CC Capsule: 1967 Rambler Rogue Convertible–A Rascally Scoundrel?

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(first posted 6/9/2015)    I recently read Patrick Foster’s American Motors Corporation: The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker, and Mr. Foster, in so many words, felt that AMC may have been a lot more successful if George Romney didn’t have an interest in politics.  Foster argued that AMC’s strength was finding niches where the Big Three underplayed their hand, whereas his successor, Roy Abernethy, tried to reinvent AMC as a little General Motors.  If Romney had stuck around, would this ’67 Rogue and its ilk have been AMC’s bread and butter model?

1967 Rambler American-03

It’s hard to say, but by 1967, AMC’s competitive advantage over the rest of its compact competition had been erased.  The American was very similar to any number of comparative compacts, like the Falcon, Chevy II, Valiant, and Dart.  The Rogue itself seemed to be a kind of belated answer to the Corvair Monza and Falcon Sprint, the answer to the question nobody was asking at the time, the compact Marlin, so to speak.  It was the same kind of off-the-mark response that AMC had mastered by 1967.

Overall, the mid-1960s were not kind to AMC from a business perspective, marking one of the many times in history that brought the corporation to the brink, but that doesn’t make the Rogue a less attractive vehicle by modern standards.  As noted above, however, times had (unfortunately for AMC) changed, and the elephant in the room loomed large.

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Of course, the Mustang was the one compact that AMC fumbled against right up until 1968.  By the time AMC introduced its own “ponycar,” the Javelin, it, like the Dodge Challenger of 1970, was almost certainly too late an entry to really be considered any real competition for the Mustang (and the more recent Camaro).  Additionally, by 1968, it was struggling for a smaller slice of the ponycar pie.

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But I digress.  Accentuating the fact that the Rogue wasn’t the Mustang competitor that AMC really needed at the time, this very nice and original looking Rogue convertible is one of only 921 built in 1967, according to the Standard Catalog of Independents.  While the 343 four-barrel was a late year option, this white example likely carries a 290.

The American wasn’t available with any V8 at all until mid-1966, although every other American compact could be ordered with V8s up to 327 cubic inches (in the case of the Chevy II).  In fact, one could have selected a 260 V8 in a Falcon Sprint way back in 1963.  Unfortunately, AMC’s 287/327 engine lineup just wouldn’t easily fit under the hood of the little American, creating another lost opportunity.

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American Motors did get it right inside, with a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, wide bench/bucket seats, and a polished dashboard with full instrumentation.  With its 290 keeping effortlessly up with modern traffic, this may be the ultimate AMC road trip vehicle.  By 1968, AMC largely marketed the American as bare-boned transportation, a step up from a Beetle for just a few dollars more.

By 1969, they discontinued the “American” nameplate and marketed the car as simply the “Rambler,” the last of its ilk.  Of course, the 390-propelled SC/Rambler ensure that it went out with a bang, but it was too little, too late.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro-20

So why were only 921 Rogue Convertibles sold in 1967, when it had an attractive body, a V8 engine, and no Javelin competition?  Well, when Chevy introduces a vehicle like the Camaro, which has no AMC image problem, arguably the best American V8 ever made, and a body that looks like, well, a ’67 Camaro, why do you think?