Category Archives: AMC

Rambler’s American ressurection

Romney's zombie

Romney’s zombie

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, 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.

American update

American update

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

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 Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.57.44 PM  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.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page.

 

A couple of Jeep shots

Off the reservation

Horny oldster

Most folks don’t give Jeep a second thought in terms of vintage examples but we think this two- door Cherokee is an oldie but a goodie.  The model was developed by Renault (!) which partnered/controlled/owned American Motors from the late 1970’s until it sold to Chrysler in ’87.  AMC, by the way,  had bought Jeep from Kaiser in 1970;  Kaiser had merged with Jeep’s Willys-Overland parent in 1953.  Yes, there WILL be a quiz.

This one recalls Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” wherein the former Mrs. Turner explains she likes things “nice and rough.” That mini steer horn hood ornament and the door dent seem to fill the “rough” bill.  It’s difficult to determine model years of these since these were offered from 1984 – 2001 with few changes differentiating one from another.  We noted that the tail light lenses (see detail) are marked ’83XJ’  — 83 being the year and XJ the internal code for this model.  Maybe they made the lenses in advance?

Pre-need part?

Pre-need part?

Let’s go back a decade for an ancestor that was styled by Brooks Stevens, the Wisconsin-based industrial designer, when Jeep was Kaiser-owned.  The idea that a utility vehicle — the term ‘sport’ wasn’t yet in play — could have some creature comforts was revolutionary when it was introduced in the ’63 model year.  Advance 11 years and you have this splendid “nice and easy” specimen parked on a yuppified street in Berkeley, CA.

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 10.44.12 PM

These two vehicles are at the root of the SUV revolution but don’t blame the good folks at Willys-Kaiser-AMC-Renault-Chrysler for what ensued after they were created.   Today, shopping center parking lots are crammed full of all-wheel drive behemoths, stuffed with leather seats and flat screens in the back to keep the kids occupied.  This kind of unintended use of purpose-built vehicles like these wasn’t really part of the plan. As when fraternity brothers discover a dead body the day after the big kegger, things just seem to have gotten out of hand over the past 50 years.

Kaiser touted Wagoneer’s overhead valve motor back in this early commercial.

Cherokee was an instant sensation with the off road set as touted here.

They want a whopping $54,000 for this low mileage ’91 Grand Wagoneer and we just don’t see the “utility” in that.  Click and gasp.

 

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                           

Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.

 

 

Meet the Met and its big brother

Attention Lois Lane! Your parking meter is running out

Not so American Motors product

Awww! Isn’t this a cutie pie?  It’s a Nash Metropolitan doing what it does best: standing still.  American Motors, despite the corporate handle, had these built in Longbridge (Birmingham), England at British Motor’s Austin plant from 1954 to 1961.  While the running gear was British, styling seemed to be uniquely American but that’s a deception caused, no doubt, by the two-tone paint treatment.  The baby Nash (also sold as the Hudson Metropolitan until that marque bit the dust) was styled in Turin by none other than Pinin Farina, the big baccalà of Italian automotive design.

Farina (no gluten jokes, please) also styled Nash’s big cars in the early ’50s with his signature enclosed front wheel openings — who needs to make sharp turns when your car has reclining seats, right?   We found a hulking example of one of these, a top of the line ’54 Ambassador Custom, not too long ago.

Yes, there's a Pinin Farina badge on the C-pillar and a continental kit out back..

Yes, there’s a Pinin Farina badge on the C-pillar and a continental kit out back..

 

By 1958, Nash was no more, with all AMC’s eggs in Rambler’s basket and the Metropolitan considered a brand unto itself.  Speaking of Ramblers, here’s a ’59 or ’60 (hard to tell with the OEM grill removed) on a Havana street.  License plate seems to be a reference to the Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961.

¡AMSí!

AMSí ?

 

Farina also styled the Nash-Healey sports car, another Anglo-Italo-American experiment.  Get in on this Ebay offering now; the clock is ticking!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                            Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.