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Thursday, June 28, 2012

1958 Rambler

The Ambassador Custom four-door sedan was Rambler’s flagship in 1958. The car sold for $3,426. The Ambassador Country Club four-door hardtop was listed at $3,538.

Oh, it was a brave new world that American Motors marched into as the 1958 selling season opened. Missing from the lineup were the two great founding names that came together in the 1954 marriage—Nash and Hudson were no more. 

Nash was built from 1917 to 1957.
Hudson was built from 1909 to 1957.
Putting all their eggs into one basket, the boys in head office had bet their corporate fortunes on the compact Rambler. Well, nearly all. In place of Nash and Hudson, a posh new flagship appeared. To distinguish it from its lesser Rambler kin, the new car was subtly christened Ambassador by Rambler. Then, there was the tiny Metropolitan, a sub-compact built for American Motors and imported from the United Kingdom.

Some Rambler models had been assembled in Toronto last year but the unprofitable factory was shuttered for good in July 1957. Now the entire product lineup was imported, Ramblers arrived from the United States and Metropolitans from the United Kingdom. Officials at the head office on Toronto's Danforth carefully gauged the public’s reaction as the new Ramblers were introduced to Canadians on October 22, 1957. 

Instrument panel of the 1958 Ambassador by Rambler featured symmetry of design and decorator-style.

The Ambassador was given a 2 971-millimetre (117-inch) wheelbase, all of that extra length stretched in front of the cowl. The car was every bit as luxurious as Cadillac and Lincoln, matching them in terms of comfort and optional equipment, save power seats.

Quad headlights in the fenders flanked a narrow upper grille opening in which the word “Ambassador” was spelled out. The lower grille spread across the entire front of the car. It was of an egg crate design, split at the middle by a heavy rib. A chrome guard ran the full length of the bumper and dipped into a “V” at the centre. Long parking lights and turn signals were cleverly tucked between the bumper guard and the bumper. Front fender tops were dressed to the nines in chrome windsplit and gunsight fender guides.

From the side, the unit-body envelope was extremely clean, punctuated only with wheel well flares and a fuselage shape that blasted off from the trailing edge of the rear fender to culminate in a taillight. Subtle, elegant fins rose in the rear quarter panel. The understated look continued into the rear. Canted knife-sharp fender creases held ovoid tail lamps. The lights were accented with a chrome bar that ran the length of the rear deck, below a distinctive emblem and trunk lift.
1958 Ramblers are loaded into boxcars for shipment from the factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In the US market, six Ambassadors were offered. Here, only four were sold, each with AM’s 5.3-litre (327-cubic inch) V-8, generating 270 horsepower. The mill transferred power to a three-speed manual synchromesh transmission or the optional Flash-O-Matic automatic transmission.

Standard equipment on Ambassadors included a padded instrument panel and sun visors, an electric clock, the Airliner reclining seats and foam for the rear seat cushions. 

The Rambler 6 Super four-door hardtop was sold in a choice of 14 solid colours and 16 two-tone combinations. It sold for $2,874.

Ramblers shared the same body shell as Ambassador. The smaller cars continued on the same 1 080-millimetre (108-inch) wheelbase they had enjoyed since 1956 but were extensively restyled. In the open upper grille, the word “Rambler” was spelled out in standup chrome letters. The lower grille was composed of large, simple chrome rectangles, their outer edges capped by an attractive ribbed section in which round parking lights and turn signals were housed. These Ramblers promised European small car economy and handling ease, rugged dependability, with the big car room and comfort that Canadians expected.

The least expensive Rambler was the Deluxe Sedan. It sold for $2,598 and tipped the scales at 1 336 kilos (2,947 pounds).

The Deluxe, Super and Custom made up the Rambler 6 series. All were equipped with six-cylinder engines that displaced 138 horses. 

  1. The Rambler Economy 6 (left) was a 127-horsepower mill that could be bumped up to 138 horses with a Dual Throat Carburetor. The Rambler Rebel 215-horsepower V-8, with its velvety performance, is shown on the right.
The Rambler Rebel family boasted V-8 power with a mean four-barrel carb set up. That potent little combo rated a healthy 250 horses, more than enough to allow an RCMP cruiser to eat a little dust.

Ramblers were selling just fine but top brass wanted a bigger slice of the action. They could have that if they offered a vehicle in a size between Metropolitan and the Rambler 6. Deals with Austin and Volkswagen for joint production were explored but came to nothing. 
Making a mid-year bow was the 1958 Rambler American. The two-door sedan sold for $2,398 in Super trim and weighed in at  1 113 kilos (2,500 pounds).
In a bold move, the 1955 Rambler was dusted off and re-introduced to the public, mid-year, as the Rambler American. Never before in automotive history had a discontinued model been resurrected. Advertising called the American’s styling “chic.” Company officials talked of calling the new model the Canadian or the 100 here in Canada but in the end that did not happen.

With its emphasis on economy, boasting more cabin space than any of the small European imports and carrying a rock bottom price tag, the American was immediately popular with the practical consumer. Tried and true, folks from St. John’s to Victoria welcomed back their old Rambler friend as they struggled to take inflation out of driving. With a starting price of $2,265 for the Business Sedan and $2,283 for the base sedan, sales of the modestly appointed two-door American soared through the roof.
The 1958 Rambler American was the only small car—domestic or imported—that offered an automatic transmission.

The American was powered by the 3.2-litre (195.6-cubic inch) L-head six that had first debuted in 1940. As thrifty as ever, it was now tweaked to 90 horsepower. The three-speed transmission was standard equipment but advertising wasn’t shy to brag that Rambler’s American was the only small car available on the market with an automatic transmission.

Ramblers could be dressed up with as many options as there are orchards in the Okanagan Valley. The Flash-O-Matic drive, overdrive, the V-8 Powr-Lok Axle, Power Steering, Power windows, power brakes, Solex tinted glass, the highly efficient Weather Eye heater or the industry first All-Season Air Conditioning. One could have the pushbutton all-transistor radio with twin speakers for the Ambassador or an extra speaker on other cars, the classy Continental tire, an anti-glare rearview mirror, heavy-duty rear springs and shock absorbers. A total of 16 two-tone paint jobs was available as well as front foam cushioning for the Deluxe models. Seat belts, travel rack straps and Child Guard door locks were all optional equipment, too. 

With a list price of $3,459, the Rambler Rebel Cross Country Station wagon found plenty of owners in 1958.

Colours for Deluxe and Super models were Classic Black, Brentwood Green, Lakeshore Blue, Mardi Gras Red, Gotham Grey Metallic, Frontenac Grey, Frost White, Kimberley Blue Metallic and Saranac Green Metallic. In addition, Custom models also came in Cinnamon Bronze Metallic, Alamo Beige, Autumn Yellow, Georgian Rose and Mariner Turquoise Metallic.

It would be a great year for American Motors of Canada Limited. With 5,389 units delivered, Rambler would shoot up to 15th place in calendar year sales, ahead of Studebaker and behind Morris. In addition, Metropolitan sales added another 1,777 units to the final 1958 figure.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1977 Dodge Monaco and Royal Monaco

 The 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco two-door hardtop carried a $5,126 price tag.

The biggest Dodge in the clan returned for its fourth year on the same body shell. There were minor changes. Riding on its well-established 3 0861-millimetre (121.5-inch) wheelbase, the Grand Monaco was a vast land yacht. The four-door models weighed in at more than two tonnes. Royal Monaco models carried the 5.2-litre (318-cubic inch) V-8 as its base engine. That power was coupled to Chrysler’s tried-and-true TorqueFlite automatic transmission. All Royal Monaco models were sourced from Chrysler’s factory in Belvedere, Illinois.
The 1977 Dodge Monaco was last year’s Coronet. The intermediate Brougham four-door sedan with the six-cylinder engine listed for $5,491, f.o.b. Windsor.

In a surprise move, last year’s attractive intermediate Coronet name was dropped though the car itself was continued on its 2 921-millimetre (115-inch) wheelbase. The big difference was that the intermediate line was rechristened as the Monaco. Dodge Monaco models were imported from the Lynch Road plant in Detroit.

The name change required some explaining. “This year, Dodge has extended the continuing prestige of its Monaco to two sized by giving you a choice of mid-sized or full-sized Monacos. And the beauty of it is that both sizes continue to carry the quality and luxury tradition you’ve come to expect from the top-of-the-line Monaco.”

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“Now you can choose the mid-sized Monaco or the full-sized Royal Monaco. Both engineered to Monaco quality standards. Both available with a wide selection of Monaco options. Both reflecting the luxury image for which Monaco has always been known. “

Monaco was a slippery package to look at with its long deck and short, crouched-cat rear. Monaco carried a perfect Coke-bottle swell in the rear quarters. Stacked halogen quad headlamps accentuated the split grille that featured crosshatch openings. A stand-up hood ornament topped the hood. From the rear, large trapezoidal taillights were imbedded in a massive bumper.

The 1977 Dodge Monaco could be ordered with the optional 6.5-litre (400-cubic inch)  or the 7.2-litre (440-cubic inch) engine with Chrysler’s Electronic Lean Burn system.
The Monaco was delivered with the two-barrel Super Six engine a.k.a. the “slant six” and a three-speed manual transmission. Many chose to spend the extra bucks for the 5.2-litre V-8 mill, adding automatic transmission and power steering while they were at it.

The Monaco name meant more attention to detail the Dodge intermediate. Interiors were finer than before with a combination of cloth and vinyl seating. There was a centre armrest on the Brougham. Monacos were kissed with colour-keyed carpeting throughout and that was upgraded to genuine shag carpet in the Brougham. 

This 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco two-door hardtop carries the exclusive and posh extra-cost Diplomat dress-up package.
The Royal Monaco was “for those who like traditional value and comfort with an added touch of luxury in a full-sized automobile.” It was square, boasting an egg-crate grille and hidden headlamps at the fore and large rectangular tail lamps set deep in the rear bumper.

In the biggest Dodge the 5.2-litre (318-cubic inch) V-8 loafed under the massive hood. Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic transmission, fibre-glass-belted radial ply tires, power steering, power front disc and rear drum brakes were all standard equipment.” The Royal Monaco Brougham upped the ante to the 5.9-litre (360-cubic inch) V-8.

With a sticker price of $5,409, f.o.b. Windsor, the 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco four-door station wagon was the most expensive Dodge in the stable.

Colours for Monacos and Grand Monacos were Vintage Red Sunfire Metallic, Jade Green metallic, Burnished Copper Metallic, Firest Green Sunfire Metallic, Mocha Tan, Moondust Metallic, Russet Sunfire Metallic, Coffee Sunfire Metallic, Eggshell White, Black Sunfire Metallic, Jasmine Yellow, Silver Cloud Metallic, Golden Fawn, Mojave Beite, Cadet Blue Metallic, Spanish Gold Metallic, Starlight Blue Sunfire Metallic and Wedgwood Blue. Monaco models could also be had in Bright Red and Inca Gold Metallic was reserved for the Royal Monaco.

Roofs could be decked with full vinyl, Halo vinyl, Canopy vinyl with opera window or a padded landau roof that included a 12-centimetre (five-inch) wide “Over the Top” stainless steel band at the front edge of the padding.
Instrument panel of the 1977 intermediate-sized Dodge Monaco was simple and straightforward in design.

One could customize one’s Monaco with air conditioning, tinted glass, a Sure Grip axle, a 100-amp alternator, a 500-amp battery, an electric clock (digital available on the Royal Monaco), a rear window defroster, door-edge guards, floor mats, the Fuel Pacer System, locking gas cap, dual horns, dual remote-control outside mirrors or Dual Sport remote-control outside mirrors, power steering (standard on V-8 models), power brakes, power windows, power door locks, power bench seat, power bucket or 60/40 split-back seat (driver side only).

Then there was entertainment. An AM radio could be ordered or an AM/FM radio or an AM/FM stereo with or without eight-track tape system and even a rear speaker. 

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One top of all that one could have a sun roof, a tilt steering wheel, a luxury steering wheel, a trunk dress-up kits for the sedans, undercoating, deluxe wheel covers, premier wheel covers or genuine chrome-styled road wheels. For the wagon one could order a luggage rack, a rear bumper step pad, assist handles and an air deflector.

If ordering options was confusing, one could order numerous options brought together in specific packages. There was the Easy Order package, the Light package, the Deluxe Insulation package, the Luxury Equipment package, several Light- and Heavy-Duty Trailer-Towing Packages (good for wagons), the Roadability Package and for the Royal Monaco Brougham, an exclusive Diplomat package.

Combined sales for the Dodge Monaco and Royal slipped to 8,160 units for the 1977 calendar year. That was off considerably from the Coronet 12,579 units and the 11,244 full-sized Monacos delivered in 1976. Consumers visiting Dodge showrooms were far more interested in the compact Aspen, taking home 34,025 of the sassy compacts—making it the fifth best-selling nameplate in the country.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2007
All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

1979 Ford Station Wagons

In all its splendour and glory, the 1979 Ford station wagon family pauses for a 75th anniversary photo.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there were no minivans and the station wagon reigned supreme in the nation’s driveways and garages. This cavern on wheels was the hauler of choice for those who required the ability to transport goods and passengers with a modicum of class. There was almost no limit to what one could stuff into one of these versatile vehicles, virtually everything from a troop of Girl Guides to a gorilla. OK, maybe not a gorilla. 
The 1950 Nash Rambler Station Wagon was a posh compact entry into the world of station wagons.

Then station wagons started to come in different sizes. Nash introduced the small but upscale Rambler station wagon in 1950. It took little loads in a very stylish way. When feisty independent Nash claimed 11 percent of North American station wagon sales for itself, the Big Three auto manufacturers began to re-examine the heretofore fringe segment of the market with renewed interest.

The race for space inside of a car was on and suddenly, the station wagon explosion hit 8.3 percent of all cars built in Canada in calendar year 1962. 

The 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire featured a novel sliding roof that permitted large objects--like refrigerators--to fit neatly inside.
 As the suburbs continued to mushroom so did the demand for the wagon. No longer utilitarian, the family hauler was a badge of honour, proof that one lived in a new home, in a new subdivision, probably on a new highway, somewhere away from the city centre. Wagons were dressed to the nines and could be decked out with every conceivable option known to exist under the aurora borealis.

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The marketing boys at Ford wisely covered the market neatly with a quartet of wagons, each in unique and distinctly sized categories for the 1979 model season. Oakville’s dual-purpose vehicles could be had for work or play and for use in town or country. To make sure that the public got the point, Ford of Canada hailed itself as the nation’s Wagonmaster. 

The 1979 Ford LTD station wagon listed for $7,455 f.o.b. Oakville.

Kick starting the Blue Oval parade was the luxurious, LTD Country Squire and LTD Custom 500 wagons. The biggest Fords in the corporate lineup were freshly downsized. Carrying the latest look in clean, boxy and upright European styling, they rode on 2 906-millimetre (114.4-inch wheelbases) and carried six people in comfort. Though downsized, the LTD actually boasted more interior space than its predecessor. With the optional dual-facing rear seats in place one could bump the passenger manifest up to eight. When the seats were folded flat the cargo capacity added up to 2 598 litres (91.7 cubic feet) of space.
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Even the base LTD tooled around highways and byways with a 5-litre (302-cubic inch) V-8 engine and a SelectShift automatic transmission. Other standard equipment included power steering, power front disc brakes, steel-belted radial tires, DuraWeave breathable vinyl upholstery, colour-keyed carpeting, two lockable storage compartments, the 3-way Magic Doorgate with a power window, a left-hand remote control driver’s mirror and an electric clock. The Country Squire version carried faux wood paneling finished in “Cherrywood.”

Ford’s compact wagon offering was the Fairmont. The upscale Squire sold for $5.466 in the 1979 model year.

Consumers who didn’t want or need a wagon the size of the Queen Mary didn’t have to walk out of the Ford dealership disappointed. The LTD’s next of kin was the compact Fairmont. Having bowed to the public only last year, the popular seller continued with nothing more than carefully appointed refinements. The 2 680-millimetre (105.5-inch) wheelbase offered room for five passengers and still boasted 1 141 cubic litres (79.1 cubic feet) of hauling capacity with the seats folded down. 

The Fairmont was powered by the corporate 2.3-litre, four-cylinder mill, mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Rack and pinion steering, front disc brakes, colour-keyed carpeting and the signal, washer/wiper and horn all mounted on a Euro-style stalk were grace notes that made up part of the base package. A fancy Squire model offered woodtone look vinyl, deluxe wheel covers and a standup hood ornament among other niceties.

If the Fairmont was still too big for the garage or purse, any salesman worth his salt would happily walk across the showroom floor to sing the praises of the pint-sized Pinto. Good for four passengers and a modest 387 cubic litres (31.3 cubic feet) of cargo space with the seat up, that quickly proliferated into 620 cubic litres (57.2 cubic feet) with the seat down. Of course, that reduced passengers to two instead of four.

The smallest Ford wagon offered for the 1979 selling season was the Pinto, with is $4,464 price tag.

Putting the attractive, facelifted Pinto through its paces was the 2.3-litre overhead-cam, four-cylinder engine with a four-speed manual transmission. Like Fairmont, every Pinto left the factory with rack and pinion steering and front disc brakes as standard equipment.

This 1979 Ford Pinto wears optional Squire dress.
An upscale Squire package for the Pinto offered an interior décor group with low-back bucket seats, deluxe trim that included woodtone appliqué inside and out. A wild model that bowed to the public was the Pinto Cruising wagon. This hauler carried some very hot multi-colour graphics applied to the body and a rear porthole to boot. 

Both Pinto and the Club Wagon were given a "Cruising" package from 1977 to 1980.

Last but not least in the Ford family were the Club Wagons. These were robust frame-on-chassis models that resembled the popular Econoline trucks they were derived from. They differed greatly from the utilitarian Econolines because they were appointed with features found in the most luxurious of automobiles. Seating configurations could range from four to a dizzying dozen, and with the Super Wagon, fifteen passengers could climb aboard.

The Ford Club Wagon was based on the dependable Econoline truck. In 1979 these Fords rode a 3 149.6- millimetre (124-inch) or a 3 505.2-millimetre (138-inch) wheelbase.
A Captain’s Club Wagon with reclining, swiveling seats and a snack and games table made entertaining on the road a pleasant thing. When the extended wheelbase Chateau mode was purchased, the rear seat folded into a bed for overnight fun.
Interior of the Captain Club Wagon.
A trailer package permitted hauling one’s home-away-from-home as long as the tag-along weighed less than 3 628 kilos (8,000 pounds). For trailering, an owner would want the 351-horsepower V-8 rather than the 117-horsepower six-cylinder motor. The five-speed manual transmission was optional equipment as was a four-speed manual with overdrive and the SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic setup. 

The Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited marked its 75th anniversary in 1979. Domestic sales for Oakville held pretty much steady for the model year in comparison to the previous sales year. Unfortunately there was bad news south of the border. As a result of the OPEC oil embargo against the US, Oakville’s production was down significantly because of the battering taken by consumers at the gas pumps in the American market.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005 All rights reserved.