The Marlin can claim to be the first mid-sized fastback car made in the United States during the sixties. Built by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1965 to 1967, it was a halo car for the company. It had an exceptional array of standard equipment and AMC marketed it as a personal luxury car.
The model produced in 1965 and 1966 was a fastback version of the mid-sized two-door hardtop Rambler Classic. The fastback roof design was previewed on the 1964 Rambler Tarpon show car, based on the compact Rambler American. The 1967 model year brought a major redesign, AMC transferring the Marlin recipe to the all new longer, wider AMC Ambassador full size chassis. This gave the completely new fastback a longer hoodline, more interior room, new more powerful V8 engines as well as numerous other improvements.
- 1 Origin of the Marlin
- 2 1965
- 3 1966
- 4 1967
- 5 Sales
- 6 Racing
- 7 Special versions
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Collectibility
- 10 Interchange
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Origin of the Marlin
In the early 1960s, the U.S. automobile market was expanding as consumers continued to experience increasing per capita income. American Motors had developed a profitable marketing strategy under George W. Romney focused on compact, economical vehicles. His successor, Roy Abernethy saw a need for larger cars with more prestige and luxury that would help generate higher profits. As AMC's Vice President of Sales, he had helped put the Rambler in third place in total annual sales, and his new objective was to expand AMC's model lines into additional market segments, to battle the much larger "Big Three" automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler).
One proposal was for a sporty youth-oriented car. A 4-seat fastback design study, the Rambler Tarpon was built on the compact-sized Rambler American platform and was shown as a concept car at various auto shows before the production version Ford Mustang was unveiled to the public. However, AMC's current "GEN-1" V8 engine would not fit in the comparatively small Rambler chassis; also the new "GEN-II" V8 designs were still in development, and market research showed that offering only a six-cylinder engine would not satisfy the potential customers.
AMC's management decided to build the new fastback model on its intermediate sized platform named Rambler Classic. The development team, under distinguished American designer Richard A. Teague, had to work with much tighter budgets than their counterparts at Detroit's Big Three. The new model, the Marlin, incorporated many design features from the Tarpon show car and became a large, roomy fastback with luxurious features. The CEO of American Motors, Roy Abernethy, was six-foot-four (193 cm tall) and insisted on sitting in the back seat of the design studies, thus the Marlin's roof was raised over the rear passenger area. In addition to a long list of standard features on the new Marlin, there were numerous options to personalize each car. The Marlin was targeted at the evolving "personal luxury" segment, rather than the rapidly growing pony car market led by the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda.
Rather than introducing a smaller Rambler American-based Tarpon, the larger Classic-based Marlin was a strategic management decision to move away from the George W. Romney inspired company building practical and economical automobiles for families and value consumers. Roy Abernethy wanted to take on the "Big Three" – car-for-car and feature-for-feature – turning the domestic automakers into the Big Four. As part of this scheme, the keystone to AMC’s success (compact cars and lowly station wagons), was among the fatalities. The Marlin as a way to make a "big splash" in the pond the Big Three had been playing in and a flashy, intermediate-sized car would be just the thing to help achieve this objective.
A new addition to AMC’s so-called “Sensible Spectaculars” model line, the Marlin was officially announced on February 10 1965, and unveiled in dealer showrooms on March 1. (New car introductions, more significant events in the 1960s, were often accompanied by special invitations and publicity.) AMC's news releases publicized the Marlin as "designed for those who want a sporty fastback combined with roominess and comfort", the more compact Barracuda and Mustang fastbacks having arrived a year earlier.
The new model met with a mixed reception in the press, where it was given extensive coverage. It was featured on the covers of numerous automobile enthusiast magazines and there were plentiful road-test articles, many praising its dual master cylinder braking system and the striking interiors. Motor Trend magazine wrote that the Marlin is '... a very well balanced car that rounds out the various types of personal performance sports cars on the market,' and the San Francisco Chronicle called it 'an extremely fine road car [that] cruises with the slightest strain at 80 mph.'
Automobile Quarterly, a publication "written by the top automotive journalists of our time" which "usually limits itself to praising the virtues of limited-edition classic cars of earlier eras," described the Marlin as 'the ugliest vehicle yet to come from Detroit' and berated its 'disagreeable shape,' its 'inadequate rear-view window,' the poor positioning of steering-wheel and stoplights, the overly soft front seats and poorly designed pedals.
Vincent Geraci (now chief of product design and product identity at Chrysler), viewed the Marlin as "an exciting program . . . We took a 1965 body design and turned it into a sportier version. But enlarging the car from its original concept [the Tarpon] and raising the roof produced an adverse effect on overall appearance."
Bob Nixon (now Jeep’s design chief at Chrysler) dismissed the project as an "ugly embarrassment" and said that the assignment to create a sporty fastback on the Classic platform was "like trying to build a Corvette on a Buick sedan body. It just doesn't work."
Carl Cameron, designer of the original Dodge Charger, named the Marlin as the only competition for his 1966 car even though, he said, the Marlin lacked some of the Charger’s features and it was "very different". Contrary to the view that the Charger was a "clone" of the Marlin, Cameron said that the starting-point for his design was the fastback 1949 Cadillac, and that any similarity to the Marlin was coincidental. He added that as a result of the exceptionally tall Abernathy's insistence on being able to sit in the Marlin's back seat, "those cars had big squared-off roofs" whereas the Charger's roof treatment was "rounded off, much more pleasing to the eye."
Vehicle appointments and options
The new model offered many features including standard power front disc brakes (four-piston) and non-servo type rear drums, individual reclining seats, deluxe exterior trim, and interiors that came directly from AMC’s two-door flagship model, the Ambassador. The smallest engine available was the 145 horsepower (108 kW) 232 I6, but only 2,005 Marlins were built with it. Most buyers desired performance to match the car’s sporty image, thus making AMC’s 270 horsepower (201 kW) 327 4-barrel V8 the most popular engine. It was most often paired to a floor console mounted automatic transmission (42% of total production mated the 327 4-bbl with the floor automatic). On the other hand, the innovative “Twin-Stick” manual transmission (with overdrive) was seldom ordered (less than 6% of Marlins came with this transmission, regardless of the engine selection). Other popular options included "Solex" tinted glass (installed on 70% of production), power steering, a heavy-duty suspension, and the "Twin-Grip" limited slip differential. Adding air conditioning, an adjustable steering wheel, and power windows provided more “luxury” features. Only 221 Marlins were built without a radio. Many customers skipped the AM radio and selected the AM/FM monaural radio (factory installed in over 50% of total production), a "Duo Costic" rear speaker, and a "Vibra Tone" system for simulating stereophonic sound (stereo broadcasting was not yet widely available in the U.S.).
The MSRP price was US$3,100, compared with $3,063 for a bench seat (six-passenger) version of the Rambler Classic 770 2-door hardtop, which did not have the extra features and luxurious interior of the Marlin.
The Rambler Marlin became known as the AMC Marlin and all references to the historic Rambler brand name were removed from the car. This was part of Abernethy’s remake of AMC's corporate identity, divorcing the larger car lines from the Rambler brand and the economy compact car image. The other changes were minor (e.g. a slight modification to the extruded aluminum grille, a front sway bar made standard on six-cylinder models, and an optional black vinyl roof cover that continued over the trunk opening).
AMC broadened the car's market appeal by lowering the base price to US$2,601 and offering more options. For example: high-level trim packages that had previously been standard, a 4-speed manual transmission and a dash-mounted tachometer, affected small changes in pricing and equipment that paralleled the competition. By comparison, Chrysler did a similar thing with the Dodge Charger from '66 to '67.
The Marlin was larger and more expensive for 1967. It was now built on AMC's completely redesigned 118 in (3,000 mm) wheelbase "senior" platform, i.e. the AMC Ambassador chassis. Making the Marlin larger was a design requirement in anticipation of the 1968 entry of the compact-platform based Javelin. Also the longer, wider car would improve product differentiation among AMC's various model lines.
The Ambassador chassis allowed for a longer hood that harmonized better with the fastback rear end, and the body was given a less angular appearance. A bright trim strip ran from the door opening to the rear bumper, accentuating the slightly kicked-up profile of the rear fenders. The front had the Ambassador's protruding, vertically-stacked quad headlights and an all-new recessed grille with horizontal bars that bowed forward in the center. The grille was a black anodized version of the twin (parking and turn-signal) “rally light” grille on the Ambassador DPL models. The hood ornament was redesigned, with a small chrome marlin fish set in clear plastic inside a chrome ring. The decklid was the same as on the previous model but without the large round insignia. A bigger back window improved rear visibility. New taillights were similar to those on the first-generation car. The rear bumper was slightly different from the one used on the Ambassador and Rebel station wagons, the top edge being a continuous horizontal line that fits up against the body.
Teague said the 1967 car was 'the best-looking Marlin we built.'
An entirely new family of V8 engines was offered. The six-cylinder was still available, but rarely ordered - only 355 were built. The base V8 was the 290 cu in (4.8 L) with a 2-barrel carburetor, while a pair of 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8s were optional: a 2-barrel that ran on regular-fuel, as well as a high-compression (10.2:1) premium-fuel version with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust that produced 280 horsepower (209 kW) and 365 lb·ft (495 N·m) of torque @3000 rpm.
The second-generation Marlin did not have its own catalog, but was described within the large Ambassador sales brochure. The Ambassador's standard features and options also came on the Marlin. The interiors were the same as on the Ambassador 990 and DPL two-door hardtop models (with the exception of the “Custom” package that had two matching pillows). Many Marlins were ordered with the reclining buckets seats that not only featured a center armrest between them (with a center cushion for a third occupant or a floor console with gear selector), but also a foldaway center armrest for the rear seat. The interior design was new and featured a safety-oriented dashboard with the instruments and controls grouped in front of the driver, while the rest of the dash was pushed forward and away from the passengers. The steering-wheel was smaller than used before and the column was now designed to collapse under impact.
While the Big Three automakers in the U.S. were focusing on high-performance during the early 1960s, AMC ran advertising that “the only race it cared about was the human race”. Nevertheless, the 1965 Marlin was an attempt to attract younger customers. The Marlin was promoted as an image-breaking model and AMC dealerships began sponsoring Ramblers in auto racing. For example, Preston Honea achieved drag racing fame with the "Bill Kraft Rambler": In 1964 Bill Kraft had installed a highly modified AMC Ambassador V8 engine (the 327 V8 bored out to 418 cu in (6.8 L), four carburetors, special intake manifold) in a 1964 Rambler that ran 112 mph (180 km/h) at the Fontana drag strip. For 1965 Kraft built a new "Bill Kraft Rambler", this time a fastback-bodied Marlin Funny Car on alcohol fuel and nitrous injection. The AMC engine was replaced by a Plymouth Hemi. On its first time out the Hemi-powered car ran a 10.31-second quarter mile at 138 mph (222 km/h).
Roy Haslam, a 1999 inductee to Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame, raced his AMC Marlin Super Stock (image) in Canada and the U.S. He won the July Cup and was 3rd in the season point championships.
- The Black Marlin toured the 1965 auto shows along with attractive young women in sailors' outfits. It was finished in black with "a sleek and stylish interior."
- The Tahiti toured the shows in 1966, starting with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It was finished in a brilliant fireflake blue with "bright South Seas floral upholstery," and matching throw pillows.(image)
A design experiment in 1966 was the manufacture of a first-generation Marlin with the front end of Ambassador.
- The Marlin II essentially foretold the switch to the longer wheelbase platform that occurred in 1967. The car was made for Richard Teague's use and was sold in 1967.
Note: there is no relationship with the British kit and car builder Marlin Cars.
The Marlin had low sales overall but generated publicity and excitement, attracting potential customers to AMC dealers and creating sales opportunities for other models. Also the Marlin's first-year sales helped generate a profit of US$5.2 million for AMC in fiscal 1965, despite a three-week strike by the United Auto Workers.
Although the Marlin was discontinued in 1967, it paved the way for a successful replacement—the 1968 Javelin, targeted at a small market segment that sporty and youth-oriented. Therefore the Marlin’s introduction can be viewed as stopgap marketing move by AMC, influenced by the company’s lack of a V8 engine to fit the compact Rambler chassis.
In a television advertisement Romney and his wife Ann tenderly describe their first date and falling in love. Mrs. Romney recalls her husband pulling up in "some goofy-looking car" and running out of gas on the way home. Romney describes being embarrassed by the fact that in high school he drove a car that he says was "kinda awful."
The rival Shannon O'Brien campaign responded that Romney "actually drove a cool car"—a "personal luxury car" according to AutoWeek magazine. The press release by the Democratic ticket chided: "...the fact that Mitt Romney was embarrassed by his brand new car shows just how out of touch with regular working people he is."
Some of the main design components of the Marlin's design returned in 2004 with the Chrysler Crossfire. The new coupé displayed a fastback roof with broad rear fenders, a rear end treatment that prompted many automotive journalists to comment on the Crossfire's resemblance to the AMC Marlin. For example, Rob Rothwell wrote '...when I first espied the rear lines of the Chrysler Crossfire I was instantly transported back to 1965 and my favorite car of that year, the Rambler Marlin.'
The distinctive Marlin has found a niche among old car hobbyists and collectors of historic vehicles as evidenced by the backing of enthusiasts with a single marque antique auto club. Although a relatively low-production model, the Marlin is a derivative of AMC's higher-volume models so it shares many common parts. Vehicles in various stages of appearance and mechanical condition can be found for sale. Plusses for collectors of the 1965 model include decent performance with optional drivetrains, historical oddity, plush, bucket-seat interior, and its still low prices; while the Marlin's "distinctive" styling, rust issues, and slow appreciation in value are minuses.
There are also many active local and national (U.S. and other nations) Rambler and AMC car clubs that welcome Marlins.
A unique conversation piece and collectible is the 1966 AMC Marlin that was transformed into a top-less "convertible" by cutting off the car's roof. It was made for the Florida Marlins, a professional baseball team based in Miami Gardens, Florida. The one-of-a-kind car served in parades and on-field ceremonies at Dolphins Stadium. With no seats except for the driver, it transported the team's mascot "Billy the Marlin" for all fans to see during the ball club's 1997 world championship season.
A highly detailed Marlin promotional 1/25-scale model was manufactured under license from AMC by Jo-Han for the 1965 and 1966 model years. Although available in a variety of single and two-tone color combinations, many of these "dealer promos" were done in aqua/dark blue two-tone plastic. Unwanted by AMC dealers as the 1966 model year neared its end, thousands of the models were given away to institutions such as children's hospitals and orphan's homes. They are highly desirable today and they command premium prices. Their value can be upwards of $200 to 400 for mint, in-the-box specimens that still have the hood ornament.
Jo-Han also produced plastic kits Image of the Marlin, based on the promotional models, and they are less valuable today. However, according to Steve Magnante of Hot Rod magazine, Jo-Han appears to be poised for a comeback with its most famous unassembled model kits favoring offbeat subjects, "but save up-this stuff is pricey."
Two types of die-cast toy models were sold under the Corgi Toy brand and manufactured by Mettoy Playcraft in the UK during the late 1960s. Both were done in 1:48 scale. One was a two-tone red and black Marlin with opening doors and a tow hook.The second was a gift boxed set featuring a blue finished Marlin with a roof mounted kayak and towing a camping trailer.
The following is a digest of a section in "The Marlin Handbook - 2004" prepared by the Marlin Auto Club.
Front fenders, hood, as well as front and rear bumpers are interchangeable with the 1965 and 1966 Classic. The rear bumper from 1965 and 1966 Ambassadors will interchange, as well as the dashboard, seats, and other inside trim pieces. Windshields and the doors with their side glass are interchangeable with all two-door Classic and Ambassador models. Drive train, front and rear suspension, brakes, radiators, master cylinders, trunions, steering columns, power steering pumps, engines, transmissions, brake drums and rotors are interchangeable with 1965 and 1966 Ambassadors and Classics. Some parts are even interchangeable back to 1958 and earlier, while other components were used by AMC into the 1970s. The 232 I6 was used through the late-1970s. This engine was stroked and became the 258 that was used into the 1990s in Jeeps. Many engine components are shared. This engine was also upgraded into Jeep’s 4-liter workhorse. It is possible to transplant this high-output fuel-injected engine into a Marlin. (See: AMC Straight-6 engine) The 287 and 327 V8s started out in 1956 and 1957 and were used in large Ramblers, Classics, and Ambassadors through 1966. The AMC 327 engine continued to be used in Jeep and marine applications into the mid-1970s. (See: AMC V8 engine)
Front fenders, hood, front bumper, are interchangeable with all 1967 Ambassadors. Windshields as well as doors and their glass from all two-door Ambassadors and Rebels are also interchangeable. The 1967 Marlin similarly shares most major mechanical components with 1967 and up "senior" (Ambassador, Rebel, and Matador) models. The front suspension design was changed in 1970, however, brake components are interchangeable with later models. Mechanically, the track width for 1967, as well as 1968, was 58.5 in (1,490 mm). Starting in 1969 this was increased to an even 60 in (1,500 mm). In spite of the track width increase, the rear ends use the same mounting points and spring locations. Therefore, the later model rear ends “bolt in” with some minor exceptions such as the different drive shaft rear universal joint sizes compared to those used in 1967. Starting with the 1967 model year, completely new "GEN-II" V8 engines were used in all AMC vehicles. In 1968, the high-performance 390 V8 was added. Then in 1970 and 1971 the 290 became the 304, the 343 became the 360, while the 390 was switched over to a 401. Many of the V8 parts are interchangeable with the 290 and 343. All "GEN-II" engines fit into the second generation Marlin. American Motors' V8 engines were used through 1991 in the full-size Jeep Wagoneer.
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- Carl Cameron Speech at the 2006 TDC Meet, taped and transcribed by Sue George, Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association, not dated, retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- Howard, Joe. "Marlin History: The 1964 Rambler Tarpon Concept Car" Fish Tales Vol 9 No 1, March 2008, retrieved on 2008-05-20.
- By the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide - How Stuff Works. "Introduction to the 1965-1967 AMC Marlin". Retrieved on April 15, 2008.
- The Automotive Chronicles. Retrieved on May 29 2008.
- Conde, John. (June 1988) "1965-67 AMC Marlin: The 3+3 Fastback That Floundered" Collectible Automobile, Volume 5, Number 1.
- Sherman, Don: "AMC Pacer" p. 81 Car and Driver February 1975.
- Marlin Production Data, "The Marlin Handbook - 2004" published by the Marlin Auto Club. Original source: annual AMC factory production documentation.
- Strohl, Daniel: "Kraft Rambler", Hemmings magazine Auto Blogs, article dated September 19, 2006. Retrieved on April 14, 2008.
- Danny White and Dennis Doubleday “60s Funny Cars: The AMCs” Drag Racing Stories, Aug 26, 2007, retrieved on November 22 2007.
- Daniel Strohl, HMM, racing posted at Hemmings Auto, retrieved on November 22 2007. Also in "Rodder & Super Stock" magazine, V 15 #2, April 1965.
- '99 HOF Induction Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame, retrieved on November 22 2007.
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- "The Marlin Story…. From Concept to Reality" AMCRC Rambler Reader, Vol 17 No 4 (1996), retrieved on 2008-05-21.
- Klein, Rick. "New ads, 'work days' show down-to-earth candidate" The Boston Globe, September 26, 2002, page B1.
- Durbin, Adrian. "O’Brien Campaign Says Romney Actually Drove Cool Car" O'Brien-Gabrieli News Release, September 22, 2002.
- Rothwell, Rob. "2004 Chrysler Crossfire Coupe Road Test" American Auto Press, May 2, 2004.
- The Marlin Auto Club Web Site, retrieved on 2008-05-20.
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- "How do YOU roll?" MLB.com Gift Guru, February 18, 2006, retrieved on 2008-09-20.
- Stakes, Eddie. “AMC Models, Collectibles, & AMC Group 15 Accessories” planethoustonamx, undated, retrieved on 2008-09-20.
- Steve Magnante "Steve's Collectible Corner Remembering Jo-Han Models" Hot Rod magazine, retrieved on 2008-09-20.
- "Details of Corgi 263 Rambler Marlin Sports Fastback" Diecast Plus, undated, retrieved on 2008-09-20.
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- Conde, John (1976). The American Motors Family Album 1946-1975. American Motors Corporation. ISBN X-XXXXX-XXX-X.
- Foster, Patrick (2004). AMC Cars: 1954-1987, An Illustrated History. Motorbooks International. ISBN 1-58388-112-3.
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- Jedlicka, Dan. "AMC tried to reel in Mustang with Marlin" Chicago Sun-Times, September 9, 2001, retrieved on November 22 2007.
- "The Marlin Handbook - 2004" prepared by the Marlin Auto Club
- AMC Rambler Club
- Marlin Auto Club
- American Motors Owners Association
- American Motors' 1967 Data Book - Marlin section, retrieved on September 16 2007.
American Motors road car timeline, United States market, 1954–1988
|Rebel V8||Marlin||Matador Coupe|
|SUV||see timeline of Jeep models|
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