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Home/Technical Info/ American Motors
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4.0 History - Cars of the 60's

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AMC Establishes Two, No Wait A Minute, Three Identities

American Motors produced a wide range of products during the 1960s as it sought to stabilize itself in the marketplace. In the early part of the decade, when smaller, more fuel efficient cars were sought by the public, and sales were strong. In 1960, the Rambler line ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales, with more than 435 thousand units sold. Romney's focus on light weight, fuel economy and simplicity was very successful during this period, and was reflected in the firm's healthy profits. In these years the company was completely debt-free.

In 1962, Romney resigned to run for Governor of Michigan. He was replaced by Roy Abernethy, who had been the head of sales during AMC's successful sales period. A new Canadian assembly plant was opened in Brampton, Ontario, Canada to build Americans and Classics. The 2,000,000 Rambler to be built since 1902 was produced on February 1, 1962 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In June of the same year a strike by the supplier halted availability of aluminum 6 cylinder engines for 1962. The next season, four suppliers and four different versions of such engines were seen.

Unlike Romney, Abernethy believed that AMC could use its reputation of building reliable economical cars to morph into a new strategy that would follow AMC buyers as they traded up into larger, more expense vehicles; sales that had so far escaped AMC. The Company was flush with cash and feeling good.  This may have been a false sense of security, but Roy was confident that AMC could run with the big dogs. 

Before Abernethy had his say, the 1963 Rambler and Ambassador bowed. This restyle was a dramatic departure from the previous stodgy mid-fifties designs and was clean and crisp – looking lithe, compact and racy, all at the same time. The Rambler Classic won the famous Motor Trend Car of the Year Award. Roy should have paid attention, but the styling die had already been cast.

The 1965 model cars were the first iteration of this new concept. The result was a longer wheelbase Ambassador series and the addition of convertibles for the mid and larger size model lines. Mid-year in 1965, AMC introduced a fastback personal luxury car called the Rambler Marlin. It arrived just as Ford unveiled its new pony-car, the Mustang, which stole any heavy publicity that this striking model might have created for the Company.

The Marlin and the new Ambassadors, including the convertible, were supposed to emphasize personal luxury. As part of this strategy, Abernethy also called for the de-emphasis of the "Rambler" brand name. As such, in 1966 the Marlin and Ambassador lost their Rambler nameplates, and were badged as "American Motors" products. Further, the new models were unlike previous offerings and shared fewer parts among each other and were more expensive to build. Abernathy also began a quest to match the "Big Three" with annual styling changes - which required large expenditures of cash on a bet that sales would rise.

As a benchmark for this new strategy, a new line of redesigned cars for the full size and mid-size markets were launched in the fall of 1966. The cars won acclaim for their fluid styling, and they certainly were competitive with the Big Three from that standpoint. Unfortunately, Abernathy's ideas did not work well enough, as the cars did not convert sufficient new buyers, and they put off the the firm's economy-minded core of customers. Sales of the new mid-sized Rebel and full sized Ambassador models dropped after the introduction of the new cars. There were also quality control problems, because of such drastic changes in body parts and the complexity of assembly.  Worse, the dipping sales fueled persistent rumors of the company's demise because of its suddenly precarious cash flow.

The sales disaster of 1967 led to Abernethy's ouster from AMC.  Damage control fell to a new CEO, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., who was the son of Hudson Motors founder Roy D. Chapin. He immediately instituted changes to AMC's offerings and tried to regain market share at the low price end of the market. Chapin's first decision was to cut the price of the Rambler to within $200 of the Volkswagen Beetle.

He brought out some innovative marketing ideas that included making air conditioning standard on all 1968 Ambassador models. This made AMC the first U.S. automaker to make air conditioning standard equipment on its cars, beating all other makers; including luxury lines like Lincoln, Imperial, and even Cadillac. The company also introduced exciting, well-designed and styled entries for the decade's muscle car market; most notably the AMX and Javelin. AMX catered to the sports car market; while the Javelin was the company's entrant into the pony car market.

Additionally, operating cash was acquired through the sale of Kelvinator Appliance, which had been one of the firm's core operating units just a few years earlier.

In a further effort to distance itself from the "cheap" concept in its cars, the Rambler brand name was completely dropped after the 1969 model year. It was used, however in several overseas markets as either a model or brand name all the way until 1983.

Chapin expanded American Motors product line in 1970, through the purchase of the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. This added the iconic Jeep brand of light trucks and SUVs, as well as Kaiser-Jeep's lucrative government contracts - notably the M151 MUTT line of military Jeeps and the DJ-Series USPS Jeeps. AMC also expanded its international network. The military and special products business was reconstituted as American Motors General Products Division, later reorganized as "AM General".

From 1970 onward, "AMC" would be the brand name used for all American Motors passenger cars; and all vehicles from that date bore the AMC name and a new corporate logo. However, the names "American Motors" and "AMC" were used interchangeably in corporate literature well into the 1980s.

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1963 Rambler. The restyled 1963 Ramblers won the Motor Trend COTY award. They also received a new 287 cu. in. V8.


1965 Ambassador. Bigger, and with more luxury. AMC was going after the Big 3.


1965 Marlin. The Marlin was a dramatic styling exercise that impacted the sport luxury field. Unfortunately, it arrived at the same time the Mustang did.


1967 Rambler American. Introduced in 1964, it was an excellent seller in the small car marketplace. When it received the 290 V8, it became a muscle car.


1968 Ambassador. It had air conditioning as standard - sharing that distinction only with Rolls Royce.


1968 Javelin vs. Mustang Ad. Introduced in that year, it was a good-looking, well balanced pony car. Though it sold well for AMC, it never came to maore than 10% of Mustang sales.


1968 AMX. The best item to come from AMC - ever. A sports car in the true sense of the word, but again too late to the party. In its 3 yrs of production, only a bit more than 20,000 were sold.








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