After claiming he wouldn’t presume to tell us how to do our job, Kirby Wilcox suggested we title this article about his 1962 AMC Rambler American “Scrambler.” Ironically, we had discussed the name earlier in the week, but decided not to go there for two reasons: First, the SC/Rambler was a performance and appearance package offered by AMC in collaboration with Hurst for ’69-model-year Rambler Americans. Less than 2,000 units were produced, but they came with a 390 engine, a four-speed transmission, a Twin Grip differential, disc brakes, subframe connectors, and a dual exhaust with Thrust glasspacks; and second, Tech Editor Smith pointed out that S.C. Rambler could stand for Small Chevy Rambler. We chuckled, then decided not to incur the wrath of AMC fanatics who will likely quiver with rage at the sight of a Chevy truck engine under this car’s hood.
In the end, however, it was Kirby who gave us the best reason to use the title: “I call it Scrambler, for Slightly Corroded Rambler.” All righty, then, the name sticks. He calls it slightly corroded because the car has original paint and body panels. Its previous owner dragged it out of his barn, washed the dust off, and put a For Sale sign on the windshield. Kirby, whose commute takes him past the previous owner’s house, saw the de-barning and stopped to inquire the next day. He bought it and drove it home. “It only had 58,000 miles on it, and the body was in great shape, especially for Minnesota. It had been taken care of,” Kirby says.
The car sat for another few years until Kirby received the needed inspiration. “It was an illustration I’d seen in a magazine. The article was about cars that are otherwise ignored, but could look cool if they were modified right, and one of the illustrations was on early American.” In the magazine business, we call this the “dare-to-be-different issue,” and it’s good to get firsthand feedback from a reader that it actually works.
With the vision in his mind, Kirby and his friends got to work on lowering the car, freshening up the interior, and dropping in a cheap, reliable drivetrain. He wisely decided to leave the paint alone—weathered and sun-bleached. That, plus the one-off interior, are what convinced us to shoot the car last summer at the Car Craft Summer Nationals. Kirby tells us he’s had several very expensive restorations, but the Rambler is the most fun. “I can just drive it and not worry about scratches or rock chips. I can’t do that with my other car (an all-steel Dearborn Deuce).” He relayed a harrowing tale of road rash to the very expensive paintjob on his nicely restored ’63 Bel Air. He says he’ll take this Rambler’s slightly corroded paint any day.
Who: Kirby Wilcox
What: ’62 AMC Rambler American
Where: Alexandria, MN
Engine: AMC fetishists are gonna freak, but there’s a Chevy 350 powering this AMC. “The car had a flathead inline-six with an oil-bath–style oil filter. That’s ’40s technology,” Kirby says. So yes, we will concede he replaced that with ’50s-era technology, but Chevy’s small-block has unquestionable reliability and simplicity, and you can find parts anywhere, so we understand his decision. This is a 350 that came out of a late ’60s C10.
Transmission: It is the TH350 that was behind the 350 in the C10.
Rearend: The rear axle is a Ford 8-inch narrowed to fit the Rambler’s track width.
Suspension: Roger Burman of Lakeside Rods grafted a Fatman Fab front subframe to the car’s unibody structure. This eliminated the weird shock towers and trunion-style front shocks, thus de-cluttering the engine compartment. It also allowed him to install a better handling front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, and gain a bumper-scraping ride height. Out back, they had to cut a section of the trunk floor to allow enough clearance for the rear axle’s centersection. They also cut off the leaf-spring brackets and relocated them 2 inches to the rear. This positioned the rear wheels in the center of the wheel openings. “Look at pictures of these cars in stock form. The wheels are always forward in the wheel openings,” Kirby explains.
Brakes: The Rambler has GM discs up front and drums out back.
Wheels/Tires: Those are Rushforth Fuel wheels measuring 17x7 and 18x8, front and rear. On them are 235/40R17 and 245/40R18 Kumho Ecsta ASX tires.
Paint/Body: Kirby had a section of the hood painted with a flat-gray hue to match the finish of the wheels while the rest of the exterior wears the original ’62 paint. Hetz Pinstriping added a little flair to the hood
Interior: It’s just cool in here. When asked about the inspiration behind the unique aluminum accents inside the car, Kirby says, “Dan Weber did the interior. I just dropped the car off at his shop and told him to do whatever he wanted.” We happen to like the engine-turned gauge pod in the center of the dash and the riveted aluminum trim found throughout. Because the car sits so low, the transmission tunnel and driveshaft hump needed to be raised, so Weber cut into the bottom cushion of the front seat and section the rear seat to let the driveshaft tunnel pass through. The upholstery is new but is original to this car, and the aircraft-style seatbelts are a neat touch.