An internet search for advertising media for the 1962 Ramblers revealed some neat stuff from the AMC factory archives which underline the strength of this brand.
“Big Car Room; Small Car Economy!!” …The Rambler was still a force to be reckoned with in ’62. The third best-selling marque in 1960, Rambler was still going strong in 1962. It’s appeal of value through economy; reliability and safety was not lost on “the Big Three”. Beginning in late 1959, General Motors; Ford; and Chrysler Corp had hurriedly introduced “compacts”: The Corvair and Chevy II Nova from Chevrolet, with corporate Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile ‘clones’ (Special ; Tempest; and F-85, respectively); the Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet’; the Dodge Lancer and Plymouth Valiant, were all rushed out in the span of two years to fill out the new American auto niche of “compact” cars. ( The Rambler American, still popular with the public for its economy, evidenced in constant victories and accolades in fuel-economy competitions, was predominant as ‘the’ American compact, though it’s design was already almost ten years old).
The ‘big’ Ramblers, the Rebels and the Classics, were so popular, especially in the station wagon market, that the Big Three drained their coffers further by also introducing another niche of American automobile: the “midsize car”. Notable among these were the Chevrolet Chevelle (1964); the Buick Skylark; a bigger Pontiac Tempest; the Oldsmobile Cutlass; the Ford Fairlane; the Mercury Meteor; the Dodge Coronet (1965); and the Plymouth Belvedere. Even Studebaker, which would eventually pack up and head to Canada in 1965, brought out a compact Lark in 1959, and a larger, more ‘intermediate’ Daytona coupe and Cruiser sedan.
That so immense an investment in design; tooling; and marketing of a cascade of new models in so short a time span is a tribute to George Romney’s coining of the term ‘compact’ in the mid 1950′s, and to his championing of sensible transportation as a logical reaction to the gas-guzzling, finned “dinosaurs” that American cars had become.
My ’62 Classic feels big on the inside. I owned a full-sized, bat-winged Ford with less front leg-room. I was surprised in preparing this post, however, that, in fact, my Classic is actually smaller on the outside than many of the above-mentioned ‘mid-sized’ or ‘intermediate’ cars.
Some factory photos I came across are illustrative, due, I think, to their two-dimensional starkness:
The uni-body construction of these cars, in which the frame of the car was not a ladder onto which an assembled body was dropped on the production line, but integrated with the body, a cage to which the panels were affixed. Savings in weight improved economy. The rigidity of the ‘cage’ minimized rattles and squeaks. Safety was enhanced when the roof was part of the frame. Interior room was enhanced by not having to seat passengers between massive frame rails on each side of the car.
The only draw-back, to a manufacturer marketing in a culture of yearly styling re-designs, was that the tooling costs of a ‘cage’ were prohibitive compared to the “dinosaurs”, where the same frame could be used for a decade, and a new body ‘dropped on’ each year. Hence the remarkable similarity of the Ramblers from 1956 through 1962, especially in the roof-line. (See “Walking the Annals…A Brief History of the Rambler”).
Money saved in re-tooling, however, could be spent to other ends, however. The ’62 Ramblers introduced a ‘dual master cylinder’,in the brake system, then offered only on Cadillac and Roll-Royce as standard equipment on all of their models. The ‘Big Three’ did not adopt this life-saving feature until the mid to late sixties, and then only when required to do so by the federal government. (Why “life-saving”? The single master cylinder then in use on all other cars linked the brakes at all four wheels to one master cylinder, meaning that a failure or leak in any brake line or cylinder would result in a complete failure of the braking system. With the dual system, a leak or failure would affect the front brakes or the rear brakes only….leaving at least two wheels with the ability to bring the car to a safe stop.)
Yes, there is more to ‘value’ than fins or chrome…..
The size and roominess was not lost on the Europeans. Renault marketed the Rambler Classic in Europe, and in fact assembled them in Belgium and marketed them in Algeria, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to fill a void for a larger car in their model lineup.
There is even a Rambler which Renault designed for use as a limousine for President Charles De Gaulle. (He refused to use it, and opted for a slightly less roomy Citroen. Patriotism or xenophobia? Who can say?)
The Rambler was also built by manufacturers in Argentina; Australia; New Zealand and Mexico.
Driving this car, then, is not only safe, but also a statement that one can be stylish yet sensible; frugal yet fashionable; daring yet dignified.
“That’s the way we roll. ….er, Ramble“