The AMC Rebel (known as the Rambler Rebel in 1967) is a mid-size car produced by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1967 to 1970. It replaced the Rambler Classic. The Rebel was replaced by the similar AMC Matador for the 1971 model year. The Rebel was positioned as the high-volume seller in the independent automaker's line of models. The Rebel was based on AMC's "senior" automobile platform shared with the full-size Ambassador line.
For the U.S. and Canadian markets, the Rebel was built at AMC's "West Assembly Line" (along with the Ambassador) in Kenosha, Wisconsin and at Brampton, Ontario, Canada (Bramalea - Brampton Assembly Plant).
The Rebel was also assembled from Complete knock down (CKD) kits under license in Europe (by Renault), in Mexico (by Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos), in Australia (by Australian Motor Industries), and in New Zealand (Campbell Motor Industries in Thames). Rebels continued to be sold in these and other international markets under the "Rambler" brandname.
The Rebel name was introduced by AMC in 1957 as a special model with a big V8 engine: the Rambler Rebel, the first factory-produced lightweight muscle car, and the first hint that muscle cars would be part of the company's future. The Rebel name reappeared in 1966 on the top-of-the-line version of the Rambler Classic two-door hardtop. It featured bucket seats, special trim, and a revised roofline. For 1967, AMC's entire intermediate line took the Rebel name.
Throughout its production, the Rebel was available as a six-passenger 4-door sedan, and 2-door hardtop, and a 4-door station wagon with an optional third row seat for two more passengers. In addition, a 2-door sedan (coupé) with a thin B-pillar and flip out rear side windows was available in 1967 only, and a convertible was offered in 1967 and 1968.
The six-cylinder engines that were introduced by AMC in 1964 were continued. However, the 1967 Rebel introduced the first of a family of all-new V8s that replaced AMC's long-lived "GEN-1" designs in the mid-sized market segment. These included the 290 cu in (4.8 L) and 343 cu in (5.6 L) engines that debuted in the 1966 Rambler American. With a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, the 343 V8 produced 280 hp (209 kW; 284 PS) at 4800 rpm and 365 pound-feet (495 N·m) of torque at 3000 rpm. The new Rebels also eliminated the torque tube design used in the Rambler Classic in favor of an open drive shaft with a four-link, trailing-arm rear suspension system to provide a more comfortable coil spring ride.
The 1967 Rambler Rebel by American Motors was completely new design from its predecessor Rambler Classic. Now a larger car riding on a two-inch (50 millimeter) longer 114-inch (2,896 mm) wheelbase, the width was also increased by nearly four inches (100 millimeters) to enlarge interior passenger space and cargo capacity. The Rebel had as much interior space as full-size cars from Ford or GM. The new body design featured a smooth rounded appearance with sweeping rooflines, a "coke-bottle" body with a shorter rear deck, as well as greater glass area for increased visibility. A new safety-oriented instrument panel featured a steering column designed to collapse under impact, and the gauges and controls were grouped in front of the driver with the dashboard pushed forward and away from the passengers. The Rebel models were similar to the senior Ambassador in that they shared the same basic unit body (platform) aft of the cowl. However, the Rebel's front end saw an entirely new concept with a "venturi" grille motif in die cast metal while its rear end featured a simple design with inward-curved taillights. Rebels came in the base 550 and deluxe 770 models, with a high-line SST available only as a two-door hardtop.
The base 550 two-door sedan featured the identical "semi-fastback" roofline as the more expensive pillar-less hardtops, but had slim B-pillars that gave them a more "sporty" coupe appearance. The convertible featured a new "split stack" folding mechanism design that allowed a full-width backseat with room for three passengers. The 4-door sedans continued a traditional notchback form, albeit smoothed from the previously sharp angled roofline. The Cross Country station wagons featured a standard roof rack, all vinyl upholstery, and a drop down tailgate for carrying long loads. A third, rear-facing seat was optional with a side hinged tailgate for easier access. The Rebel 770 wagon was available after mid-year production with 3M's "Di-Noc" simulated wood-grain body side panels trimmed in a slim stainless steel frame.
Starting with the 1967 models, American Motors offered the industry's most comprehensive warranty up to that time: 2-years or 25,000 miles (40,000 km) on the entire automobile, as well as 5-years or 50,000 miles (80,000 km) on the engine and power train. Offering traditional Rambler economy with six-cylinder engines and overdrive transmissions, the Rebel could also be turned "into a decent budget-priced muscle car" with the 343 cu in (5.6 L), the largest available engine in 1967. Journalist and automobile critic, Tom McCahill, summarized his Mechanix Illustrated road test, "There isn't a better intermediate size car sold in the United States than the 1967 Rebel".
To further emphasize the durability and prove the reliability of the new Rebels, an absolute record of 30 hours flat was set in the long-distance Baja run down Mexico's Baja California peninsula in 1967. A hole in the transmission pan slowed them down, but the racers were able to get it to a town to get a new one
The 1968 model year Rebels were introduced on September 26, 1967, and were no longer a Rambler in name. The mid-sized models were now the AMC Rebel, but little was changed except for the safety features and the availability of the 315 hp (235 kW; 319 PS) 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 option. For ten years AMC "strictly observed the auto industry's anti-racing resolution" but management has changed and the AMC Rebel began to be campaigned on the dragstrips. The top-of-the-line model SST came standard with the 290 cu in (4.8 L) "Typhoon" V8, while all the other models were available with the 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6 engine.
The 1968 models were treated to a modest restyle of the trim, grille, and taillamps. New mandates by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards for all passenger cars sold in America for 1968 were incorporated. Among the new safety equipment were a separate shoulder harness for the front seat belts, lighted side marker lights on the front quarter panels just above the wrap around bumper, along with new 3-piece tail lights, front seat headrests, more interior padding, and elimination of bright interior trim. American Motors did not wait for the requirements to cars delivered to dealers after December 31, 1967, but incorporated the safety features starting with the early 1968 model year cars produced in late 1967. Other requirements caused increases to the price of all cars manufactured after January 1, 1968, including exhaust control systems to help reduce unburned hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions.
A new AMC safety and styling feature was also introduced on the 1968 Rebels; the flush-mounted paddle-style door handles. These replaced the former push-button design and become an enduring AMC signature on its passenger vehicles through 1988.
Also new for 1968 was the Rebel 550 Convertible, the last AMC convertible, which replaced the American. The 550 was the base level convertible as the top trim version moved from 770 to the SST model joining the two-door hardtop. The two SST body styles featured more trim and features that included individually adjustable and reclining front seats, as well as simulated air-intakes ahead of the rear wheels. The interiors of AMC's Rebel made extensive use of a new olefin fiber carpeting.
American Motors changed its advertising agency to Wells, Rich, and Greene, which was headed by Mary Wells Lawrence. The automaker wanted to attract the highly individualistic, "non-average buyer". The new agency established innovative campaigns and promotions for AMC that emphasized value for the money in direct comparisons to the competition showing "elegantly coifed beauties swooping from swank settings into modest AMC Rebels just as contentedly as if the cars were Continentals. Meanwhile, an off-camera voice proclaims: 'Either we're charging too little for our cars or everyone else is charging too much.'" The advertising was highly controversial because it violated the accepted rule of not attacking the competition. This marketing was successful in bringing AMC back to the firm's economy and practical-car roots in customers' minds, which resulted in higher sales.
The 1969 model year saw elimination of the 550 and 770 models, as well as the convertible body style. The four-door sedan, station wagon, and two-door hardtop were now available in base and SST trim. The automaker was moving the Rebel line to a more "family-oriented" direction and only the two-door SST model received new simulated "louver" trim ahead of the rear wheel openings.
Exterior changes included a new grille, wrap-around taillights, decklid, as well as trim and ornamentation. The front and rear track was increased from 59 in (1,499 mm) to 60 in (1,524 mm), but all other dimensions remained the same. The interior received a new deeply hooded instrument panel with clustered instruments and controls in front of the driver. The 390 cu in (6.4 L) 315 hp (235 kW) V8 engine was optional on SST models.
American Motors produced an innovative advertising campaign for the 1969 AMC Rebel that became one of the best TV commercials in one of 15 categories as selected by a team of experts. Known as a builder of "Aunt Martha fuddy-duddy-type cars, but in the late 1960s, at the peak of America's love affair with the auto, AMC wanted to be jazzy." It had previously taken a "totally rational approach" - such as describing the benefits of factory rust-proofing and long warranty coverage. The goal of the new advertising was to highlight AMC's differences and "make an impact" with the car line. Considered as "one of the funniest TV commercials of all time -- not just for cars" is the 1969 AMC Rebel that is torture-tested by student drivers.
In 1970, the sedan and coupe received a restyled rear-end, along with a new C-pillar shape and rear quarters, as well as a more massive rear end and bumper. The hardtop was changed to a more sloping roofline with upswept reverse-angle quarter windows, giving them "a somewhat huskier look for 1970". The taillights were integrated into a new loop rear bumper with Rebel spelled out between them. The four-door sedans also had an altered roofline with a slimmer C-pillar and larger, squared-off rear door windows. Similarly as on the coupe, the belt line kicked up beneath the trailing edge of the rear door windows, and then tapered back to the same rear fascia as on the hardtop. The Rebel station wagons saw no change to their rooflines, doors, and rear fascias. The grille was again revised with a horizontal spit in the middle and the name, Rebel, was spelled out on the left lip of the hood. The exterior trim, colors, and model identification locations were also modified for 1970. Rebels were available in base or SST trim. The effect of the changes was summarized by the Auto Editor of Popular Mechanics, "the Rebel has a 'no nonsense' air about it I find appealing.
A major change was to the available V8 engines. The standard 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 was replaced for 1970 by a new 304 cu in (5.0 L) while the 343 cu in (5.6 L) was also supplanted by a 360 cu in (5.9 L). The "AMX" 390 cu in (6.4 L) was optional on SST models, while a special high-performance 340 hp (254 kW) version was standard on The Machine.
The 1970 restyle lasted only one year before a further restyle and renaming the models as the AMC Matador. The four-door and wagon platform would remain unchanged until the retirement of the Matador line after the 1978 model year.
All regular Rebel station wagons were called Cross Country by AMC. During the 1967 model year, AMC issued a series of specialty Rebel station wagons with luxury equipment. Designed to spur interest in all of AMC's products and to generate increased sales for the company, the special wagons were limited for sale to geographical areas. According to automotive historian James C. Mays, the regional wagon marketing program was a success and it contributed to increasing confidence among the public in the "feisty" automaker.
Standard equipment on all regional wagons included 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 engine (the 343 cu in (5.6 L) was optional), automatic transmission, power steering, power drum brakes, as well as special duty springs and shock absorbers. Each featured a distinctive interior and exterior trim:
- The Mariner (600 units) in Barbados Blue paint with body side panels and rear tailgate trimmed in simulated bleached teak wood planking accented by narrow black horizontal stripes and a "nautical anchor" medallion. The interior featured anchors and stars decorating dark blue suede bolster panels of the seats, which also had white piping and broad horizontal pleated inserts of medium blue antelope grain vinyl. The Mariner was sold along the coastal regions of the United States.
- The Briarcliff (400 units) in Matador Red paint with simulated black camera grain body side panels and "regal" medallions, as well as its own black "antelope grain" vinyl interior. The Briarwood was marketed in major markets in the east and south.
- The Westerner (500 units) in Frost White paint with wood plank trim side inserts for the body side and tailgate, as well as a "Pony Express" medallion. The interior featured stallion brown vinyl that simulated "richly tooled" leather on the seats and door panels in combination with white antelope grained vinyl. The Westerner was available west of the Mississippi River.
Each version included the color-coordinated upholstery and door panels, individually-adjustable reclining seats, sports steering wheel, as well as the 91 cubic feet (2.6 m3) of carpeted cargo room, a locking hidden compartment, and a rooftop luggage rack. Special regional nameplates were on the rear fender in addition to the unique medallions on the C-pillar.
In 1969, a Rebel Raider two-door hardtop was sold only in New York and New Jersey. The marketing of these cars was timed to coincide with the New York City Auto Show. Three hundred Raiders were built and many were part of a “driveaway” by area dealers on the eve of the Auto Show. All Raiders came with a V8 engine with automatic transmission, as well as “blow-your mind colors to choose from: electric green, tangerine, and blue-you’ve never seen.” AMC tried out its “Big Bad” colors first this regional dealer special. The hues were introduced at mid-year on the Javelin and AMX models. Other standard features included black upholstery and carpeting, black front grill, black vinyl roof, a sports-type steering wheel, AM radio, power steering, and power brakes. The total price of the special Raider models was advertised at US$2,699.
Rebel funny cars
In 1964, following record sales and Rambler’s third place position in U.S. sales, AMC declared that the only race the company was interested in was the human race. However, with AMC’s precarious financial condition in 1966 following the race to match its "Big Three" domestic competitors under Roy Abernethy, the new management reversed AMC's anti-racing strategy and decided to enter motorsports as a method to gain exposure, publicity, and a performance image.
American Motors' Performance Activities Director Carl Chamakian was charged to get AMC automobiles in racing, which would help to attract a younger customer base. In a “quest for quarter-mile glory,” AMC reached a $1 million (US$6,578,000 in 2011dollars) agreement in 1967 with Grant Industries in Los Angeles, California (a manufacturer of piston rings, ignition systems, and steering wheels), to build the Grant Rambler Rebel, a "Funny Car" racer to compete in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) X/S (Experimental Stock) and Super Experimental Stock classes.
When asked why the company decided to work with AMC, Grant’s President, Grant McCoon responded, “Rambler is a good automobile, and it’s time somebody proved what it can do.” The relationship provided both companies with national exposure and publicity. The car had an altered wheelbase 122-inch (3,099 mm) RCS (chrome moly steel) tube chassis with a 343 cu in (5.6 L) AMC V8 engine that was bored and stroked to 438 cu in (7.2 L) tuned by Amos Saterlee. With its GMC 6-71 blower and Enderle fuel injection, the motor produced 1,200 hp (895 kW; 1,217 PS) winding up to 9000 rpm on a mixture of alcohol and nitromethane. Starting in June 1967, the car was driven by "Banzai" Bill Hayes and painted red featuring a blue racing stripe with white stars. Soon, Hayden Proffitt took over the Grant funny car program and ran the Rebel on the quarter-mile (402 m) from a standing start in 8.11 seconds at 180.85 mph (291.0 km/h).
For the 1968 season, a new car was built and renamed the Grant Rebel SST and painted in the new hash red, white, and blue AMC corporate racing colors. With Hayden piloting, the car consistently ran the dragstrip in the mid-eight second range at speeds around 180 miles per hour (290 km/h). By the end of 1968, AMC dropped out of funny car racing and Proffitt retired from racing for a few years.
In 1968, Ron Rosenberry drove the King Rebel of Ted McOsker using a blown fuel Chrysler Hemi engine and had a known best of 9.58 seconds at 148.02 mph (238.2 km/h) in the quarter mile dragstrip.
The most recognizable muscle car version of the Rebel was named The Machine that in its most patriotic or flamboyant form was painted white with bold red, white, and blue reflective stripes following success of the 1969 SC/Rambler. First proposed in June 1968, the car was to have been a 1969 Rebel coupe finished in black with authoritative black wheels and fat tires, without any stripes, scoops, or spoilers, but with an aggressive, street-fighting stance. The proposed model included "The Machine" decal on the rear (that made it into production), as well as a "fab gear" logo on the front fender.
However, an even earlier attempt at a Rebel-based muscle car was produced by the AMC's engineering team: a 1967 two-door built as a development "project" car for carburetion-testing purposes, as well as with "Group 19" high-performance options and the car was re-equipped with a modified 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine with an estimated 500 hp (373 kW; 507 PS) "capable of running in the 11-second bracket." The car was considered a legal drag racing car, according to NHRA and AHRA rules and regulations in effect during those years and was painted in AMC's trademark red, white and blue color scheme, although the color breaks were not the same as on other AMC-backed or -developed race cars.
American Motors' high performance "halo" vehicle made its official debut October 25, 1969, in Dallas, Texas; the site of the National Hot Rod Association's World Championship Drag Race Finals. The Machine was developed from a collaboration between Hurst Performance and AMC, but unlike the compact SC/Rambler, there was no official connection between the two parties once production commenced. The standard engine in The Machine was AMC's 390 cu in (6.4 L) V8 engine with 340 hp (254 kW; 345 PS) and 430 pound-feet (583 N·m) of torque @ 3600 rpm. It came with special heads, valve train, cam, as well as a redesigned intake and exhaust. This was the most powerful in any AMC vehicle while retaining features required for normal street operations, as well as components to assure outstanding performance characteristics without incurring high-unit cost penalties. The engine is fed by a 690-cfm Motorcraft 4-barrel carburetor, and pumped up a 10.0:1 compression requiring high-octane gasoline.
The Machine features a large ram-air intake hood scoop that was painted Electric Blue (code B6) with a large tachometer visible to the driver integrated into a raised fairing at the rear of the scoop. The heavy-duty suspension was augmented by station wagon springs in the rear giving the car a raked look. Standard were a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual transmission with a Hurst floor shifter backed by either 3.54:1 or 3.91:1 rear axle gear ratios in the "Twin-Grip" differential, as well as power disc brakes, wide E60x15 Goodyear Polyglas white letter tires mounted on "Machine" mag-styled steel 15-inch (380 mm) x 7-inch (180 mm) wheels, and a black interior with bucket seats and a center armrest upholstered in red, white, and blue vinyl. Numerous other upgrades were standard to make each Machine a potent turnkey drag racer. In contrast to the lack of options on the SC/Rambler, Machine buyers could order numerous options. Furthermore, American Motors dealers sold numerous performance parts over the counter, such as an incredibly steep 5.00:1 gearing "for hardcore drag-racer types."
American Motors stated in its marketing promotion that "The Machine is not that fast," the car was capable to "give many muscle cars from the big three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) a run for their money". According to a retrospective Motor Trend magazine article, The Machine is the most strip-ready car of the group they tested. The Machine could spring from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 6.4 seconds, a creditable showing even today. The Machine's top speed was 127 mph (204 km/h).
The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) price was $3,475 (US$19,655 in 2011 dollars). After the initial run of 1,000 units with its distinctive and easily recognizable identity, The Machine was available without the stripes in other colors with a blacked out hood. The rarest of all paint schemes for the Machine is Frost White with a flat-black hood (paint codes: 72A-8A), with only three made. Another unique version came in "Big Bad Green" with only one known factory documented original remaining. The original trim scheme became a $75 option. There were a total of 2,326 Rebel Machines built in 1970. With the Machine "AMC had acquired a reputation for the ability to create eye-catching, high performance machines at a knock-down price."
According to the former editor of Motor Trend magazine, before BMW took "The Ultimate Driving Machine" moniker for itself, American Motors dubbed its high-performance model that could hold its head high in fast company simply "The Machine" and it deserves to be considered among the Greatest Cars of All Time. The Machine was discontinued for 1971, replaced by the Matador, with an optional 330 hp (246 kW; 335 PS), 401 cu in (6.6 L) "Go Package."
During the 1967 model year, American Motors produced a total of 1,686 Rambler Rebel convertibles; all in the top-trim SST model. Automatic power operation of top was standard. The new convertible top design featured a "streamlined" look blending smoothly with the lower body with the top up. Its new "split stack" folding mechanism also allowed a lower stack height with the top folded down, as well as for a full-width backseat with room for three passengers.
For 1968, the Rambler name was dropped and two convertible versions were offered in the Rebel line. A total of 1,200 were produced (823 in the SST version and 377 units in the base 550 model). Since convertibles in the Rambler American and Ambassador series were dropped after 1967, the 1968 Rebels were the only open models built by AMC. This was also the last year for AMC convertibles until this body style was added to the compact Renault Alliance in 1985.
The AMC Rebel was produced under a number of business ventures in foreign markets. Under a partnership agreement developed in 1961 with the French automaker Renault, the two-door hardtop was added for the first time to the traditional 4-door sedan body style of the Renault Rambler. The new for 1967 designs were assembled in Haren, Belgium and sold by Renault dealers in Algeria, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Rambler served as the executive car in Renault's model line, but the entirely new design was larger car with more power than the previous Rambler Classic and no longer suitable for European automobile tax regimes or road conditions. Production ended in the summer of 1967.
Rebels from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits were assembled by Australian Motor Industries (AMI), as well as by Campbell Industries in Thames, New Zealand. Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) produced Rebels called the "Rambler Classic SST", under license through the late 1970s. In addition to different model names, the Mexican versions also adapted AMC I6 engines to local conditions and came with more upscale interiors and trims, compared their counterpart models sold in the United States and Canada.
According to automotive historian James C. Mays, the 1967 limited edition regional Rambler Rebel station wagons became a collectible before their time.
Among the 1968 to 1970 models, the 1968 Rebel convertible should gain in importance as the last of AMC's ragtops, and although station wagons and sedans later joined the SST hardtop, only the two-door models have collector appeal. The Rebel's "clean but mundane styling" is a minus for collector appeal, but Carl Cameron, an automobile designer at Chrysler and developer of the original Dodge Charger fastback, mentioned that the best competitors during the late 1960s were the AMCs with new engines and the Rambler Rebels were really nice, very hot cars, but the company just did not have much of a presence in the marketplace. Today, surviving models of the Rebel Machine are bold reminders that tiny AMC once took on the big boys on the streets and strips of America – and won. According to Motor Trend magazine, "The Machine is the collectible muscle car for people who laugh at collectible muscle cars."
The radical Rebel Machine with its hood scoop "larger than the corner mailbox" places it among the most controversially styled cars of that era, and the cars have a strong following today with their owners being rewarded with climbing prices