American Motors surprised most observers with the December 1956 introduction of the Rambler Rebel – "a veritable supercar". The new 1957 model debuted as a high-performance vehicle that combined AMC's lightweight 108-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase Rambler four-door hardtop body with AMC's 327 cu in (5.4 L), making it the first-time that a large block V8 was installed in a mid-size car in the post-World War II marketplace. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler offered no intermediate sized cars whatsoever.
Although AMC was best known for their reliable economy cars, this special model came with a bigger engine than anything found at Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth - the Rambler's most popular competitors at that time. The Rebel's US$2,786 MSRP base price was economical for the amount of power provided. It was the fastest stock American sedan, according to Motor Trend.
The Rebel was tested by Motor Trend, which found that when equipped with the Bendix "Electrojector" electronic fuel injection (EFI), this sedan was faster from a standing start than the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette with mechanical fuel injection. This was to have been the first production engine with fuel injection; however, it did not materialize because of cold-weather starting problems. At least two pre-production Rebels with EFI are known to have been built. All of the production Rebels used a four-barrel carburetor. Nevertheless, the EFI option remained in the published owner's manual.
All Rebels came with a manual (with overdrive unit) or an automatic transmission, as well as other performance enhancements such as a dual exhaust system, heavy-duty suspension with Gabriel (brand) shock absorbers, and front sway bar. The Rebel was capable of 0 to 60 mph (0-97 km/h) acceleration in just 7.5 seconds with its standard 255 hp (190.2 kW) carburetored engine. The car's light monocoque (unibody) construction afforded a power-to-weight ratio of about 13 pounds per horsepower. The Rebel's engine also differed from the 327s installed in the 1957 Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models because it used mechanical valve lifters and a higher compression ratio. Since both engines were rated at 255 hp, it is probable that the Rebel's was underrated.
Power steering and power drum brakes were also standard, as on all Rambler Custom models. The car was available only in silver metallic paint accented with gold anodized aluminum inserts along the sides. A total of 1,500 Rebels were produced in 1957. Many of which were returned to AMC dealers for repainting after several years of weather exposure caused premature breakdown of its special lacquer paint.
For 1958, the Rebel name returned, but no longer with the 327 engine. Rather than identifying a specialty model, the name was applied to all Ramblers powered by AMC's 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 engine. Rebel came with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts rated at 215 hp (160 kW) with 260 lb·ft (353 N·m) of torque. The 327 engine was made standard in the more luxurious Rambler Ambassador models. The 1958 Rebel lineup encompassed six models: Super or Custom trimmed four-door sedans and Cross Country station wagons, plus a base Deluxe four-door sedan that was reserved for fleet sales. A four-door hardtop in the top-line Custom trim was now Rebel's sole pillarless model. These Rebels were no longer the muscle car of 1957, but did offer more power than regular Rambler models. A test by Motor Trend concluded "the V8 powered Rebel is now able to reach a true 60-mph from a standstill in an estimated 12.0 seconds" — significantly slower than the limited-production '57 Rebel, and this was pretty good for that era.
The 1958 Rambler Rebel and Rambler Six shared revised styling with new grille, front fenders containing quad headlamps, as well as a new hood design while the rear received new fenders with impressive tailfins. For 1958 and 1959, the Rambler
Car Life magazine called the 1959 Rambler "one of the most attractive cars on the road". Rebels featured hoods without ornaments, a new full-width grille with large inset turn signal lamps, bumpers and bumper guards that reduced overall length by 1.6 inches (41 mm), a thinner roof panel look with narrower C-pillars, windshield and rear window slanted at a greater angle reducing wind resistance, simpler bodyside trim, and restyled rear doors and fenders with a smooth line to the smaller tailfins All Rebels benefitted from bigger brakes, improved automatic transmission controls, and numerically lower axle ratios for improved fuel economy. A new option was adjustable headrests. The 1959 Rebel came with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts rated at 215 hp (160 kW) with 260 lb·ft (353 N·m) of torque.
American Motors downplayed the Rambler Rebel name in 1960. Rather than focus on the separate Six and Rebel models, as in previous years, emphasis was placed on the Rambler name and the trim levels, with the notation that each series was offered with "Economy 6" or "Rebel V8" engines. The 1960 model year saw the Rebel available with a lower compression 2-barrel version rated at 200 hp (149 kW).
After 1960 all of the 108-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase models took the Rambler Classic name.
The Rebel name reappeared in 1966 on a version of the Rambler Classic two-door hardtop with special interior trim and a revised roofline. For 1967, all of AMC's intermediates took the Rambler Rebel name. For 1968, the historic "Rambler" marque was dropped and the car was named AMC Rebel.
- Rambler Six - the companion 1957–60 models with I6 engines
- "1957-1960 Rambler Rebel" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on: 2008-06-27.
- Note: The AMC engine was introduced five years before the Chevy V8 of the same size. The General Motors engine of the same displacement never powered AMC automobiles.
- Excerpts from 1957 Rambler Rebel owner's manual, retrieved on: August 21, 2007.
- AMC V8 Engines by Mike Sealey, retrieved on: August 21 2007.
- "1958 Rambler Rebel" Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on: 2008-06-27.
- "1959 Rambler Rebel" Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on: 2008-06-27.
- "1960 Rambler Rebel" Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on: 2008-06-27.
The Standard Catalogue of American Cars 1946-1975, John Gunnell, Editor. Kraus Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-87341-096-3
- AMC Rambler Car Club
- Rambler & Rebel
- The Nash Car Club
- Ramblers History on amcrc.com
- AMCyclopedia AMC/Rambler History/Documentation Site
American Motors road car timeline, United States market, 1954–1988
|Rebel V8||Marlin||Matador Coupe|
|SUV||see timeline of Jeep models|
|Military vehicles||Mighty Mite||AM General trucks, Jeeps, and the HMMWV|