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1967 American Motors Rambler - Build a $3,500 Street Machine

Don't spend big bucks-get a good foundation then build on a budget. We'll show you how to build a $3,500 street machine.

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We know. It's hard to imagine spending $3,500 and still look cool, but it's possible. You just have to do it the Car Craft way by waiting and watching for a clean body to show up in the classifieds, then scrounging the wrecking yards and stripping useful parts off other models.

That's how it went down with the '67 Rambler American after we figured out that if you want to build a car for low bucks, you need to either buy a clean six-cylinder car and swap in the V-8 goodies, or try to find a complete V-8 version and hope there is no hidden body damage. After looking at a herd of rusted-out Javelins and AMX bodies, we were surfing the Internet and came across a clean-looking but faded American with a 232ci inline-six and a column-shifted automatic parked about 15 miles north of us. When we arrived, we found the car in original, untouched condition on four flat tires covered in a tent of dust. The owner told us that the brakes failed and his mother took a trip into the garage door before permanently parking it. We decided right there that hidden under the crust was a lightweight two-door post just waiting for the right combination of look-cool and go-fast parts from the aftermarket to be a way cool street/strip car.

So we were hooked. We called AAA to have the car towed home, then swapped in all the V-8 parts from other AMCs in the family with the addition of a couple of hot rodding mainstays. But this is only the beginning. Now that we have a running car with a clean look, we're going to build it a piece at a time using only the hard parts that make it go faster or stop better, with a heavy emphasis on the go-faster part.

We're also going to use this car to do the wrong thing, like installing a sheetmetal tunnel-ram or a really loose torque converter, just to give you the truth about living with these parts on the street. Since our favorite wrong thing to do is add too much power, we're also going to plug in the 370 we built in the Jan. '06 issue. With it, we are going to test the limits of the stock parts and find out if the AMC guys are right that they are bulletproof, or if the rest of the world is right and we are going to fling shrapnel at the guy in the water box with the garden hose in his hand.

But first, check out how we transformed this car into street-machine material with more wrenching and less cash.

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