Rambler American

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Rambler American
1967 Rambler Rogue convertible, the last year for the "ragtop" models. 1967 Rambler Rogue convertible
ManufacturerAmerican Motors (AMC)
Production1958 – 1969
AssemblyKenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Tehran, Iran (Pars Khodro)
Mexico City, Mexico (VAM)
Santa Isabel, Argentina (IKA)
PredecessorNash Rambler
SuccessorAMC Hornet
LayoutFR layout
PlatformAMC’s “junior cars”
ManualsService Manual

The Rambler American was an automobile manufactured by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) between 1958 and 1969. The American was the second incarnation of AMC's forerunner Nash Motors second generation Rambler compact that was sold under the Nash and Hudson Motors marques from 1954 and 1955.

The American can be classified in three distinct generations: 1958 to 1960, 1961 to 1963, and 1964 to 1969. During the entire length of its production, the car was sold under the Rambler brand name, and was the last Rambler automobile manufactured for the Canadian and United States markets.

These Rambler models were produced in other markets under license including Iran (by [[Mexico (by Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos "VAM") and Argentina (by Industrias Kaiser Argentina "IKA") with local development up to 1981. The Rambler American was also sold in other export markets such as South Africa.


First generation
1959 Rambler American 2-door 1959 Rambler American sedan
Production1958 – 1960
Body style(s)2-door coupe
2-door station wagon
4-door sedan
Engine(s)3.2 L I6
Wheelbase100 inches (2,540 mm)

The genesis of the Rambler American began when AMC President George W. Romney saw that AMC was in need of a small compact during the Recession of 1958. The company had retained the tooling from its 1955 model Rambler, which was only slightly modified and then used for the basis of the "new" American. AMC designers gave the car a new grille and more open rear fender wells, giving the car a lighter appearance than that of the earlier car, which had hidden its rear wheels behind deeply skirted fenders. This design was originally mandated by Nash's Airflyte styling motif which sought to reach for the blinding optimism of post-World War II transportation.[1] The car's seemingly narrow 55-inch (1,397 mm) track was not much different from the industry standard, but rather an illusion fostered by the bulbous bodywork.[1]

For 1958, the American was available only as a two-door sedan, but found 30,640 buyers during the abbreviated 1958 model year. In 1959, AMC sold 91,491 units, having added a two-door station wagon. In 1960, the line added a four-door sedan and sales increased to 120,603 units.


Second generation
1962 Rambler American convertible 1962 Rambler American convertible
Production1961 – 1963
Body style(s)2-door convertible
2-door hardtop
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
2-door station wagon
4-door station wagon
Engine(s)3.2 L I6
Wheelbase100 inches (2,540 mm)
DesignerEdmund E. Anderson

The second generation Rambler American was achieved through a heavy restyling of the previous year's model under AMC's styling Vice President Edmund E. Anderson. While mechanically identical to the 1960 model, Anderson's restyle resulted in a car that was shorter in its exterior dimensions, but increased in its cargo capacity. The line added a two-door convertible and a four-door wagon. For 1963, a pillarless hardtop coupe debuted, the roof of which was designed to mimic the appearance of a closed convertible top. A special model, the resulting "440-H" was equipped with sporty touches like bucket seats, and a more powerful 138 hp (103 kW) version of Rambler's stalwart 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) inline-6 engine.


Third generation
1964 top of the line 440-H two-door 1964 Rambler American 440-H coupe
Also calledRambler
Production1964 – 1969
Body style(s)2-door convertible
2-door hardtop
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Engine(s)3.8 L I6
3.3 L I6
4.2 L I6
4.0 L I6
4.8 L V8
5.6 L V8
6.4 L V8
6.8 L V8
Transmission(s)4-speed manual
Wheelbase106 inches (2,692 mm)
DesignerRichard A. Teague
1968 Rambler American station wagon in "factory" new condition in 2006.

For its third generation, the American emerged with what would be its only completely new design. The entire line was treated to neat and trim lines with pleasing simplicity (compared to the more boxy predecessors) with characteristic tunneled headlights with a simple horizontal grille between them. In addition to the de luxe 440 models, cheaper 330 and 220 models were also available. Full coil front springs along with soft rear leaf units, gave the new American an unusually smooth ride, better than many larger domestic cars. Many viewed the newly designed station wagon as the best-looking of any American wagon, with its new, trim lines and ample passenger and cargo room.

The new styling was the work of famous designer Richard A. Teague, who would go on to design the 1968 Javelin and AMX. The Rambler American's wheelbase grew by six-inches or 152 mm (to 106 in or 2692 mm) in 1964. The new models also incorporated various parts and components (such as doors) that were interchangeable with AMC's larger cars. That year saw the introduction of the new 232 cu in (3.8 L) overhead valve straight-6 engine, which AMC would use from 1964 to 1979, with a smaller 199 cu in (3.3 L) version being used only during 1966-70. The same engine was later available in a larger 258 cu in (4.2 L) version, used from 1971-89, and a 242 cu in (4 L) version that debuted in 1987, known as the Jeep 4.0, which Chrysler would continue through 2006.

In 1966, the models were facelifted and they featured more squared-off front and rear styling, making the car seem more modern. The top of the line model was only available as a two-door hardtop saw its name changed from 440-H to Rogue. Furthermore, a completely new 290 cu in (4.8 L) "Typhoon" V8 engine was developed by AMC and it saw its introduction in a special mid-1966 Rogue model. The 330 model was dropped, leaving the Rogue, 440, and base 220 models in the lineup for 1966.

The last convertible in the American series was in 1967, and it was moved up from 440 models to join the hardtop in the Rogue version. For 1967 only, AMC's new 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engine was available in the American Rogue and the 440. Factory installations of this engine were in 58 Rogues and just 55 in the 440 models, with a paltry seven of them being in the convertible version. Rogues also received grille trim that wrapped around the fender sides. All Americans received a new grille insert with prominent chromed horizontal bars. 1967 also saw Federally-mandated safety equipment, including an energy-absorbing steering column and steering wheel, more padding on interior surfaces, 4-way hazard flashers, and locking seat back latches for 2-door models. The instrument cluster was changed from a rectangular-gauge design, to three round gauges, the center dial housing the speedometer and odomoeter, the with smaller fuel and engine temperature gauges flanking each side of the speedometer.

For 1968, the line was further simplified, with the 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan comprising the base 220 line, 4-door sedan and station wagon being offered in uplevel 440 guise, and a lone hardtop coupe making up the top-line Rogue trim line. All Americans received a new chrome horizontal grille bar that extended outboard to the headlights. The 440 and Rogue versions picked up a stainless steel trim piece running stem to stern on either body side, straight back between the wheel wells and the belt line. At each end of the strip was the newly mandated side marker lights, amber for the front fenders, red for the rear. However, the biggest change was the decision to cut the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) of the base two-door model to within US$200 of the Volkswagen Beetle. The Big Three automakers did not respond to this strategy, thus giving AMC a big price differential over the competing domestic models. Sales of the Rambler American increased and the showroom traffic boosted morale among AMC's independent dealerships. The American, along with "A" body Mopars, were the only domestics available as a hardtop coupe model, the Ford Falcon and Chevy Nova being only available as pillared sedans (and a wagon in the Falcon line). The wraparound rear window on sedans, was modified to a flat unit, with a more squared-off "C" pillar, which changed the appearance from the earlier sedans with their overhanging rooflines.

For its final model year, 1969, the "American" name was dropped as the car was now referred to as the "American Motors Rambler". The chrome grille bar was deleted, as well. However, to commemorate the impending passing of the Rambler name, American Motors added the Rogue-based SC/Rambler to the line. Additional safety equipment for the 1969 models included front shoulder belts and headrests for both front outboard seating positions.

For 1970, the American was replaced by the AMC Hornet.


The SC/Rambler was purposefully promoted by AMC as a potent drag strip challenger
SC/Rambler in "A" trim
SC/Rambler in "B" trim

One of the muscle car era most visually arresting examples was a special model was produced during 1969 in collaboration with Hurst Performance, the Hurst SC/Rambler.[2] With 1,512 built, it was probably the only production model made and promoted for a specific drag racing class, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) F/Stock class. It became one of the most potent cars of its time, throwing down quarter-mile times that only Hemis and Cobra Jets had previously touched.[2] A true muscle car with zero options and a suggested retail price (MSRP) of less than US$ $3,000, it would take down some much more vaunted cars.[3]

Each Hurst SC/Rambler came equipped with the 315 hp (235 kW) 390 cu in (6.4 L) AMC V8 engine from the AMX that was mated to a four-speed manual transmission (with Hurst shifter), a 3.54:1 "Twin-Grip" limited slip differential, heavy-duty brakes with front discs and a sway bar, as well as strengthened drive train and body components. American Motors called on Hurst to develop a "Stock Car" (SC) meaning "original factory" production model - often nicknamed "Scrambler" - to make a strong impact in the compact muscle market segment. Available only as a two-door hardtop, the interior came in standard gray vinyl upholstered reclining bucket seats, but with red, white, and blue headrests, as well as a Sun (brand) tachometer strapped to the steering column. Outside, however, the SC/Ramblers came with the wildest factory paint jobs ever put on a muscle car. It also featured a box-type hood scoop with "390 CU. IN." and "AIR" in large letters on both sides of it. If someone missed seeing it, a blue arrow on the hood also pointed towards the air intake. The Scrambler came only in two types of red, white, and blue color schemes ("A" or "B" trims) with no other options available, with the exception of an AM radio.

American Motors built a lot of 500 "A" scheme SC/Ramblers before switching to the "B" scheme. 500 "B" models were built before AMC switched the final lot of 512 SC/Ramblers back to the "A" pattern.[4]

Some of the other unique standard items on this model included racing mirrors, anti-hop rear axle links, and two-tone styled wheels with red stripe Goodyear Polyglas tires. American Motors made the SC/Rambler priced at $2,998 a serious dragstrip contender because in its as-sold condition it could do the quarter mile in the low 14 seconds at about 100 miles per hour (161 km/h).[5] With a few simple bolt on modifications they would run low 12's.[6]

Most SC/Ramblers took extensive abuse as they were raced hard, and there are stories of cars being sold with their time slips passing along with the vehicle.[7]


Main article: Renault Torino

From 1966 to 1981, Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) produced in Argentina a hybrid of the Rambler American, that was introduced in 1964. The car was called Torino and was assembled by IKA from complete knock down (CKD) kits sent from Kenosha, Wisconsin. IKA used the platform of the American combined with the Pininfarina design to create the Argentine car. It was available in two-door hardtop and four-door sedan models. The Torino's engine, transmission, and upgraded interior fittings were unique to Argentina, and were not used on any of the U.S. market Ramblers.

Aria and Shahin

From 1967 to 1971, AMC Rambler Americans were assembled in Iran and were offered in two trim levels as Aria (sometimes spelled "Arya") and Shahin. The Arya was a more luxurious version that came with a 3-speed automatic transmission, while the Shahin was the base model with a manual transmission. They were assembled under the licence of AMC by Pars Khodro starting in 1967[8] and then at the Iran Jeep Company plant in Tehran.



1962 American winning the Mobil Economy Run in an advertisement for Champion spark plugs.

The American was introduced as the North American economy was in a recession and buyers were looking for smaller and more economical cars and the Rambler brand was known as a fuel miser.[9] The Rambler American was a yearly winner of the best fuel economy in the Mobil Economy Run and the Pure Oil Company Economy Trials, even during later years when fuel efficiency was not a major factor in the purchase of automobiles.

For example, at the conclusion of the five-day event in 1959, that covered 1,898 miles (3,055 km), a Rambler American Deluxe topped the 47-car Mobilgas Economy Run field with an average 25.2878 miles per US gallon (9.30150 L/100 km; 30.3694 mpg-imp).[10] That year's Pure Oil Trials were conducted from Los Angeles to Miami, 2,837 miles (4,566 km) covering over all types of terrain and driving types, there a Rambler American with overdrive set the all time NASCAR-supervised coast-to-coast economy record of 35.4 miles per US gallon (6.64 L/100 km; 42.5 mpg-imp).[11]

In the 1960 Mobilgas Economy Run, a Custom two-door sedan returned 28.35 miles per US gallon (8.297 L/100 km; 34.05 mpg-imp) over a route of more than 2,000 miles (3,219 km), finishing first in the compact class. Further proof of the American's exceptional fuel economy came when an overdrive-equipped car driven coast to coast under NASCAR's watchful eyes averaged 38.9 miles per US gallon (6.05 L/100 km; 46.7 mpg-imp). However, the most astounding demonstration was the record set in the Pure Oil Economy Trials, another NASCAR-supervised event: 51.281 miles per US gallon (4.5868 L/100 km; 61.586 mpg-imp), which AMC sagely noted, "No car owner should expect to approach in everyday driving."[12]

In the 1964 run, a 6-cylinder Rambler American 440 sedan averaged 27.8336 miles per gallon (8.450 L/100km); once again, the best of all the cars that year.[13]

Economy claims for stock cars could be confirmed by these open and sanctioned trials. American Motors (as well as its OEM suppliers, such as the print advertisement for Champion spark plugs) promoted the results of this popular event in its advertising as a marketing technique that further emphasized the thriftiness of the Rambler Americans.

Rambler's emphasis on economy over performance can be observed through the example of automatic transmission use in a Rambler American where the 1959 owner's handbook describes leaving the gear selector in the D-2 position (1.47:1 gear ratio) blocks access to low gear (2.40 ratio) when starting out from a stop; therefore, given the car's 3.31 axle, this yields an initial 4.86:1 final drive ratio reducing crankshaft revolutions for maximum fuel economy.[14]

During his 2006-2007 campaign for U.S. president, Mitt Romney sat in a AMC Rambler American at fund-raising events as a way to emphasize the need for more efficient cars. He also stated that his father (George W. Romney) "was a man ahead of his time," at campaign stops and that "He also coined the term 'gas-guzzling dinosaurs.' That's what we're driving today and that's got to change."[15]


Album cover of Rambler '65 by Ben Vaughn

Ben Vaughn is a musician and a longtime Rambler automobile fan. His song called El Rambler Dorado appeared in 1988 on the Blows Your Mind album. He later recorded an entire album in his 1965 Rambler American. Titled appropriately Rambler '65, he turned his car into a makeshift studio. Putting the recording equipment inside the Rambler was a gimmick or an act of showmanship. Nevertheless, according to most reviews, the music he created inside his car is pleasant 1950s and 1960s rock roll and country. The album was released in 1997 by Rhino Records. Even more intriguing for old car enthusiasts is Ben Vaughn's Rambler '65 album recreated in a 24-minute video. Some of the music videos include vintage TV ad clips with AMC cars.

The ‘post-punk’ band Shellac paid tribute to the Rambler on their first 1993 single The Rude Gesture: A Pictorial History with Rambler Song. Steve Albini of Shellac has commented during early live shows of the beauty of, specifically, the 1962 Rambler Ambassador.

The Dutch band Diesel released a song in 1980 called "Sausalito Summer Night" that was about taking a road-trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a Rambler.


Mexico hosted a grueling mostly off-road race, the Baja 500. In July 1967, a Rambler American in the passenger-car category was driven by Spencer Murray and Ralph Poole and finished the run in a record 31 hours.[16]

American Motors then got serious in this type of racing and signed up James Garner's "American International Racers" (AIR) team to a three-year contract. Garner's shops prepared ten 1969 SC/Ramblers provided by AMC. The cars were modified for the punishing Baja 500 race [1]. Raising the suspension and using Goodyear 10x15-inch tires increased ground clearance. All window glass was removed and roll cages were installed. The cars had 44-gallon (167 L) fuel tanks. Two cars were further modified with four-wheel drive. The AIR team built AMC's 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engines to blueprint tolerances, thus increasing horsepower to 410 hp (306 kW) at the flywheel. The cars were capable of 140-mile (225 km) runs along smooth straights at about 7,000 rpm in fourth gear.

On June 11, 1969, eight of the Ramblers were entered into the passenger-car category and the two 4WD versions were in the Experimental class. Garner did not drive in the race because of a film commitment in Spain. Seven of the Ramblers finished the grueling race, taking three of the top five places in the passenger-car class. One of the four-wheel-drive cars came in fourth in its class. The AIR team included a car with Bob Bondurant and Tony Murphy that took first place. For one of the winning Rambler drivers, this was his first ever race and the experience launched the career of Walker Evans.

Rally racing

Rambler Americans raced with good results in the Shell 4000 Rally that was held in Canada. In 1968, for example, the grueling 4,000-mile (6,437 km) rally over the often-tortuous muddy road from Calgary to Halifax, the AMC team finished 2nd, 3rd, and 5th winning the Manufacturers Team Award.[17]

Drag racing

American Motors was not actively involved in auto racing during the early 1960s, advertising that “the only race it cared about was the human race”. However, independent AMC dealerships began sponsoring cars in drag racing events. Preston Honea achieved fame with the 1964 "Bill Kraft Rambler" American from Norwalk, California. The car had a transplanted AMC V8 engine that was bored out to 418 cu in (6.8 L) with four carburetors on special intake manifold and featured a transistorized ignition system as well as an Isky 505-A camshaft.[18] The big engine from an Ambassador added only 80 pounds (36 kg) more than the venerable 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) straight-6 normally found in the small two-door American. However, with its 8200 rpm redline, the Rambler ran 112 mph (180 km/h) at the Fontana drag strip.[19]

In later years, AMC eagerly sponsored Rambler Americans in various motorsport venues and produced a factory-ready Rambler American for drag racing — as noted above with the 1969 SC/Rambler.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Magnate, Steve. "Feature Article: Rambling American", Hemmings Classic Car, March 1, 2006, retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Buyer's Guide, "Feature Article: 1969 AMC SC/RAMBLER", Hemmings Muscle Machines, June 1, 2008.
  3. Donnelley, Jim and Mattar, George. "Top 12 Muscle Car Legends" Hemmings Muscle Machines, August 1, 2006, retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  4. Wilson, Matt. Image of "B" trim SC/Rambler Western Pennsylvania Region, A.A.C.A., retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  5. "1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler: A Profile of a Muscle Car" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, January 10, 2007, retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  6. "1969 SC/RAMBLER" Western Pennsylvania Region, A.A.C.A., retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  7. 1969 AMC SC/Rambler data, information, pictures, VIN ID, technical, and performance info by Timeless Rides, retrieved on August 4, 2008.
  8. Talaei, Ghodratollah and Nejati, Mehran "Corporate Social Responsibility in Auto Industry: an Iranian Perspective" Lex et Scientia No. XV Vol. 1/2008, retrieved on January 25, 2009.
  9. Vance, Bill. "Motoring Memories: AMC Rambler American 1958-1960" Canadian Driver, July 28, 2006, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  10. "Victory for Rambler" Time Magazine, April 20, 1959, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  11. Sales brochure for the 1959 Rambler American, published by American Motors Corporation.
  12. "1958-1960 Rambler American" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, undated document, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  13. Knoll, Bob (2006) "Coast to Coast In the Pursuit Of Economy" The New York Times, December 24, Section 12, Page 1, Column 4, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  14. Magnate, Steve. Feature Article from Hemmings Classic Car "Rambling American" March 1, 2006, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  15. Helman, Scott. "Political mileage for Mitt Romney, son of the man said to have coined 'gas-guzzling dinosaur,' his stance on fuel economy could be crucial" Boston Globe. January 28, 2007, retrieved on April 25 2008.
  16. Maverick's Movin' Machine: James Garner's Racing SC/Rambler, retrieved on August 11, 2007.
  17. Shell 4000 and BC Trans-Canada Rally History Project, retrieved on August 11, 2007.
  18. Guldhal, Jr., Ralph. "Rambler for Racing" popular Hot Rodding. November 1964, retrieved on April 16 2008.
  19. Strohl, Daniel: "Kraft Rambler", Hemmings magazine Auto Blogs, article dated September 19, 2006. Retrieved on April 16, 2008.
  • Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3. 

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