On February 12,1962, George Wilcken Romney resigned as president and chairman of American Motors in order to seek the governorship of Michigan -- successfully, as matters developed. It was a fateful day for AMC, and in some ways a pivotal time for the entire American automobile industry.

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1965-1966 rambler ambassador
Roy Abernethy took over as president of American Motors Corporation in February 1962, replacing George Romney. See more classic car pictures.

American Motors Corporation had come into being on May 1, 1954, with the merger of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company. Masterminding the merger, and serving as chairman and president of the new company, was the dynamic George W. Mason, president of Nash-Kelvinator since 1937 and the "father" of the Nash Rambler, America's first successful postwar small car. A one-time Chrysler Corporation executive, Mason was widely recognized as one of the most far-sighted men in the industry, serving at that time as president of the Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Prospects for the future looked good. But less than five months following the merger, stockholders' hopes were dashed -- at least for the time being. George Mason had died, suddenly, unexpectedly. To take his place, the directors elected George Romney, who had been AMC's executive vice-president from the time the company was formed.

1965-1966 rambler ambassador
The 990 ragtop was priced at $2955, $12 more than a 1965 Chevy Impala convertible. A total of 3499 were built.

Romney had been associated with the industry since 1939, but his experience on the production side of automobile manufacturing was limited. Some within the industry, notably Packard president James Nance, predicted that he would be unable to handle the job. According to Governor Romney's statement in an interview with this writer several years ago, Nance went so far as to suggest that Romney "would be out and American Motors would be picked up by Packard within a matter of months!"

Instead, George Romney led the company to a succession of new sales records. Production for 1958 nearly doubled the previous year's total, making American Motors the only domestic automaker to post a sales increase during that recession year. AMC's market share reached 4.66 percent that season, up from 1.91 percent just three years earlier.

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