(first posted 12/7/2012) The Dick Teague era at AMC was colorful, to say the least. It covered a full spectrum, from handsome conventionality to highly questionable unconventionality, with lots of (seemingly random) points in between–some were brilliant, and others disasters. But what of his predecessor, Ed Anderson? The former Nash Design Chief ran the AMC Studios until Teague replaced him sometime around 1962, after Anderson quit because AMC wouldn’t make him a VP, like the styling chiefs at the Big Three. Unlike GM’s Harley Earl, who retired shortly after midst of a palace revolt, Anderson’s parting shot was undoubtedly his best ever, a veritable Classic.
For a decade, all mid-size Ramblers rode basically the same 108″ wheelbase platform. It started life in 1954 underpinning the first four-door Rambler. Although a new and decidedly larger offshoot of the original 1950 Rambler compact, its styling clearly reflected the influence of the earlier, Pininfarina-era Nashes that we’ll write about another time.
From 1956 until 1963, every Classic and Ambassador was based on an effective restyle of that platform. Quite contemporary at its introduction, the Classic actually was something of a design pioneer: It was one of the first mass-produced cars whose headlights eschewed the traditional fender-top position and were instead mounted down low inside the grille. And who inspired that? Pininfarina, who else?
The Italian master had been commissioned to provide designs for the new 1952 Nashes. Although his proposals for the big Nashes were reworked considerably by Ed Anderson, they clearly incorporated many Pininfarina styling trademarks. Naturally, Ed didn’t get a share of the credit; after all, “Anderson” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Pinin Farina”.
But Pininfarina’s redesign for the 1952 Nash-Healey, with the distinctive headlight-in-grille would also grace the ’56 Rambler, was left intact. They might have called it the Nash Healey Pinin. So for the record, Ed Anderson gets credit for the 1956 sedans, but the front end is obviously pure Pininfarina. Is everyone feeling properly recognized?
In 1958, when Rambler became a stand-alone brand, Ed was finally able to put his own face on the 108″ platform, followed by a few subsequent re-touches…
…all the way through the final 1962s. By then, it had become embarrassingly out-of date, a car only a spinster librarian would be caught semi-alive in.
Anderson’s penultimate project was the reskin of the 1961 American. Some folks have praised the design for cleverly disguising its 1950-Rambler underpinnings, but I call it an unmitigated disaster that could have just as well emerged from Tonka Toy Motors’ Un-Advanced Studio. Of course, by now it looks hip, and I’ve come to accept the goofy stance and proportions. Still, it’s a good thing Ed didn’t decide to retire at that point. It wouldn’t have done much for his legacy.
The cracker-box American was merely a temporary, cheap stopgap until something all-new came along. While Rambler desperately needed something new in all three of its lines, there was just one little problem: AMC lacked the means to create at a minimum the two new platforms/unibodies to replace the aged ones: A mid-sizer for the Classic and Ambassador and something smaller for the American. Their solution–like so many inspired by sheer necessity–was quite brilliant.
AMC designed one new unibody shell to be used throughout all three series. While it would be stretched a bit for the larger cars, it allowed AMCs of all sizes to share such expensive stampings as doors and other parts. The 112″ wheelbase, wide-body version debuted on the 1963 Classic (bottom picture) and Ambassador; it was then shortened and narrowed a bit for the new 1964 American (on top): Same doors, same basic chassis. Although they covered a fairly broad spectrum of the market, AMC was, essentially, a one-platform company. Maybe they should have stayed one.
The 1963 Ambassador was nothing more than an upscale Classic; never had their differences been so minor, nor would they be again. The Amby could be had only with the big 327 cu in V8 in either 250 or 275 hp form. In 1974, the Big Three might well have wished for such a well-trimmed “downsized” sedan, but in 1963, when mega-sized cars ruled the land, it was out of touch with the times. Changing economic and other factors were now crippling AMC. The formula that had worked so brilliantly in 1956- 1961 was now very much out of sync.
The small-but-fine Ambassador essentially was DOA, and meanwhile the Classic arrived at the peak of the hot new midsize market. The Big Three had firmly stepped into what had been the Classic’s almost exclusive domain. That undoubtedly blunted sales for the new Classic, which might have been quite a substantial success otherwise. As such, it merely managed a moderate increase over its geriatric predecessor. The Big Three were tightening the noose on AMC.
Th mid-sized segment’s appeal and growth was quite logical. With the relentless growth of full-sized cars, midsizers made perfect sense to folks who wanted basic transportation roomier than a compact, but not an excessively long, full-size Detroit barge. It was at the heart of a sensible sweet spot, on that Rambler essentially created in 1954 and popularized starting in 1956.
What’s more, the price was right. A 1964 Classic 550 four-door cost all of sixty bucks more than the cheapest American four-door. Of course, except for the Classic’s wider interior and maybe slightly better ride from a longer wheelbase, they were pretty similar.
This rear end is signature late-period Ed Anderson–a wee bit goofy, perhaps, but he didn’t want the boxy Classic to be too dull and dreary. The un-Classic?
Those extra few inches in width allowed three-across seating in the Classic , not that many ever did so. In their day, these Ramblers had an utterly bipolar effect on kids. On one hand, they were reviled as dumb, dull and stupid, the complete opposite of the 1963 Grand Prix ultimate date-mobile–at least when it came to getting a first date.
However, once the date had been secured (and was willing), young people simply revered the Rambler’s front seats that famously folded down to create a big, flat bed. In contrast, the contemporary GP’s bucket seats-and-console formed a very effective cock-blocker (in my younger son’s parlance). The ultimate irony.
Part of the Rambler’s image problem came from the wheezy old 195.6 cu in OHV six, whose flathead roots date to a distant era, that powered virtually every Classic. By 1963, AMC’s experimentation with an aluminum-block version was at an end. Like the Vega engine of a decade later, its standard cast-iron head had been slapped on a lightweight aluminum block, a combination whose issues included overheating problems related to unhappy chemical interactions between the aluminum, iron and copper radiator, as well as other issues. Once standard in all 1962 Classics (unless the cast-iron version was specified), by 1963 it was now standard only in the top-line Classic 770. And by 1964, it was another historical footnote, one preferably forgotten.
A 287 cu in 198-hp V8 was optional, but not really common in Classics. Ramblers were all about thrift and fold down seats. While rugged and reliable, it also was heavy, having been designed in the pre-thinwall era. The V8s in these cars only exacerbated a weakness shared by all Ramblers of this vintage: Handling that was mediocre, or worse.
Most contemporary tests made note of the malady, which had plagued Ramblers from the beginning. Chassis engineering was not AMCs strong suit, which only helped reinforce its dull-car image. The new chassis that arrived in 1967 went some distance to ameliorate that, but AMC could never hope to keep up with GM’s rapid progress in that area, especially in the seventies. There was a reason it was called Rambler rather than Rusher.
While hardly flamboyant, the very clean lines of the ’63 were both commendable and contemporary–something like the Volvo 240 of its time. Or the 740, since this is the wide-body version.
Dick Teague joined AMC around 1962, and his influence is first seen on the 1964 Ramblers. The new American that debuted in 1964 was a very fine effort. He not only managed to make it distinctive despite its shared body parts, but also gets credit for the new hardtop roof, as there just weren’t any for 1963.
Teague obviously wasn’t too keen on Ed’s concave front end, since the ’64 Classic and Ambassador each sported a more conventional nose. Again, it’s quite apparent that these two hardtops share quite a bit of skin.; in fact, this body went on to enjoy a very long life in Argentina, where it was badged Torino. I did that story here, except I mistakenly credited Teague for the ’63. It’s never too late to learn; my apologies, Ed, even though Dick actually did the hardtop roof that appeared in ’64. Shared honors!
At least this clean and boxy body didn’t have to last nearly as long as the previous one. Or the next.
By 1967, Roy Abernethy’s push to go mano-a-mano with the Big Three resulted in the bigger 1967 Rebel. It was quite a handsome car before subsequent restyles thoroughly mucked it up…what else is new?
But in 1963 AMC could bask in the glow of Motor Trend’s COTY award for their new Classic. In retrospect it seems a dubious choice, given the other cars that debuted that year–the Buick Riviera, Corvette Sting Ray, Pontiac GP–august competition indeed. Even so, any car named Classic deserves some serious Curbside love here, don’t you think?
These Ramblers was inspired from the design of Mercedes-Benz and from what I read on Patrick Foster’s book “AMC: the last independant” and various issues of Collectible Automobile. They wanted to keep and update the basic bodyshell to 1969 but thanks to Roy Abernathy’s mismenagement. They was forced to update the Classic (who became the Rebel) and the Ambassador earlier.
However, in Argentina, the Classic/Ambassador 1963 bodyshell was made until 1974 or 1975 (the Rambler American rechristined IKA Torino(and later known as Renault Torino when Renault acquired IKA), there some vintage Argentinian pictures of these Classic/Ambassador/Torino from the Pampa at http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/Argentina/Argentinajamc.html
“AMC: the last independent” I’ve seen this phrase bantered about in lots of places in reference to American Motors. At the risk of being obtuse (not trying to be), independent of what? Correct me if I’m wrong but AMC came about from a merger of Nash and Hudson, some say a Nash take over. At that time Rambler was a budding line from Nash (the Jet had to go) which later became it’s own brand. Not exactly unlike other auto corporations were formed to some extent. It was well after the merger that Rambler became their only brand. If Ford drops Lincoln will they become an independent? Was it because they were not one of the “Big Three”? That would fit a lot of car companies, then and now.
In Argentina we had both the American redesigned and modified to fit the local taste (named Torino) and the Classic (1965 MY)
The Classic, in four door and Cross Country versions, made it through 1972.
The Ambassador that was based on the Classic but had a nicer interior and a
different front and rear was made under special order until 1975.
The Torino, presented as a sedan and coupe, reached 1982 with several changes.
The picture shows a 1982 Renault Torino Grand Routier. You can see the Rambler DNA on it.
I really want to like this car. I love the fact that it and the American share so many pieces (I did not realize to what extent before now). I love the “modern” early 1960s proportions and shape. With Ramblers looking like this, it is clear that Studebaker no longer had a prayer by 1963. I know that its unit structure was tight and well built.
But once again, this AMC product leaves me flat. The shape of the wheel wells on this car have always bothered me. Then there was the prototypical AMC minimalistic instrumentation with its odd early 1950s-style stretched numbers and its nondescript interior styling. Also the chassis dynamics straight from a 1962 Biscayne. By 1963, it took more than just being there to be a success in this segment. Tempest and Fairlane were much more attractive cars, for several reasons.
Actually, the concave front end is my favorite part of the car. I have to say that Ed Anderson’s styling reminds me in some ways of Henry King who was with Chrysler so long – he replaced Ray Dietrich in the late 1930s and stayed on after Exner was hired on over him. All of King’s designs (even the 55-56 Plymouth and Dodge) were just a little off somehow, and it was not always easy to put a finger precisely on the problem. I see the same thing with Anderson’s work. It is certainly not bad styling, but it is not good styling either. If AMC could have given this project and this budget to Brooks Stevens (who worked magic on the final Studes), imagine what this car could have looked like.
Well said. There’s no doubt Ed wasn’t exactly in the same league as some of the better designers at the time. That’s what kept Ramblers Ramblers…even when they were fairly clean.
I love your summation of Anderson’s work as just a little off. I’ve felt the same thing; the basic design is good enough, but it’s the little details that make you go “Huh?”.
I totally agree on those wheel wells. Arches that flowed back from the wheels were common in the early sixties, but these went just that little bit too far – at the rear especially. They’d save weight though!
The angular concave front end is surely different. Some different designs start a new trend, others just remain strange. I used to hate that front, now I just dislike it. Maybe if it hadn’t been quite so pronounced? Again, just a bit too far…
The rear end is unusual, with the top of the fenders overhanging the lights, but that’s different/distinctive, rather than different/challenging, or different/awful.
The rest of the design though – Classic!
And what absolute genius managing all their bodies off one platform with variable length and width. That’ll show those Fisher body dudes! Or would have, but then along came Abernethy and it all went pear-shaped.
Too bad we can’t get a greenhouse like that in these times.
Like the Studebaker Lark, these are one of the cars that tickles my notoriously bad taste in classics, and I find myself checking them out at the side of the road or online classifieds.
There always seem to be several of these for sale in my (salt infested) area, which makes me wonder if these cars were particularly well built, or if the demographic who bought them were particularly good custodians.
Probably the latter…
Hey Doug – the demographic that bought these cars when new certainly helped their survival rate – but part of the reason these cars were MTs Car of The Year, was that they were the first American cars to have most of their major body stampings done as a complete, pressed assembly (meaning not made of lots of little pieces spot-welded together with lots of corrosion inducing seams). They were also the first cars built here to have the “bodies in white” completely dipped in a huge tank of zinc-rich primer, coating all the hidden box sections against internal corrosion, prior to final painting and very effective factory rustproofing. Even today, my experience has been that every ’63 -on AMC you see, still has door bottoms!
Lots of people seem to forget now how those beloved, flashy ’50s GM cars – not to mention “classic” mid-60’s Mustangs – looked like lace doilys after only 4 or 5 years of being exposed to road salt and Midwestern winters. AMC actually took it upon themselves to proactively do something about the longevity of car bodies – long before the big three cared at all. They were still following the Nash philosophy of “giving the customer more than what they paid for” – at least in the early to mid ’60s.
Friend o mine worked on the Rambler line at Campbell motors assembling Rebels here in NZ he got fired after dropping a Rebel into the primer tank it landed awkwardly and got seriously bent.
He didn’t move to BL did he? If he was in a British factory he’d have been promoted!
Gimme an Ambassador V8, I could put those fold flat seats to good use. 😛
Anderson deserves credit for designing a body that lasted a remarkably long 15 years (with a few reskinnings). That said, aside from curved side glass his only innovation was something that buyers couldn’t care less about — the sharing of some body parts between the junior and senior Ramblers.
I wouldn’t consider this to be a truly modular platform. The American’s body may have been only four inches narrower, but that still required many expensive changes, e.g., a distinct windshield, cowl, etc. Given the heightened competition AMC knew it would face as the 1960s progressed, I’m surprised that George Romney didn’t try to improve the company’s economies of scale by concentrating on one compact platform. Indeed, that may have been Romney’s single biggest mistake in an otherwise exceptionally successful tenure at AMC.
I’ve never been a fan of the extreme teardrop shape that Anderson adopted for the 1963 Classic. It throws off the proportions, particularly in the rear. But most importantly, this approach walks away from one of the old Rambler’s biggest advantages — an unusual amount of back-seat and trunk space for a compact.
The tight packaging could have been at least partially compensated for with a switch to IRS. Alas, despite GM’s blizzard of early-60s engineering advancements, the 1963 Rambler was remarkably old hat.
Perhaps the 1963 Rambler’s biggest failing wasn’t Anderson’s fault — a severe decline in manufacturing quality. This used to be one of Rambler’s greatest advantages. Meanwhile, the competition had either caught up or surpassed AMC in other realms. Most notably, Chrysler’s compacts increasingly stood out for their reliability.
This is why I’d consider the 1963 Rambler the beginning of the end for AMC.
Actually, if my family’s experience is any guide…manufacturing quality took a nosedive at least a year earlier and probably sooner. Our 1962 Classic was a lemon…not one problem, not one area, but MYRIAD areas. Everything from susceptibility to rusting (fenders perforated in four years) to aluminum engine failure, a flawed and broken casting; to the Borg-Warner automatic transmission refusing to take off in D when cold (it would back onto the street; and there it SAT…for minutes at least). Electrics, hydraulics, vacuum wipers…everything was trouble.
The problem was probably Rambler’s sudden increase in production. Rambler was the third-best seller in 1961 and fifth in 1962; probably most of their production, out of their antiquated Kenosha plant, was rushed through.
If I can judge at this distance, from a friend’s family which had a 1964 Classic…Rambler, with stabilizing demand, did acquit itself better by that time. Which gave it the image that stuck with it till death: Slow, stodgy, reliable…a perceived value for frugal old folk (whether it was a true value is open to debate). But anyway…this was the first, halting correct step the maturing American Motors was to make. And one of few such.
FWIW…that concave grille strikes me as a million-percent better than the dimestore-aluminum stamping that replaced it in 1964. That will not sit as one of Teague’s better moves.
Last note: That two-door 1962 Rambler is the rarest of the rare. Without looking up the price, I’d wager he’s got a true collectible there. Those were very-low volume.
I will always like the last Rambler most…the 68-69 is the most attractive in my book. I like a plain white station wagon of that vintage…too bad they never made a 2door version of the wagon. I will forever wonder what would’ve happened to Rambler if they had completely ignored V8 engines and focused on never ending perfection of a large displacement low stress inline six. If I could go back in time and give them advice it would be that. Seven main bearings, large journal, short stroke, big bore, long connecting rod, low RPM, high torque…wide ratio not-overdrive transmission and a 2.5:1 axle ratio…leaf spring rear and torsion bar front.
“Tear drop shape” ? Where?
My family’s first wagon was a ’64 Rambler Classic 550. Ran great for a few year, but when 2 more siblings were born, we needed a true full size 3 seat wagon. By 1969, my folks were “sick of Ramblers” and got a used ’68 Fury wagon.
The 3rd row was like being chauffered and we loved it. Until we got to be bigger kids, 😉
A really interesting analysis of this dull-as-dishwater car. As a teenager in the early to mid-sixties, nobody, but nobody, that we knew would be caught dead in a Rambler of any ilk, unless, as you so colorfully note, you were a half-alive spinster librarian, or in the case of our next door neighbors, a dowdy middle-aged couple, the husband a salesman at the local Sears hardware department, and the wife a stay-at-home spouse. But they loved their little Rambler crackerbox, they would frequently get all gussied up and head out to dinner in it, as though they were squiring each other out in the finest Cadillac. By the way, you mention that “Dick Teague…his influence first seen on the 1964 Rambler…gets credit for the new hardtop roof, as there just weren’t any for 1963.” Ah, but there were, the one-off 1963 440H hardtop, and the neighbors had that very car, a gold-colored body with a white faux-convertible top. Boxy, uninspired, it had the look of a cutesy child’s roller skate. They kept that car going until the wife died in 1983, whereupon it sat in their garage, absolutely untouched and undriven, until the husband’s death in 1999, frozen in place in another era. It was unceremoniously hauled off to a junkyard by his estate.
Paul, I got such a kick over your remark “In contrast, the contemporary GP’s bucket seats-and-console formed a very effective cock-blocker (in my younger son’s parlance). The ultimate irony.” Ha! So true, except that I so preferred those sporty bucket seats, and they graced my first car, a ’64 LeMans, as close to a GP as I could get. Brought back a great memory, in high school English class, I had to write an essay titled, “The Disadvantages of Bucket Seats.” Of course, the theme was the inability to snuggle up to the girlfriend, wish I had been able to use your son’s contemporary description!
Ramblers and Plymouths were both popular in my family…especially among those who earned their livings as auto mechanics. These were men who knew what was a dependable car that could be fixed easily and cheaply and could be counted on to provide long term utility. The Rambler American and the Plymouth Valiant were the kings in this regard. They were the Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas of their day.
Being so close to Kenosha, Ramblers were all over Chicago in early 60’s. But, I can see in the rest of the US being out of style and stodgy.
Seems like after ’65 they dropped off the charts like a faded Top 40 act. Then did the AMC re-image, then lots of Gremlins, Hornets and Eagles all over Chicago, until the next downturn.
Weren’t AMC cars also called “Kenosha Cadillacs” back in the day?
Yes ,On the C..B. radio, they were., Especially Ambassadors and Matadors!
I always liked the 63 Rambler in particular. I spent quite a few hours behind the wheel of my brother-in-law’s 63 6 cyl, three on the tree, and found it to be a pleasant driving experience. One thing about these early sixties AMC products was that they had some really fine rust proofing from the factory. Living in the northeast we noticed things like that. It was not unusual to see many of these cars on the road ten to fifteen years later with no rust showing anywhere. This was certainly not true of my 1973 Matador wagon that began rusting within five years. It was also a car I truly enjoyed driving. I did think the 63 was the cleanest design of the early sixties Ramblers. I did not care for the boxy look of the 64.
The big advance with these cars was the “uniside” construction, which consisted of a single stamping for the body sides, resulting in improved fit, durability and protection from dust and water intrustion. Original-condition cars – which is pretty much all that shows up at car shows, as these aren’t worth restoring – have very good panel and door fit.
I agree with jpcavanaugh that these were a little “off,” and largely because of the wheel openings on the exterior and the dashboard. The more conservative wheel openings on the 1964 Americans look much better. The basic shape, though, is quite good. Simply eliminating the B-pillar on the two door sedan would have made a very nice hardtop coupe (and better than what AMC did offer for 1964 in the senior lines).
AMC should have turned it over to GM to finalize the details and design the interior. Then let one of the European companies work on the chassis and steering.
“Chassis engineering was not AMCs strong suit”
Remember that these cars still had the old trunnion front suspension (not kingpins, as a poster some time back stated), and torque tube drive with coil springs. The new American, introduced in 1964, and based on this platform, had a conventional open driveshaft with leaf springs. The torque tube lasted through the 1966 MY, and trunnions finally went away at the end of 1969.
My father started working at “The Motors” in late 1962, and bought one of these. Ambassador 990 2-door sedan, maroon with white top, 327, three-speed manual with the Twin Stick overdrive, buckets and console. Sharp car, and quite fast.
My brother ended up with it and kinda butchered up the mechanicals. He sold it to a friend, who eventually did a complete restoration on the car. It has changed hands a few times since, but is still kicking around. Last I knew it was in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago; saw it at an AMC show a few years ago. Looks better than it did when it was new.
It is very strange to see a car you knew so well as a kid turn up at a car show 20+ years after you last saw it, and 40 years after it was the family car.
Guy who owned it had NO interest in hearing about the car’s history.
Guy who owned it had NO interest in hearing about the car’s history.
That’s too bad.
I actually think these were one of the prettiest cars of the 60s, and the design was akin to a Niemeyer tower block in Brasilia- minimalist, yet with just enough curve to keep it interesting. The comparison to the Volvo 240 is not lost either, as I am an owner of one of those too, and the cars share a timeless look- certainly the style isn’t that far away from the Dart/Valiant/Swinger that lasted until ’76. In ’63, Mopars were still strange looking (although the Dart was becoming pretty), and the Falcon and Nova were incredibly dull.
This was a cohesive design- something that was rare in Detroit at the time. I do speak from experience, as I owned a ’64 550. For a ‘poverty spec’ car, it was very nice. Not only could the seats turn into a bed, but they actually could recline- and this was on the cheapest model. The turquoise nylon upholstery, turquoise vinyl and glassfibre headlining all combined to make a very nice interior.
Similarly, the car also had one of the best heaters ever put into an American car, and that dashboard was very intuitive to use- placing all controls in the driver’s reach. Aside from the rather retro single number speedo (which I rather liked), it was a very modern interior. That heater, the ‘weather eye’ was one of the best heater systems ever invented- and the Rambler had the controls nicely backlighted, with nice chunky chrome levers to operate.
The handling was not as bad as others said either. As a day to day car without sporting intentions, it was fine. Mine didn’t wander on the highways, and always went where pointed. Granted, the reputation for wayward handling probably came from tired examples owned by cheapskate owners who didn’t keep everything greased. Similarly, the gearbox wasn’t bad for a 3 speed, it kept up with traffic, and the 6 cylinder was quite smooth.
My dad, on the other hand, absolutely hated Ramblers with a passion. He could barely hide his disgust when I purchased mine in 2000 off Ebay, having travelled by Greyhound from Detroit to Omaha to pick it up. Dad you see grew up with my grandfather’s ’62 Rambler burned into his memory. He learned to drive its 3 speed, hated its handling- as Grandpa wasn’t one to pay for grease, and despised the vacuum wipers. Yet, the more things change the more they stay the same. I suppose if a child of mine brought home a Corolla (rusty examples of which were Dad’s work cars) I’d probably react with similar disgust. Actually, I suppose the same demographic who purchased Ramblers later went on to buy Toyotas.
But I digress. My Rambler only leaves a positive memory for me, and even the worst problem of the wipers could be easily remedied with an electric motor from a later Hornet.
I also have to say that the interior and trunkspace was quite good too- plus, that trunklid opened all the way to the bumper facilitating loading. I also have to second the idea that it was very rust resistant. My ’64 had ZERO rust in 2000, and it was 100% usable in all conditions of Detroit traffic and commuting year round. I never got stuck in the snow, spun out, or held up traffic. It could cruise at 70 and dodge potholes on the Lodge with the best of them, and never once broke down in 10,000 miles.
My little Rambler was a great car- far better than it deserved to be.
Very well said and I agree 100%.
“By then, it had become embarrassingly out-of date, a car only a spinster librarian would be caught semi-alive in.” My 3rd-grade teacher drove a ’62 Classic. I’m pretty sure she was a “Miss”, not a “Mrs.” Which could mean anything or nothing about her actual life, now that I think about it 😉
If I remember correctly, the front and rear bumpers were interchangeable on the 1963 Classics.
My own theory is that Rambler drivers went to Volvos or Peugeots.
Hey- I drive a Volvo 245 so it must be true. However, I doubt that many Rambler owners in the ’60s or ’70s (at least cheap ones like my grandfather) would spend their own money on some fancy you-ro-pee-un thing.
I also remember it was the first American mainstream car with curved glass as well as those unique one piece alloy window frames.
I also remember those cheap little black and white ads for Rambler in the back of National Geographic with a picture of an elderly church pastor with a name like Elmer K. Hooperhaper who would talk about how his rambler is able to take him all over the parish in the snow of South Dakota or the like. I don’t think the ads even had a picture of the car. If advertising is supposed to sell not just the product but a ‘lifestyle’ I don’t think I want the one that has Reverend Elmer on it. Sad, though, because these could have been sold so much better.
“Love Letters to Rambler” was the name of those small ads, I still have some from when I used to save old car advertisements. They’re so corny and homely, they’re humorous and so typical of what Ramblers stood for.
…like text versions of Paul Harvey endorsements
Like Brian, I figure your theory must be correct. I owned a 73 Matador wagon and my current ride is a 2007 Volvo V70 wagon. Of course there were 20+ other cars in between. The Matador was only in my collection from 1976 to 1980. Ohio rust and a strained automatic transmission killed the Matador at somewhere around 90,000 miles and it only barely made it to a Mercury dealer where it was traded for a left over 1979 Mercury Zephyr wagon.
compact Rambler people either went to the AMC Hornet or to the Plymouth Valiant.
It’s a classic design, no pun intended. One of the requirements for a CCOTY would have to be the percentage still on the road in original condition, a category where these old Ramblers do pretty well. I’d really like to have a 1964 Typhoon– it was a special edition brought out to showcase the new 232 six. It wasn’t much more than a Classic painted yellow with a black top, but I’ve always liked the looks of them, and the 232 was an engine worth waiting a year for.
I love those Typhoons, years back there was one regularly parked by my work. I’d lust after that thing almost every day.
I have a ’63 Classic 660. It’s the same color as the car in the story, though my interior is green, not tan.
The concave grill wasn’t unusual in ’63, Ford was doing that as well. I think ford pulled it off a bit better. From what I’ve seen at Rambler meets, each and every ’63 Classic has a dent somewhere in the grill. There are no NOS ones available as far as I know.
As far as handling, I agree with Brian, they were certainly not sporting cars, but handled every bit as well as other family sedans of the era, if not better. Ride was noticeably better than many cars of the era. My brother had a ’62 Stude and the difference was startling. The unibody really made a huge difference. I had a ’63 Galaxie and I can’t say that it handled any better than my Classic, didn’t ride as well either. (With the 390 it was quite a bit quicker than the Calssic -6) When I bought my Classic in the late ’80s it was still tight and felt like a lightly used car, though it had racked up a lot of miles.
I agree the dash was a little outdated, but not really that much, and the single digit speedo was sort of a Rambler trademark, and it’s important for repeat customers to see something familiar.
My car has vacuum wipers which really never should have been used after the invention of the electric motor. On the plus side, AMC used vacuum motors at least into the early ’70s so finding parts/replacements is easy.
I like the rear end styling, simple and clean.
IMO this car is just begging for the ’63 Mercury “Breezeway” roof treatment.
Any pictures, Dynamic88? I am a sucker for green (or aqua) cars–and green interiors!
Sorry, no pics. Maybe I’ll get it out come spring and put some pics on the cohort. I like Green/Green cars too. As far as I know you and I are the only ones who do.
Hi I have a 2 door 63 with the 327 forsale taking offers 740-433-5078
From 1956-1966 my Father was partners in a Couer d’Alene Rambler dealership. In those days, cars damaged by the transport company became their instant property for later “auction” to various insiders at prices agreed to in advance. We went all over the country buying various Ramblers, Chryslers, and occasional GM products. We drove some questionable autos with taped-in windshields and roped close doors back to the northwest for repair and sale. If memory serves, it all came to a halt when the Highway Safety bill was enacted. I used to spend days pretending I was driving every new car in the marshaling yard. Some of my greatest memories are train trips to Milwaukee to meet Dad. I still own a 1967 Ambassador DPL coupe with less than 5000 miles. Like many things, I wish I knew then what I know now.
Sounds like you had a pretty neat childhood. Let Paul or I know if you’d care to try a bit of writing for CC. I’d love to hear more about your Ambassador.
I’ve enjoyed all of Paul’s work for many years now, and when walking in downtown Portland, I’ve wondered if I have encountered him casually. I believe you have my email. I was very lucky in this genetic lottery called life, as I was raised by a man who worked with Bunkie and Pete Estes in the late 30’s and during wartime before being drafted. He insisted that since he drove a farm truck at 10, his progeny was equally adept, and one day pulled over and said you drive, son. I was nine. After faking like he was going to leave me when I bolted, I proceeded to drive us to Susanville.
A handsome powder blue Classic 660 station wagon graced our driveway for a couple of years. Dad ordered the V-8, as it replaced the 283 V-8 bat-wing ’59 Brookwood.. The shark mouth grille was distinctive and overall shape very modern. Many innovations compared to the big-three, curved side glass and dual-circuit brakes to name two. Two selling points for dad were standard seat belts and headrests for safety. Mom liked the split bench seat that individually reclined.
One of the stock statements about Kaisers was “stick a Buick nameplate on them and they would have sold like hotcakes.” I think the Classic, equipped with a Mopar slant six and a decent suspension, would have made a really good Valiant. The problem was, the Valiant was already a really good Valiant, and there was no way for AMC to catch up. Stodgy wasn’t necessarily a deal killer in the 60’s. The ’62-67 Nova sedan, and the ’67-up Valiant/Dart, were if anything stodgier looking versions of the same three-box design as the Classic/American. And early Falcons appear next to the word stodgy in the dictionary. But they all had better engineering, plus available higher performance options, plus better dealer networks, plus the marketing benefit of association with popular big-brother brands.
So many AMC haters up in here! lol
On a serious note, as the owner of a ’63 Classic 660 just like the one pictured here, some of you folks made some good points. The straight 6 is sluggish and lacks torque, the dash layout is a bit dated, I personally feel that the rear end is the worst part of the car-it just doesn’t look ‘classy’ to me- but the neat concave grille is so early-60’s and really gets attention. Only issue with that is it sits too far forward. It’s almost flush with the front bumper and has dents and dings all over it.
Dad bought a puke tan 62 440 Station wagon when he retired from the Navy and moved us from Calif to Md. in 1970. He used it as the 2nd car (his work car). Left side springs sagged, motor burned more oil than a Fletcher class destroyer laying a smoke screen. I learned to drive a non syncromesh 3 speed on that car, and got to the point where I could shift it without the clutch once rolling. Once I started driving it was the car that I was allowed to drive. 5 gallons of oil a week @ SEARS, and 10 gallons of gas a month. We hauled damned near everything in that wagon, except Girlfriends. It was especially effective during mosquito season!
The engine finally threw 5 of 6 rods out thru the side of the block in the driveway. Scared the living SH** out of me when it did. Dropped a 232 from a 68 in it and kept on going for another 5 years, 4 more teens’ learning to drive a stick until the front end finally gave up the ghost (my younger brother would go to his GF’s house and the road had dips and hills you could get airborn on @ about 60mph). I got tired of replacing parts on the Front end and told dad to junk it. He finally relented and relegated the 71 Matador wagon to the kids. That 304 was a POS. Plenty of Torque, but could NEVER get more than 10-15 psi oil pressure when the motor warmed up. And the Solid State Motorola Alternator/voltage regulator was JUNK. It ran 180,000 miles for dad and he sold it to some kid in town. I saw it a few years later and it had been torn the hell up, but it was still running.
The 66-69’s are my favorite American’s. Saw a 67 440(I think it was) Wagon at the local car show last year in original condition. Paint faded, but the body was straight and intact, absolutely NO RUST, and for sale. If I had the $4K, I’d have bought it in a heartbeat. 232, 3 spd, heater, AM radio, and 4-40 AIR. NO power anything. And those DREAMY fold down seats!!!!!! Absolutely fantastic for watching the movie at the drive in.
I’ve only owned one Rambler – a ’67 Classic 770 station wagon, that I bought from a friend for about $700 in 1975. Though the body was an attractive overall design, the execution was a bit garish, with a 3 tone paint job in different shades of green. The interior was odd too, with ugly upholstery, and that odd Rambler ‘1’ thru ’12’ speedometer.
The car was a rock though – plenty of acceleration from the V8 engine (don’t know the displacement), and it handled decently well for a domestic car of that era. I sold it about 3 years later for about what I paid for it, and kind of missed it for awhile.
As a 17 year old driving this in Canada, that speedo was great.
“How fast are we going son?”
“we’re going 4 rambles, dad.”
I like the front styling of that 63 . Something about that grill and distinctive folded circles around the headlights looks futuristic to me.Too bad they only did that 1 year. My dad had the 64 American. I was proud of the fact that it looked so much like the bigger Rambler Classic with the shared windows. The front side and back side windows are interchangeable , same with the front and back bumper. Good way for an auto maker to save a lot of money. The front and rear on the later Hornets are shaped the same.
1963 model 660 cars rambler clasic few cc engine.How many kilograms of weight of mixture.
The 63 looks a bit strange with the pushed in grille but the 67 Rebel is gorgeous.Ramblers were sold in Britain til 1970ish,there was even a Rambler Javelin There were a few RHD Ramblers sold new in the UK not sure if these were converted in the UK or factory jobs,a lot of American cars came to the UK from Canada for tax reasons..I used to see a few Ramblers from the USAF base as a kid in the 60s but cars from the big 3 easily outsold them,it was the same on our holidays in America and Canada were Ramblers were seen far less than the opposition.
Here in the States, I cannot imagine a car less likely to be found at an Air Force base than a Rambler. But they were parked outside of a lot of libraries, elementary schools and small town churches. 🙂
Yep, one of my 5th grade teachers had a ’63 or ’64 wagon. Not sure if it was Classic or Ambassador trim – it definitly wasn’t a stripper. Went on a few field trips in it in a science based after school program. Hard to imagine the days when a teacher and a volunteer parent might haul around a dozen or so kids in two private cars!
My mother-in-law was a parochial elementary teacher before meeting and marrying my father-in-law. She drove a Rambler in college and bought a new Rambler American when she landed her first teaching job around 1962.
When I was a kid in the 70s I saw a 660 wagon in a magazine, think it was PV4,that was converted to four wheel drive using either Jeep or Scout drivetrain parts.
To my younger eyes, that blue 1962 is really good looking. The earlier Pinin Farina with the filled in wheelwells and exposed spare tire seem to be trying a little hard to be dramatic. By 62, after a few misses, they seem to get the look down. Look at that great roofline and clean body. The librarian buyers, as often happens in my opinion, did their own research and found a gem. I wonder what the Pinin Farina designers thought of Mr. Anderson’s work. Specially later in life, when wasn’t about getting the next contract or I ‘m cool and your not.
The 63s and later, I think may have been too mainstream looking. To survive, making them off one platform made a lot of sense, but engineering improvements, rather than sheet metal changes, may have made more sense. This Volvo route may have been more open in a more socialist environment, Canada? Some in Canada, even conservatives, wish they had done more to help similarly situated Studebaker.
Besides the goofy speedometer, it’s another car with an odd radio design. Anyone else notice the separate push-buttons located beneath the tuning knobs and dial? I wonder what that was all about. At first, I thought the push-buttons were for something else, like HVAC controls, since they sort of look like toggle flip-switches.
If I recall correctly, during this era, push-buttons for a radio were an option separate from the radio itself. Particularly in lower price cars.
That’s quite fascinating that you had the choice of getting an extra-cost AM radio or, if you wanted to pony up the cash, get an extra-cost AM radio with push-buttons. Imagine someone agonizing over that decision when ordering a car.
Remember that automobile AM-FM radios were quite rare in 1963 – I don’t know if a buyer could even order an FM radio in cars outside of the Cadillac-Lincoln-Imperial class.
Nor were fancy stereo systems and tape decks available in low price cars during this era. Offering the push-buttons (and a rear-seat speaker) as an optional extra was one way to make some extra money.
Seems like Ford was offering AM-FM radios across the board, at least by 1965. It would be interesting to know when the other manufacturers began doing the same (as well as completely eliminating no-push-button AM radios).
Nothing would scream, “cheap car!” more than a no-push-button AM radio. That sort of thing would seem to be reserved for pickup trucks, which were really basic back then.
It sticks in my mind that the AM radio in our 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon did not have push-buttons.
Given how much equipment was optional in those days, cars could be equipped in ways that seem strange to us today. That Bel Air, for example, had the basic V-8, Powerglide, power steering, power tailgate window and the AM radio. But it didn’t have power brakes, and I’m pretty sure that the radio didn’t have push-buttons. It also sported the plain dog-dish wheel covers, but my parents always bought whitewall tires.
1963 was the first year an AM/FM radio was available on AMC cars; only on Classic and Ambassador. If you can find one today, they are worth some serious bucks.
My ’64 American had a non-pushbutton AM radio. Pushbuttons were available at extra cost for those that didn’t want to spin a knob.
Motorola made all of AMC’s radios, and they were all-transistor in ’63.
The lack of power brakes is not surprising. It’s quite amazing at how little manufacturers paid to stopping their vehicles back in the halcyon days of the sixties, regardless of how fast they were capable of accelerating. They were concerned with good braking even less than good handling. On top of that, any options that helped improve braking was usually very expensive (disc brakes, in particular).
Of course, that may have just been an indirect engineering problem. A lot of those really high-horsepower engines sometimes didn’t have sufficient vacuum to operate power options that required it.
In fact, upgrading brake systems is one of the few areas I give restorers a little slack. If someone really wants to enjoy and drive their classic car more than to just the occasional car show, I can understand switching the old brake system to something much more modern (and safer).
That ’65 Bel Air was equipped almost exactly as our Impala, but we had a push button Am radio. Power brakes did nothing to make a car safer, unless the driver had very weak legs. The drums were exactly the same and were “self energizing”, meaning that they used centrifugal force to help application. Most vacuum assisted drum brakes were too sensitive and harder to modulate until you got used to them. Still, heat fade was the same.
In ’71 GM introduced disc front brakes on pickups, and the vacuum power booster was optional on the 10 series. I owned one of those “stripper” trucks. It did need some leg muscle to stop, but had more ultimate braking power than the drum system on our Dodge A-100 van.
Yes – cars back in those days could be configured in much greater variety for options.
Budget-minded folks could opt for radio-delete (with a panel instead of the radio), in “strippo” format, dog-dish hubcaps, no chrome trim, etc.
Nowadays new cars come pretty well-equipped to a certain standard – A/C, electric windows, a sound system, jacks. I’d reckon the greater availability and relative lower cost of electronics today have helped this trend.
One look no further than the ultra-cheapo Mitsubishi Mirage or Chevy Spark to prove the point. They are among the cheapest new cars available today, comparable to the old Ramblers, yet they come standard with AM/FM/CD, A/C, tilt steering wheel, and power windows and door locks (not to mention multiple air bags and Bluetooth connectivity, which weren’t even available back then). A half century ago, that stuff was reserved for only the most premium luxury cars (and, even then, they might be options and not standard).
Of course, the trade-off is that the driving experience of a Mirage or Spark is that of a tiny, noisy penalty box that you shift yourself, and nothing like the quiet, cushy boulevard ride of an early sixties Lincoln or Cadillac.
The buttons were used to lock in your favorite stations, hence the dials and the buttons. The dials also let you tune in the reception on that particular favorite.
Really, really love that concave grille. Yes, Ford was doing the same thing, but I just really like the execution here. Unconventional but interesting tail panel design too–overall, it really works well to me.
I’m assuming AMC products were more common in the Midwest though? I can only recall seeing one in recent memory in North Carolina or Virginia (there is a rather nice ’64 or ’65 American here in Richmond.)
Agreed that the concave ’63 grille looks better than the ’64. Teague made a mistake by not sticking with the earlier design. A ’64 Rambler hardtop or convertible with a ’63 grille really would have been a nice looking car.
Regardless, I always used to mistake the short-lived, built-out-of-desperation, and not-well-known Dodge 880 for Ramblers of the same vintage, mainly due to the similarity with the grilles.
AMC pioneered (at least in the New Orleans, LA area) the popularity & acceptance of Air Conditioning in their cars in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. ( A MOST desirable option here in the Hot & Humid southeast.)
Was this a factory AMC push or just the local Rambler dealer?
Even as a single digit kid in the early 1960’s, I recall seeing more than a few Rambler’s with their below the dash A/C units and asking my Father “What that is, Daddy?”.
Mark, IIRC AMC was the first [or Nash] to put the entire AC unit under the hood, rather than in the trunk. Combined with the “Weather Eye” heater it would have been a great system and less complicated to build and simpler to install [?]. That may have brought the cost down as well.
Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. But AMC, if not the first to install AC in the engine bay, one of THE first.
However, I thought Nash-Hudson-Rambler-AMC was the first to sell a car model that came standard with A/C. The Kelvinator air conditioning unit.
The 1954 Nash and 1954 Pontiac were the first to offer A/C with all components under the hood and controls integrated in the dash. In the Nash it was quite sophisticated and integrated into its excellent Weather Eye system.
According to Wikipedia…
The 1968 AMC Ambassador was the first car with standard A/C.
Trunnion front suspension, vacuum wipers – so outdated how did AMC ever think they could compete with this? I am an AMC fan somewhat but these cars don’t really interest me very much. Never liked the shape of the rear wheel openings, really ruined the look of these cars.
I had a 1963 AMC Rambler Classic 660, in 2011, as a 17 year old. I pulled it out of a ravine with my tow truck, on Canada’s West Coast, and fired it up. There was zero rust including behind the wheels. That’s why they were that shape – nothing gets caught in them. They basically just talk for a little corner where ever rest always starts, and decided not to build it.
Going by memory here with no facts to back it up, but I remember as two car households were becoming more popular the choice for car no. 2 was often a Rambler or a Vw for mom to drive while Dad took the Oldsmobile to work. When men were men.
Dad had a ’67 Conti, Mom had a ’66 Beetle.
in my family, dad had a ’69 chevelle SS 396 4speed and mom had a ’60 ford falcon coupe, red and white…then my younger sibling was born and dad had a brand new chevy clamshell station wagon and mom had an old 58 mercury sedan w/ marauder engine.
This car looks best to me as a wagon – and I think quite a few of them were sold as wagons.
The rather rare high trim Ambassadors are quite handsome.
I actually like the wheel arches, the long trailing look was done fairly dramatically by Buick and Chevrolet that I can think of before this car. They give a little flair to an otherwise quite conservative design.
Concave front ends are hard to pull off, I always thought this was one of the best. The ’61 Dodge had a concave front that even Ma Mopar was ashamed of……
A. My dad wouldn’t go the extra $10 or so for the pushbuttons on his ’57 Chevy Bel Air.
B. The 1958 Lincoln offered an FM converter with the AM radio.
My dad and his Rambler. I always thought this was an amazingly attractive car. With Nash fold down seats. And, yes, this was the second car.
If I remember correctly, one of the cost saving measures AMC used on the ’60s was to make the front and rear bumpers interchangeable. Back up lights were substituted for turn signals. I believe that this continued on the ’70 Hornet.
The 1963 restyle was a winner and led the Rambler Classic to the Motor Trend COTY. Much nicer than the stodgy ’62 model.
For some reason lots of these were wagons. An uncle had a base 550. Oddly equipped. Essentially a strippo with 3 on the tree and no options, except Solex glass and a power rear window. Plain, but didn’t feel cheap. Next door neighbor went the other route and had a loaded Ambassador 990. Even had the 327 4 bbl. Automatic on the column instead of the push buttons on the ’62. Recall it was quite nice
I JUST PURCHED A 1963 660 CLASSIC STATION WAGON, AT FIRST I JUST WANTED TO DO THE FEW REPAIRES NEEDED,THEN MY RAMBLER AND I TOOK A RIDE. I HAD FORGOT WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO DRIVE DOWN THE ROAD AND NOT SHAKEING FORM EVERY LITTLE CRACK IN THE ROAD. I WISH WE HERE IN THE USA , WOULD BUILD BETTER .
When I was a kid we moved from California to Kansas City. With five of us in the car– us three kids in the back seat– my dad towed our VW Beetle with our nearly-new ’63 Rambler Classic 550. For years afterward he would brag about how the Rambler (with only a 196) made it across the Berthoud Pass (11,307 feet) in the Rocky Mountains towing that VW. Just when he thought we were going to have to get out and push it “dropped down to passing gear” (dad’s words) and kept going.
A couple years later we made an east-coast trip in the same car. We spent time in in Washington DC and Niagara Falls, and picked up a kitten from some Connecticut friends we visited. We took it back to Kansas City with us in the Rambler.
Two years after that we moved back to California and made the trip in the Rambler again. The VW was gone by this time, but we still had the cat with us!
Dad always talked about how he never had to do anything to that car in 100k+ miles.
In ’69 they traded it on a new Javelin. Being a plain-Jane stripped down version, I doubt it survived, but I still hope to find it every time I see one for sale.
Wow, I thought our family was the only one to buck the trend to move to California (they moved originally from Mass to CA though), at least your family eventually moved back. Ours never did, though in 2005 we took a trip back (first since 1961 for my Mom) and she got to look at the first house they ever bought, while my Dad and I tried to look inconspicuous hanging out in the front yard.
My Dad left his job at Hoffman Electronics in 1961 and drove his ’61 Classic Wagon back east to work at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. Still a single car family; my Dad traded the ’61 on a ’63 Classic Wagon though by then we had been transferred and living in Catonsville, MD. Didn’t have the ’63 long as we were moving from Catonsville staying in a motel my Dad was in a n accident outside the motel which totalled the ’63. Somehow he got up to his new job and replaced the ’63 with a ’65 F85 Wagon bought at Val Preda in South Burlington, VT, thus ending his AMC ownership. I think he was somewhat typical in that he was gradually moving up the chain, from 6’s in both Ramblers, to a 330V8 in the F85. A couple years later he bought his first “2nd” car, a ’59 VW Beetle. The Beetle got crunched in front of our house in Burlington, and he replaced it with what my Mom really thought was an ugly car, a new ’68 Renault R10.
Ten years later, we’d returned from living in northern Virginia, now living in Shelburne, VT (same employer for my Dad) and one of our neighbors owned the AMC dealership up on Spear St. in South Burlington. Not sure when it stopped being AMC, but it eventually became on of the early Honda dealerships.
Is it just me or does the pinin farina grill look like a current Buick grill?
Huh. No wonder I like it.
And the ’64 American has the same clean look to my eye as their Studebaker contemporaries.
I inherited pretty much this exact car when my father passed back in the day. It was in nice shape, ran good etc. Only problem was if it rained overnight, it wouldn’t start in the morning. Turned over normally, just no start. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I know I replaced all the tune up items, plugs, points & condenser, wires, even a new coil. All I had to do was jump it and it would start right up! Finally sold it to a guy I worked with who thought he knew what to problem was. He sold it soon after.
The 63-64 Classics and Ambassadors were a great, ‘right-sized’ design. The ’63s sold well. When the newly redesigned ’64 American appeared, Classic sales dropped off. There was nothing wrong with an upper trunnion/lower ball joint suspension on these cars, they were quite durable. And lower price Chrysler products had vacuum wipers way-too-long also. I’m not sure anyone mentioned the torque-tube driveline above, but that was old fashion. Americans had an open drive shaft, the Classics/Ambos/Marlins kept the torque-tube through ’66. The ’64 Classic/Ambassador hardtop is a very nice looking hardtop!