AMC Rambler Six and V8
|1956 to 1960|
|Manufacturer||American Motors Corporation (AMC)|
|Production||1956 – 1960|
|Designer||Edmund E. Anderson|
|Body and chassis|
|Wheelbase||108 in (2,743 mm)|
The Rambler Six and the Rambler V8 are intermediate sized automobiles that were built and marketed by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1956 to 1960.
Launched on 15 December 1955, the 1956 model year Rambler Six ushered a "new era in motoring has begun" according to George W. Romney, President of AMC. In 1956, the Rambler was sold through both Nash and Hudson networks of dealerships. This resulted from the merger of the two companies to form AMC in 1954.
The new Rambler line created and defined a new market segment, the "compact car" as the automobile classification was called at that time. A V8 engine powered model, the Rambler V8, was added in 1957.
The new for 1956 Rambler was arguably "the most important car American Motors ever built" in that it not only created and defined a new market segment, emphasized the virtues of compact design, but also enabled the automaker to prosper in the post-World War II marketplace that shifted from a seller's to a buyer's market. The sales war between Ford and Chevrolet conducted during 1953 and 1954 had left little business for the much smaller "independent" automakers trying to compete against the standard models offered by the domestic Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler).
The company was developing a new line of smaller models for 1957 under Styling Director, Edmund E. Anderson. Although conventional business thinking states that bigger profits were made from sales of bigger cars, American Motors lacked the resources to develop a full range of new models. As the head of AMC, George W. Romney avoided a head-to-head battle with the Big Three automakers by focusing the company on the compact car. He "felt that with the Rambler I had the car of the future" and Romney "bet the farm on the Rambler" by spending US$5.4 million on a "crash program to bring the 1957 Rambler to market a year earlier."
The four-door Ramblers for the 1956 model year were completely redesigned, with a characteristic swept-back C-pillars (the Fashion Safety Arch), unusual wing windows on the rear doors, inboard, grille-mounted headlamps, as well as "the widest windshield" of any car. The short-wheelbase two-door (Nash Rambler) versions were no longer available. The new line retained the 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase that was used for the previous four-door versions of the Nash Rambler, but the overall length was increased by 5 inches (127 mm), to 191.14 in (4,855 mm). The Rambler was substantially smaller outside compared to the other popular domestic cars of the era, but its interior room was equal to the top-selling "low-priced" field. Construction was also unusual, being unit body (what Nash called Double Safe Single Unit).
The 1956 Rambler models were marketed under both the Nash and Hudson brand names. The cars were almost identical except for minor badge engineeringthat included different logos on the hubcaps, grille insert, and hood emblem.
The new Ramblers came only as four-door models. Along with the usual four-door sedan and station wagon was a new four-door hardtop sedan. Rambler also introduced the industry's first four-door hardtop station wagon in 1956. The station wagons used the same rear doors as the sedans with the back roof dipped lower over the cargo area and featured a standard roof rack. The wagon models were called Cross Country. An innovation for station wagons was Rambler's roll-down tailgate window; competitors' models used upward-hinged windows.
The new car was described as "distinct and different .... can be recognized at any angle from its wide-open competition- type grille to the pronounced arch over rear window." According to automobile journalist Floyd Clymer, "economy and high-performance do not go hand in hand, but in the Rambler, the owner will find a happy medium ... though smaller, is safer than many cars. The welded, unitized body-frame construction offers above-average protection in collisions." The single-unit construction that was used by AMC on all of its models provided a marketing advantage by offering buyers a $25,000 personal automobile injury insurance policy at no extra cost.
The Typhoon straight-six for the new Rambler was based on the previous 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) block, but was improved and featured overhead valves and produced 120 bhp (89 kW; 122 PS). It was the only engine available in the 1956 Rambler as the automaker was still developing a new V8. This engine was said to deliver 33% more power than the 1955 version, and (at up to 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp)) better mileage than the competition.< The new Rambler also changed to a 12-volt electrical system. The automatic transmission was the GM-produced Hydramatic (called Flashaway by AMC). A torque tube drive system was used with a four-wheel coil spring suspension instead of the previous Hotchkiss drive setup.
The interiors were offered in fifteen colors, and offered "genuine leather" (in six colors) as an option. The station wagons were popular with buyers, and in addition to power brakes (standard on Custom models), frequently ordered options included power steering, two- and three-tone exterior color schemes, a continental tire, Weather Eye heating and air conditioning system, as well as dealer accessory window insect screens to use with the individually adjustable and reclining front seats that could be used as a bed.
The new Rambler model became the replacement for the large-sized Nash and Hudson "legacy" models that were now suffering from dwindling sales. On the other hand, the Rambler was the only completely new "popular-priced" car in 1956. Consumer reaction to the 1956 Rambler was very positive.Advertising for the new car urged potential buyers to "Drive the Rambler - You'll Make the Smart Switch for 1956." Almost 74 percent of surveyed Rambler owners by Popular Mechanics described their cars as small and roomy, as well as easy to park and operate.
Sales for the inaugural year totaled 66,573. Of these, 20,496 were badged as Hudsons. Soon, the all-new "compact-sized" (as vehicles were defined at that time) models experienced a "sales explosion".
In 1957, the Rambler was established as a separate marque and these models became the foundation for the new company's best sales performance through the late 1950s. Sales increased to 82,000.
The four-door sedans and station wagons were offered as well as a four-door hardtop body style with no "B" pillar. The most basic trim level, Deluxe, was essentially for fleet customers and only available with the I6 engine. The Super and Custom trimmed models came with the I6 or AMC's new V8 engine. The Deluxe had no exterior side trim or series name, the Super came with a single full-length body side molding and a "Super" script emblem, and the Custom featured dual full body side moldings with a "Custom" script emblem and a round "R" medallion on the top of the front fenders.
The new Rambler Cross Country was "typical of the stylish, yet highly practical wagons built by AMC in the 1950s" and was offered in solid colors or two- or three-tone paint schemes. Only a few station wagons "were available in 1957 with the very vogue hardtop configuration", and Rambler's Cross Country station wagon in Custom trim carried a relatively low price of $2,715. Options included seat belts, padded dash, and child proof door locks.
This was the first year the Rambler offered a new 250 cu in (4.1 L) V8 engine, producing 190 bhp (142 kW; 193 PS). A companion model in four-door hardtop style and featuring AMC's new high-performance 327 cu in (5.4 L) V8 was also introduced in 1957. This was the Rambler Rebel and it was an early "muscle car." With overdrive, the 1957 model was capable of up to 32 mpg-US (38 mpg-imp; 7.4 L/100 km).
The first American journalist to drive a U.S. automobile uncensored through the Soviet Union was Harry Walton in a brand new 1957 Rambler station wagon assembled in Belgium. The engine was detuned at the Brussels assembly plant to run on 74 octane gasoline available only in certain gas stations, and on one occasion, "to the Rambler's eternal credit it swallowed the [ordinary Soviet] stuff, protesting mildly." The heavily loaded wagon cruised at 60 mph (97 km/h) and travelled 22.35 miles per US gallon (10.52 L/100 km; 26.84 mpg-imp). The journalist drove 3,500 miles (5,633 km) from the Polish border near Brest to the port city of Yalta, and reported the Rambler station wagon "galvanized Russians into attention everywhere."
George W. Romney stated "the Hudson and Nash would remain distinctive in size from the Rambler in 1958." Designs were developed for the big-car Hudson and Nash models to share the Rambler automobile platform by stretching the body about nine inches ahead of the cowl. However, the Rambler become the new AMC division following the discontinuation of both the Nash and Hudson lines after the 1957 model year.
The larger-sized 1958 Ramblers incorporated "more than 100 changes and were outwardly quite different from their predecessors."The cars received "a complete reskin that made the 1956 bodies look a bit bulkier". This major redesign featured new front and rear fenders. A new front end moved the headlamps from inside the grille to the top of the front fenders and featured twin headlamps on each side on the "Super" and "Custom" models, as well as full-length bodyside moldings. The basic "Deluxe" trim models had no side trim and came standard with single headlights, but the new "quad" headlights were optional.
The 1958 Ramblers now had the industry's requisite flared tailfins. The Rambler line was one of the last among the domestic automobiles to incorporate tailfins to its body design (and also one of the first to eliminate them). When asked why the 1958 Ramblers featured this styling feature, AMC's Chairman and CEO George W. Romney responded, "If we have to use tail fins to get people to try compact cars, we'll use tail fins. Later on we will certainly be able to do away with them, and to build clean, simple, uncluttered cars."
By 1958, Rambler was selling half of its production as station wagons, proportionately more of that body style than any other automaker. All Rambler station wagons carried the Cross Country name. The innovative hardtop (no "B-pillar") station wagon body style was no longer available in the Rambler line, as it was reserved for the 1958 Ambassador models. The Rambler station wagons featured a step down roof over their rear cargo area and a standard roof rack. The new design also featured wider rear openings with a frame-less roll-down rear window and a "one-finger" latch on the spring-assisted tailgate.Rambler's new one-piece, fold-down station wagon tailgate was adopted by all the U.S. automakers by 1961.A horizontal roller-type "window blind" was available to hide the lower half of the wagon's 80 cubic feet (2,265 l) cargo area. Motor Trend did a comparison test of four 1958 station wagons (Rambler, Ford, DeSoto, and Oldsmobile) and found the compact Rambler could hold as much
The Rambler models continued to be the shortest cars in the U.S. – at 191 inches (4,851 mm) in total length – with room for six-passengers. Rambler's marketing focused on having "the best of both: 1. American big car room and comfort. 2. European small car economy and handling ease." Powering the Rambler Six was AMC's new 127 hp (95 kW; 129 PS) overhead valve (OHV) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) straight-six. NASCAR tests showed the Rambler Six had a $0.01 per mile gasoline cost when equipped with overdrive transmission. A V8 engine was available in the Rambler Rebel models.
A Borg-Warner torque converter "Flash-O-Matic" automatic transmission, with the "then-trendy pushbutton" gear selection on the far left side of the instrument panel, was optional. Also new on the left side for the driver was a step-on parking brake pedal.
American Motors instituted a new paint system for the 1958 model year. All Ramblers received rust-inhibiting by submerging assembled bodies up to their roof into a large 40-foot (12 m) vat of primer (not sprayed on) before the color coat was applied, a revolutionary process that was later copied by other automakers. After drying, an additional wax-based compound was sprayed inside girders, rocker panels, fenders, and other hidden areas in the car bodies.
American Motors promoted the 1958 Rambler in several advertising campaigns. One approach featured George W. Romney challenging "the big car concept." A series of print ads also mocked the domestic Big Three automakers' standard-sized cars featuring illustrations by famous cartoonists showing the compact Rambler easily getting through places that would get the large "gas guzzling dinosaur" automobiles stuck. An example is the story, "The Millionaire and The Rambler" by Otto Soglow. Chon Day illustrated a story on how "Rambler foils bank robbery."
Sales of the Rambler six and V8 increased to 119,000 during a year when all U.S. cars were down in volume. The 1958 Ramblers "sold like hotcakes" and returned the smallest U.S. automaker to profitability. Together with the smaller Rambler American line, AMC "broke sales records" in 1958 as consumers valued basic transportation from their automobiles and no longer cared "how big their cars were." Although in the midst of the Recession of 1958, Rambler captured seventh place in automobile sales.
Improvements to the Rambler included new side trim with a full-width die-cast grille, as well as thicker brake linings and larger brakes for V8-powered cars. Engineering changes included fuel economy improvements with lower axle ratios and more efficient carburetor for the I6 engines. An electrically engaged overdrive unit behind the three-speed manual transmission was also available. To increase longevity, Rambler mufflers were aluminum-coated on the inside and zinc-coated on the outside. On cars with automatic transmission, engine starting was now incorporated into the neutral pushbutton, thus eliminating the ignition key start switch. Accidental starter engagement was prevented by a lockout when the engine was running.
A total of 11 models were offered for 1959, all four-door versions of sedans, station wagons, and Country Club hardtop (no B-pillar) body styles. Premium options and conveniences continued to be offered including "Weather Eye" air-conditioning, air suspension on V8s, limited slip differentials, an exterior mounted continental tire, as well as the American Motors' exclusive individually adjustable and reclining front seats with headrests. Sales of the Rambler Six and V8 continued to increase.
The 1960 models featured numerous exterior and interior design changes. The greenhouse was made "lighter" with a narrower C-pillar and roof profile, as well as slanting both the windshield and rear window at a greater angle providing for an "airy cabin." The front end was simplified, while the tailfins became smaller thus highlighting the new tall taillamps. The overall length was trimmed by 1.6 inches (41 mm) because of a new spit-bumper design. Riding on 15-inch wheels the Rambler appeared to be larger than it actually was. The interior was also revised and the instrument panel now incorporated all instrumentation within a large oval in front of the driver.
The practice of separate Six and Rebel V8 models now ended with the focus on the Rambler name and the trim three levels: "Deluxe", "Super", and "Custom". Each was offered with "Economy 6 or Rebel V-8 engines."
In 1960, the Rambler line was in third place in total industry sales in the United States. The 1960 Rambler Six with its 127 hp (95 kW; 129 PS) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) engine became the best selling model for AMC with 297,368 sold for the year.
American Motors established agreement with Renault to assemble Ramblers from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits in the Vilvoorde Renault Factory in Haren, Belgium. The cars were sold and serviced through Renault dealers in Algeria, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Rambler was sold as an "executive car" in these markets.
American Motors began the process of differentiating the Rambler brand name from its various sizes and similar model names. New nameplates were introduced; the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 were both renamed the Rambler Classic in 1961.