Produced by American Motors Corporation, the Rambler Classic was one of the most attractive vehicles produced. Appealing, the Classic also featured some very interesting engineering features. An intermediate sized automobile build and sold by AMC from 1961 to 1966, the Rambler Classic took the place of the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V-8 names, which were retired at the end of the 1960 model year. The Classic was the high-volume seller for AMC throughout its enter life in the AMC model line-up.
Though AMC went through some difficult economical times, especially after its amalgamation of Nash and Hudson in 1954, AMC became the rare auto manufacturer that benefited from an economic recession. In 1958 it brought back the 100-in. wheelbase Rambler that had been discontinued in 1955. Being the exact automobile that was needed at the time, the Rambler American was a huge success that helped carry AMC to its first profitable year. The Rambler marque ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales in 1961. To create a stronger individual model identity, the larger-sized Rambler series was renamed as the Classic in ‘61.
In 1961 AMC redesigned the American and turned the mid-sized Rambler Rebel/Six into the Classic. The Classic gained a new stylist, Richard 'Dick' Teague. Teague was practical yet imaginative, and he had the amazing ability to produce fresh looking products that required low tooling costs that proved to be a godsend to AMC through its financially troubled time ahead. Teague earned the reputation as the ‘master of the cheap makeover'.
In 1963 Teague influenced AMC styling in the 1963 Rambler Classic and Ambassador. The first all-new cars from AMC since 1956, the Ambassador was basically a Classic with a 9 in. longer wheelbase than the Classic. The 1963 Classic was more compact in its other dimensions, in keeping with the now-departed Romney's philosophy. The Classic rode on the same 108 in. wheelbase as the 1962 model, but in spite of this, it lost none of its passenger or luggage capacity.
About the size of today's Toyota Camry, the new Classic was 1 inch shorter and narrower and 2.2 inches lower than the bulky design it replaced and had an over-all length of 188.8 inches. The new Classic also featured lovely fresh styling along with its more compact dimensions. All vestiges of the 1950s fins were gone, and the side glass was curved, one of the earliest popular-priced vehicles with this feature and the body sides were sculpted nicely.
Practical as well as being pretty, the Classic featured many interesting engineering features such as the combining of many separate parts in the unit construction body in single stampings, reducing the number of parts from 346 to 244. The component reduction included the ‘uniside' door surround which was stamped out of one piece of steel. Replacing 52 parts, this single stamping also provided much better fitting doors.
The company also claimed that it had reduced the weight by 200 lbs while increasing the structural rigidity of the body. Motor Trend magazine awarded the Classic its Car-of-the Year- award for this type of imaginative engineering.
Powered by AMC's 3.2 liter long-stroke, overhead valve, inline six cylinder engine, which developed 127 horsepower in standard form or 138 when with a two-barrel carb, the Classic could be had with an aluminum block. AMC claimed that this block was ‘America's First Die-Cast Aluminum Six.' Midway through the year an engine option would be the corporate 5.4 liter overhead valve V-8 with 250 horsepower in normal form, or 270 with a two-barrel carburetor.
AMC had the industry's widest range of offerings in the transmission department. The Classic featured a regular three-speed manual with optional overdrive, a three speed automatic; an 'E-stick' semi-automatic transmission in which there was no clutch pedal; and 'Twin-Stick' overdrive that was engaged by a separate console-mounted lever.
1963 was AMC's best year ever, and the 1963 Rambler Classic is responsible for helping lift AMC's total sales to 428,346 units.
Halfway through the 1964 model year, a special Typhoon was available utilizing the Classic 2-door hardtop body. Introducing AMC's brand new 232 in³ 'Typhoon' modern era inline-6 in this special commemorative model, production was limited to 2,500 units. The Typhoon was only available in a two-tone Solar Yellow body with a Classic Black roof. Rather than the usual 'Classic' name insignia, instead the car featured a distinctive 'Typhoon' script, along with a unique grille with black out accents.
A major redesign was undergone in 1965 of the new platform that had been introduced in 1962. The Classic was now shorter along with being as visually distinctive from the Ambassador line, though is still shared the basic body structure from the windshield back. A convertible model was available in the 770 trim version for the first time. Introduced as the 'Sensible Spectaculars', the 1965 Classic models focused emphasis on their new styling, powerful engines, as well as their expanded comfort and sports-type options in contrast to the earlier 'economy car' image.
For 1966 the Rebel name was revived once more for a uniquely trimmed two-door hardtop Classic with a newly revised roofline. A four-speed manual transmission was offered along with a dash mounted tachometer. In 1967 AMC's completely redesigned large line of vehicles replaced the Classic with the Rambler Rebel name. The following year the Rebel was rechristened the AMC Rebel as AMC began the process of phasing out the Rambler marque.
Forever remembered, the sensible Classic was an honest, economical and practical family car with attractive styling.By Jessica Donaldson