Introduction to 1967-1968 AMC Ambassador

Some felt that the 1967-1968 AMC Ambassador was a case of too little, too late. With Roy Abernethy at its helm in the 1960s, American Motors set out to compete directly with its Big Three rivals by entering as many of the same market areas as possible.

AMC also tried to keep pace by updating some of its cars on shorter cycles. That's why a bigger, bolder full-size Ambassador was issued for 1967, just two years after the launch of its predecessor.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

1967 AMC Ambassador
The 1967 AMC Ambassador was AMC's answer to
the big family car offerings of Chevrolet, Ford,
and Plymouth. See more classic car pictures.

At the debut of the new 1967 models, it was plain to everyone that AMC's new Ambassador was bigger and better in just about every possible way. It seemed remarkable to see an all-new Ambassador so soon; after all, the previous design had been in showrooms for only two years. So if anyone wanted to say the Ambassador was rushed to market, that's forgivable. It was.

The decline that American Motors suffered in the 1964-1966 period was a lot more severe than most people realize. After struggling through much of the 1950s, the company's Rambler line finally began to catch on as a volume seller in mid 1957. From that low point, AMC's sales climbed rapidly, setting a new record for independents in 1959 and peaking in fiscal year 1963, when the company produced more than half a million Ramblers.

Unfortunately, that proved to be the high-water mark for Rambler. During most of that period, the company had been led by the charismatic George W. Romney, who railed against the traditional American cars he characterized as "gas-guzzling dinosaurs." But after Romney left the firm in 1962 to run for governor of Michigan, AMC's reins were handed over to big Roy Abernethy, the company's vice president of sales.

Romney had espoused a "compact-car" philosophy, wherein AMC vehicles were smaller on the outside than traditional Big Three cars, yet still offering American-size interior room and comforts. Under Romney, AMC stressed its unique product features: unitized construction, dual-circuit brake system, and superior quality.

Abernethy had a different view of how to compete with the Big Three. He hungered to take them on directly, car for car, hopefully winning a bigger share of high-profit, top-of-the-line big cars.

The first new models developed under Abernethy's rule were the 1965 Rambler Ambassador and Classic. They looked bigger than previous Ramblers, and although Classic sales were relatively flat, Ambassador sales climbed. The blame for Classic's poor showing was placed on intense competition from the Big Three's new intermediates.

In 1966, AMC decided to separate Ambassador from the Rambler line. Find out whether this move was successful in the next section.

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1967 AMC Ambassador Development

For 1966, Ambassador was separated from the Rambler line, becoming a make all its own -- and setting the stage for the 1967 AMC Ambassador. Roy Abernethy's marketing people continued to focus on the themes of luxury and size.

Although Ambassador production remained fairly steady, the rest of the Rambler line went into a slump. AMC originally had planned on keeping its all-new 1963 body in production through 1969, with updates along the way, including new exterior body panels, to keep it fresh.

However, after witnessing three years of falling sales, Abernethy decided to pour AMC's dwindling resources into redesigning its senior cars sooner than originally intended. What AMC needed most was a new Rambler Classic, but in getting one, it would, by default, also get a new Ambassador. Realizing he had to move quickly to halt the slump, Abernethy decided to release them for the 1967 model year.

Styling was under the direction of Richard Teague, who had been hired in 1958 by former styling director Ed Anderson. Teague's Styling Department was small but staffed with several very talented designers, and they quickly got to work on the new senior line.

One consideration stylists had to keep in mind was that although the company's two main product lines, Ambassador and Classic, shared the same body shell, they sold in different price categories. Ambassadors usually had a longer wheelbase and, since 1965, front and rear styling that was completely different from the Classic.

1967 AMC Ambassador
The bigger, bolder 1967 AMC Ambassador had
a 118-inch wheelbase and overall length
of 202.5 inches.

Abernethy wanted bigger cars. Ambassador competed in the standard-size category, against traditional big cars such as Ford Galaxie, Chevy Impala, and Plymouth Fury III. The cars AMC designers came up with were longer, lower, and wider.

Ambassador now was 202.5 inches long, up from 200 inches previously, and its 118-inch wheelbase was two inches longer than before. Width was increased by a whopping 3.9 inches to 78.4. Front tread was 58.6 inches, rear tread 58.5 inches.

A smooth ride was assured by soft coil springs at each wheel. There was also a new four-link trailing-arm rear suspension. As was the case since 1962, Ambassadors were equipped with a twin-circuit brake system, though it wasn't as big a deal this year since new federal safety regulations mandated them on all cars.

For a detailed description of the 1967 AMC Ambassador's styling, continue to the next section of this article.

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1967 AMC Ambassador Styling

The overall styling of the 1967 AMC Ambassador was an evolution of the 1965-1966 cars. Designers continued the vertically stacked quad-headlamp theme first seen on the 1965 models, but endowed it this year with a neater, more-integrated look.

A ribbed horizontal grille likewise recalled design themes from prior years, but the overall styling was cleaner, less fussy than before. A handsome gunsight hood ornament with Ambassador crest was included on all models.

Bodylines were long and flowing, sweeping back to squarish rear fenders that held vertical taillamps, packaged two to a side. (On Cross Country station wagons, the taillamps were taller, narrower, and had only a chrome strip to give the appearance of dividing the lenses). A full-width, bright, ribbed trim panel adorned the rear on all models, echoing the grille theme.

1967 AMC Ambassador
The 1967 AMC Ambassador's semifastback roofline
and flowing body lines were departures from
the past.

Rooflines on two-doors were smoother with more arc, a style that AMC described as a "modified fastback." Four-door sedans featured a more upright, elegant roofline. Station wagons had a very subtle dip in the rear roof area, a last vestige of the theme introduced on Rambler four-door wagons in 1954. A chrome roof rack was standard equipment on every Ambassador station wagon.

As before, Ambassador bodies were treated to a deep-dip rustproofing process during manufacture, in which the body was dipped into a vat of rust-inhibiting primer prior to painting.

American Motors again offered the new Ambassador in three series: 880, 990, and top-line DPL. The 880 series consisted of a four-door sedan, four-door station wagon, and two-door "Sports Sedan" that used a hardtop-style roofline and very slim fixed B-pillars -- what we'd now call a coupe.

The 990 series also offered four-door sedan and wagon models, but had a true two-door hardtop instead of the coupe. Station wagons in both series could be had in two- or three-seat versions. The DPL line had only two models, a two-door hardtop and a gorgeous convertible, the latter having just migrated from the 990 series.

Standard equipment on 880 models included an improved "Weather-Eye" heater, fresh-air ventilation, front and rear armrests, cigarette lighter, front and rear ashtrays, hubcaps, loop-pile carpeting, and foam-cushion front seat. Ambassador 990 added fancier upholstery material, rocker-panel and wheel-opening moldings, and foam cushioning for the rear seat.

1967 AMC Ambassador custom interior
Custom interiors featuring Morocco Brocade fabric
on the seats and door panels were available
for some 1967 AMC Ambassador models.

DPL had all that plus full wheel covers; rally lights set in the grille; a woodgrain steering wheel; twin bodyside paint stripes; thick carpeting; and lights for the trunk, glovebox, parking brake, and front ashtray. In addition, DPLs could be ordered with a lower-body molding with a lower panel done in satin chrome paint.

The convertible's new top mechanism folded flush with the bodyline for a smoother look. Better yet, it didn't require side housings for folding room, either. Instead, the entire unit folded behind the rear seat, leaving the rear seat wide enough for three passengers.

In addition to the equipment already mentioned, every AMC car for 1967 came with a safety package that included a brake-system warning light, retractable front seatbelts, rear seatbelts, four-way flashers, padded sun visors, "lane-changer" turn signals, day/night rear-view mirror, impact-absorbing steering column, and a deep-dish three-spoke steering wheel.

Ambassador interiors were redesigned for greater luxury and safety. The recessed instrument panel, featuring two large circular dials with heater and radio controls flanking them, minimized projections and included padding to address safety concerns.

There were many exciting options for 1967. AMC added an eight-track stereo tape player to the options list. Twin speakers were mounted on the rear package shelf. Even more practical were the power front disc brakes, available on V-8 models.

Other extras included tilt steering wheel, cruise control, individual reclining front seats (which were standard in the ragtop), AM or AM/FM radio, tachometer, wire wheel covers, Twin-Grip differential, and, of course, power windows and air conditioning. Vinyl tops were offered on DPL and 990 sedans and hardtops.

Next, we'll cover valuable engine, transmission, and other details for the 1967 Ambassador.

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1967 AMC Ambassador Engineering

The 1967 AMC Ambassador boasted AMC's excellent 145-bhp, 232-cid, seven-main-bearing six-cylinder engine, standard on all Ambassadors except the DPL convertible, which started with a 200-bhp, 290-cid Typhoon V-8.

Optional were a two-barrel carb 155-bhp version of the six, the 290 V-8, and two all-new 343-cid Typhoon V-8s: a two-barrel job that produced 235 bhp at 4400 rpm and a four-barrel version good for 280 bhp at 4800 rpm. These newest V-8s were the latest in a stream of new AMC engines that had begun arriving in 1964 with the lightweight 232-cube six, followed up by an economy 199-cid six, and the 290 V-8 introduced in mid 1966.

Ambassadors with a six or the 290 V-8 came standard with a three-speed manual transmission. AMC offered a choice of two optional Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmissions.

1967 AMC Ambassador convertible
Unlike other 1967 Ambassadors, the 1967
AMC Ambassador convertible came
with a standard V-8 engine.

Optional for all was the column-shifted Flash-O-Matic, a conventional automatic with a twist. With the selector set in "Dl," the transmission started in first gear, and as speed increased, shifted to second and then to high. With the lever in "D2," second-gear starts were possible for better fuel economy. Flash-O-Matic also had an "L" setting to permit holding low gear for climbing or descending steep hills.

Optional on V-8 models was a new Shift-Command automatic transmission, which was offered only with a console-mounted shifter. With Shift-Command, the "D" setting provided fully automatic shifting. But the "1" setting gave a first-gear start with no upshift, and the "2" setting provided a second-gear start, again with no upshift. The idea was that boy-racers and Walter Mitty types could shift manually through all three gears if they so desired.

Real enthusiasts could order a four-speed synchromesh gearbox with floor shift for either the 290 or the 343 four-barrel V-8s. (Two-barrel 343s had to be ordered with one of the two automatics.) In addition, a three-speed manual with overdrive was available in combination with the six-cylinder and 290 V-8 engines.

Thanks to their increased width, Ambassador station wagons had more cargo capacity, a total of 91 cubic feet, or 25 percent more than before. A new fold-down mechanism for the second seat extended the cargo area clear to the back of the front seat. A lockable hidden compartment was standard on all wagons, and for the exterior, handsome wood-grain side trim was optional.

Three-seat wagons were now provided with a spare tire, unlike prior years when a shortage of space meant that three-seaters came from the factory with four Goodyear "Captive Air" tires and no spare. On two-seat wagons, buyers had a choice of a conventional drop-down tailgate or a side-hinged type; the latter was standard on three-seat wagons.

There actually was another series in AMC's full-size line for 1967: the Marlin. Although originally conceived as a compact, by the time it was introduced it had grown into a sporty intermediate fastback hardtop -- missing the red-hot ponycar market entirely.

When introduced in 1965, Marlin was part of the Rambler series. Then for 1966, it became a make on its own -- and sales were even worse than in the awful 1965 model year. Now, Marlin became even bigger as a subseries of the Ambassador range. A full 6.5 inches longer than before, on a wheelbase that was six inches longer, the new Marlin fastback looked smoother and much more graceful than before.

Marlin's grille had a large bright anodized horizontal central bar with twin rally lights contrasted by black-finish thin grille blades. Stainless-steel moldings outlined the two-tone area that extended from above the windshield clear back to the bottom of the decklid. The area could be vinyl-covered for slight extra cost. Unique horizontal tailights completed the sporty look.

Management changes, disappointing sales, and quality issues would affect the AMC Ambassador's success. Find out more in the next section.

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1967 AMC Ambassador Quality Issues

Not many months after the 1967 AMC Ambassador debuted, there was a major change in management. With sales continuing to drop, AMC's board of directors decided that Roy Abernethy had to go. His replacement as president was a crusty but capable former Ford man named Bill Luneburg.

More importantly, at the same time, AMC Chairman Robert B. Evans was replaced by the dynamic and intelligent Roy D. Chapin, Jr., son of one of the founders of the Hudson Motor Car Company. A veteran auto executive, Chapin realized he was taking over at a crucial time -- AMC lost an astounding $75.8 million for 1967 and the Wall Street Journal described it as "a dying company." "We're going to have to show ingenuity," Chapin said.

When the sales numbers for 1967 were toted up, it was obvious the new Ambassadors hadn't sold especially well, even though Uncle Sam helped a bit when it purchased 3745 Ambassador sedans for use by the U.S. Postal Service.

1967 AMC Ambassador
Quality issues and management decisions
may be to blame for the 1967 AMC Ambassador's
disappointing sales figures.

Ambassador model-year production came to 62,839 (plus another 2545 Marlins), compared to 71,692 of the 1966 models. AMC's total fiscal-year sales sank to just 291,090 cars worldwide, a hefty drop from the 345,886 sold in fiscal 1966.

Part of the problem may have been quality issues resulting from the rush to market. Roy Chapin's son, Bill, was a car salesman in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the time, and he remembers "being very excited about the new styling, especially for the Ambassador. But the first cars we got weren't much to be excited about. Trim and equipment didn't match what we ordered, fit and finish was really poor, and one loaded Ambassador convertible we ordered had an inoperative top." Chapin believes other AMC dealers had similar problems.

In addition, a major consumer magazine gave Ambassador a poor rating because the cars they tested spilled gasoline from their tanks during brake testing. Although AMC soon corrected the fault in production, the bad report certainly didn't help its image.

Or AMC's problem might have been that Abernethy's move to bigger cars was a mistake, for although Ambassador no longer competed in the compact segment, where AMC had made its reputation, in the full-size category it was smaller than its competitors. The senior Chevy, Plymouth, and Ford offerings were all about a foot longer overall, and back then, people liked their big cars big.

AMC responded with a revised 1968 AMC Ambassador. Continue reading to learn more about the 1968 model year.

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1968 AMC Ambassador

AMC chairman Roy D. Chapin had talked about ingenuity, and for 1968, AMC showed it in abundance, especially with its new Javelin and AMX. Although the 1968 AMC Ambassador received no substantial changes, there were many enhancements.

The model lineup was revamped. Replacing the 880 at the low end was a base Ambassador series consisting of a four-door sedan and a two-door hardtop, the latter in place of the pillared coupe. DPL now became Ambassador's midrange series and included a four-door sedan, two-door hardtop, and four-door station wagon.

1968 AMC Ambassador
The 1968 AMC Ambassador got a mild facelift and
standard air conditioning. This two-door hardtop
shows off the revised taillamp design.

A new series, dubbed the Ambassador SST, was now the top-line offering. It could be had in either four-door sedan or two-door hardtop styles. Sadly, Ambassador no longer offered a convertible. The Marlin didn't return either.

But the big news for Ambassador this year was that it now came with air conditioning as standard equipment on all models. While that doesn't sound like much in today's context, it was a startling thing back then. Chevy, Ford, and Plymouth certainly didn't have it as standard equipment. Heck, A/C still cost extra on six-passenger Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial models. Rolls-Royce and a few other big-bucks European cars were about the only others to include air conditioning in the base price.

The buzz created by AMC's audacious act was worth more than gold; it marked the company as a gutsy competitor. (AMC hedged its bet a little by making sure to offer a delete option so fleet buyers and cheapskates could save a few bucks by buying an Ambassador without A/C.)

The engine roster was mostly the same. All Ambassadors except SSTs came with the 145-horse 232 six as standard equipment, with the 155-bhp version available. Standard on SST and optional on the others was the 290 V-8, still rated at 200 bhp. The two 343 V-8s were also available for all models. Then, in the spring, SSTs could be ordered with the 315-bhp, 390-cid V-8 developed for the AMX.

The Flash-O-Matic transmission was dropped, but Shift-Command was now available with any engine. It could be ordered only with a column shift on sixes, but could be had with column or console-mounted floor shift with V-8s.

Styling refinements on the 1968 Ambassadors included new recessed door handles, side trim, and grille with a thick horizontal center bar. SSTs incorporated grille-mounted rally lights. Headlamp surrounds jutted out a bit further than before. Taillamps on hardtops and sedans now were vertically stacked squares. It all added up to produce a richer-looking car.

Ambassador SST was especially appealing, with expensive upholstery, individual reclining front seats, wood-look interior trim, electric clock, headlights-on buzzer, fancy wheel covers, and more. With the aforementioned 290 V-8 and A/C also standard, it made for a very luxurious package.

After hitting its low point in 1967, AMC began to climb out of the cellar. Retail sales during fiscal-year 1968 were up 13 percent -- still not great but an improvement at least.

However, Ambassador sales continued to fall, slipping by about 8200 cars. Perhaps it was because the company had poured so much of its marketing dollars into the new Javelin/AMX duo. Or perhaps it was simply that competition in the big-car field was just too intense. Whatever the real reason, AMC decided that when the 1969 models were unveiled, people would see another new Ambassador, one that was larger still.

In the next section, get a list of specifications for the 1967-1968 AMC Ambassador models, including pricing and production numbers.

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1967-1968 AMC Ambassador Specifications

Here are specifications for the 1967-1968 AMC Ambassador models, including prices and production figures.

1967 AMC Ambassador Cross Country station wagon
The 990 series was a three-model line that included
this 1967 AMC Ambassador Cross Country
station wagon.

1967-68 AMC Ambassador: Models, Prices, Production
1967 Weight Price
Prod
880 (wb 118)
4d sedan 3,279 2,657 9,772
coupe 3,310 2,519 3,623
Cross Country 4d wgn 3,486 2,962 3,540
Total 880

16,935
990 (wb 118)
4d sedan 3,324 2,776 18,033
hardtop coupe 3,376 2,803 6,140
Cross Country 4d wgn 3,545 3,083 7,919
Total 990

32,092
DPL (wb 118)
convertible coupe
3,434 3,143 1,260
hardtop coupe 3,394 2,958 12,552
Total DPL

13,812
Total 1967 Ambassador 62,839
1968
(wb 118)
4d sedan 3,193 2,820 6,272
hardtop coupe 3,258 2,892 3,360
Total Ambassador 9,632
DPL (wb 118)
4d sedan 3,265 2,920 9,362
hardtop coupe 3,321 2,947 3,696
4d station wagon 3,475 3,207 10,698
Total DPL 23,756
SST (wb 118)
4d sedan
3,496 3,151 13,387
hardtop coupe 3,530 3,172 7,876
Total SST 21,263
Total 1968 Ambassador 54,651
Source: Encyclopedia of American Cars, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Publications Inter­national, Ltd., 2002.

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