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1970 AMC Rebel

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Four-Barrel Trivia Question of the Week: 1. Who sang the hit song ‘He’s a Rebel’ which made it to numero uno on the pop charts, and in what year did it accomplish that feat? 2. Besides Rebel, can you name the FIVE other series of automobiles produced by AMC for the 1970 model year. 3. Often considered the pioneers of “heavy metal,” this group’s debut album, released on February 13, 1970, contained the following hits: The Wizard; N.I.B.; Behind the Wall of Sleep; Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your game With ME); Sleeping Village and Warning– in addition to the title song which bore the same name as the group. Name this group. 4. Whenever I get the chance, I watch ‘NBC Nightly News’ currently hosted, on weekdays, by Brian Williams and on weekends, by Lester Holt. NBC News’ flagship nightly news program received its name on August 3, 1970. What was this nightly news broadcast called prior to August of 1970?

Before GTO, Grand Skylark and 4-4-2, there was Rambler. WHAT?!? Wait a minute. Rewind that last line and let me go over it again would ya?

By request... from loyal FIN MAN reader Chuck Thompson, a.k.a. “The Nibbler” here’s a story about a car that he remembers fondly... the 1970 AMC Rebel.

It’s not easy being “cool” when you come from a family of autos well known for procreating box lunch style economy cars with ho-hum performance. That’s exactly the position Rebel found itself in when the stork left it on the Rambler family’s front doorstep during the late fifties. Although a formidable performer, the 1957 Rambler Rebel must have felt a bit like the Rodney Dangerfield of the machine world. Perhaps it would have received its due “respect” if more people had taken a second look at this homely compact sedan and learned what it was all about.

Did you know that the 1957 Rambler Rebel is considered, by many, the precursor of the hugely popular and successful “muscle car” genera that was red hot in the sixties and seventies, and has made a monumental resurgence in today’s collector car market? Did you also know that the first generation, Rambler Rebel, (a four door sedan no less!) with its big block, 327 cubic inch V-8, had a larger engine than anything Ford, Chevy or Plymouth had to offer in 1957? No? Well in that case, I’d be willing to bet you also didn’t know that Motor Trend magazine road tested a ‘57 Rambler Rebel with factory installed Bendix electronic fuel injection and found that this “family sedan” from lowly American Motors, was faster in the standing start than a ‘57 Chevrolet Corvette with mechanical fuel injection!!! Okay... can we have a little respect now?!?!

The ‘Rebel’ moniker went through a series of metamorphoses between the unveiling of that ‘sleeper’ sedan in 1957 and the introduction of the Rebel ‘Machine’ in 1970– having been applied to not only to coupes, but to four door sedans and even station wagons for criminy’s sake! ‘Rebel’ broke away from the Rambler series for the 1968 model year, becoming a separate line in its own rite. The dated and stigmatized ‘Rambler’ name was finally dropped from AMC’s lineup altogether for the 1970 model year. The third generation Rebel was restyled having much sexier lines than the original 1957 design. By the time the 1970 ‘Machine’ came along, with it’s patriotic red, white and blue color scheme... Rebel was finally ‘cool’ man, ‘cool.’ Unfortunately it was ‘too little too late’ as the old saying goes as the ‘big three’ had already established a foothold in the muscle car arena with the likes of Camaro, Mustang, Barracuda, Challenger and the like. Coming on the heels of these very popular mid sixties ‘compact sports cars’ were the hugely popular new intermediates... Chevelle, GTO, Skylark, Cutlass, Torino, Duster and the like. The list goes on and on.

The AMC Rebel was a relative bargain in 1970, setting buyers back a mere $2,600 to $3,000 for the base models, and $3,475 for the ‘Machine,’ which is right at $20,000 in ‘07 dollars– not bad considering the style and performance delivered by this automobile.

And, speaking of style, the base Rebel and Rebel SST models, which came in 4-door sedan, 2-door hardtop and station wagon body styles, were available in a choice of twenty colors. If you wanted a ‘Machine,’ however, and you came to the game early... you had to like the patriotic Red, White and Blue color scheme as shown in the photo above, for that was the only way it was offered. Later in the production year, a full compliment of solid colors was offered and these later cars had a flat black painted hood.

The base Rebels were powered by a standard 232 cubic inch, 145 horsepower in-line six or optional 304 cube, 210 horse V-8. A three speed manual transmission was standard, with automatic transmission available as an option. But who cares?!?! Let’s get back to the ‘Machine!’ Standard power for this patriotic powerhouse was a 390 cubic inch (that’s 6.4 liters for the Generation Xers in the crowd), 340 horsepower big block V-8 that was all muscle. Fed by a generous 600-cfm Carter four-barrel carb, it pumped up a 10.0:1 compression and required Premium (or Ethyl as it was called back then) fuel. Gas mileage was... well, what do you expect? And furthermore, who cared, with fuel prices hovering around forty cents or so per gallon! Shifting was accomplished via a Borg-Warner, close ratio four speed manual transmission topped with a genuine Hurst shifter. A B-W automatic was also available for the lazy folks. Enhanced handling, in order to deal with all that muscle, was provided by 11.2 inch front disc brakes and a rear anti-sway bar.

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