With the economy booming in the early ‘60s the average American’s income steadily increased. Auto manufacturers were aware of this, especially AMC who was known for their economy niche. Good economies, however, seldom inspire consumers to run out and purchase economy cars. Even today, the number of full-size pickups sold that year is a veritable barometer for economic tidings.
It was similar in the 60s and when Roy Abernathy took over as CEO of AMC in 1963, his strategy was to develop cars that could directly compete with the Big Three. While Abernathy’s campaign eventually backfired leaving AMC with massive losses, it did, on the other hand, produce some of the most collectible cars that AMC ever produced.
The Rambler Marlin was among them.
The Fastback Personal Luxury Vehicle
From 1965 to 1967, the AMC Marlin was designed to be a personal luxury vehicle with fastback styling. It was still smaller than many of the Big Three flagships. The Marlin was built on a modest 112-inch wheelbase that supported the Rambler Classic. Nonetheless, the Marlin boasted a remarkably roomy interior and a sporty style that was sure to play well with American affinities at the time.
The “man-sized” Marlin dared customers to buy it, but only if they could handle it. Its air of exclusivity and power was a new tactic for AMC that was known for producing practical fuddy-duddy vehicles. The entire idea, however, was to reposition AMC as a true force in a larger more lucrative market and distance the company from its sensible – but bland – vehicle line.
Despite widespread praise for the Rambler Marlin, Roy Abernathy felt the need to distance the company from its pragmatic foundations. Hence, in 1966 the Rambler nameplate was ditched in favor of simply calling the car “The Marlin”. Not much else, however, was changed.
The same year, Dodge came out with an intermediate sized personal luxury fastback model in direct response to AMC’s Rambler Marlin called the Charger. The Marlin was making an impact, but AMC was a much smaller company than those it was trying to compete against. As such, they had much less money to make major changes or significantly retool their vehicles. Likewise, GMC and Ford were producing similar models to compete against the Marlin.
Despite praise being heaped on the ‘65 and ‘66 model, production fell to just under 5000 cars in ‘66.
‘67 saw an increase in the personal luxury vehicle segment that the Marlin was targeting, and AMC spent a ton of money retooling the Marlin. Critics, of course, lauded the effort, but the Big Three kept pumping out more and more vehicles in the same segment. AMC’s efforts with the Marlin faltered. In 1967, despite being what many believe to be the best model, sales of AMC’s Marlin dropped to well below 3000 units.
Confidence in Abernathy’s direction for the company likewise faltered and along with it went consumer confidence. 1967 was the last year for both Abernathy and the AMC Marlin.