Thursday, October 4, 2012

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1963 Rambler American 440 Convertible

It was a cold, dull day in Santa Cruz and my friend and I had nothing to do. We didn't feel like blowing money at the Boardwalk so we hopped in my car and drove through town. I always love finding off-brand cars, so when we passed this Bahama Blue 1963 Rambler American 440 convertible, I stopped and grabbed my camera.

The Rambler American was a unique offering in the economy car market in the early 1960s. Rambler's budget for revamping their small-car lineup was limited, so they completely rebodied the American while retaining the old car's suspension, powertrain and chassis. Gone was the bathtub-shaped body, in was a stubby new "bread box" design with a trapezoidal grille that made the car appear more aggressive. It was shorter and narrower than the old car but had the same wheelbase and more usable space. The convertible body style was introduced in 1961 after being on hiatus since 1954. Unlike the previous car, this new drop-top had proper roll-down windows for open-air cruising. If this body style looks familiar to you, perhaps you watched TV in the '90s and recognize it from the sitcom "3rd Rock From the Sun", in which the main characters drove a red '62 Rambler convertible with a white accent stripe around the car's midsection. The 440 trim level was new for 1963, and was the highest trim except for the 440-H (which was the sporty option with a little more power and an available "Twin Stick" manual overdrive transmission.)

This example is in pretty good condition with a mostly straight body and good chrome trim. It's seen its share of parking stops which have damaged the front valance panel below the bumper. The convertible top could use a good scrub if not a full replacement, and the plastic rear window is shot. The doors, hood and window frames also need attention to tighten up panel gaps and stop water leakage into the interior. If it were my car, I'd do all those things and then maybe spring for a set of thin whitewall tires to make it stand out a little more. It's a cute little convertible and an economical option for a classic car.

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