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1969 AMC Rambler - Ketchum If You Can

Jack Ketchum's Stupid Rambler Runs 9.9s At 137.

Photography by Steve Magnante

Tech Notes
Who: Jack Ketchum, self-professed "old guy"

What: '69 AMC Rambler two-door sedan with all-original paint, not so original driveline

Where: Howell, Michigan, a really loud place around October 31.

Engine: All AMC, it has a 0.030-inch oversize '71 401 block packing an offset-ground 3.850-inch-stroke forged 401 crank for 426 cubes. Venolia 6.0-inch rods with 2.0-inch journals swing BRC pistons to yield 13.67:1 compression. Jack and his son Bill built the engine with balancing done by Eric Williams, honing and decking by Dave Woods, and oil-passage modifications by Ken Smith to allow safety at 8,000 rpm. An MSD ignition module, distributor, and wires fire each plug 40 degrees BTDC.

Camshaft: A sick Comp solid roller cam with a 108-degree lobe separation angle lifts the valves 0.707/0.672 inch and holds them open for 277/284 degrees of crankshaft rotation. A Crane double-roller timing chain is used.

Heads: AMC Guru Barry Allen (304/934-6865) ported the iron AMC 291C heads to flow 280 cfm through the intake ports and 230 cfm through the exhaust ports. The valvetrain consists of Manley 2.125/1.710 valves, Comp 946 springs, and titanium retainers. Indy guideplates, Comp 31/48-inch pushrods, and Crane Gold 1.6:1 roller rockers complete the plan.

Induction: A 975-cfm Demon carb with mechanical secondaries bolts to the ported Edelbrock Torker intake manifold. A 3-inch-tall K&N air filter is used at all times to keep dust and small objects out of the motor. Jack was toying with a hoodscoop for cooler, denser air but skipped the idea for bonus sleeper points and cleaner top-end aero numbers.

Exhaust: Jack is especially proud of the fact his fully muffled Rambler runs as fast as it does with a set of 131/44-inch Hooker headers. Heck, you'd figure a 9-second car would have bigger tubes, right? The headers blow into a dual, 3-inch system using a pair of Walker bullet mufflers that terminate beneath where the rear seat used to be.

Power: Jack's a home-brewed kind of guy, and his 426 has never been on a dyno, but it pushes the 3,050-pound (race weight) Rambler to 135 mph in the quarter. Let's see, that works out to about 600 hp! Remember, there's no nitrous on this thing. . . .

Transmission: AMC engines are known for their ability to really rev (when properly modified), so Jack gets by with a two-speed, 1.76-geared Powerglide that's fitted with a JW Ultra-Bell and VPT 8-inch 5,300-stall torque converter for wheels-up launches. A Perma-Cool fluid cooler keeps it alive during street cruising. Jack could have used an AMC-specific Chrysler TorqueFlite or GM TH400 three-speed automatic but says they take more power to run, weigh more, and would actually slow him down. So far, the transbrake has not been used.

Rearend: Though lots of AMC guys swear by the Model 20 axle after modern one-piece axleshafts are installed, Jack runs a narrowed, 31-spline Ford 9-inch with 4.33 gears in a Detroit Locker-equipped Strange centersection. The drop-out centersection makes gear changes much easier than with a Salisbury-style AMC axle.

Suspension: We were shocked by how close to stock this thing is. Up front, the stock Rambler trunnions and six-cylinder coil springs are assisted by Competition Engineering three-way-adjustable 90/10 drag shocks. That's it! At the rear, the stock Rambler springs got an added leaf (five leaves total), CalTracs bars, and Rancho 50/50 shocks. The springs are moved inboard, and the wheelhouses are minitubbed for tire clearance. Talk about basic, but it puts daylight under the front tires every time and generates 1.47-second 60-foot times.

Brakes: The stock 9-inch drums give way to super-light Aerospace discs and billet-aluminum calipers. At the rear, Ford Explorer disc brakes aren't exactly flyweight but do place a little added mass on the slicks for traction. This basic but effective braking system easily slows the car from 135-mph trap speeds.

Wheels/Tires: It doesn't get much simpler than a set of Weld Pro Star rims, 15x3.5 inches up front and 15x8 inches out back. Front skins consist of Mickey Thompson 26-inch Sportsmans for low rolling resistance, while ample traction is doled out by a pair of 27x11.5-15 Hoosier Quick Time Pro slicks pumped to 12 psi.

Body: Because he started out with a super-clean, low-mileage car, the original Beale Street Blue paint was good to go, minor dents and all. A vintage Mister Fiberglass pin-on flat hood sheds a few pounds off the nose and promotes healthy static and dynamic weight distribution.

Interior: Less is more for this Rambler. The mint, original, rubber floor mat is retained (eat your heart out, Glad) as is the original plastic radio-delete plate. Kirkey racing seats weigh one-fifth what the old bench seat did, and it joined the pristine rear bench in seat heaven. Auto Meter gauges and a Hurst Quarter Stick clash with the stock steering wheel, while a six-point rollbar by Dave Miller stiffens the unibody and adds safety. The transbrake button has not yet been connected.

Performance: While Jack admits the car has gone 9.998 at 135.3 mph only once, that qualifies it as a 9-second car in our book. We watched Jack bang off a string of 10.20s at the AMC Nationals and can attest to its regular 135-mph trap speed. The amazing thing is how docile the car is. We looked all over, and trust us, there is no bottle.

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