Richard A. Teague's styling group began developing an entirely new concept for AMC -- a sporty fastback. The development of the AMC Tarpon and Marlin models was the ultimate result.
Early in his career with AMC, Richard had learned that the company was just not willing to spend millions on all-new tooling, but its top brass was always willing to consider imaginative use of existing tooling and certain spin-off ideas. And just such an approach went into the creation of the Tarpon, which eventually lead to the Marlin.
The Tarpon was shown initially at the national convention of the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit's Cobo Hall in January 1964. Although the general public does not attend such functions, AMC's public relations staff announced the car with almost as much fanfare as through it were actually going into production.
The Tarpon represented a unique approach to the fastback styling concept. A two-door hardtop, it was mounted on the Rambler American's short 106-inch wheelbase and measured only 180 inches long. A deep gold-flecked vermillion paint job set off the 13-inch aluminum wheels, both of which served to accentuate the Tarpon's sleek, low-slung 52.5-inch-high silhouette.
To present a frontal impression of fleetness, the special show model featured a deeply angled, compound curved windshield. Prominent from the rear were the wedge-shaped roof, large skylight rear window, and massive rectangular taillights.
The Tarpon's instrument panel boasted a complete array of dial instruments beneath a deeply padded safety hood. Emphasizing the sporty-car motif was a sports-car steering wheel made of spring aluminum, with a recessed hub and a rim trimmed with natural walnut.
Both Abernethy and Thomas A. Coupe, sales vice-president, were excited about the new design. However, both were guarded in saying so because they knew profits were generated by products in the field, not by ideas on paper or on turntables in special shows.
Abernethy emphasized that the Rambler Tarpon was a "styling study to highlight the advanced design work of the corporation's stylists who created the record-selling 1964 line of Rambler Ambassadors, Classics, and Americans."
Abernethy could see, however, that the Tarpon was helping to "change the Romney image," and so he authorized a limited showing of the car in selected major cities. Gene Swaim, director of automotive public relations for AMC at that time, recalls that the Tarpon traveled to Los Angeles for its first public showing. He and Tom Coupe were in San Francisco for a second exhibition when the tour was suddenly aborted. "We were told quite simply," Swaim says, "that the Tarpon was not the way to go."
As it turned out, the decision had already been made to bring out a larger version of the trim little Tarpon. As Dick Teague, now happily retired in Fallbrook, California, put it, "Abernethy had decided that instead of a 2+2 we would build a 3+3 sports-type car." So the stylists created a bigger fastback and called it the Marlin. Teague, incidentally, chose both the Tarpon and Marlin names.
Continue on to the next page to learn more about the AMC Marlin's many features.