Category Archives: Rambler

Catching up with Great Autos of Yesteryear’s Casual Concours

We’ve made a point out of not covering car shows or auctions.. cars in that circumstance are curated and not feral as we choose to define the term. Our focus is veteran cars of note found alive in the wild.  Nonetheless, we felt a tip of the Feral Cars kufi, fedora, boater, derby, skid lid, etc. was in order for Great Autos of Yesteryear’s tenth annual Palm Springs Casual Concours.  Great cars, fun people and for a very worthy cause (Sanctuary Palm Springs providing teens in foster care an environment of health and kindness) so we figured it would be OK to break format and display some of the “goods.”

Palm Springs has long been a haven for old cars and their owners. The traffic, for Southern California, is bearable and the weather – except in the oppressively hot summer – is tepid, conducive to round-the-clock top-down motoring. The Desert Princess Resort there was where Great Autos of Yesteryear, the largest LBGT car club on the west coast and with that acronym there’s nothing not “out” about this group of enthusiasts.  Casual Concours is the unofficial start of the Palm Springs “season” that runs through May; it took place back in October so apologies for not posting this earlier. Dubbed “the desert’s most fabulous midcentury car show,” Casual Concours is, in fact and indisputably, fabulous. It’s a truly brilliant showcase for the owners and their cars, running the gamut from full boat luxury to quirky JDM curios. We had a chance to peruse the cars, schmooze with their owners and, as the Flintstones theme intones, “have a gay old time” while celebrating automotive diversity.

Some of the highlights..

“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it..
No one wants to be defeated..”

Scott King and Sandy Edelstein’s 1991 Honda Beat won in the Best Foreign Open category. It’s a Japan domestic market Kei-class (under 650 cc) mid-engine roadster that bears the slogan “MIDSHIP AMUSEMENT” on its rear flanks. Isn’t that what happens when an aircraft carrier docks in Yokohama? One can’t really grasp how tiny it is in a photo but suffice it to note that it weights just 1,675 lbs.

Orange you glad to see this?

Accessories (and we don’t mean the J.C. Whitney kind or a string of pearls) are always in evidence at the Casual Concours: the owner of this ’73 Volvo P1800 found a set of period Samsonite luggage matching the color of his shooting brake from Gothenburg. The Porsche 356A sports a hat box mounted on a luggage rack over the boxer motor. Hatbox, boxer: get it?

Air cooled hat box

There’s a Rolls-only class at the Concours and, wouldn’t you just know it, the Best of Show was one of those selfsame Rollers. It’s Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori’s 1965 Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe by Mulliner Park Ward. It’s just one of 101 built of which 52 were left hand drive. The presence this car has is astounding, even in a field of astounding cars. David Hemmings drove one to all kinds of rich hippie psychedelic mischief in the film Blow Up, some RR-oriented highlights of which are here.

Dennis Duca and Dean Peck’s ’75 “Hang Ten” Dodge Dart (don’t you dare call it a Duster) took top honors in the 1970 – 1979 Closed Car category. Yes, the shorty surfboard came with the Hang Ten trim option. No one is quite sure how many were sold over just two model years but it’s a safe bet most were wiped out by the crusher.

It’s not clear what the story is behind the bloody “Jerry Mahoney” ventriloquist dummy resting in the back seat of a 1957 Ford DelRio, FoMoCo’s too little/too late response to Chevy’s Nomad. Actually, we don’t really want to know that story but can assure you that the jaunty green and white two-door wagon is otherwise non-creepy.

Brick, the little dog who put the “boss” in Boston Terrier, seemed enamored of this fantastic 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire done up for a mid-century camping trip. The fact that the rear portion of the roof slides forward so one can transport a refrigerator upright seems not to have affected its eligibility as it went on win in the 1960-1964 closed category.

Doggone clever idea from South Bend

Here’s a clip of a commercial highlighting the Wagonaire from the Studebaker-sponsored Mr. Ed TV series.  Yes, Studebaker spent the first part of the 20th century trying to disassociate itself from the equine realms in light of its history as American’s preeminent builder of horse-drawn vehicles. Towards the end of its corporate existence, Studebaker made it possible for a horse to come into your living room. Go figure.

Wood is good! There is always a fair representation of wood-sided (real and otherwise) station wagons at Casual Concours and the winner in the 1980 – 1995 category — open to any car built during those peak malaise years — was, in fact, a woody. It’s a 1980 Chrysler Le Baron Town & Country with glorious fake wire wheels and tufted upholstery that would be the envy of Little Miss Muffett.

Timber!!

The plate on this 1952 Packard 400 Patrician reads SDNFEAR, an homage to the woman-in-distress film noir classic that starred Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Sudden Fear, for which Crawford was nominated for an Academy Award, was set in San Francisco but Bagdad by the Bay’s steep grades were no match for Packard’s 327 cubic inch straight 8.

You oughta be in pictures..

Here’s a clip from Sudden Fear in which the Patrician is featured gobbling up a Frisco incline and disgorging Palance with no problem.

While the focus of Casual Concours is elegance and originality at least one overt muscle car was present. And, of course, it was a Rambler muscle car, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a wild 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler, utilizing the Pontiac GTO formula: stuff the biggest motor you have — in this case a 390 cubic, inch V8 — into the lightest body: a Rambler American. Sprinkle some Hurst <<ahem>> fairy dust on it and you’ve got a neck snapping factory-built drag racer. The bold graphic arrow, indicating the motor’s displacement, pointing to the over the top air intake recalls the slogan, “nothing succeeds like excess.”

Mke mine Scrambler’d

Heavy breather

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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.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[photo of AMC SC/Rambler]

 

 

 

Magic location for motion pictured cars

Movin' Malibu

Chevelle: so swell

Our aim is always to capture and dissect, in a manner of speaking, vehicles seen in the wild but we never shoot or accept photos taken at car shows, auctions or used/classic car lots.  As a result, we do tend to ferret out featured feral finds when they’re parked. It’s one thing to nail ’em when they’re at a standstill as opposed to documenting them in motion.

There she goes

Movin’ Malibu

We’ve found that two corners right near Feral Car’s international HQ in Los Angeles have yielded a disproportionate number of very interesting, very notable cars in full flight.  We’re talking about the intersection of Rosewood Avenue and Rossmore Boulevard and, just three blocks to the east, the intersection of Rosewood and Larchmont Boulevard.

Do we have to spell it out? Cadillac means l-u-x-u-r-y.

Do we have to spell it out? Cadillac means l-u-x-u-r-y.

These are the crossroads where we’ve seen lots of vintage VWs, Valiants and the like as well as some more esoteric conveyances.  We’ve gone back into our image bank and sorted out a few shots of cars in motion captured at these locations that really underscore just what a phenomenal breeding ground this area happens to be.

Fender skirts standard, of course

Fender skirts standard, of course

We were most impressed with the bone stock ’71 Chevelle Malibu encountered at Rossmore and Rosewood just the other day.  You just don’t see these as untampered with as this one.  Our guess is that this unrestored California car wears its original 45-year old factory Antique White paint job.  Kudos to the owner who resisted pressure to change out the original wheel covers.

Actin' chill: big ol' Coupe DeVille

When it absolutely, positively has to get there in style.

Over at Larchmont and Rosewood we found a similarly unmessed-with Cadillac DeVillle, also a ’71.  We find the juxtaposition of the sky blue padded top over the Brittany blue body calming and reassuring on this,  a pristine enthralling example of traditional American luxury in motion.

Junk or punk in the trunk?

Junk or punk in the trunk?

At the same intersection we came upon a ’76 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that seemed raked, the front end higher than the back, perhaps due to a heavy load in the trunk.  We’ll refrain from theorizing on just what might have been weighing this magnificent Caddy down except to suggest that Good Fellas is available on Netflix.

Pretty Poncho

Pretty Poncho

Now it’s back to Rossmore and Rosewood for a gander at a super clean ’66 Pontiac LeMans.  It has the same bearing as the higher performance GTO but this one is equipped with a 326 cubic inch V8 rather than the 389 found under the hood of “The Goat.”  Yes, those wheels  and everything else appear to be totally stock and that’s the way we like it. You really can’t improve on perfection, so why try?

Near perfect "Pon-ton"

Near perfect “Pon-ton”

At the other end of the spectrum is this ’79 Buick Skyhawk that is completely intact but appears to be suffering from an advance case of benign neglect.  That brushed chrome band running up the b-pillars and over the roof may be perceived as a “lipstick on a pig” concept but we find it charming in a gauche sort of way.  The spoiler is a nice, touch, too.

Not entirely sure we'd rather have it but will certainly consider

Not entirely sure we’d rather have it but will certainly consider

Banded baby Buick

Banded baby Buick

These fecund intersections yield more than just GM-built transients.  Take, for example this stunning ’61 Rambler Classic.  While it’s true that Rambler ran third to Chevy’s #1 and Ford’s #2 on the sales charts back then, there are very few survivors built during the time of the (George) Romney administration of American Motors.   It’s paradoxical that upright Rambler sedans like this often doubled as eastern European cars in limited budget spy shows like Mission Impossible, Get Smart and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  while Romney and AMC were on the front lines defending American capitalism from godless (and unprofitable) socialism.

Ramblin' man

Ramblin’ man

Remnant from the first (and last) Romney administration

Remnant from the first (and last) Romney administration

Lastly, we offer our pièce de résistance. We, too, thought we might be hallucinating but we shot this fantastic Citroën SM around 9 AM and hadn’t had any mushrooms for dinner the night before. 

L'avenir est arrivé dans le passé

L’avenir est arrivé dans le passé

The car was the product of Citroën’s acquisition of perpetually floundering Maserati in the early ’70s.  The hydropneumatic suspension was all French, derived from the system that kept the groundbreaking Citroën DS (literally) afloat since 1955. Power was provided by a Maserati V6 that was mounted backwards (!)  aft of the front axle; the transmission out in front of the motor.  The design is breathtaking, the interior exquisite and but the Franco-Italo alliance advanced Citroën’s march into insolvency and ultimate acquisition by rival Peugeot.

Allons enfants avec grâce à puissance italienne

Allons enfants avec grâce à puissance italienne

If you find yourself in Southern California you really should make it a point to amble down Rosewood Avenue between Larchmont and Rossmore Boulevards.  We’d love to know if you encounter any of these inspiring full motion relics.

We found this well-priced (under $80K) ’72 CitroënSM for sale in nearby St. Louis and urge you to consider its purchase.  We predict you’ll double your money if you sell it ten years hence, if you don’t factor in the cost of maintenance — some contend that “SM” stands for exactly what you’re thinking it does. Ouch!

Less, exotic, perhaps is this TV commercial for the ’71 Chevelle.  Dinah Shore-approved!

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.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

Remembering Americans in service

"My country 'tis of thee..."

“My country ’tis of thee…”

We’ve been dealing with the term “un-American” since the era of Tail Gunner Joe and the Hollywood 10.  This Memorial Day, when he honor those who served we wonder if something can be “too American.”   Case in point is this second generation 1962 Rambler American 400 convertible, finished in Fireglow Red Metallic.  We’ve long been partial to these rolling tributes to AMC’s ability to stay competitive in the face of minimal resources at hand and multiple market disadvantages.

as best can determine

aired full decade

Hold over from the final episode of "Leave It To Beaver"

Hold over from the final episode of “Leave It To Beaver”

It’s an adaptation of a car, only minimally updated, that was produced in 1954-’55. Lazarus-like, it rose from the dead and was brought back in 1958, re-badged from Nash Rambler to Rambler American. It was the initial salvo in the battle for domestic compact car supremacy that saw the introduction of Studebaker’s wildly successful Lark in ’59 with The Big 3 joining the fray in 1960 with Corvair (Chevy), Falcon (Ford) and Valiant (Plymouth).

New Frontiersman

New Frontiersman

The red, far-from-dead American is pretty swell — and we do have a weakness for convertibles — but, c’mon, what’s with the anachronistic and inappropriate lily gilding?  Yes, the Kennedy/Johnson sticker is terrific but  why would an “authentic” ’62 have a sticker from an election that was resolved two years before the car rolled off the line in Kenosha?

All for Dick

Dick digger

“Democrat for Nixon”?  This self-loathing description, perhaps drawn from the proverbial bag of dirty tricks, could relate to the elections of 1960, 1968 and 1972,  campaigns when turncoat Democrats could, theoretically have embraced Dick on one level or another. As noted about the Kennedy/Johnson sticker, it couldn’t have been applied before the car was built; that leaves ’68 and ’72 in the consideration set. Maybe, but we find that far-fetched, and the same goes for that “Morro Castle, Havana Cuba” sticker on the passenger side rear window.  Huh? The trade embargo with Cuba was in full effect by the time of the car’s manufacture so it couldn’t have been imported to Cuba and, flotation issues notwithstanding,  there’s no way its owners drove it 90 miles across the the Florida Strait  in the wake of 1961’s Bay of Pigs invasion so no way José. On the contrary, we’re for keepin’ it real, Fidel.

 Cuba Sí! Yanqui No?

Cuba sí! Yanqui not so much

OK, enough carping about inauthenticity. The owner has a sense of the dramatic and seems to have given himself poetic license and begs us to suspend disbelief.  We’ll play along and suggest you check out some other Rambler Americans of this ilk that don’t seem to be trying quite as hard but are still quite convincing to Feral Cars people who appreciate a more laissez-faire approach to onsite car curation.

The Reanimated

The Reanimated

We mentioned the earlier incarnation of the Rambler American that was the revivification of a basic body and platform that had gone out of production three years earlier.  We dig this ’59 wagon that comes off like a 5/6th version of Chevy’s Nomad. Thanks to Feral Cars Field Scout Peter Andrews for the shot.

American = manifest destiny

American = manifest destiny

Back to the ’61 – ’63 “square biz” Americans.  Here’s a very basic two-door coupe barreling along the Freeway, impressively rocking like it’s 1961.  We found another two door, curbside.  Boxy lady!

Pride of Kenosha

Pride of Kenosha

Thrill on a hill

Thrill on a hill

Let’s depart for a moment to check out the ’64 third, and last, generation Rambler American four door sedan that was captured on the streets of Palm Springs.  Feral Cars Field Scout Bill Ruttan found it and took pains to document the very innovative parking break alternative that has been juxtaposed to the leading edge of the left rear tire.  Can’t be too careful on a hill, right?

Great gilding!

Great gilding!

We ran an earlier Rambler American post and included this one.   It’s a convertible of the same vintage as our opener but with a “hey look me over” white accent that contrasts tastefully with the Sonata Blue body — no bumper stickers necessary.

Socialismo or muerte!

Socialismo o muerte!

That “Morro Castle/Havana, Cuba” sticker reminded us of a senior Rambler, a ’58 or ’59, as best can determine, that we happened upon in Havana.    The HERO61 license plate, we’re educated guessing, relates to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that slammed the door shut on the possibility for reconciliation with Cuba until just a few weeks ago.

This means it’s not as difficult to travel to Cuba these days and when you do get there you may wish to take a Classic Car Tour of Havana.  Click here to book in advance of the inevitable Starbucks and slot machine invasion.

We found this pretty swell ’61 Rambler American convertible in nearby Redlands, CA.  It’s not cheap but can you really put a price on patriotism? Check out this commercial, titled “The Young American,” that aired full decade before David Bowie’s song of the same title made its debut. Jamaica’s Max Romeo collaborated with Lee “Scratch” Perry on “Norman,” a reggae classic about a degenerate gambler who drove a Rambler.  Hey, it rhymes!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.08.04 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.06.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 4.05.50 PM

The Young Americans

Ramblin' on

Ramble on!

Feral Cars fan Bob Glaub captured this chunk style 1963 Rambler American 440 convertible the other day and we just couldn’t wait to share it.  The two-toning doesn’t do all that much to conceal its “breadbox” style that presaged the squared-off shape of such contemporary right angle Asian exemplars as the Scion Xb, Nissan Cube, Kia Soul and Honda Element.  This is just one of 4,750 American 440 convertibles built by AMC that year so it’s a safe bet that only a few hundred, at most, have survived.

Plain wrap 'bler

Plain wrap ‘bler

While soft top Rambler Americans were rare, sedans were quite common such as this unadorned beauty submitted by Feral Cars friend Steve Sultan.  Paradoxically, the fact that it’s deadly dull looking in its own stubby way makes it kind of exciting to behold now.

Younger American

Younger American

Steve found yet another American on the same street in Berkeley — something in the water?  This one is a ’64 sedan which wears a body styled by Dick Teague, the AMC designer who came up with the nifty AMX sports car a few years later.

Often an uphill battle for AMC

It was often an uphill battle for AMC

We referenced The Playmates’ “Beep Beep” the 1958 hit that chronicles the epic race between a “little Nash Rambler” and a Cadillac in this earlier post and now offer a Rambler reference from the reggae world.  Listen here to Max Romeo & The Upsetters’ “Norman” wherein the lyric, “Norman’s a gambler rides around in a Rambler with pretty girls in the back,” is employed to  great effect.  AMC irie!

Watch a rare commercial for the ’63 Ramber American 440H, touted as “The Young American,” with no apologies to David Bowie.

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.

 

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.