AMC Rambler Rebel Gen5
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The AMC Rebel (known as the Rambler Rebel in 1967) was a mid-sizer built between 1967 and 1970. The Rebel was based on AMC's "senior" automobile
platform shared with the full-size Ambassador line. For the U.S. and Canadian markets, the Rebel was built at AMC's "West Assembly Line" (along with the Ambassador) in Kenosha, Wisconsin and at Brampton, Ontario, Canada (Bramalea - Brampton Assembly Plant).
Here in Australia the Rebel was assembled from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits by AMI (Australian Motor Industries) under license. CKD's were also assembled in New Zealand (Campbell Motor Industries in Thames), in Europe (by Renault
), and in Mexico (by Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos). In the USA the car was known as the AMC Rebel from 1968 onwards, however here (and in other International markets) the Rebels stuck with the Rambler brand name.
Partial Knock Down
Strictly speaking, the Rebels built in Australia and New Zealand were not built from CKD kits, but from a Partial Knock Down (PKD) kit. They arrived with right-hand drive and the body had the engine, transmission, front suspension, rear axle, and doors installed - this work being completed at AMC's Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA plant. Other parts were boxed and shipped inside the car for final assembly. Australian models had to have aftermarket amber rear indicator lights fitted in the boot lid as flashing red indicators did not meet local compliance. Numerous other parts and components were sourced locally to gain tariff concessions.
American cars had always had a faithful following here in Australia – but apart from the performance oriented models, few would have jumped to their defence in the handling
department. Thankfully by the mid 1960s US built cars had become better handling, better looking and more reasonably proportioned than their predecessors, but there was a certain brassiness that still persisted - and was evident in the design of the Rebel.
The Rambler Rebel was one of the first locally available US cars that showed the influence of the safety mania that was then sweeping the States, but this did not translate into the complete disappearance of the traditional bulk and glitter. But enough restraint was exercised by stylists to make the car acceptable on our prestige market, where the Rebel would need to fight it ouw with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Rover and other Europeans. Unlike some of the larger US cars from the late 1960s, the Rebel's seemingly modest exterior dimensions belied its vast, spacious interior which offered the sort of stretching space you would have expected, but didn't always get, with a car that demanded generous amounts of road space.
But the real competition for the Rebel was against the Fairlane
and Brougham. Strangely it did not look any bigger than a Fairlane
, yet there was no questioning the fact that its internal proportions were a step up the scale from the long-wheelbase Ford product. The Rebel was longer by about four inches, wider by the same amount, and was heavier, yet its wheelbase was two inches shorter than the Fairlane's 116 inches. Despite this, the passenger area had greater length because the complete body was designed around the 114-inch wheel-base, where the Fairlane was based on the 111 inches of the Falcon
But, at A$5550 (1969 price), the Rebel did not come into direct contact with the Ford product. Rather, it fell into the upper prestige bracket where opposition was formidable, to say the least. It has secured itself a cosy niche in the luxury bracket and, in 1968, it managed to out-sell Ford's Galaxie and GMH's Pontiac, both larger and more expensive, but similarly equipped cars. Of course, the overall Australian prestige market of the late 1960s was dominated by the three-pointed star of Mercedes Benz, but the bulk of their sales comprised the very expensive 250 and 280 models - therefore most of the Rebel's competition came from the local CKD offerings of the Big Three.
At the time, the consensus was that moderately well-heeled buyers would have selected the Rebel because of its visual impact, rather than is mechanical sophistication. Compared to the Europeans, American cars were generally well down in the handling and braking departments, and the build quality fell well short too. The Rebel, however, was an exception to the rule. Despite six power-assisted turns from lock to lock, it handled particularly well and disc brakes
measuring almost 11 inches in diameter ensured adequate stopping power at all times.
On the Road
Certainly, there was never any danger of the engine's capabilities exceeding those of the chassis. The ride was firm by American standards, but the suspension
had a pleasant, controlled feeling about it on anything but bad corrugations. For 1969, the Rebel sported the same 343 cubic inch engine as used in the Javelin
, but detuned from 280 to 235 bhp. This was still 10 bhp ahead of the previous 290 cubic inch model, but a bigger gain was made in the torque department - it increasing to 345 ft./lbs. at 2600 rpm, which was an improvement of 45 ft./lbs. for less rpm.
But rather than put all that extra twisting power through to the road, American Motors used a very tall 2.87:1 rear end, which gave similar performance to the 3.15:1 290 model, and as the engine didn't have to work as hard, economy is improved. This also overcame the wheel-spin problem to a large degree, although enthusiastic acceleration on wet surfaces would still cause both rear wheels to lose traction (the differential was limited slip) and as long as the accelerator was kept hard down, this condition would persist.
Behind The Wheel
The high gearing made for relaxed acceleration, and would stop reasonably well too. Not brilliant, but considering you were lugging, on th eold scale, around 3470 lbs. of body weight, the braking performance was pretty good. The 343 engine gave a maximum speed of 105 mph and enabled the car to put down consistent standing quarter times of 17.4 seconds. The casual air with which the Rebel went about its business was complemented by effective soundproofing which kept road noise to a minimum and virtually eliminated engine noise.
Interior furnishings were quite tasteful; bench seats were generous in size and nicely padded, although there was a certain lack of side support, and the colour-matched carpets were attractive in appearance and durable in design. Strangely, the headlining at the rear quarter panels was coloured black, contrasting with the other materials used in the interior. But everything was not perfect. None of the dashboard controls were within easy reach and what instruments were supplied (speedometer
, fuel gauge and temperature gauge
), were not particularly easy to read. In order to operate the variable speed windscreen wipers, in an era before the inertia-reel, you were forced to either unbuckle the seat belt or wear it loose enough to allow almost a foot of free play.
AMC used a foot-operated parking brake on the Rebel which, despite not gaining universal acceptance, proved effective on steep slopes and was easily released by a trigger-type handle under the dash. The layout of the floor pedals was good, there being no need for right-foot groping at any time and the dipswitch was located in the customary floor position. The driving position was surprisingly good, with plenty of seat adjustment available for long-legged types. Backrests had a reclining mechanism, but the adjustment was nowhere near fine enough to allow the driver to find exactly the angle of inclination required. The bench rear seat offered plenty of thigh support, and legroom, regardless of how far the front seat was moved backwards, was really good.
The Rebel lacked the sheer bulk and excessive overhangs common to many of its contemporaries, yet it matched most of them in interior space and beat all but the best in achieving a balance of power, handling and braking.