Monday, December 1, 2014

Show Car Sunday/Monday returns with an orphan!

In the past 5 years we've seen many of the great automotive marquees go the way of the dodo bird; Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth, and Saab all became victims of the Great Recession. Before this recent stretch you had to go back decades when referencing defunct nameplates. Studebaker started all the way back in 1853 making wagons, but went quietly into the night in 1967. Packard built cars from 1899 through 1958 (the year of a relatively small recession that was the straw that broke that camels back). Others like DeSoto and Edsel were simply divisions of existing brands that underperformed. Then there's this little beauty:
What we have here is a 1968 American Motors Corporation (AMC) Rambler American. Technically this is known in the car world as an orphan since its parent company is no longer. In reality the AMC nameplate was one of many small fish swallowed up by the mighty Chrysler Corporation. Before being consumed themselves AMC absorbed Hudson, Nash, and the Jeep line from Kaiser-Frasier. I realize this is yawn-inducing stuff so let's continue!
I love this space-age A logo. This car was built during the very heart of the space race so even though it's more utilitarian than flash it still gets a styling cue of the era. The year after this logo was the same shape but it was divided into red, white, and blue thirds as opposed to a letter A.
AMC was a true independent in the auto world that built their cars 350 miles away from Detroit in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The American was their compact introduced in '58, and was actually sold under the moniker of Rambler as opposed to AMC. When production ended in '69 so did the name of Rambler. 
This smart little ride was roosting up in Greenpoint looking very sharp and serious in its factory color choice Classic Black. Part of what makes it so sleek is that this is the lower trim level; the upmarket American 440 had a chrome spear along each side. 
How about those original hubcaps though? As someone who's been writing the name Rick all my life I totally approve of that sweet R. We can see some scuffs and small dents on the lower inside of the wheel well in this shot but the overall condition is remarkable. I mean, this car is 46 years old and parts are extremely hard to come by, so this ride gets Show Car designation from me.
Believe it or not that rectangular lens on the side of the car was bright red when new.
This sedan is the basic small box on a big box design, but subtle cues are there to be found. That concave rear panel between the taillights is mirrored by the body lines running from the bottom of the door glass to the back corners of the trunk. 
AMC made yearly changes to their cars regardless of budget which was a bold move for the last of the independent automakers. The easiest was to discern the vintage of a Rambler American is to scrutinize the grill and taillights. However, in the years leading up to this one the rear window was a wrap-around model, and there was a chrome emblem on the drivers side of the trunk that spelled American in script.
Seeing this ride parked on the street today is charming because it's so old and squared-off, but the thing that's most surprising is its scale. This car is about the same size as 4 door cars of today which means that it was downright tiny in 1968! This was a true compact car when new when there were few domestic cars even close to this size. To enhance the frugality even further the price was lowered to a mere $200 above the VW Beetle in '67 after an AMC exec noticed the price disparity between U.S. and foreign compacts. 
I just like these snazzy door handles with their concave elliptical pushbuttons. 
Nothing says "base trim level" like those frumpy seat covers. Even though it looks like taxi or school bus upholstery its probably either correct or darn close.
Rubber floor covering instead of a carpet! Those 2 aftermarket gauges mounted under the dash are a good idea, and suggest that the owner is probably on top of the engine situation. That engine is most likely an inline 6 cylinder much like the ones that powered Jeep for decades. When shopping around for old cars I like to see signs of current upkeep such as extra gauges (if they work).
One more shot of the concave styling on the top of the front fender.
1969 brought about quite the last-hurrah for the American with the special edition S/C Rambler. Known as the Scrambler in the muscle car world it was a 2 door version of this ride with the mighty 390 V8 under the hood! It was not only terrifyingly fast (competing directly with Hemis) but easily the most outrageous looking muscle car of all time. The color scheme was red, white, and blue, with ridiculous details like the word AIR written huge on the hood with an arrow pointing into the scoop. No options were available for the Scrambler at all. If you see one of those let me know, otherwise consider yourself lucky should you run across any AMC these days!

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