Five years after Pontiac invented the muscle car formula by wedging a huge engine into its smallest car, American Motors followed suit in a big way, shoehorning the 390-cubic-inch V-8 from its AMX performance flagship into the company’s entry-level car, the Rambler (née Rambler American). The result was the fabled Hurst SC/Rambler. To help the car gain its SC (for “super car”) prefix, the Hurst corporation provided one of its famous T-handle shifters – and the car’s middle name – along with direction for the modifications made at AMC’s factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In addition to the 390 V-8 and the Hurst-shifted four-speed manual gearbox, the list of SC/Rambler-specific upgrades included power front disc brakes, quick-ratio steering, a limited-slip differential, straight-through glass-pack mufflers, a vacuum-controlled “mailbox” hood scoop, and a Sun tachometer, as well as heavy-duty suspension, clutch, and cooling-system components. A few less-than-subtle patriotic cosmetic touches completed the two-door-hardtop Rambler Rogue’s transformation from grandma’s church chariot.
AMC planned to build 500 of these steroidal Ramblers as a publicity ploy in mid-1969, but demand was so strong that the company hurried to build more. AMC eventually cranked out 1512 copies – in the “A” paint scheme that you see here on Rick Jones’s SC/Rambler and a more conservative, less common “B” scheme in which the red and blue accents were splashed only below the car’s beltline. AMC charged a mere $2998 for what turned out to be the quickest car that the corporation ever produced, aside from fifty-two Hurst-built 1969 Super Stock AMXs, which were essentially factory race cars.
When the SC/Rambler was new, AMC conservatively claimed that its inexpensive supercar could tackle the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds. AMC dealers, however, were happy to make some savvy buyers’ SC/Ramblers even quicker with the aid of numerous so-called Group 19 go-fast parts that included a special carburetor, intake manifold, camshaft, and rocker arms; headers; a dual-point ignition; a 4.10:1 rear axle; and wider rear wheels.
Jones bought his car in 1986. “It probably shouldn’t have been restored,” he says. “It was pretty much junk, had lots of rust, and was painted black and white.” But restore it he eventually did, performing all the work himself (other than sewing the upholstery) and scouring the country – in the days before the Internet – for original Group 19 parts to bolt onto his car. An AMC nut whose collection currently includes eight additional AMCs from the late 1960s and early ’70s, Jones had wanted an SC/Rambler since he rode in one when he was thirteen years old. “I couldn’t believe the torque,” he remembers. No wonder: AMC rated the SC/Rambler’s 390-cubic-inch V-8 at a relatively low 315 hp but with an accompanying 425 lb-ft of torque. Since completing the majority of the restoration in 2000, Jones has piloted his Group? 19- enhanced SC/Rambler down the quarter mile in as little as 13.001 seconds at 106 mph (about as quick as a new, $115,000 Audi R8).
But from behind the wheel, the high-strung SC/Rambler feels even quicker. The AMC’s nose lifts for the sky when you jam the loud pedal. And boy, is it ever loud – the engine’s screams, cackles, grunts, and spurts are louder than the car’s ostentatious paint scheme. The beefy Hurst shifter feels incredibly crisp but clearly works best when you slam it aggressively from gear to gear, which is a cinch, because it’s mere inches from the steering wheel and feels ergonomically perfect in your right hand, the shift lever poking down between your middle and ring fingers. The clutch pedal is stiff but not unbearable, and the gas pedal seems magnetized to the floor. You monitor the revs via the Sun tach, which is crudely clamped to the steering column. Beneath the giant, vision-obstructing hood scoop lies a peculiar, three-barrel Holley carburetor that pours high-octane fuel and air into an Edelbrock manifold at the sky-high (for a street car) rate of up to 950 cubic feet per minute. For an old car so anxious to roast its BFGoodrich drag radials, though, the 3160-pound AMC handles respectably well, despite vague manual steering and slightly unnerving body roll. Still, the SC/Rambler thrives not on curves but on arrow-straight back roads, like those near Jones’s southern Michigan home.
Jones is proud to have set up his SC/Rambler the way someone could have ordered it in the summer of ’69, straying from stock only slightly by adding wider rear tires, slightly larger tailpipes, a rev limiter, and a narrowed Group 19 Javelin/AMX air dam for improved cooling.
“It’s such a special car that I should probably put in a taller gear and stop racing it . . . ” he says, before adding with a grin, ” . . . but it’s just too much fun.”
Indeed. The AMC Hurst SC/Rambler illustrates a simple and purely American equation: big V-8 plus burly stick shift plus compact sedan plus wild stripes and graphics equals major fun. God bless America.
ENGINE: 6.4L OHV V-8, 315 hp, 425 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual
Suspension, FRONT:Control arms, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Live axle, leaf springs
BRAKES F/R: Discs/drums
1512 (about three-quarters of which wore the “A” paint scheme)
Because it’s one of the ultimate examples of muscle car extremism, both in looks and in performance. And since it was built by disrespected AMC instead of the Big Three, prices are well below six figures. The spacious cabin features seating for five and reclining front seats, and a big trunk also enhances practicality.
SC/Ramblers have many unique parts and a thorough online registry (1512registry.com), but watch out for falsely represented clones.