Cars We Remember: 1967 Rambler Rebel, 1960 Rambler American Super, and some early engine design flaws
Question: Greg, I learned to drive on a 1967 Rambler Rebel I bought from my mom in 1978. It had a 232-inch inline six cylinder. I also learned to always wear a seatbelt after sliding across the bench seat during a particularly sharp cornering maneuver. The Rebel was gold and looked remarkably like the Plymouths that the local police department drove. My license plate was “REBEL 1.” I finally had to part with it after I got married and parts became hard to find.
I planned to drive my Rebel across country as a teenager, but foolishly spent all my savings rebuilding the engine only to discover halfway through the build that my extreme oil use was caused by a perforation of the diaphragm in the vacuum booster pump that ran the windshield wipers. Located below the fuel pump, this provided a path for oil slinging off the cam lobe to be pumped directly into the intake manifold via a vacuum tube. Many otherwise mechanically sound Ramblers met their demise because of this foolish design flaw.
Also, my best friend’s brother had a 1960 Rambler Super (the only one I have ever seen) that suffered from this same design flaw on its 196-inch flat head six. One day he decided enough was enough and he wasn’t going to spend any more money on oil. He drove it until the oil pressure light came, then kept going and finally abandoned the car when the engine overheated and died.
He gave the car to his brother, so we filled it with oil and water and drove it (clunking) all the way home. When we pulled it apart, the only damage we found was the number six rod bearing had spun. My friend then gave me the car as it was so old. Then, I finally “mic” checked the engine and every measurement was within factory specs except that number six rod bearing. So, in ending, this was really my very first car, and it even had the front seats that folded down into a bed! (Teenage dream!). When I joined the Air Force, I sold it for scrap to get it out of my mom’s backyard.
I’ve seen plenty of Rambler Americans, Classics and other Ramblers over the years, but never another Rambler Super, and I’ve been in junk yards all over the country. I could also tell you about my 57 Chevy: It’s a literal basket case and is still my daily driver. Thanks for your columns. — Peter Fenstermacher (via email), Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Answer: Peter, thanks for the great letter. In doing some searching, I found that those Rambler Supers were indeed available in 1960, but as you are finding, not many exist today. After first appearing in 1950 as a Nash Rambler “zip top” convertible, the term American appeared in 1958 and sold through 1969 as the successor to the Nash Rambler. All through the decade, and even after the merger of Hudson and Nash to form AMC in 1954, the little Americans were very popular cars and sold extremely well.
The 1967 Rebel, by the way, was indeed a good looker, especially when compared to the Plymouth Belvedere models of 1968-69.
Thanks for the “non-oil-burning” design flaw you found, as I’m sure many Rambler enthusiasts will appreciate what you found. We’ll await more on your 57 Chevy, and thanks again for your letter.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and More Content Now. He welcomes reader questions on old cars, auto nostalgia or old-time racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.