Sometimes manufacturer or car model names can get a little confusing. Take the Capri for instance. Is it an old Lincoln Capri or a Ford Capri from the '70s or '80s? Or Merc, which is an abbreviation for Mercury in the United States, but is the same for a Mercedes in Europe. However, you'll have to go some way to beat the confusion surrounding the names Rambler, Nash, and American. See, what you're looking at spread across these pages is a not some small '60s European car, as some have suspected, but a '64 Rambler American, manufactured by American Motors Corporation (AMC). All good so far, despite "American" being the model and the manufacturer, however, AMC's forerunner was Nash Motors, and they too offered a Rambler for sale in 1954-1955. Except that Rambler was the model name, this Rambler is the marque, coming under the AMC family banner.
AMC had retained the tooling for the '55 Nash Rambler, which fit the requirements of AMC's '58 management's desire for a compact car line, and coupled with AMC's financial inability to develop a new model, the design was slightly modified to become the "new" American. It didn't hurt that the recession of 1958 saw car buyers looking for economic models, and the Rambler was already known for its fuel economy and wins in the Mobil Economy Runs of the time.
The American came in three generations-1958-1960, 1961-1963, and 1964-1969-and were sold under the Rambler name for its entire production run. It was, in fact, the last car to bear the Rambler name on the domestic market. In another frugal move, the second generation American, though heavily restyled, was mechanically identical to the '60 model, meaning the same platform enjoyed two separate yet successful model runs, as the Nash Rambler and the Rambler American, even earning the Motor Trend Car of the Year award in 1963.
The third generation (bear with me, there's a point to this preamble!) saw a complete redesign, with improved suspension, tunneled headlights in a longer, more boxy body, and doors and other components that shrewdly were interchangeable with AMC's larger cars. Though 1965 saw a new 232ci OHV straight-six that was used through 1979, the '64 American, despite its redesign, employed the tried-and-trusted 195.6ci flathead straight-six, available in 90, 125, and 138hp variants, which has to make it, though we haven't checked, one of the last flathead-powered production cars. All of which brings us to Keith Stephens' example pictured here.
A car that retains that flathead six-banger despite its contemporary stance and rolling stock, Keith's been a Rambler fan for over 10 years, reasoning, "I always try to look at what a car would look like with a friendly massaging. When all my friends got into Mustangs, Camaros, and other muscle cars, I started looking at all the ugly ducklings because they were plentiful, and more importantly, cheap! I bought my first Rambler a little over 10 years ago, lowered it, and added a set of polished Americans. I soon found out that a lot of people had an uncle or grandfather who had one of these cars, and listened to many stories about them and the times they had in them. This Rambler has a similar story; it was bought new in May 1964 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, ordered with the standard six-cylinder, auto transmission, and Twin Grip differential (AMC's limited-slip traction system). The car was bought by a collector from the estate of the original owner with 36,000 miles on the clock, who had it maintained by Auto Perfection in Bethal Park, Pennsylvania. When it came up for sale, the owner of Auto Perfection took it on, keeping it for a year before deciding to re-sell it, with just 41,393 miles."
Keith bought the little American based on a phone call and a few pictures that were mailed to him, and says that when the car arrived in Texas he was floored by its overall condition. The Bengal Ivory paint looked to be fresh, so he color sanded and buffed it, before adding air suspension from Ride Tech (formerly Air Ride Technologies), making all the brackets bolt in, just in case a subsequent owner wants to return the car to stock. All the Ride Tech components were hidden from view so as not to clutter the stock vibe.
According to Keith, "While I had the interior out to run wires and lines for the suspension I found a cool '60s Boy Scout ring under the back seat and thought it was neat, so it now rides in a more prominent place on the turn signal lever. The main reason I bought this car was to have something to drive while I built my '59 Rambler American that only has 36,000 miles on it. It's as clean as this car but has an aluminum twin-carb flathead. But that may have to wait a little longer as I'm having too much fun driving this car to work on the '59!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1964 Rambler American
Unusual for an R&C feature car, the American is a uni-body, and is pretty much stock, though Keith did notch the front of the frame to clear the lower A-arms. The rear parallel leaf suspension was retained, while bolt on airbag brackets were fabricated and installed at each corner, along with Monroe shocks. Keith's buddies at Stoked Out Specialties helped with the three-month "build".
Backed by the stock, yet superbly named, Flash-O-Matic auto trans, the original 196ci flathead six-cylinder still purrs under the hood, with less than 50,000 original miles on it in 45 years! Keith painted the motor Olds Gold, dressed it with a Harley air cleaner, chrome head studs, and Honda CB350 finned ignition cover hiding the heater valve and a chrome oil filter and pulleys.
Body & Paint
Re-chromed bumpers and emblems removed from the hood are about the extent of the body mods, though it had received fresh Bengal Ivory paint when Keith took ownership.
Wheels & Tires
Here's one of the few deviations from stock, and the reason (apart from the lowering) why the car looks so good. Billet Specialties' Vintec 7x18s and 8x18s replace the stamped steel stockers, wrapped in 215 and 225 40ZR18 Yokohama Parada rubber.
Totally stock, but very cool in Emperor Gold, the American's interior features reclining split backs on the front bench seat, and even the original radio in the center of the dash. A discrete gauge under the left side of the dash monitors the airbags.