(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
While a neat ’60s novelty today, it is still amazing that 921 of these found homes in light of the competition. It looks like a dulled down version of the ’64 Ford Falcon Sprint.
An attractive little car. But as you note, the sporty compact hardtop was dying by 1967. The ones who could afford to (Ford and Chevy) were mopping up cash with their ponycar variants, and the have-nots (like Dodge) were selling a superior product.
I would also argue that the final generation Rambler American was, while competent, a car that really didn’t do any one thing all that well. Their running gear was average, their handling below average, and they never developed the kind of durable/bulletproof reputation that the Mopar A bodies had. It was a modern Nash – a pretty good car for people who liked Nashes.
One other thing reached a tipping point in 1967 – AMC no longer had Studebaker around to make it look modern and successful in comparison. The only yardstick now was GM, Ford and Chrysler, and by that yardstick, AMC did not measure up.
An excellent and “Real World Correct” summation, jpcavanaugh.
Very well put. And I’m not sure George would have done much better if he stayed around. There weren’t any niches left, at least ones AMC would likely occupy – until they bought Kaiser-Jeep.
If this car were built by Chevrolet they would have sold a ton of them. Just like in life, a lot depends on who you are born to.
There were NO Chevy II convertibles made in 1967 according to my copy of American Cars 1960-1972. If your tastes ran towards an economical and affordable smaller car and you wanted a convertible, your only choice was a Corvair.
@pbr tall: Totally agree with that. Their cars were better IMO than their reputation.
Yes and no Lee ;
I remember 1960’s Ramblers when new and they drove like plodders , the handling was always sub par at best .
Solid and reliable yes , terrific heaters and ventilation but blah to actually drive daily .
How did the Rambler compare to the Ford Falcon?
The Falcon when new , looked far cheaper and was noisier inside but it handled better , had more zip off the line .
I didn’t like Falcon’s much when new as I had to suffer the crappiest ones , 170 CID engine and no radio , most AMC buyers ponied up for a radio at the very least .
.Time has shown that both were good cars at their time .
As was the 290-401 V8’s. Well built engine with great free breathing cylinder heads. Did not take much to wake them up, and AMC had plenty of performance parts available over the counter, thanks to their involvement in Trans Am racing
As always another great CC post. Over the years I’ve owned 10 Americans and Rogues and they are what they were advertised in the day, sturdy, reliable compact cars. And in retrospect, compared to their non-pony car rivals, drive very well. The American/Rogue formed the basis for the Javelin just as the Falcon did for the Mustang and the Chevy II did for the Camaro.
If you would like to see a complete set of photos of a really nice 1967 Rogue 4-speed, check out
It’s owned by Mark Fletcher who knows more about these cars than anyone as he currently owns four Rogues, two convertibles, this hardtop and the ultimate Rogue, a 1969 SC/Rambler. He is, along with me, the co-author of Hurst Equipped so he knows a thing or two about AMC’s Hurst connection.
In 1967, NO direct competitors of the Rogue offered a convertible. Over at Chevy the Chevy Ii convertible was gone after only 2 years, at Ford, the Falcon convertible appeared just as it’s Chevy counterpart departed…the Ford lasting for 3 years. And at Chrysler, Dodge AND Plymouth had compact convertibles for 4 model years. Ironically, Chevy’s Corvair convertible outlasted all but the Rambler convertible….and handily outsold it. Did convertible buyer’s prefer sporty to sensible styling? The numbers would seem to suggest as much.
That AMC produced the Gremlin and Pacer when Ford produced the Maverick and Pinto suggests AMC might have been good at finding niches in the market, but few car companies have lasted with only niche cars in their lineups.
I would say the Rogue’s sensible/dated styling is why only 971 were sold to Corvair’s 2100+ convertibles.
Dodge offered a Dart convertible through the 1969 model year.
Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth discontinued their compact convertibles by 1967 because they offered convertible versions of their pony cars. Dodge kept the Dart convertible because it didn’t get a pony car until the 1970 model year, when the Challenger debuted. The Dart convertible was discontinued for 1970.
There is one of these for sale not far from me. If it has seats as cool as those on the featured car, I might have to do something regrettable involving my wallet.
I can’t make sense of the color scheme in the second photo. It seems to me that the darker color of the hood should continue below the side windows/above the fender blades, and take in the trunk. But instead it seems to go up the A-pillars and meets a vinyl roof. ???
this may be the ultimate AMC road trip vehicle.
Tom McCahill really liked AMC products in the 60s. He often said that his acid test for a car was asking himself if he would want to make a coast to coast drive in it. His answer in his Rogue test was a resounding “yes”, with the condition that not a lot of luggage was carried.
I read the Foster book last year, but my picture of Abernethy was formed earlier, from the letters he wrote as sales manager for Kaiser, and it was not a positive picture. His notion that AMC could take on GM and Ford head to head was as delusional as the nasty memos he had fired off to Kaiser dealers 10 years earlier.
I don’t know if AMC would have done better if Romney had stayed on. The fights between Romney and Jim Nance at Packard were bitter, and I can’t tell which of them was more stubborn, narrow minded or a bigger backstabber. Romney could have stayed in his “sensible car” mindset, kept making 1962 models, and run the company into the ground before the decade was out.
Roy Chapin was willing to take risks. He absolutely struck gold with the Jeep aquisition. Jeep profits saw AMC through a lot of lean years. The Pacer and Matador coupe were risky shots at finding nitches in the brougham epoc, and both gambles went against him. The concept of the Eagle was a hit. This was more than a decade before SUV’s became the preferred family car and before Subaru and Audi went to four wheel drive across the board in passenger cars. AMC just didn’t have the resources to really persue the concept.
My favorite AMC “what if” is if, when they bought Jeep, they kept the ex-Buick V6 that Jeep had, refined it like GM did after they bought the tooling back, hitched it to the transverse version of B-W’s Type 35 automatic that was in production at the time, and used the money that had otherwise gone into the Pacer and Matador coupe, and developed a new senior platform for 75, which would have looked startlingly like the early 80s GM A bodies. In 75 it would have been, in true AMC fashion, hitting the competition where they aren’t a space efficient front drive family sedan.
Meet the 1975 Ambassador. The mature power train and money to do this were in hand or available at the time.
The thing that bothered me about the AMC story was all the “what-ifs.” Very little ever really seemed to go right for them, and there were a bunch of missed opportunities, like you mentioned.
I also picked up on the myopic attitude that Romney and Nance displayed in the ’50s. Was James Nance the worst auto executive of all time? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anything positive about him…didn’t he end up at Lincoln-Mercury or something after Packard failed?
Was James Nance the worst auto executive of all time? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anything positive about him…didn’t he end up at Lincoln-Mercury or something after Packard failed?
Nance has his fans, among Packard fans. He was great at Hotpoint, but totally out of is depth at Packard. He had to rely on his staff, and got a lot of terrible advice, like the obsession with a one story plant, that put them in Conner and the Studebaker aquisition without any due diligence.
Foster is a particular non-fan of Nance and has loudly questioned whether the Mason “grand plan” of all four merging, that Nance talked about, was a Nance delusion. I have seen articles from Business Week type publications, from when Nance was hired in 52, that talk about that merger plan. If Nance was delusional, it was only that he, with zero auto industry experience, would be immediately put in charge of the entire combined company. When Mason presented, or offered to present, accounts vary, his merger plan to the Packard board weeks after the Hudson merger, Nance killed the idea because it had him as only the President of the Packard division.
Nance went on to Ford in the MEL division and was pushed out over the Edsel debacle. He ended up as President of a bank in Cleveland.
As for little going right for AMC, they outlasted some 200 other US automakers. so I would submit that a very large number of things went very right for them to beat the odds as long as they did.
I think that Nance had some good marketing ideas. He immediately recognized the mistake that Packard had made by emphasizing the medium-price models, which essentially abandoned the luxury market to Cadillac.
His challenge was that, once an automobile company “downgrades” a nameplate in prestige, it’s virtually impossible to restore its former glory. Cadillac, ironically enough, is discovering this in 2015, as the failure of the ballyhooed ATS and CTS to gain traction shows. People will not pay BMW and Benz prices for Cadillac passenger cars.
Nance’s problem was that he didn’t understand the other aspects of the business, particularly the manufacturing side. The merger with Studebaker was a fiasco from day one, although it’s my understanding that the Packard Board of Directors was pushing hard for some sort of merger, and Nance didn’t have much choice on the matter.
Several historians have said that Packard was healthy through 1954, but more recent accounts I’ve read have said that the company was dangerously close to running out of cash during 1954. That may have been why the board pushed for some sort of merger.
He immediately recognized the mistake that Packard had made by emphasizing the medium-price models, which essentially abandoned the luxury market to Cadillac.
We can thank George Christopher for Packard’s brand being devalued, as he was the one that moved downmarket. Stories have been flying around for years about what happened to the senior car tooling during the war. One version says FDR gave the tooling to the Russkies. Another says the senior tooling was not propertly protected while in storage and the dies were too rusted to use (all the automotive tooling was moved out into the factory yard and covered with tarps to clear E Grand for war work) My theory is that Christopher sold the senior car tooling for scrap during the war as a way to close the book on the luxury cars he didn’t want to build anyway.
…it’s my understanding that the Packard Board of Directors was pushing hard for some sort of merger, and Nance didn’t have much choice on the matter.
Packard CFO Walter Grant was telling Nance that the company was “rapidly approching bankruptcy”. It was also Walter Grant that was feeding Nance delusional numbers about the tens of millions of dollars he would save by moving final assembly into Conner. Packard’s head of manufacturing, Ray Powers, had come from Ford, should have known better than believe Grant’s numbers and black flagged the Conner move, but he was either too timid or incompetent to forcefully contest Grant’s assertions, or he was too brainwashed about the “efficency” of single story plants.
You can still see how big the E Grand plant was as most of it is still standing and can be seen on Google’s satelite view. Over 3M square feet, and that did not include the body plant. They tried to cram all the production work from E Grand into the roughly 750.000 sqft body plant, on top of the presses, body assembly and paint operations that were already there. Here’s a pic of the Conner plant.
I read somewhere that Nance was not a car guy and that he didn’t even drive. A wunderkind at Hotpoint and really just had a brief auto career at Packard and Ford.
Yeah, I’m not sure that if Romney had stayed on at AMC, things would have ultimately turned out any different. The big profits that car companies needed to keep going for the long-term just weren’t there with small cars.
As proof, one need only look at Studebaker’s Lark (their last successful car) and, particularly, Chrysler. Chrysler’s bread-and-butter car in the civilian market in the sixties and early seventies was the well-engineered and reliable compact A-body, but the profit from those sales (particularly when the 1970 Duster cannibalized and virtually killed E- and B-body sales) was meager compared with what GM and Ford were making with their large cars. And then they frittered even that success away when the A-body was replaced with the dismal, half-baked Aspen/Volaré.
So, during the go-go sixties, Abernethy seized the opportunity to try and get a piece of that big pie. It was logical in that it offered those few, loyal Nash customers somewhere to go when they could afford a better, larger car and, with any luck, would get a few conquest sales from the Big 3. It didn’t pan out but, all things considered, I’m not sure there was really any other way to play it.
A big mistake was Romney’s failure to capitalize on the original Nash Rambler’s image as a small car, but not a cheap car. The first Ramblers were available in the “upscale” body styles of that era – convertible, hardtop coupe and station wagon. They were also well-equipped for that era, and were not sold on the basis of low price.
By the mid-1960s, Rambler had the image of a car for tightwads and old people. That worked during the recession of 1958. It helped that lots of customers were turned off by serious quality problems with their 1957 Fords and 1957-59 Plymouths. As the economy bounced back in the early 1960s, and the Big Three invaded Rambler’s turf with more stylish and up-to-date models, Rambler’s image became a serious handicap.
Ironically, it was Chevrolet and Ford that “rediscovered” the lessons taught by the success of the original Nash Rambler with the 1960 Corvair Monza and first Mustang, respectively. They were small cars, but not cheap cars. Both were also big successes.
^ This is why I come to CC. Excellent commentary.
“…turned off by serious quality problems with their 1957 Fords and 1957-59 Plymouths.”
One reason the ’57 Chevy is so iconic, it had a good reputation as a solid used car for “kids” in the 60’s.
A big mistake was Romney’s failure to capitalize on the original Nash Rambler’s image as a small car, but not a cheap car. The first Ramblers were available in the “upscale” body styles of that era – convertible, hardtop coupe and station wagon. They were also well-equipped for that era, and were not sold on the basis of low price.
Recall, the original upmarket Nash Rambler was George Mason’s baby. It could well be that it was Romney that set the car for geezers and tightwads pattern that had Ramblers using trunion front suspensions, torque tube drive and vacuum wipers long after such archaic designs were abandoned by everyone else.
That’s why I suspect that, had Romney stayed at AMC, the company may not have survived the 60s.
Plus, Romney’s frugal car strategy was perfect during a recession that ran to some degree or other from 1957-62. But starting around 1963, the economy started booming, and small/cheap cars traditionally did not do so well in a good economy. It has been my opinion that Romney was sort of the Robert McNamara of AMC. Both of those guys left their companies at right about the right times. However, what followed wasn’t in all respects better.
Plus, Romney’s frugal car strategy was perfect during a recession that ran to some degree or other from 1957-62. But starting around 1963, the economy started booming, and small/cheap cars traditionally did not do so well in a good economy.
By the early 70s, the US was not as optimistic as it was in the 60s. People were more aware of pollution. We were bailing out of Nam. Nixon was being investigated. There seemed to be shortages everywhere. There was a cover on Newsweek of Uncle Sam peering into an empty cornucopia with the headline “Running out of everything”. As winter approched, I wanted to put some antifreeze in the 66 Plymouth. There was a tag on the radiator specifying the DuPont antifreeze it was filled with. I headed down to the auto parts store with the tag to get some, but the guy at the counter shook his head “can’t get any” he said. A company the size of DuPont can’t deliver a couple quarts of antifreeze? Apparently so.
Then the Yom Kippur war and the oil embargo. Gas prices doubled. People were in a funk.
The Pacer was concieved to meet people’s concern about congested traffic and be easier to park than the boats that had dominated the roads. Could be, but they went too far wierd.
The best selling cars of the mid 70s were the intermediates like the Torino and Cutlass. Ford saw the increasing interest in nice small cars, and produced the LDO Maverick and the Mustang II, fancy trim on existing platforms, and their gestation started long before the oil embargo. When the Granada came out, they were everywhere. That’s what facinates me about the possibility of AMC building a 75 Ambassador that wold be a predictor of the 82 Buick Century: addressing the concerns about traffic congestion and pollution with a car the size of a Hornet, that had nearly the room inside and the luxury touches, of a top line Cutlass.
That’s what separates the handful of survivors of the US auto industry from the 200+ plus that died long ago: just a few decisions made, or made just slightly different from what they might have done.
They may have had the raw ingredients but did they have the technical knowhow and vision to pull of a car design that would have been entirely new except for the engine/trans. I don’t think that they had that in them. They had Teague for styling and the rest of the firm seemed to be very short on judgement and vision.
They may have had the raw ingredients but did they have the technical knowhow and vision to pull of a car design that would have been entirely new except for the engine/trans.
The senior car (Rebel/Ambassador/Matador) platform that came out in 67 was completely new, modern and made for a very nice driving car. I put a lot of miles on 70 and 74 Ambassador wagons back in the day, and vastly perferred their road manners to the LTD.
The Pacer was also an entirely new platform. The last new platform AMC would develop on it’s own. The Pacer was out of the box thinking: maximum interior space, particularly width, with minimal outside bulk. Designed from the outset to accomodate a rollcage, which was expected to soon become mandatory. If anything, the Pacer resembles the bubblecars that you would see in 70s SciFi TV shows and movies. The car was designed around the soon to be produced GM Wankel. The GM Wankel was stillborn, but AMC management pressed ahead anyway, cramming an inline 6 in the car. Looked too wierd, too heavy, burned too much gas…did I mention too wierd…and it failed.
Am I the only one who sees the rotary engine option suddenly being taken off the table, as a blessing in disguise for the Pacer?
I know having to stuff an inline six into an engine compartment designed for the compact Wankel presented its own problems with space utilization and serviceability, but a rotary just isn’t a good match for a car that was designed to be an economical commuter module… especially one as heavy as a Pacer. Sure, the compact dimensions, lightness, and smooth running all fit the bill… but the dearth of low end torque, thirst, oil consumption, emissions, and needing a rebuild every 60-100k miles- could’ve sank the Pacer even quicker and left AMC with a bigger black eye to boot.
By the late 1960s, a convertible version of the Rambler American was the answer to a question that nobody was asking, but remember that the first postwar Rambler, which was this car’s direct ancestor, was initially offered as a convertible, followed by a hardtop coupe. Those were the premium body styles of the early 1950s, and helped to underscore the point that the Nash Rambler was a small car, but not a cheap car.
When AMC restyled the American for 1961, it offered a convertible, followed by a hardtop coupe version for 1963. Note that the “senior” Ramblers didn’t offer a hardtop coupe until 1964 and a convertible until 1965.
During the early 1960s, AMC was actually ahead of the Big Three in this segment, as it offered a convertible version of the American in 1961 when that body style was not yet offered by the Big Three compacts. That factor, along with the lack of a credible entry in the pony car market, may have been why AMC stuck with convertible and hardtop versions of the American even as the market for those body styles was obviously shifting to the pony cars.
Regarding the availability of the 343 V-8 in the American – I’ve read that the hardtop body simply wasn’t strong enough to handle the engine’s power. Supposedly the body flex caused by overly “enthusiastic” driving or street racing could result in a cracked windshield.
Still remembering my dad’s 64 Rambler American Station Wagon. While he had it only 3 years , I don’t remember any issues with it what so ever, often on the dirt roads of Arizona and, and summer vacations to the mid west. Our move to Europe was the reason for buying the 67 Volkswagen bus, last year of the real classics !!
Am I right to assume that those bodies were as sturdy and rigid as a McCheesburger?
As I perceived the American Automotive Scene as a 15-year-old in 1969, AMC was doing the right thing in trying to ‘mainstream’ their cars.
The gestalt view of the car market that I carried from my received wisdom suggested that this was their last best hope to avoid extinction. Their niche was a fairly small one – Ramblers through the mid sixties were (in my view of the time) cars for economically minded people who ‘just needed a car’. They had old technology (vaccuum powered windshield wipers, anyone?) but, if not abused, would give comfortable transportation for a long time. The practical widow’s car, if you will. A Rambler probably should – have been my retired grandfather’s car. He wasn’t driving much and just needed something now and again to go a few miles. However, the times, they were a-changin’ and he bought a 67 VW Beetle. Note- my grandmother refused to ride in ‘that death trap’ so it was the 62 Buick if she was going along.
So Rambler was losing a hunk of their market to little foreigners, not to mention base-engine-Mustangs, and the Japanese were rising, son. Suddenly Rambler was becoming AMC and the Javelin, AMX signaled that people who were interested in image and style could consider an AMC vehicle without being pitied by their friends. They were on the verge of becoming a mainstream a choice as a Plymouth. Of course it all went to Hell with the first Oil Shock and the requirement to reengineer their cars for government pollution and bumper standards. Still, I believe it was the right choice at the time. The sales the Gremlin attained simply couldn’t have happened without the image make over of the late 60’s. The disaster of the Pacer is a separate story – success spoiled what was already a bridge too far- but it too would never have been taken seriously without the Javelin era.
Nice little rag top .
Looking at picture # 4 I thought of the 1964 Chevelle .
The ’74 Matador coupe was a ‘risk’, but it was #1 on it’s ‘deadly sins’ per the author of the “Last Independant Automaker” book. Big 3 had formal roofed mid size coupes available to sell and build when fastback midsize cars dropped in sales.
AMC had plenty of time to see how well the ’69 Grand Prix sold, and could have designed a similar look. But they wanted to win NASCAR races, so they bet on the swoopy roof and lost.
Yes, the success of the 69 Grand Prix, the Continental Mark III, the 70 Cutlass Supreme and Monte Carlo, these successes were all common knowledge when AMC BEGAN the process of planning the 74 Matador coupe. But, I suppose that the thinking might have gone “why follow them and lick up the scraps when we can go forth boldly in a new direction.”
Chrysler copied the 68 GM A bodies and ended up with a Satellite and Coronet/Charger that were mildly out of style. By the time AMC copied the 71 Satellite/Charger, the design was almost 180 degrees out of phase.
The smart thing to do would have been to roll out something like the Concord in 1972. Keep the Hornet for the budget-minded buyers, but offer a dressed-up version on a longer wheelbase as a “luxury” compact.
AMC also should have ditched archaic touches like the vacuum-powered windshield wipers by the mid-1960s, and never released the Hornet and Gremlin with cheap-looking interior door panels and dashboards featuring such ill-fitting parts.
AMC shouldn’t have built the Pacer or the Matador Coupe . The Hornet was their wise choice for the 70s, and they used it for the Concord, Eagles into the 80s. Instead of pairing up with Renault, the should have paired with Toyota or Honda. Or pair up with Audi, because they used their engines in the Gremlins and Spirits in the late 70s.
Not only used the Audi engine, but bought the rights,the line, the tooling and built it as the AMC 4 but couldn’t under the contract, mention the lineage of it.
Spent millions, built it for two years then dumped it. Great waste of time and scarce resources. Another mis-step.
Perhaps the hookup with Renault precluded further development of it.
They instead used GM’s 2.5 Iron Duke before finally building their own 2.5 which IIRC was based on the 232/258.
But, I suppose that the thinking might have gone “why follow them and lick up the scraps when we can go forth boldly in a new direction.”
Exactly right. AMC never did well when it tried to follow the pack. Everyone else was making two door “luxury coupes” with opera windows, velor upholstry and shag carpet. If AMC was going to do a two door coupe, it had little choice but roll the dice on something radically different and hope it found enough interest from the anti-opera window faction to recover the cost of the tooling. As it turned out, the Matador grew opera windows and designer label interior treatments, but it never had a tall formal grill and standup hood orniment, too little, too late.
Saw one of these recently in good nick somebody obviously loves it, I wouldnt buy one and I suppose that puts me in the majority,
Hey, don’t run the Rogue down too much, after all it served as the basis for the IKA Torino. Which, of course, shows what AMC could have done with a bit of investment.
Great find, Aaron. And some amazing commentary.
Nice looking ’69 Ambassador wagon. I had the same year model SST sedan, in the same shade of blue. I really enjoyed that car, but it needed work, and I had a family that came first, so I sold it to an AMC collector about 20 years ago.
My college room mate had the American version of it.
It looked great, was a convertible too, and it was roomy.
And tedious to handle.
And was completely lacking in any modern sense of performance.
But it was attractive and cute. Girls loved it.
I’m surprised then AMC didn’t send the convertible tooling to IKA in Argentina for their local Torino. It would had been a nice convertible to add for the Torino line-up. https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/cohort-classic-1971-ika-torino-ts-the-legendary-rambler-south-american/
Patrick Foster’s declaration of American Motors as “America’s last independent automaker” proved premature – Tesla sold 499,550 cars last year, more than AMC did in their best year (464,126 in 1963).
I’m not sure how well Romney would have run AMC had he kept out of politics. Romney’s “dinosaur fighters” were the right strategy for 1958, but there were plenty of economical small car choices from Detroit as the ’60s wore on, not to mention from Europe or Japan. Would Romney have realized this and pursued a different strategy? And if so, what? Abernathy’s full-line approach may have worked if AMC had something truly distinctive to offer rather than their reasonably competitive but unexceptional 1967 lineup. The 1970 Jeep acquisition proved there were still niches to mine (yes, kids, Jeeps were once a niche product!), but the likes of the Pacer proved what could go wrong when trying to find a niche that wasn’t really there. Dinosaur fighters certainly weren’t a niche, and finding unexplored niches seems like a good way to nurse your company through tough times but a questionable long-term strategy.
I like it! It looks, in it’s rigidly square way, as cute as the Metropolitan.
However I was surprised to scan the comments and find no others that share the other impression I got – that it almost looks like a…well-done fabrication from the rear end of another vehicle? I like it with my 2021 perspective, having had no idea this existed but I suspect buyers back then might’ve felt the same way regarding its styling.
How rare were the models in this article?
I do not recall seeing even one hardtop or convertible model of this body for sale in New Orleans in the early/mid 1970’s.
All I ever found was 4 door models with the six cylinder engine and the “Flash-O-Matic” 3 speed automatic transmission that started off in sluggish second gear unless you buried your foot on the front bumper.
No power steering or air conditioning either. Just basic 4 doors with no chrome, fading paint and hot & sticky vinyl bench seat interiors.
Clearly these were purchased by people who hated cars.
Had a ’66 Ambassador with that transmission. The drive quadrant had D2 – D1 – L. Took me a while to figure out that putting it in D1 would cause it to start off in 1st. Much more lively and easier on the transmission too.
Or didn’t have much money and needed reliable transportation. My dad bought a 232/three-on-the-tree four door American new in ’64 and ran the wheels off of it over ten years. Those cars were built for rough Wisconsin roads and they held up pretty well compared to their Big 3 competitors, most of which were also utilitarian strippos.
The fact that only 921 Rogue convertibles were sold by AMC in 1967 says a lot about the image AMC products had by the mid 60’s; to a large degree people buy automobiles for the image the automobile conveys about them(look at Pontiac in the 60’s). I don’t know if his Mormon upbringing influenced his automotive vision, but throughout the ’50’s until he left AMC to enter politics, Romney constantly criticized the Big Three automakers about their emphasis on speed, horsepower and styling. Romney seemed to view automobiles as basically utilitarian objects. AMC’s advertising certainly didn’t help with characters apparently lifted from Lake Wobegone and dismal advertising campaigns like “The Sensible Spectaculars.” Driving an AMC product was to be associated with skinflints, librarians, maiden aunts-hardly an exciting demographic.
AMC may have invented the intermediate sized vehicles, which did not escape the attention of the Big Three, Ford introduced the Fairlane in 1962, GM and Chrysler were not far behind.
I think Romney saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to exit AMC in 1963 while the getting was good and let someone else take the blame for AMC’s collapse. AMC could not really compete with the big three, let alone the Germans and the Japanese. Probably the best outcome for AMC would have been to follow Checker’s example and exit automobile production and become an auto parts manufacturer.
…”Romney constantly criticized the Big Three automakers about their emphasis on speed, horsepower, and styling.” Uhmmm… that’s like criticizing Playboy magazine for not asking it’s nude models what’s their favorite dessert is or how they feel about recycling or if they enjoy making things using beads.