Old-fashioned EH no match for V8 Rambler

The year 1963 was a big one in the US automotive industry.

All of General Motors (GM) full-sized cars were re-styled, with Pontiac featuring stacked headlights, a theme that quickly influenced almost every car maker in the USA.

Separately, Chevrolet released their redesigned Stingray and Buick showed off its exotic Riviera.

Chrysler began providing 50 turbine cars to ordinary drivers as a “living” test of the new engine’s reliability and usefulness.

Over at Jeep, the Wagoneer made its first appearance, heralding the start of a transition to SUVs.

And, the always cash strapped American Motors (AMC) unveiled its all-new Rambler Classic and Ambassador.

All new it certainly was.

Gone was the old Rambler body on frame construction, replaced by a unitary frame platform.

AMC also developed a technique to press the entire centre section of the car with only two stampings, instead of the usual 20+ in most American cars of the era.

They called it “unibody.”

Plus, in a first for a mainstream US car the elegantly shaped body used curved door glass to improve interior space.

It may not seem like much these days, but back in 1963 curved side glass in a mainstream car was a big deal.

It caught GM, Ford and Chrysler off guard.

They took two years to catch up.

Motor Trend magazine was so taken with what AMC had achieved they gave the Rambler its Car of the Year Award.

Car buyers also responded, delivering AMC its highest ever sales.

I know something of the ’63 Rambler.

A family friend bought a locally assembled one — a V8.

When he parked it next to our new EH Holden, the Rambler’s curved glass and Mercedes-like shape made our EH Holden look instantly old fashioned.

Our friend owned one of our town’s few limo services and had traded one of his fleet, a 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air (which had done more than 250,000 miles/400,000km by then), on the Rambler. 

He’d looked at the 1963 Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge Phoenix and Ford Fairlane, but could not see the value in them.

He reckoned the Rambler had generous rear legroom, was quicker and more economical, was better equipped, including a split front bench seat with reclining back rests — and had a similar level of prestige. 

These were all major attributes for him, given his clients and the number of miles he drove each week.

The Rambler made such an impression on him that from then on, he bought only Ramblers – Classic, Rebel and Matador — every two years until Australian Motor Industries stopped assembling them here in 1976. 

He reluctantly switched to a Ford Fairlane Marquis.

I got to ride in all his Ramblers, short and long distances, at least once a week.

They just devoured the miles in silent, powerful ease.

There was a time when you could buy a Rambler for very little money.

Not anymore.

Their values have increased in the last decade.

That’s if you can actually find one for sale.

Once bought, they tend to be retained.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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