1960 Rambler American two-door station wagon

20 jun 2023

This is my lovely 1960 Rambler American Super station wagon. A futuristic car of the past, by way of Moebius and psychedelia. It is surprisingly quiet on the highway, 60 mph with the windows down. Fast, it is not.

It is very small. The wheel base here is 100 inches/2550 mm, the same as the Toyota Yaris (5mm difference). If there was a Yaris station wagon, this would be it.

The seats fold down, flat, and is 90" long from steering wheel to tailgate closed). A twin mattress fits in the back with room to spare. It gets 20 to 22 mpg long term average, exceptional for an American car 63 years ago (and tolerable today).

The driveline is all Rambler, with reliability fixes and upgrades to make it practical as daily driver in 2022 Los Angeles (three years after THE BLADERUNNER's setting). The engine is a 1965 195.6 OHV, the last year of this engine, with some one-year California engineering changes, cylinder head cooling system upgrade, full-flow oil filtration, "timed" top-end oil. The core was a low-mileage engine, nicely rebuilt by Cruz Auto Parts here in Los Angeles.

Sometime 30 or 40 years ago the car was painted this thick beige color, approximating the original Nash color. Though it's held up very well not much attention was paid to detail; there are large and obvious drips, and there's paint on the stainless trim. Nonetheless I'm not gonna paint it. Cars are one of the holdouts of "modernity", the idea of perfection, the smooth flawless skin hiding the ugly, temporal guts no one wants to admit exist.

This is a 63 year old car; it wants to look its age. There are countless dings and bumps, I'm not fixing them. I did fix some rust up in the roof, a design flaw of this early chassis, and prevented it from coming back (I hope). The visible wear contains no shame; it's what happens when you persist.

Technical

The engine has a number of durability modifications that I've worked out over the last decade in mainly my roadster. That experimentation led to the simplified mods in this engine and which will be documented shortly in the 195.6 OHV engine page.

I've also added an electronic feedback carburetor from the 1980's, but with modern software; this jumped mileage from a bit over 20 mpg to 22 mpg. I've also installed a charcoal canister and all the plumbing to go with it, so it doesn't smell of gasoline pretty much ever. The electronic carb cleaned up emissions and keeps it in perfect tune regardless of altitude.

The transmission is a Borg Warner M35 from 1962, that was in the car when I got it, rebuilt by TransMatic in El Monte CA.

The rear axle appears to be original, and standard 3.31 ratio. The gears were fine, so new wheel bearings and seals, brake lines and hoses, hubs retorqued and it's good for another 50 years.

The tires are novelty-oversized, Toyo 205/75-R15's, nearly 28 inches tall. The large diameter brings the effective axle ratio down so that 65 mph cruise is a reasonable engine 2600 rpm. (This car was designed before the Interstates and steady high-speeds were possible.) I'd prefer to buy tall and skinny tires, instead of these truck tires, but tires like that are not made any more outside of not-road-ready collector car specialty items.

New six-leaf springs from ESPO Springs 'n Things raised the sagging rear up to correct height; these cars were tall! with ground clearance of a modern Jeep, befitting 1950's roads, that today accommodates roads like the old Ridge Route.

Brakes were upgraded to late 1960's Bendix 9 x 2.5" drums, with forgotten performance modifications applied. Self-adjusters were added front and rear.

The interior is my own.

Car history

This car was bought new in Santa Barbara CA and spent it's entire life there until I bought it in 2021. It was delivered in July 1960 with the venerable workhorse flathead engine, which was replaced in 1989 with a 1962 OHV and M35 transmission, and whoever did that did very good work. They found and installed a now-very-rare one year only 1960 OHV heater box (made of fiberglas, hand-made). It was well cared for it's entire life, but accumulated wear eventually caught up with it, and it was parked and well-stored by the previous owner, Diane, who knowingly maintained it superbly up to that point of needing a "new everything".

A little maintenance goes a long way, and long term maintenance means a car like this still exists in viable condition after 62 years. Thanks to Diane and Daniel for the care, it shows.

These were not cheap cars. A 1960 Chevy Impala Sports Coupe was $2600. My 1968 American was $1865.00.

Current photos



The first test drive...



Photos from 19 Oct 2021

Ready for a road trip to Tucson and Santa Fe.



Photo documentation

I'm slowly restructuring the photos and record of the work done, section by section. For now it's mostly unannotated photos, in a chaotic before/after way. This will change as I get to it.

15 September 2021

More or less the present. On the road about a week at this time, engine not fully broken in.

Before

Before any real work began I took forensic photos to document where things go, and preserve the wear soon to be banished. Though it's been 60 years and you never know what's been modified or replaced, this is largely how the car was assembled when new.

During

Work in progress. These photos will probably not become much more organized, though some unique, problematic, or interesting areas will get breakouts, such as the complicated horn ring, or the always-in-ruins gas tank filler neck.




The dealer delivery sheet.

Documents

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