideas actually still hold up all these years later, which either meant that I had too much time to daydream the perfect setup when I was younger or that my daydreams really haven’t changed all that much.Take, for instance, my concept for a Rambler station wagon. I’ve always wanted a 1958-1960 full-/midsize Rambler wagon. Something about that stepped roof and reverse-slanted C-pillar appealed to me even before Nissan ripped it off for the WA60/JA60 Armada/QX56.
Sure, maybe it reduced total interior space by a cubic foot or so, and maybe it was just a way for American Motors to reduce tooling costs by sharing panels and interior structure between the sedans and wagons, but I still like it. That quad-headlamp front end always reminded me of the contemporary Chevrolets and Checkers, and while I don’t necessarily have anything against the flamboyant fins or wraparound windshield of the 1958 and 1959 models (and I wouldn’t kick one of those out of the garage for leaking oil), my preference lies with the toned-down winglets and conventional windshield of the 1960 models