AMC Rambler Classic 770
By ‘65 it was Roy Abernathy calling the shots at AMC. His strategy was to throw everything he could at the Big Three automakers and see if AMC couldn’t broaden its market. Beforehand, AMC was known to produce sturdy, reliable, economy cars that were pump-friendly and cheaply maintained.
Abernathy was sick of that niche. He saw an underdog company that could take shots at the big boys. For AMC, this didn’t quite work out the way he’d hoped. By ‘67, the company had manufactured and marketed its way into a massive pile of debt. Abernathy was let go. AMC found a new direction. But in the process, AMC produced some memorable automobiles, one of which was the ‘65 Rambler Classic 770 H.
The ‘65 Rambler Classic 770 H
The ‘65 Classic was offered in both hardtop and convertible and rebranded as a “sensible spectacular” by an ambitious Abernathy. The 770 was offered with an optional V8 engine but came standard with a 145 hp 232 cu in I6.
The 550 models were an economical 199 cu in I6 that managed 125 hp. You can see the problem right there. The Classic was trying to do too much with the line. Nonetheless, Abernathy had to respond to a decreased interest in Ramblers, so his move was to make them bigger and flashier, while still nodding to the AMC tradition of making economically friendly vehicles. His predecessor, George W. Romney, who was then serving as governor of Minnesota absolutely hated the idea.
AMC’s flagship Ambassador was its top of the line offering. By now it had grown a 116-inch wheelbase. Abernathy’s idea was to recreate the Rambler Classic on a slightly smaller 112-inch wheelbase. The Classic got bigger.
Occupying two spaces at once, it fit into neither. It was not an economy car any longer nor was it quite a luxury car. “Sensible spectacular” might as well have been a paradox. It was a contradiction in terms. Those who wanted sensible went with sensible. Those who wanted spectacular went with spectacular. At just under $3,500 the Rambler Classic came across as a poor man’s luxury.
On the other hand, the ‘65 Rambler Classic was gorgeous and easily one of the best looking Ramblers manufactured by AMC.
In ‘66, the Rambler Classic had some safety upgrades. AMC dropped the 660 from the line and worked on the aesthetics of the car’s roof. Due in large part to market factors playing against the Ramblers, AMC dropped the entire line in ‘67 manufacturing only one commemorative model called the Rebel.
The Rebel replaced the 770 H as an attempt to rebrand the Classic. Critics noted that despite a heavier emphasis on performance, the car’s suspension was labeled “obsolete” and panned by critics. Historians have, however, noted that the suspension package offered by the Rebel was used by GM 20 years later in their Camaro and Firebird.
Needless to say, the change in direction was a marketing nightmare for AMC. Despite that, the ‘65 and ‘66 Rambler Classic 770 H models are treated as royalty by collectors.