AMC Ambassador First generation
|Also called||Ambassador V8 by Rambler|
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||327 cu in (5.4 L) V8|
|Wheelbase||117 in (2,972 mm)|
American Motors planned to produce a stretched a 117-inch (2,972 mm) wheelbase version of the Rambler platform for Nash dealers to be the new Nash Ambassador, and another for Hudson dealers. Shortly before committing to production of the new long-wheelbase versions of the Hudson and the Nash, CEO Romney decided to abandon the Nash and Hudson marques.
Despite the fact that the Nash and Hudson names were canceled, work on the car itself continued, and American Motors introduced debuted in the fall of 1957, the 1958 "Ambassador V-8 by Rambler" on a 117-inch (2,972 mm) wheelbase. Its features included a 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 (equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts and rated at 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS) and 360 pound force-feet (490 N·m) of torque) mated to a BorgWarner supplied 3-speed automatic transmission with push button gear selection.
In 1956, AMC first produced its own V8, a modern overhead valve V8 displacing 250 cu in (4.1 L), with a forged steel crank shaft, which when equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor was rated at 215 hp (160 kW; 218 PS). In 1957, AMC bored and stroked the 250 CID V8 to 327 cu in (5.4 L) displacement which when offered in the Rambler Rebel used solid lifters and Bendix electronic fuel injection was rated at 288 hp (215 kW; 292 PS).
In 1958, the Ambassador was equipped with a hydraulic lifter version of AMC's 327 CID V8 rated at 270 hp (201 kW; 274 PS). Although AMC's 327 CID V8 shares its displacement with the Chevrolet small-block, AMC's 327 came out six years before Chevrolet first offered its 327 in 1962.
The Ambassador was available in a body style exclusive to its line, a pillarless hardtop Cross Country station wagon. The 1958 Ambassador was offered in a single high level trim level and came equipped with such luxury items as electric clock, twin front and rear ashtrays, Nash tradition "deep coil" spring suspension front and rear, split back reclining front seats that fold down into a bed, as well as upscale fabrics for the interior.
Management had found that the public associated the Rambler name with small economy cars, and did not want the upscale nature of the new Ambassador to be so closely associated with Rambler's favorable, but economical image. Therefore, a decision was made that the larger Ambassador would be marketed as the Ambassador V-8 by Rambler in order to identify it with the Rambler name's burgeoning success, but to indicate an air of exclusivity by showing it to be a different kind of vehicle. However, the car wore "Rambler Ambassador" badges on its front fenders.
The 1958 Ambassador is a substantially longer car than the 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase Rambler Six and Rebel V8, although both lines shared the same basic body, styling, and visual cues. However, all of the Ambassador's extra nine inches (230 mm) of wheelbase (and, therefore, overall length) were added ahead of the cowl, meaning that the passenger compartment had the same volume as the smaller Ramblers. The Ambassadors came with plusher interior and exterior trims while the front end incorporated the Rebel "V-Line" grille from the prototype Hudson model. Through effective market segmentation, the Ambassador was positioned to compete with the larger models offered by other automakers.
Model identification was located on the car's front fenders and deck lid. Super trim level Ambassadors featured painted side trim in a color that complemented the body color; Custom models featured a silver anodized aluminum panel on sedans and vinyl woodgrain decals on station wagons. Ambassador body styles included a four-door sedan and a hardtop sedan, a four-door pillared station wagon, and the aforementioned hardtop station wagon, a body style that first saw duty as an industry first in the 1956 Nash and Hudson Rambler line, on which all of the 1958 Ramblers were based.
The Ambassador had an excellent power-to-weight ratio for its time and provided spirited performance with 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) times of less than 10-seconds, and low 17-second times through a quarter-mile (402 m) dragstrip. It could be equipped with a limited slip differential, as well as power brakes, power steering, power windows, and air conditioning. Numerous safety features came standard, while lap seat belts were optional.
1959 Ambassador side view
For 1959, the Ambassador received a revised grille, side trim, and redesigned rear door skins that swept into the tailfins instead of terminating at the C-pillar. Scotchlite reflectors were also added to the rear of the tailfins to increase visibility at night. Front and rear bumpers were over 20% thicker, and featured recessed center sections to protect license plates. Adjustable headrests were now available as an option for the front seats, an industry first. AMC touted the added comfort the headrests provided, as well as their potential for reducing whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision. Other changes included the activation of the starter through the neutral pushbutton (on automatic transmission equipped cars), and the addition of an optional "Powr-Saver" engine fan, which featured a fluid-filled clutch for quieter high-speed operation.
The 1959 model year also saw the addition of an optional "Air-Coil Ride" air suspension system, utilizing air bags installed within the rear coil springs. An engine-driven compressor, reservoir, and ride-height control valve comprised the rest of the system, but as other automakers discovered, the troublesome nature of air-suspension outweighed its benefits. AMC discontinued the unpopular option at the end of the model year.
Ambassador sales improved considerably over 1958, reaching an output of 23,769; nearly half of which were Custom four-door sedans. Much rarer was the hardtop station wagon, of which only 578 were built.
1959 Ambassador rear view