1962 would be the last year for the compact Edmund E. Anderson design that American Motors introduced in 1956. It was a car that dominated and defined the compact segment of the US market, but by 1962 it was facing serious competition from Ford and General Motors; the Chevy II and a new, smaller Ford Fairlane both debuted in 1962. What do you do when the Big Dogs are nipping at your heels? If you’re American Motors in 1962, you continue to do what you do best.
In this page from the 1962 sales brochure, AMC President George Romney didn’t try to brainwash his potential customers with a lot of “longer, lower, wider” nonsense, like the Big Three. He promoted real safety and quality advancements including the new dual-circuit brakes. Back in 1962, if you insisted upon a car with that particular safety feature, you could choose between a Rambler or a Cadillac. Most American brands didn’t switch to dual-circuit brakes until they were forced to by a new federal regulation that went into effect for the 1967 model year.
Flip our featured car over and you’ll see that it truly is a promotional model. The advantages of owing a Rambler are printed all over it, and it sings the same tune and hits the same high notes as George himself: deep coil springs, a large capacity gas tank, unit-body construction, deep-dip rustproofing and the ceramic armored muffler all earn a mention. However, it looks like they just didn’t have room to mention the brakes.
These toy cars for the kids were often used as bait to lure customers into showrooms. As the old slogan went, “The little ones sell the big ones.” Once this car got into little Junior’s hands, he could turn into a salesman himself. “Hey, Dad! You won’t have to stop for gas as often if you get a Rambler.”
I suppose you could say that this particular Rambler is front-wheel drive, since the friction motor is in the front. So that torque tube drive shaft is just for show!
The car in this photo (also taken from the 1962 brochure) is the highest trim level for the 1962 Classic: the 400 series. The 400 came standard with the aluminum six-cylinder engine that was introduced the year before, but more conservative buys could still delete-option the old cast-iron six.
Note the resemblance between the tail lights on this car and the ones on the 1966 to 1973 BMW 2002. The later BMW units look more or less like upside-down 1962 Rambler Classic tail lights.
In this comparison shot with the 1962 Rambler that I photographed this summer, we see that the model isn’t quite as realistic from this angle. Like most models or miniatures that attempt to duplicate a grill that contains a lot of open space, it doesn’t look quite right. Too much chrome!
For this profile shot, I have the Rambler posed in front of a GE clock/radio from the early 60s. Here we see that all is not well with this particular ’62 Rambler. It looks like it was in a front-end collision!
The situation is even worse from the driver’s side. In this case, the backdrop is a Stromberg-Carlson rotary dial telephone. Once upon a time, cars and not phones were replaced every two or three years.
Jo-Han, the manufacturer of the model, was still using an inferior grade of plastic for the bodies in the early 60’s. Over time, the bodies often warped, as this one has. Jo-Han later switched to using Polystyrene plastic, which didn’t warp, but not until 1964 or thereabouts and too late for this car. So much for a dedication to excellence! The combination of a warped body and an unwarped grill is pretty common on old Jo-Han promos and model kits. Model collectors call it the “Jo-Han Smile.” That’s a funny thing to smile about, since it makes the car look like it’s actually promoting the body/fender shop at your local Rambler dealer!
One model building enthusiast really took that particular idea and ran with it. For some photos of a 1962 Rambler model customized into a wreck, you can click here:
And while I’m providing links, the brochure images that I used were all taken from oldcarbrochures.com, courtesy of Mr. Howard Nourse:
In conclusion, I’d just like to say that although this car isn’t perfect, I’m still very glad I bought it. That silly smile adds character if you ask me. Perhaps this car is smiling because it’s happy to still be in one piece after over fifty years.