AMC became a distinct make for 1966, as American Motors substituted this badge for Rambler nameplates on the full-size Ambassador and midsize fastback Marlin. The intermediate Rambler Rebel followed suit for '68, when the Javelin ponycar and two-seat AMX arrived as new AMC models. Rambler disappeared after the 1969 edition of the 1964-vintage American compact, which was replaced for 1970 by the AMC Hornet and Gremlin.
The 1966 Ambassador was a face-lifted version of the redesigned '65 Rambler model, one of the better efforts from the studios of AMC design vice president Richard A. Teague. Squarish but clean, it spanned a 116-inch wheelbase, four inches longer than the '64 Ambassador's. A new special edition for '66 was the DPL hardtop coupe, elegantly appointed with reclining bucket seats, fold-down center armrests, pile carpeting, and many other standards.
Ranked below were Ambassador sedans, wagons, and hardtops in 880 and 990 trim, plus a 990 convertible. All offered the long-running 232-cubic-inch Typhoon six or optional 287- and 327-cid V-8s. Only the 270-horsepower 327 required premium fuel. Most Ambassadors were ordered with automatic, but a few carried a three-speed manual transmission or AMC's "Twin-Stick" overdrive. A four-speed manual was also listed for 990s and the DPL.
The big Ambassador evolved nicely through the late '60s. Wheelbase was stretched two inches for '67, when semifast-back styling with more-rounded contours was adopted. The '68s were little changed save a slightly altered hood and a revised model sequence: standard, DPL, and SST.
New frontal styling with a more-sculpted hood, plastic grille, and horizontal quad headlights marked the '69s, riding a new 122-inch wheelbase and sporting standard air conditioning. A minor restyle for 1970 brought new rear fenders and taillamps to sedans and hardtops, and new roof panels and taillamps to wagons.
AMC made an unsuccessful first stab at the booming personal-car market with the radically styled 1965 Rambler Marlin, renamed AMC Marlin for 1966-67. This was a big fastback hardtop coupe, initially based on the midsize 1965-66 Rambler Classic, with the same 112-inch wheelbase and similar front sheetmetal. Teague penned sweeping, elliptical rear side windows so the C-pillars wouldn't look heavy, but the overall styling was somewhat clumsy nonetheless. The '66 changed only in detail: revised grille, standard front antiroll bar on six-cylinder models, and newly optional vinyl roof treatment.
The '67 Marlin was switched to that year's new Ambassador platform and ended up much better proportioned on its longer wheelbase. Teague helped with handsome lower-body lines of the same hippy sort applied to that year's Ambassador and Rebel.
Measuring 6.5 inches longer than previous Marlins, the '67 was perhaps the best of this school, but it arrived too late to save the day. Sales had been low from the start, and 1965-66 sales were less than 5000 and 3000, respectively. Marlin offered some sports-car features (optional four-speed gearbox, tachometer, bucket seats, and V-8s with up to 280 bhp) but lacked a sports car's taut, precise handling and manageable size.For more on defunct American cars, see: