Romney's Rambler legacy
By Jeff Danziger
February 23, 2012
Jeff Danziger's editorial cartoons appear in The Times and other newspapers.
I was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas, in 1968 for a year at an Army language school learning Vietnamese. During the breaks in the endless memorization of the endless monosyllabic vocabulary, we would escape over the border to Juarez, Mexico, or out into the wasteland of west Texas to reclaim a bit of sanity. I met a family through a church group that invited me to their ranch on weekends. And I still bless them for their thoughtfulness.
The grand dame of the family was a wonderful Texas horsewoman who always needed work done around the place. I recruited one or two fellow soldiers, and we spent the weekends building hay shelters and fixing the barns and exercising her quarter horses. She had a garden where fresh chili peppers grew in abundance the year around, and she made the best chili rellenos on the planet.
I was fairly good at the language school, but many of the other troops were not. Vietnamese is a tonal language, spoken in a sing-song, up-and-down sort of way. One wrong tone and you've changed the meaning completely. It's a hard language for Americans. For draftees, hoping to forestall reassignment to the infantry, it was a struggle. I helped some of the other soldiers, not always for charitable reasons. One hopeless fellow turned out to be passable barber; another had family in El Paso that would feed us dinner; a third had the best of all trading materials: a car.
Good read on the Mittens family legacy!
Metropolitans WERE Ramblers. AMC built them and they were available at your local Rambler dealers. AMC dinked around in the late 50s with brand and model names. Before Nash and Hudson merged to become American Motors Corporation, Nash had built a "compact" car they named Rambler. It was a good car with great economy. It was really the first truly successful compact by an american auto maker.
Once Nash and Hudson merged (and it was planned to be a merger with Studebaker and Packard as well - but that fell apart ultimately) they took on the name of American Motors. The "Rambler" model got re-named American, and AMC started calling all their products Ramblers. Rambler American, Rambler Classic, Rambler Ambassador and Rambler Reberl. The sub-compact Metropolitan at various times had worn both the Nash name and the Hudson name at times - this to try and keep the Hudson name alive after the merger.
By the late 60s, the Rambler name had disappeared. "AMC" had replaced it for the most part. The little Metropolitan died about '62 or so - a failed design that had only lasted a decade! And virtually unchanged at that.
It's strangely complicated. The Metropolitan was designed by Nash/AMC but built in England by Austin. The motor was an already well-worn Austin engine.
But they were only sold here in the U.S. (and Canada).
My aunt washed away in a flash flood while driving her Metropolitan. She escaped - but the car didn't.
Having owned and driven numerous Ramblers in years past, I'm here to state tha this reporter's characterizations of them is totally bonkers. In 1968, I could've found a Ford Falcon, a Chevy Corvair or a Plymouth Valiant in just as bad condition. AMC "suffered" (marketwise) for the same reason the late Studebaker did - they didn't have the monetary clout that the BIG 3 had. That clout allowed them to squeeze the smaller automakers into compromizing corners of the markets. This situation resulted in Ramblers being the cheapest cars on used car lots (NOT because they were lesser cars - but because the big three worked hard to paint them as such). If someone had little money at hand (like US servicemembers for instance), they'd likely buy the cheapest-priced wheels they could find on a used car lot - a situation that prevails to this day.
The Rambler that this "reporter" laments having been reduced to was showing signs of neglect (if his recollections are correct). Rather than address the problems, he just drove it (APPRECIATED IT even!) and now recalls that convenience in a sour light. Certainly, if he'd have more moola, he'd have bought his own "quality" car. I'll bert he ain't drivin' a POS these days.
I've owned several Ramblers thru the years. I've had a '59, '61 and '62 American and two '66s - a Classic Convertible and Classic Cross-Country station wagon. All were good and serviceable rides. And these were examples that were FAR older than the 6 year old American that Danziger knew. Heck, I bought the 66 wagon when that thing was 18 years old. And it was like new - inside and out! It HAD had a pampered life prior to my buying it - having racked up only 30-some thousand miles. But once in my hands, my wife took to the car with glee and drove it all over southern California.
We made a custom pad for the back and took the car on camping trips up and down the state. It NEVER gave us grief in all that time. It survived being hit by Bozo drivers on three occassions and kept on going. This wagon and the convertible I'd owned a few years earlier, were some of the best-driving cars I can recall. Both of them had 6-cylinder engines that AMC had debuted in 1964. And get this...... that very same engine soldiered on into the NEXT MILLENIUM in some Jeep vehicles! 40 years of life for an engine design that Danziger feels competent enough to dismiss and defame as a chip to paint the Romney's in a bad light.
Don't get me wrong - I don't like anything Romney stands for. And while I grew up in Michigan, I don't have much of an opinion about his dad's doings there either. But what Jeff's written here is a REALLY weak and flimsy argument at best. Heh - I sure wouldn't be balancing my integrity on something anecdotal at best.
I might add that I find it curious that Romney touts his dad's ties to AMC as being part of Michigan history. Nash and it's subsequent rename of American Motors may have had it's corporate offices in Michigan, but there was NEVER a Rambler or Nash built there. Nash and Ramblers were built in Wisconsin - Kenosha Wisconsin to be precise. Even the Jeep line that AMC picked up later on - those were built in Toledo, Ohio. Too bad these reporters haven't got ther time to Google up some facts.
Prior to about 1920, most windshield wipers were HAND operated.
1960 was the first year for Electric Windshield Wipers, most cars had them by the mid 1960s.
When I was in the National Guard (1981-1990) The 2 1/2 and Five Ton Trucks we used all had wipers driven by air pressure from the Air Tanks (with a back up hand driven mechanism the driver could use if needed). The M151 Jeeps we were using had vacuum driven wipers. We did have one Humvee, I drove it once, can not remember if what wipers it had, but I suspect electric (I only drive it on a nice sunny day, so no need to use the wipers).
Just pointing out that AMC was NOT the only car that used Vacuum powered wipers in the 1960s, it may be the last hold out when it came to Automobiles but Vacuum drive wipers took a while to be replaced.
I can set this straight. Vacuum wipers were standard equipment on AMC cars thru the 1966 models. Electric wipers were an extra cost option, but WERE available back to the early 50s. Studebaker offered vacuum wipers as a savings option right up til the end in 1966, but after the 1950 model year, most cars and trucks from Studebaker came with electric wipers. The BIG 3 used vacuum wipers thru the 50s too - electric were optional.
And some mid - to - late 60's Rambler Americans and Rogues - the ones with fucking trunions in the front end! And drive keys in the rear axles.....
They were a POS! The very first Rambler having been built in 1902, it's NO WONDER they only stayed in business eighty-five years.
Lookit - AMC is not in business anymore because of 1000 small product decisions that went wrong - like staying with trunions in the front end, or Motorola alternators, or the giant rust traps built into Hornet/Gremlin front fenders.
Regarding the OP - given the date, and western locale, the Rambler in question was quite possibly a flathead, without full-flow oiling, and with a flathead's tendency to run hot - which tends to kill oil rings. I've had a couple old Fords with this disease, and "fill the oil, check the gas" was SOP, @50 mi/qt.
The Kaiser's doin' quite well. If it hadn't been for them, there'd be no Jeeps for Chrysler to thrive on. And let's thank AMC for Jeeps survival too. And AMC's "new" I-6 that debuted in 1964? It only lasted (with refinements) thru 2006 - damned junk!
But - you have all the answers and I'm just a dummy. I'll continue happily being dumb and you can wear a badge of your own making! Go ahead and have it compliment you as much as you like.