(first posted 1/23/2014) Maurice Calloway was often described as a “grizzled old bastard whose head has outlived at least four bodies.” To say that Maurice had lived in the fast lane was an understatement.
An auctioneer by trade, Maurice’s demeanor was one of seeming inconsistencies. While he drank heavily, he would not drink on Sunday. He also was prone to extremely profane language and copious amounts of tobacco, but he would not tolerate any smoking or colorful language from others if they were in the presence of women and especially children.
A physically large man, he was also quite proud of his compact Rambler.
Maurice could have purchased anything he wanted when he grew weary of his ’56 Oldsmobile. He had become annoyed with its appetite for fuel and had tired of its physical size. He figured if he was going to downsize, he wasn’t going to monkey around.
One Tuesday morning, Maurice drove to the Rambler dealership nearest his small town. The salesman was amusingly dismayed to see this large Oldsmobile driving man looking at the Ramblers on the lot. When he picked one out, a black one in bottom-level Deluxe trim, he pulled a wad of cash from the pocket of his pants and started peeling off $100 bills.
This Rambler was almost as basic as one could buy in 1960. Maurice had opted to spend the $23.50 for the dual headlights, $10.20 for the inside and outside rear-view mirrors, and $9.95 for back-up lights. Beyond that, the Rambler had no options whatsoever. Maurice figured it had a sturdy little six cylinder engine of 127 horsepower and a time tested three-speed manual. Like so many others of his World War I born generation, he figured the less equipment it had, the less there was to go wrong.
Upon his arrival back home, Maurice, a lifelong bachelor, started to receive some degree of grief about having dumped the Olds for a Rambler. He statement was usually, “piss on you, this Rambler will still be ticking long after I’m gone.”
After the initial surprise wore off, Maurice and his Rambler soon became synonymous with each other. Nearly every Saturday there was an auction somewhere in the central part of his state, and Maurice Calloway was the de facto auctioneer of choice. By 1970 Maurice and his black Rambler were as close to an institution as many could imagine.
Some were amused by how Maurice and his Rambler never seemed to age any as the 1970s unfolded. The skeptics would say that Maurice could not age due to his thorough degree of self-pickling, although everyone was simply astounded the now old Rambler was still looking as shiny as it ever had. Sure, there were a few little laugh lines around the Rambler, but it was amazingly blemish free for the number of miles Maurice had driven around the area to his almost weekly auctions.
Maurice knew of the amusement and astonishment about the condition of his Rambler. Only he and a select few confidants knew his secret. The sheer simplicity of his formula, and how it was totally lost on so many, was a source of constant humor for old Maurice.
As Maurice once told one of his so-called conspirators: “It’s simple; Rambler gave me a maintenance schedule to follow. So I follow it. I also have a garden hose, so I use it. I also park it inside. How tough is that?” Maurice knew that if you take care of your equipment it would take care of you. He was puzzled how such a simple concept could be lost on all the young, foolish people around the area.
Yet as we still know, Maurice was a man of inconsistencies. While everyone thought of him as a confirmed bachelor, Maurice did have a woman in his life. It seemed like nobody ever noticed a black Rambler going down a gravel road a few miles from his home.
Maurice had a son with a woman much younger than he. The woman’s husband had been drafted during the Korean War, about the same time Maurice and this younger woman began their illicit romance. Both had felt profound remorse about their actions during a time when a married woman’s husband was serving his country. The remorse was compounded when they realized their actions had culminated in a pregnancy about the time a clueless husband was killed in action.
With the baby having been born early, it was possible for the woman to pass off the child as that of her husband, an action that did not jeopardize her military pension. Neither the woman nor Maurice were proud of their self-created situation, but both maintained it was the pragmatic decision for the benefit of an innocent child growing up in a small town.
All this extramarital intrigue leads us back to Maurice and his black Rambler. Maurice was fifty when he had purchased his Rambler. Realizing he had been too flagrant of a spender in his life so far, he was determined to change that and give the son he could never claim a healthy start in life. The Rambler was part of a raw determination to build a solid financial foundation for his son. Just as Rambler was on the ascendancy in 1960, Maurice felt he was also, making the purchase a natural decision.
Starting on the day in 1960 when Maurice swapped off the Oldsmobile, the Rambler had served as the impetus and constant reminder of his never ending quest for frugality and practical solutions to those situations everyone encounters in life. While nobody realized it, this was the time Maurice doubled down on gaining auctioneer jobs and squirreled away every spare dollar he had. He knew his time on this earth had likely been compromised due to various bad decisions and he was determined to make things better for his son.
Maurice kept driving the Rambler until his death in 1987, at age 77. By now the old black Rambler had covered an unknown quantity of miles – the odometer had broken in 1976 and Maurice didn’t want to spend money to fix it as it did not directly relate to the functioning of the car. Spending money to maintain it did not cover such frivolities; Maurice was a man of inconsistencies.
It was at the time of Maurice’s death that his son, at age 34, finally learned of his true heritage. The news didn’t really surprise him as he had always suspected something. He knew Maurice had to be more than simply a concerned friend of his mother’s.
Maurice’s son was the sole recipient of his father’s now sizable estate. Despite it all, the Rambler is the item Maurice’s son has treasured most. Twenty-seven years later, the sheer sight of it still brings him back to warm childhood memories of a loving, grizzled looking old man taking him on the adventures all children deserve.
While the Rambler is clearly starting to show its nearly fifty-four years of existence, it is still starting as reliably as it ever has. While the compression of its old straight-six isn’t what it used to be, and it has had a little bit of a rattle for a few years now, it is still giving Maurice’s son everything it has.
The son has contemplated some degree of restoration of the old Rambler, but he has been reluctant to do so. His thought process is that any refurbishment will erode the overall aura of a car that reminds him of a simpler time in his life. The car is so ingrained in his psyche, the fact of owning it as long as his father had eludes him.
Even with the diminished state of the old Rambler, Maurice’s son knows his dad was right; it would still be ticking long after he was gone.
A very nice story and an interesting car.
When someone says “Rambler”, one of these is the picture that comes into my mind. There were a lot of these running around when I was a kid, but I never picked up on the subtle differences, like the fact that the iron-shaped taillights and the updated windshield both appeared in 1960.
This car also reminds me that most of these that I ever saw were much higher trim versions. Odd that for a car that supposedly appealed to the frugal, most of them were quite nicely trimmed. It seemed to be Plymouth and Dodge buyers who bought the plain Janes.
Nice story,I saw quite a few RHD Ramblers in 60s Britain as a kid.They seemed a little smaller and not quite as showy as the equivalent models from the big 3,maybe this is what attracted British buyers,an American car that didn’t look too American
Great story. It’s funny to think how a situation like this could play out 50 or 60 years ago, but today it would never happen for many different reasons. I think all family tree’s have some version of this in their history.
These are kind of cool in a sort of mish-mash way. I think the only thing that really bothers me is the completely different front and rear windshields. Had they somehow come to a decision and not made them so completely different in concept I think this car would look much better.
Maybe put the rear window in the front and go with a Mercury Breezeway style window treatment in the back?
The 1957 Rambler hardtop was originally intended to have a lowering rear window, a la Breezeway, but in the rush to get them into production one year earlier, that got ditched.
What a gem.
Love the split bumpers, fore and aft.
Great tale, great pictures, thanks.
I could be wrong, but if you look closely, the four bumpers appear to be identical.
If so, that was a brilliant way to reduce tooling costs.
Before your comment, I had never noticed that both front and rear bumpers were split. And I agree with you, each of the four seems to be the same part.
The late sixties Classic and American used the same doors to save money.
That was definitely an AMC ‘thing’. Look at the ‘Cavailer’ concept that became the Hornet. One feature that didn’t make it to the Hornet was that the opposite side front & rear doors were the same. As for bumpers, the 1963-66 Ambassador and Classic had the same bumper in the rear as in the front. The front turn signals were in the bumper and were amber. In the rear, they were colorless backup lights. The American was too, but it was narrower so didn’t use the Ambassador/Classic bumpers.
One of my neighbors had one like this, in the Custom trim level. It was in a minor collision, and the R A M letters were missing from the trunk. We called it the BLER Custom.
The “restored” hood ornament shot is the best.
Thanks for this very engaging story. It really captures the spirit of these cars. George Romney would approve too!
My parents bought a brand new 1960 Rambler Cross Country. The seats folded down completely. Every year we’d travel from Texas to Minnesota to visit their family, and my brother and I would sleep in a tent while my parents had the car.
Powder Blue, with a roof rack. Probably one of the few options they splurged on, they were quite frugal. I just don’t remember there being a hood ornament. Hmmm.
Love the story, love the car. The wooden hood ornament and the dent in the roof add a bit of extra charm. Were they extra-cost options?
One thing about those bumpers: I think I’ve seen them on a few custom cars. That’s pretty odd, for something from a Rambler to be popular with customizers, but they’re good-looking bumpers all the same.
Yes, every car has a story, and this is a memorable one. Great post!
The 1960 Super my Grandfather bought new was the first of 3 Ramblers that he owned. These seemed to appeal to older adults who weathered the Depression and remained faithfully frugal. They didn’t appeal to me then (I’m the same age as the son in this story), but I see the Rambler in a different light now.
At that time, I kept hoping that my Grandfather would buy a new Marlin. Yikes!!!!!!!!
My dad had one of these but at a higher trim level. He bought it around 87 from an older lady who did not drive anymore. it had been sitting a while and the inside smelled BAD. We drove it for close to five years with nothing more then a valve job. I still miss that car.
I have a couple of odd memories of Ramblers similar to this one. My wife and I had walked to the Dairy Queen from our apartment by the railroad switching yard one warm afternoon in 1962, and were standing around eating our ice cream cones. A Rambler much like Maurice’s pulled up to the drive-through window, and it had a dead bird between the M and B in the grille.
Several years before that, when I still lived with my parents, our neighbor had a two-tone pink 1957 Rambler sedan. A no-nonsense kind of a guy, with a wife, two sons, and a daughter, and whose job at Boeing had enabled him to buy a place on the lake. He was the kind of a driver who used his turn signal when he pulled out onto the country road from his driveway. He once administered a beating to his younger son in front of me and another of his friends – I never did know what sin the boy had committed. To look at the father, one would never put him into that pink 6-cylinder automatic Rambler. Maybe his wife had picked it out.
These cars were a massive influence on Rootes group for some reason.
Ok, this post deserves way more than the 17 comments it has now collected, because this is a great survivor and a great story.
Loved this story! These cars were common when I was growing up, although we kids tended to make fun of them.
It’s interesting how AMC mixed and matched the front and rear ends of these Ramblers through the late 50s and early 60s to keep up with current styling fads.
This ’60 has the same basic front end as the two preceding model years, but ditched the wraparound windshield used since the ’56 was introduced. Also, the rear gained the iron-shaped taillights with the minifins that were continued into the following year. The ’61 got a new front-end treatment with quad headlights in line with the grille, a pioneering feature of the ’59 GM cars. In the final year of this body (1962), the taillights became circular and the fins were removed, but the wraparound rear window with the reverse C-pillars were retained.
Great story Jason. Maurice may have appreciated the second life given to Ramblers like his by the Cubans who’ve been driving them for 50+ years just as he did. There are lots of amazing Frankenstein cars in Cuba, and this has to be one of the best.
Amazing. Is that your shot? I’d like to use it in a post.
hey Paul – I’ve got three more of that car as well as other Cuban Ramblers. There’s a nice pairing of a Rambler and a Mercedes from the same era that makes you wonder if Mercedes cribbed its proto-fins from the American car. Let me know where you’d like me to send them.
and yes, they’re all my shots
I missed your reply earlier. Send them to me here: curbsideclassic(at)gmail.com
I’m going out for some sunshine, so I might not get to it today, unless you’re real quick! 🙂
Whoa. That reminds me of the “Christine” LeMons racer from a few years ago that was based on an E30 BMW.
Very interesting that quad headlights were an option. I just thought those cars designed for them received them.
Reeeeeeally late here Jason; normally when I’m this late to an article I don’t comment, but I read it over lunch today, and enjoyed it so much that I just had to tell you and say thank you. Well done sir, well done.
I have a one owner version as well, and came with radio, but nothing else. BTW, the hood ornament is not Rambler, but an old Oldsmobile variation. The Deluxe didn’t have one from factory. Great story though..
Dear : Mr. Bill Ellis
I am an AMC-Rambler fan and I saw your beautiful picture of your 1960 Rambler six Deluxe blue color showing side view. By the way, I would like to know, if you could send me by e-mail a picture of your 1960 Rambler six Deluxe blue color showing close-up front view. I would appreciate a lot.
Thank you for your attention.
I purchased my first car, a 1960 Rambler, in 1969 after High School graduation. Driving and maintaining it was more than just memorable, it was unforgettable! It’s ills were many and it left me stranded more than once, but they have long been forgiven and forgotten.
My friends may have driven GTOs, Road Runners, Mustangs, etc, but none of them had a front seat that would convert into a bed. Great for dates! LOL.
A little color correction for you unforgettable first car.
so cool… that looks much better Bill…
Cameo view is reminiscent of fintail Mercedes.
Great story, and I am glad the son of Maurice has benefitted from his Dad’s thoughtfulness, not to mention the car.
Converting from a ’56 Olds to a ’60 Rambler must have been quite an epiphany for Maurice, or anyone who made such an undertaking at that time. It truly would have taken someone with courage enough to not care about what anyone else’s opinion was about what you decided to buy. Good on him.
The line in the story of not getting any additional options should they break, is like a direct quote from my Dad. Born in 1919, he believed in the basics for cars, and nothing extra like power steering or radios or automatic transmissions, that could go wrong later.
Great story. Thanks.
Since the old post has already been kicked and dust is flying anyway…
PS mirror, that’s crowding into Ambassador territory. LoL
Momma’s baby is Pappa’s maybe.
You do spin an engaging story, Jason—some change-it-up fun for us today, but not the least bit far-fetched.
As to the car—funny, in my booming 1950s-60s childhood suburb, I can still tell you where the nearest Ford, GM, and Chrysler dealers were, but damned if I can remember who sold the Ramblers, or if any neighbors had them.
But, to echo some above: when I think “Rambler,” this is pretty much what comes to mind. Can’t remember when they disappeared from the road–but at some point, all of a sudden, they had just vanished…
I was told this by a man I used to work with, who had worked on the Rambler assembly line in the early 1960’s. As the cars moved down the line he was on one side of the car, and another person was on the other side, and they were supposed to weld some part of the car together. Apparently the way it was done however, was that one guy sat and did nothing, or read a newspaper or whatever, while the other welded as much as he could get done before the car moved down the line. They would switch off every so often as the day went on, each effectively working half a day. This was apparently normal.
What a great story of a great car. The only thing I’d do to it is have the engine rebuilt at some point to keep it going, keep storing it inside and maintain the recommended schedule for keeping the Rambler healthy.
What a wonderful story! Thanks.
My Dad tired of his 57 Olds wagon with the J-2 engine and traded it in for a 61 six cylinder Rambler Classic wagon. The Rambler did have the 138 h.p. two barrel engine. It got close to double the gas mileage of the Olds, and its tires and brakes were also much longer lasting!