WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA REGION, A.A.C.A.
SC/Rambler, It only hurts them for 14 seconds
(words as printed in American Motoring Volume 14, No 2 March/April 1990)
By Barbara Hillick
Rambler and American Motors had been fighting with its limited resources against the Detroit giants ever since the company was formed because of the merger of Hudson and Nash in 1954. Rambler entered into the performance fight in 1957 with the Rebel. Only 1,500 of these 327 V-8 models were built, but it indicated that Rambler was interested in slightly more than selling cars that were noted for their economy and reliability.
Because of a combination of limited finaces and the leadership of AMC President, George Romney during the early and mid sixties, AMC watched from the sidelines as other companies moved into the performance market. Romney publicly stated that the only race AMC was interested in was the human race! During the Romney years, succeeded in building an economy image in the minds of the public.
When the Romney era ended, the renewed spirit started the company on a new course. AMC decided to enter the performance market!
The first real step toward the youth market was the introduction of the Javelin and AMX in 1968. Engines were developed from one basic block design to motivate the Javelins and AMXs. The first offered was the 290, then the 343, 390, 304 360 and eventually the 401.
AMC then decide to break into the performance market in a unique way. What better way to build a hot car than to drop a big engine into a compact economy car and keep the price where people can get a lot of car for the buck! The Rambler American had an image of economy, but AMC decided to change the way that America looked at the car.
Since AMC wanted to go for a performance image, what better is there than Hurst? According to “Car Life” magazine (May 1969) Hurst approached AMC with a proposal to build a limited number of AMXs with Hurst modifications to sell the Hurst name. AMC countered with the proposal to do the same thing to a Rambler. The Rambler “Super Car” was born.
The concept was simple and was being done by other manufacturers. AMC wanted a budget performance car that handled well and ran fast in pure stock form. Walt Czarnecki from American Motors and Dave Landrith from Hurst came up with many ideas that ended up on the cars.
Hurst started by taking a car that had a shipping weight of 3160 pounds, and a wheelbase of 106”. The same 390 engine used in the AMX was squeezed into an engine compartment that had been designed with a six cylinder in mind. The bore and stroke of 4.17” x 3.57” produced 315 hp at 4600 rpm and 425 ft. lbs. of torque at 3200. The rods and crank were forged steel and pushed 10.21 pistons. Valves were pushed by hydraulic pressure exerted by a 265-duration .425” cani. The engine was topped off with a Carter AFB with I .44” primaries and I .69 secondaries.
To keep things from getting warm, a heavy duty cooling system consisting of a heavy-duty radiator, a “Power-Flex” fan and shroud were added. Dual exhaust with “special tone” Thrush mufflers and chrome extensions were included.
The 315 horse engine was mated to the close ratio all synchro Borg Warner T-10 and backed with a 10 ½” clutch. The transmission had a 2.23 1” gear, 1.77 second, 1.35 third and 1.00 fourth. Of course, it goes without saying that a Hurst shifter with a Hurst “T” handle backed the transmission. AMC’s “Twin-Grip” limited slip differential with a 3.54:1 gear completed the driveline.
Now that AMC had a car that would do a quarter mile straight off of the showroom floor in 14.3 seconds, it was pretty important that the car be able to go from 100 mph to 0 as quickly as it went from 0 to 100. Power disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the rear were standard equipment. The road tests from various magazines gave the brakes excellent rates for braking, control and the lack of fade. According to Car Life proportioning was good, by disc/drum standards meaning it got better as the rear drums got hot and allowed more of the effort to be assumed by the front discs. Car Craft said that the brakes were “phenomenal and stop on a dime.”
The heavy-duty suspension package consisted of a heavy-duty front sway bar, heavy-duty springs and shocks. The car had coil springs up front and leaf springs in the rear. Rear torque links helped prevent wheel hop on fast starts. The steering was manual with a 20:1 ratio. The biggest complaint from most magazines that tested the car was in the area of handling.
One thing that Hurst and AMC had no intention of building was a “sleeper”. Perhaps the hood scoop that looks like it would place to drop mail may give a hint that this isn’t necessarily the car that your grandmother should drive to pickup groceries (although a lot did it). If the hood scoop didn’t make someone wonder what was going on, perhaps the red, white and blue paint job could indicate something different!
Initially, only 500 SC/Ramblers were going to be produced. Because of demand from dealers buying up the original 500, additional cars were run. By the time the last SC/Rambler rolled off the line, a total of 1,512 cars had been produced.
The first 500 SC/Ramblers sported a distinctive red, white and blue paint job. The cars were white and the sides were painted red with a black painted pinstripe. In case the air didn’t know which way to go, the hood scoop had 2 red decals with a black border that advertised “AIR”. A blue arrow decal with a black border pointed the way toward the hood scoop opening. A red and black decal advertising “390 CU. IN” broke up the arrow. The trunk and the roof were finished with blue decals with black pin striping.
The car featured a “black out” grille, and blackened out tail light panels and taillights. A matched set of special “teardrop” mirrors that looked remarkably like Hurst Olds mirrors let the driver see all of the GTOs, Road Runners and other cars that were behind the SC/Rambler.
The hood scoop was one of the most prominent features of the car, but it was by no means just another pretty face. The hood scoop had a vacuum operated flap per valve, which operated under full throttle. Two slightly different hood scoops have already been verified and there is a possibility that a third was built.
The original factory latch held down the hood. To make sure it stayed down, two hood tie-downs with locking safety pins were added. All of the regular Rogue features such as safety and comfort equipment, electric windshield wipers, etc. were included.
To make sure that everyone could recognize this unique car, there were Hurst emblems on the fenders and a curved SC/Hurst emblem on the tail panel. On each of the fenders, 390 emblems advertised engine size. E70 x 14” Goodyear Polyglas Wide Tread Red Line tires were mounted on 14” x 6” five spoke mags painted bright blue, so people would have something to notice as a SC/Rambler raced by them. A fifth mag wheel made up the spare.
The second paint scheme is commonly referred to as the “B” paint. These cars were a little more sedate. They were painted predominately white and had a bright blue decal pinstriped in black that ran around the bottom of the car. It was topped off with a red stripe edged by black pinstripes. The car still sported a hood scoop with the 2 “AIR” decals.
The Ditzler numbers for both paint schemes were AMC color, P-7 Flat Black (Ditzler 9378), P-9 Bright Red (Ditzler 71816 or Dupont 93-95616), P10 Bright Blue (Ditzler 13936 or DuPont 93-58740) and P-88 White (Ditzler 8810 and DuPont 93-21667). In addition to the original 500 “A” scheme cars, an additional 688 cars were built. There were 324 “B” scheme produced (based on factory production figures gathered by Tom Benvie).
The interior of the car carried the paint scheme inside. The front headrests were upholstered in red, white and blue stripes. Evidence shows that the colors and grains on the headrests varied from “A” to “B” scheme. The rest of the interior was pure “Rogue”. The individually adjustable reclining seats were upholstered in the charcoal “Basketweave” vinyl used in the Rogue. The door panels were the same as the Rogue and the dash was purely “American” too. Of course, a wood grained sports steering wheel was part of the package. A Sun tach with a 5,000 rpm red line was mounted on the steering column. The first SC/Ramblers did not have a radio and simply had a radio delete plate covering the place where the radio went. There was so much demand for this option that it was later added. The major complaints that various magazines had were the use of “idiot” lights for oil pressure and battery indicators.
Hurst and AMC announced the SC/Rambler on February 13, 1969. It was introduced at the world famous Chicago Auto Show, March 8 - 16, 1969 by AMC and Hurst Performance. AMC called the car a “Rambler that does the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds. ”How many other cars could be bought that could be taken to the drag strip directly off of the showroom floor and have a car that would run in NHRA-F stock class. In an AMC bulletin, the description read “Well imagine the looks on the faces when you lay down an ET in the low 14’s at say 98 mph. right off the showroom floor! And set up for the strip with a little sharp tuning, who knows? You might be turning 12s.” AMC summed it all up in one sentence: “It only hurts them of 14 seconds!”
Various car magazines decided to take AMC up on their boasting. Car Life tested the car and covered the quarter in 14.20 seconds at 100.8 mph. Car Life said, “And, by George (sorry), it is a fast little car. We could turn quarter miles in mid-14s all day, with a full gas tank and two people”. Road Test recorded times at just 14.14 seconds at a speed of 100.44 mph. Super Stock and Drag Illustrated was invited to test a modified and stack SC/Rambler at the Miami Speedway Park in Hollywood, FL. When the test was finished, the stock SC/Rambler ran a 14.31 at 98.86 mph. The modified SC had a 302 degree cam, an Edlebrock aluminum high rise intake, a 780 cfm Holley, modified distributor deleting the vacuum advance, Doug Thorley headers and Goodyear slicks. With these few simple modifications, the car ran 12.92 at 107.86, 12.69 at 110.50 and 12.67 at 109.99. The magazine simply stated, “Either way you look at it, stock or Super Stock, the SC really has potential.”
SC/Ramblers made a name for themselves not only at drag strips but also in off road competition. American Motors signed a contract with actor James Garner and his American International Racers to race in the sedan class at the Baja 500 on June 10, l969 and other off road events. The Baja covered from Ensenada to laPaz in Baja, CA (558 miles). The course had to be completed in just 30 hours.
Two SC/Ramblers were converted to 4-wheel drive for class VI (non-production four wheel drive) and the other two-wheel drive SCs competed in Class I (production two wheel drive passenger vehicles). When the race was finished, 7 of the 10 Garner cars finished the race. In the sedan class, the SCs took three of the five first places. The cars in Class I took first, third and fifth. In the 4wheel drive class; the SC came in fourth in the class.
One of the best things about the SC/Rambler was the price. You could get all of these features for a dealer invoice price of $2,732.95, factory list price $2,780.00 and the suggested retail price of $2,998.
AMC Vice-President of Marketing Service, R.W. McNealy announced “The SC/Rambler is the ideal vehicle for the motorist who wants better than average performance and also a car that is uniquely different from 70 million others on the streets today. The car is designed for the motorist who wants a customized car, but has neither the time nor the inclination to build it himself.”
If drag racing was not in your blood, AMC stated, “Maybe the drag strip is not your bag. No matter. You can boggle the brains of the boulevard crowd by just showing up in your SC/Rambler. That hood scoop alone is enough to strike fear in a man’s heart.” AMC also promised “you could make life miserable for any GTO, Road Runner, Cobra Jet of Mach 1”. AMC wouldn’t lie!
The big question how do I tell if my car is an SC/Rambler or just an American? If some of the subtle features like the paint and hood scoop are missing, take a look at the serial number. It has to read A9M097X1 followed by five digits denoting the rest of the serial number. The first “9” denotes a ‘69 model, the “M” denotes a manual transmission and the “X” advertises the 390 engine!
The paint code on the driver’s door is the next step. The code was either “00” “SPEC”, SPECIAL” or “88A”. Originally it was thought that all “A” scheme cars were “00” and all “B” scheme cars were “SPEC”, “SPECIAL” or “88A” coded cars and that the cars were built in three separate groups. From information that is being gathered, it is beginning to look as if the last two groups were built on the same line at the same time and that paint codes are arbitrary.
An SC/Rambler Registry has been started to gather all of the VIN information and door tag information to learn more about the way the cars were built and the way the paint was coded. From the cars seen, there seems to be three different hood scoops used on the cars, two different foam ram air seals and 2 different grained headrests. If you have an SC/Rambler and are interested in helping settle these questions, please contact the registry. With your help perhaps some of the unsolved mysteries can be laid to rest.
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