If you were going to order a muscle car in the 1960s, there were only two choices for the enthusiast: a four-speed manual or a three-speed automatic. Sure, the stick is the usual choice for the enthusiast, but smart racers favor the automatic for the win.

So why is the lowly three-speed stick the transmission of choice for a car like this 1965 Rambler Marlin that’s for sale in the Phoenix Craigslist? It’s the Twin-Stick overdrive transmission, which effectively gave you five forward gears.

Image: www.lov2xlr8.no

When Rambler debuted the Marlin in 1965, there was nothing like it in the market. Based on the Classic (which eventually would be renamed “Rebel” in 1966), its fastback roofline was inspired by the Tarpon, a Rambler show car from 1963 that basically was the compact American with a fastback roofline. Research had determined that the market for a sporty six-cylinder fastback was limited, so they applied the treatment to the Classic and had a niche all their own. The specialty car market was in full swing by then, buoyed by the incredible success of the Mustang, but the Marlin was the only mid-sized car of its kind until Dodge released the Charger in 1966. The standard motor for the Marlin was the 232 Six with the 287 and 327 V-8s as options. The latter put out 270 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor. The standard transmission paired with any of the engines was a three-speed manual on the column; optional was overdrive, column-shifted Flash-O-Matic automatic, Shift-Command Flash-O-Matic (a console-shifted automatic with manual control), or the Twin-Stick three speed manual with overdrive.

The Twin-Stick was introduced in 1963 by Rambler and effectively gave you five forward gears. Two levers sat parallel to each other on the console, and the method for shifting was starting in first, engaging second, then activating the overdrive, then shifting into third, and then activating overdrive. If you were among the less dextrous drivers out there, there was a button on the shifter that allowed you to activate the overdrive without all the fun or fuss of the Twin-Stick. The only rear gears for this transmission was 3.54 whether it was a six or a V-8.

The 1965 Marlin was based on the Classic model. This was the first AMC model to target the youth market. Image: classic-car-history.com

According to the owner of this Marlin, it’s a “very rare and original, 327/270 hp, Twin Stick 3 spd with overdrive manual- Power steering, power front disc brakes. dual exhaust, Twin grip limited slip rear end. Factory buckets and console with fold down arm rest, orig AM radio, clock. This is a very rare car, they only made a hand full of this model with this motor package option. The car is in fair shape, all original and very solid and does run. Please email me your phone number if serious thank you. Clean title and paper work. $6,900.00.”

The last year for the Twin-Stick was 1965, as it was replaced by a conventional four-speed the following year. The Marlin continued on through 1967 but was now on the full-size Ambassador platform, which had been redesigned that year. The proportions of the Marlin appeared less awkward than before, but by then the public decided they were not interested in an AMC fastback and sales were weak. Little AMC didn’t quite give up on the specialty car market, however, as they introduced the Javelin and AMX in 1968, showing America that yes, Virginia, little AMC could compete with the Big Three in terms of style and performance.

A similar system appeared in the early 1980s with the Dodge Colt Turbo, but obviously the mini Japanese barnstormer lacks the style of the Marlin. In a world of $100,000 HEMIs and belly button Mustangs, you can own something as unique as they get for not much scratch, plus your reflexes will be given a workout.