1958-1960 Rambler American

1960 Rambler American
The 1960 American Rambler saw the addition of a four-door sedan, which instantly became the most popular body style.
The 1960 American Rambler saw the addition of a four-door sedan, which instantly became the most popular body style.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960 Rambler American line grew further with a new body style and a third trim level. A four-door sedan was added to all series, including the new top-line Custom range.

Unlike other Americans, the four-door wasn't hewn from old tooling. There had been a Nash Rambler four-door sedan in 1954-1955, but it was built on a 108-inch wheelbase with a commensurately longer body. This new four-door was mounted on the same 100-inch platform as the American two-door sedan and wagon.

Engineers and stylists were able to come up with a good-looking design that allowed a large enough rear-door opening. No four-door wagon was planned; with a complete restyling due for the following year the cost of tooling up a new roof panel couldn't be justified.

The 1960 Rambler American Custom station wagon was rare, drawing only 1,430 orders.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

It's probable that the four-door sedan was added to counter Ford's new Falcon. Internal memos show that as early as May 1957, AMC executives knew Ford was working on a compact car. That probably motivated AMC's 1960 slogan: "The Most Imitated Car in America."

In March 1960 came the new Custom series. Its features included color-keyed upholstery, custom steering wheel, full wheel discs, carpeted floor mats, dual horns, and bigger tires. Perhaps the most intriguing item on the Custom was a 125-horsepower six-cylinder engine. It had the same bore and stroke dimensions as the engine in Deluxes and Supers but featured overhead valves and a compression ratio raised to 8.7:1. Because of space problems, air conditioning wasn't available with the ohv six.

This 1960 Rambler American Custom station wagon was specially built with woodgraining around the windows and on the tailgate.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In a test of 10 domestic station wagons, Motor Trend found that the American Custom could hit 60 mph from a standing start in 12.9 seconds. "Even some of the big V-8s do not perform that briskly. Yet it delivered mileage rivaling that of the Falcon," MT said. In the 1960 Mobilgas Economy Run, a Custom two-door sedan returned 28.35 mpg over a route of more than 2,000 miles, finishing first in the compact class.

Further proof of the American's exceptional fuel economy came when an overdrive-equipped car driven coast to coast under NASCAR's watchful eyes averaged 38.9 mpg. However, the most astounding demonstration was the record set in the Pure Oil Economy Trials, another NASCAR-supervised event: 51.281 mpg, which AMC sagely noted, "No car owner should expect to approach in everyday driving."

The 1960 American benefited from several improvements and refinements. The doors were redesigned to open at a 75-degree angle -- they previously opened 55 degrees -- so entry and exit were much easier. Bonded brake linings replaced the riveted type used previously, linkage for the manual shift was improved, and fuel capacity was increased to 22 gallons. Exterior color choices were expanded to 12 solid and 22 two-tone combinations. Power steering was a new option.

The two-door sedan, like this 1960 Rambler American Custom, continued to be a popular choice with buyers.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

There was more to the American's appeal than just low price and high gas mileage. Rambler resale values ranked among the highest. Demand for the American continued to grow, climbing to 120,603. While the Custom series provided not quite 7,700 units to that total, the four-door sedan was a hit. It accounted for nearly 39 percent of assemblies, surpassing the two-door as the most popular American.

In fact, these truly were AMC's "glory days." In 1959, sales vice president Roy Abernethy noted that two years earlier, a dealer could qualify for the list of Rambler's 100 best dealers by selling only 100 cars a year; now, he said, "The lowest dealer on the list is selling more than 500 cars a year and the top dealer is traveling at the rate of 3,300 cars a year."

The 1960 Rambler American Custom sedan came with a 125-horsepower ohv version of the 195.6-cubic-inch six that still delivered good mileage.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

That same year, AMC reported a pre-tax profit of $105 million, and the $60 million it got to keep after taxes was still well more than double 1958's figure. AMC's total sales for the fiscal year 1960 were 478,249 cars. The corporation reported a net profit of $48 million on revenues that exceeded $1 billion!

The former underdog was now riding high, and Rambler had an enviable image as a "David" against the "Goliath" of the Big Three. The cleverly recycled Rambler American had certainly done its part to help make that happen.

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