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1967 AMC Rumbler

Photography by Steve Magnante

Rumbler RevivedA Stock Eliminator blast from the past

Some guys have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In the case of Terry Robinson, a railroad car welder from Lake Villa, Illinois, a chance drive through a rural neighborhood brought him face to face with an amazing piece of drag-racing history, the Rumbler, a former AHRA Stock Eliminator competitor that's been mothballed since 1973.

To the average geek zipping past in his M5 with John Tesh wafting from the speakers like a bad smell, this would be just another old car, rating little more than a quip like, "Eww, Honey, did you see that garish eyesore on the side of the road? Lets call the city." But to Terry, a lifelong AMC fanatic, the sight of the Rumbler's Hemi Dart hoodscoop was like a prospector catching a glint of gold under six feet of rapids. After literally skidding to a stop in the street in front of the seller's house, Terry trained his eyes on the custom panel paint job, slotted Rocket mags, and vintage speed-equipment stickers and knew it was something special, very special.

Gathering his wits, Terry pulled into the driveway and put on his poker face. As he strode past the '67 Rambler Rogue racer, a quick look revealed a four-speed stick, 290 badges, and a rudimentary rollbar. Terry began sweating but kept his emotions in check long enough to learn that the seller wanted $4,000 for the car and not a dollar less. Terry's worthy of an Oscar for what happened next--he paid the man. That's right, instead of putting up some song and dance while trying to steal the car for peanuts and risking pissing the guy off and blowing the deal, Terry put down a deposit and raced to the bank to get the balance, all the while knowing he'd have gladly paid much more for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What he got for his performance is a true time capsule, a snapshot of what a typical independent AMC "little guy" drag car looked like in the late '60s. While the exact history of the car is not clear, eyewitness accounts among AMC club members confirm it was a regular competitor at Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin, an AHRA-sanctioned track between 1970 and 1972.

A little detective work indicates that with 24,000 miles showing on the odometer, the factory 290 four-speed car was likely a street driver for a year or two before a race-car conversion was performed around 1968 or 1969.

Hand-painted lettering on the trunk matches the factory-applied 290 emblems--a big hint that the builders were guided by a strict rule book and were running in a lower stock class where swapping up to a 343 or 390 was prohibited.

The most mouth-watering details are the circular cutouts in the hood, proof positive that the little 290 once wore an Edelbrock STR11 cross-ram intake manifold and dual Holleys. You don't stick one of those things on a stock hydraulic-cammed 290. This motor was built for high-rpm screaming of the 7,000-rpm-and-up variety, points verified by the 4.44:1 rear-axle ratio and the steel blow shield surrounding the clutch.

More specific details of the car's race history are not known because some of its previous owners are either unavailable or unwilling to comment. The car was put into storage in 1973 at a trucking company alongside a bunch of construction equipment. At some point the owner decided to stop paying the storage fees--for over 10 years. So after posting numerous public notices in the newspaper and even getting a judge to summons the delinquent property owner to three court hearings, none of which he appeared at, the judge awarded ownership of the car and construction equipment to the trucking company owner. From there the Rumbler was sold to the trucker's nephew who sold it to Terry in 2005. Terry hopes the original builder will step forward with more details as time passes and hurt feelings mend.

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