The 1967-1969 AMC Ambassador proved the late Richard A. Teague could do more with less than most any other car designer around -- usually because he had to. He'd honed this skill in the mid-1950s during Packard's "last days in the bunker," but would employ it best during the 25-year career he began in 1959 with small but scrappy American Motors.
Teague served 21 of those years as AMC design vice president, a title he credited to his 1964 American, the pretty compact carved from predecessor Ed Anderson's "Uniside" 1963-1964 Classic/Ambassador.
For 1965, Teague got a substantial budget -- at least by AMC standards -- to reskin the larger Ramblers, and he came through handsomely with crisp, angular lines. Equally notable, Ambassador again rode its own long wheelbase to become a true full-size car for the first time since 1961. The result of all this was record Ambassador sales of over 64,000.
Expansionist AMC president Roy Abernethy targeted 1967 for even greater change, in line with his longtime aim of matching Big Three models on most every front. This meant a sporty Javelin "ponycar" in the image of Ford's Mustang, plus an all-new Classic and Ambassador. The last emerged as one of the decade's unsung good-lookers.
Some key technical changes helped. Wheelbase, for example, was again pulled out, this time to 118 inches -- only one shy of the biggest Chevrolets, Fords, and Plymouths -- which improved ride as much as looks.
Overall length rose 2.5 inches to 202.5, and width swelled 3.9 inches to the benefit of interior and trunk space. All-coil suspension was an AMC given since Nash days, but the old torque-tube drive was finally abandoned for a lighter "Hotchkiss" open driveshaft and new one-piece rear axle with four-link trailing-arm location.
Most running gear was new, too, headlined by a pair of optional V-8s replacing the 287 and 327 engines of mid-1950s vintage. Boasting the latest in "thinwall" block castings, the first was a 200-horsepower 290; the second a bored-out 343 in 235-bhp and high-compression 280-bhp tune -- the most horses Ambassador had ever offered.
Base power remained the equally modern 232-cubic-inch six introduced for 1964, still packing 145 standard bhp or 155 optional. Transmission choices included three-speed manual, the same with optional overdrive, extra-cost four-on-the-floor manual, and two three-speed automatic options: Borg-Warner "Flash-O-Matic" and Chrysler Torque Flite marketed as "Shift Command."
Optional power front-disc brakes returned from 1966. Other technical changes, mostly at Washington's insistence, included a brake-system warning light, four-way hazard flashers, lane-change turn signals, collapsible steering column, and non-injury dash and door surfaces.
Go on to the next page to learn about Richard Teague's smart restyling of the 1967-1969 AMC Ambassador.
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Of course, it was Richard Teague's tasteful styling for the 1967, 1968, and 1969 AMC Ambassador that everyone noticed most. No wonder. Smooth and well-proportioned, it was a startling (some said welcome) break with the boxiness of 1965-1966. And if a little Fordish in places and GM-like in others, it didn't quite resemble anything else.
Sticking with a three-series lineup for 1967, Ambassador offered its usual four-door sedans and wagons in base 880 and spiffier 990 trim, plus an 880 pillared coupe and 990 two-door hardtop sharing a graceful, semi-fastback profile.
Topping the line was a DPL model offered in two body styles: convertible and hardtop coupe. The former retained the unusually low top stack from Ambassador's first 1965 convertible, but was reengineered for genuine three-across rear seating.
Oddly, DPLs were quite overdecorated inside, with lush brocade-type upholstery that Motor Trend described as something "rich Aunt Harriet might have had on her parlor sofa. Throw pillows are added to complete the atmosphere of Victorian elegance." Sportier types could opt for vinyl front buckets and center shift console.
The 1967 Ambassadors should have sold like nickel beer, yet sales dropped over 8,800 from 1966. Volume fell again for 1968, when styling was touched up, and newly required safety and emissions equipment was installed. Offerings thinned to base, DPL, and new SST sedans and hardtops, plus DPL wagon.
The base hardtop was dropped for 1969, when a major front and rear restyle added four inches to both wheelbase and overall length. An optional 315-bhp 390 V-8 returned from 1968, and was really needed to move Ambassadors that were now bigger than full-size Big Three rivals.
Though sales rose for 1969, the Ambassador's popularity waned in later years, and a then-faltering AMC abandoned the marque after 1974. In retrospect, Abernethy's all-fronts marketing strategy was misguided, but not Ambassador's 1967 styling.
Oddly, Teague never seemed to take much pride in it, though he certainly could have. It may not have been as memorable as his AMX, but it wasn't a Pacer, either.
For 1967-1969 AMC Ambassador specifications, go on to the next page.
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1967, 1968, 1969 AMC Ambassador Specifications
The 1967, 1968, and 1969 AMC Ambassador was a smooth, powerful, well-proportioned sedan that didn't look like anything else on the road. Despite somewhat disappointing sales, the 1967-1969 AMC Ambassador remains a handsome example of Richard Teague's styling genius.
Engines: ohv I-6, 232 cid (3.75 × 3.50), 145/155 bhp; ohv V-8, 290 cid (3.75 × 3.28), 200 bhp; ohv V-8, 343 cid (4.08 × 3.28), 235/280 bhp; ohv V-8,390 cid (4.17 × 3.57), 315 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual w/optional overdrive, 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: live axle on 4-link trailing arms, coil springs
Brakes: front/rear drums; front discs optional
Wheelbase (in.): 1967-1968, 118.0; 1969, 122.0
Weight (lbs): 3,193-3,732
Top speed (mph): 90-115
0-60 mph (sec): 9.0-11.5