Creating the early Rambler Ambassador
The Rambler continued its climb, reaching third place in the industry during both 1960 and '61. Meanwhile, sales of the big Nashes and Hudsons had faded rapidly, until -- in a decision that rocked the industry -- Romney determined that both of the veteran marques must go. They were thus phased out in early 1957, meaning that American Motors would henceforth rise or fall with the Rambler.
The price leader of the ’65 Ambassador line was the 880 two-door sedan, but even at $2512 only 1301 found buyers.
To fill the gap created by the elimination of the Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models, American Motors introduced a stretched version of the Rambler for 1958. Borrowing a familiar name which had been applied since 1927 to top-of-the-line Nashes, AMC called this nicely-appointed automobile the Rambler Ambassador. It was built on a wheelbase of 117 inches, a full nine inches longer than the compact Rambler's. Power came from a 327-cid V-8 originally developed for the larger cars. Rated at 270 horsepower, this engine provided the 3500-pound Ambassador with a more than adequate power-to-weight ratio.
At the same time, the original 100-inch-wheelbase Rambler was brought out of mothballs after a two-year absence, and reintroduced as the Rambler American. With prices ranging from $1775 to $1874, it ranked as the lowest-priced American-built car.
Convinced that the compact car was the key to his company's continued success, Romney undertook to act as his own pitchman. With the fervor of the missionary that he had once been, he traveled as much as 70,000 miles per year in order to carry his small-car message to the nation. Pulling a china dinosaur from his briefcase, he would hold it up to his audience and explain, "It's called a triceratops. It kept getting bigger and bigger until finally it could no longer hold up its head. . . . The dinosaur perished because it got too big." Then, pausing dramatically, Romney would challenge his audience: "Who," he would inquire rhetorically, "wants to have a gas-guzzling dinosaur in his garage?"
Two Ambassador hardtops were offered for 1965. The 990 listed at $2669, but for $2837 a buyer could opt for the 990-H seen here. It sported buckets seats and a special interior.
With the coming of compact cars from the Big Three in 1960, AMC no longer had the field to itself (along with the new-for-1959 Studebaker Lark), so it was obvious that competition would become increasingly fierce. Yet, the Rambler had carved out a respectable niche for itself-and prospects looked good for its continued success.
Styling, up to that point, had never been the Rambler's forte, but at the time of George Romney's departure a handsome line of all-new 1963 models was on the drawing boards, cars that would win for AMC the coveted Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award. Romney's plan was to cut costs by sharing as many stampings and other components as possible among AMC's three car lines: Ambassador, Classic, and the small American. Commencing in 1962, in fact, the Ambassador and Classic series shared the same wheel-base-108 inches in 1962, and a longer 112-inch span in 1963-64. It was planned that much of the new sheetmetal would be shared as well by the American series beginning in 1964, at which time the smaller car's wheelbase would be increased from 100 to 106 inches.
And then Romney left. Roy Abernethy, a former Packard executive, was appointed president and chief executive officer. Unlike Mason and Romney, Abernethy didn't particularly care for small cars, nor was he at all convinced that AMC's future lay in concentration upon that narrow segment of the market. Under his leadership, over the next few years American Motors invested $300 million in new tooling and plant facilities -- an enormous outlay for a company of AMC's comparatively limited resources.
For more information on the design of the 1965-1966 Rambler Ambassador, continue on to the next page.
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