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The Most Audacious Muscle Car of the 1960s: The AMC SC/Rambler

Published May 12, 2015

The 1960s were an era of crazy muscle cars with plenty of strange features and styling, but one car stands above the rest: the one-year-only AMC SC/Rambler.

The Rambler American, as it had been called for years, was AMC’s now outdated small car, to be replaced with a new design in 1970.  The exact motivation for creating such an audacious special edition is not completely known, but it involves one if not more of the following reasons: previous management being out of touch with the youth movement of the 1960s, new management recognizing the mistakes but arriving too late, fear that the company won’t sell enough Ramblers in it’s final year (a staple of the product line), or a “what’s there to lose” attitude.  So they turned to George Hurst.

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In the 1960s Hurst Performance Products was an actual company, not a brand owned by a conglomerate like today. Beyond making shifters, George Hurst invented the Jaw of Life (and offered free use of the patent to any company willing to manufacture them) as well as build small batches of performance cars, much like Shelby. Hurst would develop and promote the SC/Rambler and receive $200 per car in royalties, but unlike the Hurst/Olds which were modified by Hurst, the SC/Ramblers were 100% AMC.

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The goal was to develop a car that would be highly competitive in NHRA F/Stock competition. To create an advantage, the weight was officially overstated and the power understated.

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The SC/Ramblers all began as white Rambler hardtop models fitted with the 390 CID V-8 (6.4L) from the AMX, with a claimed 315 HP, a close-ratio four-speed Borg-Warner T-10 transmission, Bendix front disc brakes, and a 3.54:1 axle with Twin-Grip (limited slip) differential rolling off the same Kenosha, WI production line as the Javelin and AMX.

While still within the Kenosha plant, the wheel well lips were rolled to accommodate drag slicks, the hood was cut and the hood scoop installed, The hood scoop air flapper was vacuum operated, allowing higher pressure cool air to pressurize a Carter AFB carburetor, which pushed power to around 345 HP.

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Under the car custom dual exhaust systems with Thrush glasspack mufflers were fabricated and mounted to the standard cast iron manifolds. The factory also installed front and rear subframe connectors and perhaps the most ambitious part of this project shifted the location of the rear shocks to reduce wheel hop, requiring extensive fabrication under the car.

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Despite the bold exterior, the interior was rather mundane. It  came in standard charcoal gray reclining front seats. The newly safety mandated head rests were upholstered in red, white, and blue stripes. Rising up through the floor was a Hurst shifter with a metal T-handle. Strangely the SC/Rambler included a Sun tachometer attached to the steering column with a hose clamp (!). The only extra cost option was a $69  AM radio.

What truly set the SCR/Rambler apart was that it was delivered came with the most in-your-face factory paint jobs ever (muscle car or otherwise). There were two different versions of the graphics, one more aggressive, the other a little more restrained.

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All versions included the hood scoop with “390 CU. IN.” and “AIR” in large letters on both sides of it. A blue arrow on the hood pointed towards the air intake.

American Motors priced the SC/Rambler at $2,998 a serious NHRA contender because the company claimed that in its as-sold condition it could run the quarter in the low 14s at about 100 miles per hour, due to its favorable 10.03 lbs. per HP.  This claim was verified by Road Test magazine, clocking a 14.4 at 100.44 MPH.

In addition, there were various aftermarket parts available from AMC but manufactured by specialist companies willing to build a version of that component with an AMC part number. These were the  “Group 19” parts (referring simply to the chapter in the parts book in which they were listed).

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Well-prepared but fully legal S/CRamblers upgraded with approved Group 19 parts have run in the 12-second range. One such car ran a 12.54, using an updated OEM cast iron manifold, advanced camshaft timing, heavier valve springs, upgraded carburetor, six cylinder front springs with Group 19 bottom shims to restore stock height, among others. Using 4:10 gearing another knocked it down to 11.35.

In total, AMC sold 1512 SC/Ramblers, not surprising  given the $2998 sticker price and full 5 year 50,000 mile warranty.

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Unfortunately, the whereabouts of nearly 2/3rds of the SC/Ramblers remains a mystery. Some may have been destroyed in road or drag race accidents, others left in a field to rust, or perhaps are buried behind piles of junk in someone’s garage.

Needless to say, any of the SC/Ramblers arriving at a show or event is sure to generate at least a smile or two.

 

 

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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