Imagine 1968 for a moment; Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is the #1 hit of the year according to Billboard magazine. Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was the top-grossing movie. And AMC had its first successes in the youth market with the Javelin and two-seater AMX.
But there was more to the youth market than pony cars. AMC needed to tap another performance segment if they were interested in gaining street cred. By dipping in their portfolio (Rambler American) and joining forces with Hurst Performance, they created the 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler, a car that out-Road Runner’ed Plymouth and out-Judged the GTO.
The Hurst SC/Rambler had its origins in the humble Rambler American. The model first debuted in 1958 using the dies from the old Nash/Hudson Rambler, which were sold until 1955.
In 1958’s recession, and in a market blossoming with competitive foreign brands, the American was solid competitor in price and construction. A contemporary restyle in 1961 hid the American’s utilitarian origins, but in 1964 it was completely redesigned (by Dick Teague, the gentleman who later design the Javelin and AMX).
This generation American lasted through 1969, and it was the high-line version of this car – the Rogue – that would serve as the basis of the SC/Rambler.
When Roy Abernethy took over from George W. Romney (father of Mitt) as AMC’s CEO in the early-1960s, he slightly changed the company’s course: Fresh from having seen AMC achieve third place in auto sales, he felt AMC could compete against the Big Three head-on.
This meant AMC had to shed its image of the builder of economy cars for librarians. By 1966, the new 290 V-8 became an option for the American, and for 1967 a 343/280 (with mandatory four-speed tranny) was available.
Advertised as “The Now Cars,” it was clear AMC was targeting the burgeoning youth market, but the company also publicly acknowledged that the American was going to receive minimal perennial updates to save on tooling costs and keep prices low.
By 1969 and long in the tooth, the utilitarian American was ripe for the “supercar “treatment. AMC was on a roll with the AMX and Javelin, and felt it was time to submit another candidate in the Supercar sweepstakes, this time in the compact segment with the likes of the Chevy Nova SS 396 and Dodge Dart GTS and Swinger 340.
Starting with a white Rogue with black interior, 390/315 and four-speed, they were then shipped to Hurst where all body modifications were made and special components were installed. The SC/Rambler package included rolled wheel well lips to accommodate larger tires or slicks, “Letter box” hood scoop, ram air-induction assembly with vacuum-operated flapper, and chrome hood pins and lanyards.
Thrush glasspack mufflers and two-inch dual exhaust system ended in chrome exhaust tip extensions, as a 16:1 quick-ratio manual steering, power-assisted Bendix brakes with discs up front, blue-painted Magnum 500s with brushed trim rings were used to spin a 3.54 Twin-Grip limited-slip Dana 20 rear axle with torque links for the rear suspension.
Cosmetically, the SC/Rambler got the same attention with black taillight lenses and rear panel, a distinctive Red/White/Blue paint scheme with Red/White/Blue headrests, a triple-spoked wood grain steering wheel, a Sun ST635 8000-rpm tach mounted on steering column (sometimes, an ST602 was substituted), and color-keyed teardrop side-view mirrors (similar to those on the Hurst/Olds).
Motivation for the SC/Rambler was AMC’s top motor during that time, the 390. With 10.2:1 compression, it was rated at 315 horsepower @ 4600 RPM and 425 ft-lbs. of torque @ 3200 RPM. It was popular in the AMX and available in the Javelin and full-size Ambassador. Borg-Warner supplied the close-ratio T-10 four-speed manual with – naturally – a Hurst shifter.
The only option was an AM radio, but an enterprising buyer could select from an array of AMC Group 19 parts and have the dealer install them – everything from a Mallory dual-point distributor to a Holley 930-cfm three-barrel carburetor. Those so inclined found themselves factored nicely in F/Stock.
The SC/Rambler was built in two versions, known as “A” and “B” paint schemes. Scheme A was a white body with a bold red swatch (stripe is too tame a word to describe it) along the sides and a blue one along the top, from trunklid to hood; the one on the hood had a pop-art arrow pointing to the hood scoop.
Scheme B was a bit milder, with a blue swatch along the rockers and a red stripe above that; there was no blue swatch along the top of the car. It is generally believed that the first 500 SC/Ramblers were A-scheme cars, then another batch of B-scheme cars were built. However, the final 512 cars are mired in mystery but AMC experts believe they were likely the B-scheme. Grand total was 1,512 cars.
Introduced at the 61st Annual Chicago Auto Show on March 8th, 1969 at a price of $2998, the SC/Rambler promised to make life miserable for any GTO, Road Runner, Cobra Jet or Mach I, according to the ad. “A Rambler that does the quarter mile in 14.3” was enough to catch the attention of enthusiasts everywhere. With some Group 19 equipment, 12s were cake.
As Rambler was dissolved in 1969 and the American was replaced by the Hornet and Gremlin, AMC then focused its efforts on the Rebel to create the Rebel Machine. In 1971, AMC’s focus was back on the compact with the Hornet SC/360, but its popularity was half of the SC/Rambler’s and it wasn’t as fast. Today, the Hurst SC/Rambler is a rare yet popular member of muscle car royalty. Because it’s an AMC product, prices have always been reasonable in comparison to its Big Three competitors, but when it came to nerve, little AMC had it in spades.
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