Fortunes for American Motors, the company formed after Nash and Hudson merged in 1954, took an upturn in 1958 after AMC Chairman George Romney (b. July 7, 1907, Colonia Dublán, Mexico) was told that tooling for the Nash Rambler, last produced in 1955, hadn’t been taken out with the trash years earlier. The company was looking for something bigger than the tiny Metropolitan and smaller than the intermediate-size Rambler to put into battle against the rising tide of imports. The unprecedented step of reanimating a “dead” car, three model years in the grave, paid off when the “new” Rambler American, launched in midst of an economic recession, soon found a ready market. The domestic compact car revolution had begun with smaller offerings soon coming from Studebaker (Lark) in ’59 and GM (Corvair), Ford (Falcon) and Chrysler (Valiant) in 1960.
Station wagons represented a significant percentage of the larger Rambler’s sales so a Nomadesque two-door wagon was added to the range in ’59. Feral Cars Merit Badge Award Winner Panagiotis “Petey” Andrews captured this turquoise and white bundle of bulbosity the other day and it is, indeed, a tidy little package.
American, the beautiful
American Motors’ Rambler American (paging the Department of Redundancy Department) continued through the decade with a full line of two and four-door sedans, station wagon, a (pillarless) hardtop and even a convertible. A third generation Rambler American, a major redesign, launched in 1964 and offered much more sophisticated, contemporary styling and continued as a staple of AMC’s offerings through the remainder of the swingin’ 60s until replaced by the Hornet. Those ’64 – ’69 Americans were designed by Richard Teague who also is credited with the Javelin pony car and AMX sports car and, after AMC fell to Renault rule, Jeep’s wildly successful Cherokee.
This ’65 wagon, finished in Barcelona Medium Taupe and Frost White, is lusterless after 48 years but not lackluster; it’s still carting home the groceries for at least one Southern California shopper.
Marketplace acceptance of the American was excellent, helping Rambler become the #3 selling domestic nameplate by 1960. The parent company’s decision to drop “Rambler” in favor of “AMC” as a marque in 1970, foreshadowing Nissan’s ill-advised early 1980s move to dump “Datsun” and brand everything as a Nissan.
Hindsight tell us dropping the Rambler brand might not have been such a good idea
The brain trust at these two companies, obviously, cut the class when brand equity maintenance was taught. Nissan, somehow, survived and recently resurrected Datsun as a downmarket brand for developing countries. That ship has, sadly, sailed for AMC/Rambler.
“Beep, Beep” was the title of a 1958 novelty song by The Playmates that chronicles an apocryphal inadvertent race between a (Nash) Rambler and a Cadillac. Newton’s Second Law is ignored in the narrative as the underpowered underdog overtakes the high compression luxury barge. Listen and watch here.
Perhaps because of the car’s real world inability to beat a 2+ ton, V8-powered Cadillac in a road race, Rambler Americans are among the more modestly priced collector cars. We found a 55,000 mile bottom-of-the-line ’66 for only $3800. Idea: Buy It Now.
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