1959 Rambler Rebel

Car Life called the 1959 Rambler "one of the most attractive cars on the road" with good reason. Appearance changes to the 1959 Rambler Rebel and other cars in the lineup were relatively minor, but they sweetened up the design. AMC designers came up with a very attractive new full-width grille with large inset turn signal lamps. The tops of the rear doors were restyled to smooth their flow up to the tailfins.

1959 Rambler Rebel
Sales of the 1959 Rebel were up 63 percent
from the previous year.

This year's Rebels got bigger brakes, improved controls for the automatic transmission, and numerically lower axle ratios for improved gas economy. New adjustable headrests made their debut, offered individually or as a pair. Of course, the famous Rambler seat that turned into a bed was optionally available, and most Rebels were equipped with them. Buyers could choose either a reclining front bench or twin reclining seats, which AMC referred to as "sectional sofa front seats."

With all this going for the 1959 Rambler, Popular Science noted that it was "selling like corn at a clambake." Rambler offered a remarkably sensible alternative to the rapidly growing products the Big Three were offering, yet it sacrificed little or nothing in the way of comfort. A comparison of 1959 Ford and Rambler interior dimensions provides a surprising view of the two:


Ford
Rambler
Front hip room, in.
60.4
59.8
Rear hip room, in.
60.8
60.1
Front head room, in.
33.5
36.0
Rear head room, in.33.3
35.0
Front leg room, in.42.7
43.0
Rear leg room, in.40.3
40.0

By the way, the Ford was nearly 17 inches longer and 4.5 inches wider than the Rambler, which meant the latter was easier to park and maneuver in traffic. In fact, Rambler boasted a turning diameter that was more than three feet shorter than the Ford's. Rambler's lower weight was an advantage in the performance department.

AMC carried over the same lineup of Rebel models for 1959, but enjoyed far greater success as production increased by 63 percent to 16,399 units. However, this was strictly a case of a rising tide lifting all boats, because at the same time, model-year production of the Rambler Six line more than doubled to 242,581. (Even production of 23,769 costlier Am­bas­sadors outpaced Rebel demand.) As before, the rarest general-market Rebel was the four-door hardtop. Just 691 were built, of which 19 were export models and 31 were for Canada.

American Motors launched a major plant-expansion program in 1959, leasing an old Simmons steel-furniture plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After undergoing a $14.5 million conversion, the new plant was expected to boost Rambler body production by 35 percent. AMC recorded its best year yet in 1959, with net income of more than $60 million.

The 1960 Rambler Rebels went on sale October 14, 1959. This year, the Rebel line grew to a total of eight models with two additional station wagons. These were new Cross Country three-seat station wagons available in Super and Custom trim. In these wagons, a rear-facing third seat (remember those?) accommodated two people -- three if all were kid sized.

Rather than a conventional tailgate, the three-seat wagons came with a left-hinged side-opening rear door for passenger ease, the first ever for an American car. Because third-seat passengers' legs rested in what was previously the spare-tire well, all three-seaters came with four "Captive-Air" nylon tires as standard equipment, but no spare. These tires featured a unique "Safety Shield" inner chamber between the tire and the rim. The idea, according to AMC, was that "Each tire functions as its own spare by virtue of the inner chamber." All other model offerings remained the same as in 1958-1959.

At the same time that the model range was increasing, Rebel's power was reduced. AMC decided to make a 200-horsepower two-barrel version of the 250-cubic-inch V-8 standard on Rebel, although the 215-horse version was still available at extra cost. The reason given for this questionable move was increased fuel economy.

The Rambler Six and Rebel received considerable styling updates this year. The roof panel was redesigned for a thinner, lighter, more-modern look. The C-pillar was narrower, and the windshield and rear window were slanted at greater angles to reduce wind resistance. Rear fenders and doors were reshaped, and smaller tailfins now canted outward over new "cathedral" taillamps.

A simpler grille appeared out front below a hood now devoid of ornaments. New bumpers and bumper guards reduced overall length by 1.6 inches. Bodyside trim was revised once again, with narrower moldings imparting a more contemporary look. All in all, it was a very successful update of a now five-year-old body.

Inside was just as exciting, with a new instrument panel that featured a large oval containing the speedometer, odometer, and fuel and temperature gauges. The look was cleaner, simpler, and less fussy than before. With all these im­prove­ments, Rebel orders were up by about 700 cars compared to '59.

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