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Right Hand Drive AMCs Blow Minds (and Fuel Budgets) Across the Pond

Tim Odell April 1, 2010 Submission Thursday 61 Comments
Right hand drive 69 AMC Rambler Rebel

Note the steering wheel

Our own FTGDHoonEdition was out and about in Essex and stumbled across what have got to be some ridiculously rare AMCs. Hit the jump for his description.

Right hand drive 69 AMC Wagon

I came across these beauties. I don’t have much info on model year information of AMC cars but a quick search of  wiki reveals that the black 2 door convertible is probably a 67’/68′ Rebel/Rambler convertible while the wagon is a ’69 Rebel.

I was transfixed at the sight of these cars sitting on a back street, in middle of some place in England, surrounded by all the “tiny” Euro hatchbacks.. I snapped off a couple of quick pics (attached) with my crackberry. I was already late for an appointment, had to hurry back before I could take a closer look at the cars.

And the big surprise: Both were right hand drive. Didn’t know AMC made them for RHD markets too.

Right hand drive 69 AMC Rambler Rebel

Neither did we. What bizarre logic drove 4th place AMC feel they needed to jump through the engineering and regulatory hoops to gain what must’ve been a few dozen sales in that land of narrow roads and expensive fuel? We’re sure our all-star commenters can figure it out. If not, we’ll have to go ask Hemmings for help on our homework. Last time we did that, it cost us our Oreos.

Please, won’t someone think of the Oreos?!.

  • Ummmm…AWESOME FIND!!!

  • Mike_the_Dog

    Great find. As near as I can tell these cars were built in the US (or Canada) and "knocked down" for reassembly in the destination country. There are no hard numbers available on exactly how many were built, but in the case of the convertibles it seems to be one or two per year. Numbers of Javelins sold in Australia between '68 and '74 is less than 100 per year (and none in '71), if that gives you an idea.

    EDIT: Did FTGD happen to say if the cars were built RHD, or converted? The latter seem to be much more common and are easy to spot as the steering column remains on the left with a chain connecting it to the wheel on the right.

    RE-EDIT: The wagon is almost certainly an original RHD car, as it is an Ambassador wagon wearing Rebel (American) badging and that's how AMC sold them in England. I think the 'vert is also an Ambassador, but a wheelbase measurement or VIN would verify.

    • I have no clue buddy, I was a bit too surprised and a bit too lost and late to investigate any further.

    • A CHAIN CONNECTING THE WHEEL TO THE COLUMN? That's so delightfully mental I just had to write that in caps. Does the driver have to reach across the passenger's lap to turn on the lights, too? Ask the passenger to work the turn signal? I'm trying to get my mind around all this, and stop giggling.

      Oh, and what happens if the passenger's clothes get caught in the chain and locks the steering? Bad things, I suppose.

      • Actually, that's the usual method, if parts aren't readily available to do it "right" by moving the column over and rejiggering the whole steering setup. Since the chain usually runs pretty close to the dash, getting caught in it would require either extreme carelessness, or some pretty willful stupidity.

        [expresses huge surprise that FireFox spellcheck didn't flag "rejiggering"]

    • Stumack

      These are both Rebels, not Ambassadors – the Rebel and Ambo shared the same body, the Ambo having a longer wheelbase that was entirely ahead of the cowl. The Ambassador front styling is different, with stacked quad headlamps in these two years. The black convertible is a '67 (the only year the Rebel was badged as a Rambler), and the wagon is a '68. I'd guess these are Australian assembled RHD models exported for sale in the UK.

      • 67dpl

        but the SST wasnt available till 68… i think.

  • dwegmull

    Maybe those are Australian imports. It is apparently quite easy for an individual to import and legalize cars in the UK.

  • They were sent to Australia, England and even a few to Japan, IIRC. There are a lot of converted LHD models out there too.

  • Badass. I am glad that Mr. Mike_the_Dog is putting this together because last time I asked Hemmings for help, they took my dignity. Its a lot like oreos, but less chocolately.

    • Having accidentally become an AMC collector a few years back, I've found lots of good AMC historical info on the web. Here is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to get into the AMC habit…

    • So dignity is creamy?

      That could be a bit awkward.

  • Dignity doesn't mix as well with milk either. Or was that scotch?

    • Dignity doesn't mix too poorly with scotch until you've had a few too many.

  • My money would be on these being either knockdown imports or RHD conversions.

    More importantly, though, is how does an AMC lover survive in the UK? It's not just the cost of gas, but where and when the cars can be driven. For example, cruising your Rambler through London will get you slapped with huge fines for breaking the "pollution zone" laws. On the other hand, seeing a monster American station wagon drive through London would make it all worth it.

  • Just yesterday, there was a Chinook in the air above Waterloo and I'm pretty sure that was sent to monitor one of these beasts.

  • Samsonite door handles FTW.

  • Essex? So I can finally add something to the list of reasons to go outside of London!

    • seaninc

      I hear those Essex girls are like Jersey girls. Woooo! That said, I stuck with the more traditional London gal, haha.

  • dukeisduke

    Mad, you gotta get back there and take some more pictures, especially of the dashes. The fender mirrors on the black Rebel almost make think it was originally shipped to Japan.

  • You know, I would regularly visit a site called AccidentallyAMC.com

    My mom used to race my dad's AMX before I was born. Given that, I have quite a soft-spot for AMC.

    • BGW

      I would like to nominate "My mom used to race my dad's AMX before I was born." as one of the best sentences ever committed to the innertubes.

      • dwegmull

        It should become a mandatory tag for any AMC related posting.

  • Was it black and had a silent mode?

    /adjusts tin foil hat.

  • Anyone else having problems with pics not loading on here? I just get black squares…

  • This is a recurring problem for some.

    No one on staff has been able to duplicate it, but we're looking into it.

    • It's odd that it does it on everything but the Jeep SRT8 and FX50 posts

      • Ok, that helps. These are hosted on Flickr, whereas most of the day-to-day stuff is hosted on our current servers.

        What browser are you using? Anything funky with a work firewall or the like?
        feel free to email mad_science AT hooniverse DOT com

        • fired off an email…

        • I have the same symptoms he does under Firefox 3.6.3/Fairpoint DSL/no weirdness/Google's DNS/WinXP SP2/black computer tower.

    • It happens SOMETIMES on my machine at work, but never at home. Use Firefox on both.

  • Shithooks Err, Chinooks don't exactly have a silent mode.

    You can listen to one here./A>

    • Dammit, I love Chinooks and have no idea why. I guess it's just neat as hell that something so odd looking can do what it does.

      • I love Shi… I mean Chinooks, too, and I know exactly why. Great fun when I was in the Army running off the back ramp into space, then a long (6 second) count before the parachute opens. Low speed, easy opening shock, six seconds of supercool weightlessness before the 'chute opens. I loved Chinook jumps. Yeah, I liked the noise, too, and the rush of heat from the turbine as you boarded the thing from the rear. I completely agree, Chinooks rock.

    • That's what they want you to believe. 😉

      Chinooks are badass. Counter rotating rotors FTW!

  • FTGDHoonEdition

    Thanks for posting the article guys! Just to be clear, I was quite lost (stupid GPS and roundabouts, the heavy rain and hidden road signs didn't help either) and pressed for an important appointment when I came across these cars. It was all a bit too much for my mind. It was fortuitous that I was even able to gather some of my wit and take a few quick pics, apart from pointing, gesturing and muttering incoherent syllables at them with a wild, crazed and fanatic look.

    And I didn't know what the local UK laws were regarding taking pics of cars without the owner's permission, so clicked a few and got the hell out of that back street. Could've been the local mafia, you know?

    Yes, I am still here and quite….let's say…."tipsy" at this point, having been drinking since about 5pm (local GMT). Had a send-off the Yank pre-Easter pub thingy. Hopefully, I won't miss my 8:30am flight tomorrow morning back to the paradise land, Detroit.

    Cheers fellas!

    <img src="http://www.hotflick.net/flicks/2000_Snatch./Thumb/000SNC_Alan_Ford_006.jpg"&gt;

    • meerkat

      Just came across the pics and comments. If anyone wants to know more about the black 67 convertible I will fill you in as I own it.

      • 67dpl

        can you tell me where to get a right hand dash?

  • BGW

    An American working for the US Gov't in Yorkshire told me, following the sighting of a reasonably new RHD Dodge Ram, that due to the large concentration of Americans in the area, there's a lot of RHD conversion going on. Of course, we'd been drinking whisky for about 12 hours at that point, so it could have been drunken rubbish. And even if true, Yorkshire's nowhere near Essex….wait, what was my point again?

  • Yep. I am off to bed now….and I've been swilling some Bourbon for almost 4 hours now. I hope I don't smell like a distillery at the airport. Axe shower gel and deo FTW! G'nite!

  • I was at a gas station here around Atlanta the other week. Noticed a nice newer Jeep Wrangler next to me. The driver was pumping his gas. He ends up leaving about the same time as me. Goes and gets in the right hand side and drives off! It was not equipped as a mail jeep. But I did find out the Jeep does still sell the 2010 Wrangler Unlimited as RHD in the US for rural mail delivery. The EXACT Jeep I saw is for sale on Craigslist here: http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/ctd/1657891973….

    Apparently on most cars it isn't THAT hard to do a RHD conversion, at least it seems to have been done a lot.

    • I used to know a family that had one, and yeah, they delivered mail with it at one point. The daughter learned to drive in the RHD Cherokee, and now she can't drive anything else.

      • I sat in a RHD mail truck for about a minute before it started to give me the spins like when you'd get drunk in high school. If I ever went to a RHD country I know I'd spend as much time as possible on trains.

        • I hear you. I can't imagine shifting with my left hand, and watching for oncoming traffic making a right turn. Riding in the driver's seat while somebody over in the passenger seat steers would be weird, too.

          But, I've spoken with many visiting Brits and they say it doesn't take long to rewire your brain and get used to driving on the opposite side of the road. They might be full of it, I dunno.

          • Ha! Yup, I drove a taxi on base in Yokosuka Japan for a while. The first few weeks messed me up, making right turns out of Mc Donalds resulted in random screams and horns. After a while it became second nature until I came home on leave. Then it was the family's turn to scream.

            The trick is to put the driver's seat right over the center line. That way you are only partly in the wrong lane – in every country.

          • I always heard it was the left-turns that would mess with you in a RHD country, because you would instinctively go to the far side of the lane even though that put your drivers seat right up to the curb, and into opposing traffic. Right hand turns at least made you think about how wrong this was. I'd definitely leave the driving to professionals and try and keep my eyes out the side windows or better yet in a book. All of these options would be terrifying, only because if you second-guessed yourself once you got home and got into an accident, your friends would be all, "You were on the wrong side of the road, dumb-ass!"

          • I never drove while I was in Scotland – mostly because I didn't have my license, but also because it was a bit weird. Shifting with my left hand would throw me way off, no question about that, though driving on the left seemed normal aside from the left/right turns.

  • They were sent to Australia, England and even a few to Japan, IIRC. There are a lot of converted LHD models out there too.

  • dan

    Too bad MiketheDog answered that so quickly. We could use some Oreos today around the Hemmings offices…

    • Cut me in on that sweet Oreo action, and I'll hold off answering next time;-)

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  • JohnE

    There's more – I've got two!_ _http://rhdrebel.blogspot.com/

  • Frank

    AMC was manufactureing Right Hand Drive vehicles in the USA in 1967. they secured a contract with the US Postal Service to build about 3000, right hand drive Ambassadors. If you had right hand drive Ambassadors and an order that large, it's no sweat to produce more for foreign markets. I personally own a 67 Ambassador with Right Hand drive. AMC changed their dash board in 1969 but the right hand drive models continued to use the same 1967 Style Dash Board. Recently, there was a 1973 Right Hand Drive Ambassador for sale on Ebay in the UK. I hope this solves or answers some of the questinos.

  • Frank

    Also, AMC was very active in foreign markets, Africa and south America. They had a strategy to follow Jeep where ever jeep went. If Jeep entered a market, AMC would follow shortly afterward with their Rambler. Ramblers were very durable cars and could handle tough road conditions. AMC would later purchase Jeep from Kaiser Industries. In the USA, AMC was also the largest brand of vehicle sued for Driver Training Schools. They would feature cars with two steering wheels, one for the trainee and one for the Instructor. They had a very very long history of producing right hand drive cars. Even today, Jeep still does. These cars in the UK would have been made in the USA or Canada and they wouldn't be conversions. They were true Factory Made right hand drive cars. Also remember tha although they were the four largest Car Manufacturer in the USA, they weren't that small as a company, They consistantly produced between 1960 and 1980 anywhere from 259,000 to 400,000 cars per year excluding Jeep sales.

  • JohnE

    My link doesn't seem to work – should read
    http://rhdrebel.blogspot.co.uk/

    or possibly

    rhdrebel.blogspot.com/

  • KiwiBMW

    Just stumbled upon this. I am from New Zealand and in 1971 was allowed to start to learn to drive our family car, a 1967 Rebel 770 232 ci 3-spd manual. It was Right-Hand-Drive and assembled in NZ at a tiny town called Thames by a company called Campbell Motors. They ceased production around 1973.

    These were quite popular, as non-British cars went, especially in rural areas. Indeed, when my father bought ours in 1970, with a whole 27,000 miles on the clock, it was from a farmer who, reputedly, liked that he could go our at lambing time and if a sheep was close to giving birth, lift her into the boot and run her back to the barn!

    The car was a 100% reliable and fantastic family car, taking 6 of us in comfort one holidays, some 2,000 miles. It was de-registered in 1995 at 226,000 miles. RIP. I loved that Rambler. Still do. Were it still around, I'd buy it back in a blink.

    Lastly, this site explains that in this part of the world a 'Hoon' is someone who drives like it's stolen! I make no apologies for having been a practitioner since day 1. Managed to lose my licence in the 67 Rebel by the time I was 16. Man, that car could slide! If only I noticed the cop down that side street . . .

  • Lee M

    The steering gear is on the right side as is the brake cylinder. How ridiculous are you people? AMC sold right hand drive cars to the postal service for letter carriers so they could drive on the right side of the street and stick mail in mail boxes. Did any of these ignorant turds ever hear of GOOGLE yet? DUUUUUUUUUH!





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