Although the wheelbase was the same as the 1954/1955 four-door models, the 1956 Rambler was all-new from the tires up. The styling team fashioned an envelope body with a tall greenhouse permitting large window areas to cure the claustrophobic "penned-in" feel of the earlier car. Key to the design was the C-pillar, which was reverse-sloped like earlier Nash designs, but was now more integrated into the basic styling.
Termed the "Fashion Safety Arch," Anderson had this to say about it: "The Fashion Safety Arch on the Rambler blends the body to the roof, furthering the goal of overall unity of appearance." The flat roof line was much more modern, yet still gave generous headroom. Station wagons had a "dip" in the rear roof area, a stylemark first employed on the 1954 Rambler four-door wagons.
Although it was a smart look, readily identifiable as unique to Rambler, it was developed by Reddig to save the cost of tooling up a whole separate roof panel for wagons. Instead, Reddig designed a wagon rear roof stamping that could be welded onto the rear of the regular sedan and blended into the roofline. The dip was where his new wagon panel met the existing roof.
To balance out the styling, a roof rack was made standard equipment. Rambler called the result the "Smart, Distinctive Travel Rack Roof Line."
Slab-sided body styling increased interior width, permitting greater hip room, despite having narrower exterior dimensions. In fact, Rambler had slightly more front shoulder room than Ford or Chevy, and only 0.3-inch less than Plymouth.
Trunk space was also increased, by 33 percent, to 25 cubic feet with the optional "Continental Spare-Tire Mount," and visibility through the greater glass area -- 3,493.2 total square inches -- was a welcome change. Rambler boasted that it had the widest wraparound windshield in the low-price field, 59.75 inches.
"Make the Smart Switch for 1956 to Rambler: The Double Safe Car," implored one brochure. To back that up, Rambler claimed that its "Double Safe Single Unit Construction" was superior because it had up to twice the torsional strength of its body-on-frame competitors, not to mention impact-absorbing box-sections up front. Its all-welded body, with "over 8,000 electric welds," eliminated the use of body bolts.
Also touted were the above-hood fresh air intake, a 47-percent increase in braking area, hub-recessed steering wheel, standard power brakes on Custom models, "Selecto-Lift Safety Starting" with Hydra-Matic (one lifted the shift lever to engage the starter), and running lights. The last, mounted outboard on the front fenders, turned on with the headlights, which were mounted inboard in the grille in a low-set "Safety Vu" position -- which supposedly helped drivers see under fog.
The grille itself was of one-piece die-cast construction, unlike the "Typical thin, flimsy, low-priced car grille [that] easily develops rattles, is fragile." All in all, the 1956 Rambler was a great advance in compact-car design.
Despite the rush to get into production, Engineering was able to introduce an improved six-cylinder engine for the new Rambler. It was based on the previous block and still displaced 195.6 cubic inches, but it now had overhead valves. Its 120-horsepower rating was a whopping 33-percent improvement over the 1955 engine's 90 bhp.
The previous leaf-spring rear suspension was replaced by a new setup incorporating torque-tube drive and coil springs on all four comers for an improved and quieter ride. It was also pointed out that kingpins had been eliminated up front.
New for 1956 was optional power steering. More relevant, perhaps, was the fact that "Rambler was the first low-priced car to offer factory-installed air conditioning. First with a single unit that cooled, heated, filtered, ventilated, dehumidified."
For 1956, "... Rambler goes years ahead again. [It] is the first car actually designed for air conditioning. ... As a result, Rambler's All-New, All-Season Air Conditioning is the world's most compact, most efficient -- and lowest priced." And indeed, when most cars still had part of the system mounted in the trunk and plastic tubes coming out of the rear-seat parcel shelf, Rambler had everything mounted up front. And it cost only $345, compared to $430.50 to $526.75 on other low-priced cars.
And there were "Still more features that make Rambler, the fastest-growing all-new car, the most-wanted used car, too." One of them was resale value: "Rambler tops the whole 'Big 3' field in resale value," said AMC, and backed it up by quoting the respected N.A.D.A. [National Automobile Dealers Association] Official Used Car Guide.
Economy was, of course, expected from a Rambler, and the 1956 didn't disappoint despite the extra 30 horsepower. In the 1956 Mobilgas Economy Run, Rambler scored 24.3545 miles per gallon, compared to an average of 20.3120 for Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth, and Studebaker. Among sixes, a Chevrolet came closest with 21.1715 mpg, while a Studebaker Champion managed only 20.0467. All cars had automatic transmission.
To learn about the reaction to the 1956 Rambler, see the next page.
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