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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1965-67 AMC Rambler Marlin

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Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and have some fun in the process. AMC was created in 1954 after merging two independent car companies, Nash and Hudson. The company was struggling right after the merger, until they did away will all traces of the old companies, and created the Rambler compact line of cars. They were dependable, but not really exciting cars. That was about to change with the introduction of the 1965 Marlin.

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“Unique” best described the AMC Marlin since there was nothing else quite like it on the road when it debuted in 1965. AMC decided to enter the youth oriented segment of the market with the Marlin, a vehicle that could best be classified as an intermediate sports sedan. Dick Teague is responsible for this radical fastback design which evolved from a prototype known as the Tarpon. The AMC Marlin was introduced in early February of 1965 and offered at a base price of $3,100. It was in dealer show rooms in March of 1965.

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The Marlin sat atop a 118-inch wheelbase. During its introductory year, 10,327 examples were sold. There were many options available making the vehicle customizable to the users desires. The options ranged from engine and transmission choices, to air conditioning, AM/FM radio, power windows, and more. The vehicle was equipped with four-piston front disc brakes and non-servo type rear drums. A three-speed manual gearbox came standard, with an optional automatic. A wide range of interior and exterior colors allowed even further customization. The top performing Marlin featured a 287 cubic-inch V8 that managed to produce almost 200 HP, but a Four Speed Stick was not offered.

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It may have been a fastback coupe, but the roofline was high to accommodate extra headroom for rear passengers. Fourteen inch steel wheels and Marlin wheel covers accented the two-color paint scheme and chrome trim.

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Not much changed for the 1966 version of the Marlin. A new grill was placed on the front, the Rambler logos was removed, and a few extra options became available. The big news was in the engine department, with a 327 cubic-inch V8 that became available, produced 250 horsepower (270 HP has been reported in some cases), and making it a competitor with the Mustang and the Barracuda. Performance could be increased further with the new optional four-speed manual gearbox.

1966 AMC Marlin Fastback

Unfortunately, the drum brakes were now standard on the front but the disc brakes could still be had for an additional cost. The base price was lowered to around $2,600, but AMC was unable to capture the sales that it had achieved in the prior year. Sales had dipped by more than half to 4,547

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In 1967, the Marlin was redesigned. It borrowed design cues from the Ambassador, including the vertical dual headlights, V-profile grille, and parking and turn signal lights. It was even placed on the Ambassador’s chassis increasing its size in all directions; The length grew by six and one-half inches, the wheelbase by six inches, and the width by four inches.

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The interior received new bucket seats and an overall increase in hip and shoulder room. The interior was outfitted with like power windows and cruise control, a rarity for cars of this price range at the time. Due to the increase in size, larger engines could be placed under the hood, including an all new 343 cubic-inch V8, making up to 290 HP.

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Car and Driver performed a road test (along with the 1967 Dodge Charger) and recorded 0 to 60 times in 9.6 seconds, while producing 1/4 mile times at 17.6 seconds and achieving 82 MPH. Respectable? I’m not so sure. The corresponding Charger, with a 383 V8 did 0 to 60 in 8.9 seconds, and did the 1/4 mile in 16.5 seconds while achieving 86 MPH.

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Sadly, even with all these changes, sales still were slow. In 1967, only 2,545 units were sold. You see, AMC was about to introduce the Javelin for 1968, along with one of the legendary performance cars, the AMX.

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Now for the main question; Is the AMC Marlin an obscure Muscle Car, or is it just another dependable, unexciting Rambler that happens to look different? Remember, AMC used the basic structure of this car to produce the Javelin and the AMX, but enough of what I say, what do you think?

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Do you think the AMC (Rambler) Marlin belongs in the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • buzzboy7
  • Ate Up With Motor

    Important corrections:
    (1) The 1965–66 Marlin's wheelbase was112 inches; it was stretched to 118 inches for 1967, the Marlin's final year.
    (2) The 270 hp 327 was available from the start. In fact, Motor Trend's first test of a '65 Marlin (March 1965) was so equipped.
    (3) Front discs were not standard on any Marlin, although they were optional all three years. That was actually sort of noteworthy in '65; the only '65 GM car you could get with discs was the Corvette.
    (4) The 343 was bigger than the AMC 327 only in displacement. The latter-day AMC V-8 was a compact thinwall engine and was actually a little smaller and significantly lighter than the old 287/327.

    As for the Marlin's status… Quirky? Absolutely. Stylish? Er, maybe. Fascinating? You bet. Muscle car? No, not so much, even with the 343/280. The most powerful Marlins had perfectly adequate performance, but they were only muscular by the standards of, say, 1954.

  • I have seen one in this color. So awesome.

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/1966_amc_marlin_01.jpg&quot; width=550>

  • rennsport964

    Torsional rigidity? What is this torsional rigidity of which you speak?

  • To me, the Marlin is the mullet of cars. Totally ordinary front end, totally bitchin' rear.

    I owned a '65 327 auto car. It was slow. It was more like a Riviera or a Thunderbird than a muscle car.

    • dukeisduke

      I agree, totally schizophrenic. Growing up riding a Rambler, I thought they were cool, and I remember seeing one at the dealer when we picked up our '66 American.

  • For a long time I thought these were the Dodge version of the Barracuda. You know, mid-late '60s, fastback, fish name. There was one I would see every couple of months and I finally cornered it in a parking lot and saw the Rambler lettering on the hood.

  • topdeadcentre

    Stylish? Oh yes. Yes yes yes.

    Muscle? Not really. Unless you're willing to make alterations.

  • Marto

    Where is the trunk?

  • discontinuuity

    Last year I had the privilege to drive Speed Holes Racing's Marlin at the BFE GP LeMons race. It's definitely a muscle car with it's 454 big block, custom chassis, and Jag rear end. In stock form? I'm not sure.
    <img src="http://blog.caranddriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/11-BS-Inspections-at-BFE-GP-24-Hours-of-LeMons-626×426.jpg"&gt;

  • dukeisduke

    And I liked those turbine-finned wheelcovers – I really wanted a set on our American.

  • Ed Ward

    Hmmm Muscle car or not???? First you have to define Muscle Car. #1 Mid size chassis ie:Pontiac Tempest/ Lemans /GTO Cheverolet Malibu/ Chevelle/ SS396. Dodge Coranet/ Super Bee Plymouth Belveder/ GTX. The next criteria is engine size The first GTO's got the 389, the SS396 got the 396, The Super Bee's had lots of choices as did the GTX 383,440, and Hemi's. The point is big displacement engines. The largest engine AMC built was the mid size casting 327. It weighed 680 lbs and only had 9.7 to one compression. From the factory the curb weight was 3100 lbs. That comes out to 9.5 lbs to cubic inch. If you look at the Other Mid-size cars and calculate their lbs/cubic inch ratio you will find ratios around 8.5. Sorry in stock form they just aren't muscle cars.

  • Ed Ward

    However if you look at what they were doing at Kraft Rambler in California in the 60's the rules change. The boys in the back figured out how to bore and stroke the AMc out to 417 cubic inches! They also built custom headers and mounted 4 2's on that engine. so with more cubes better exhaust and multipal carbs watch out. The ratio moves from 9.5 to 7.5. the Marlin would have been right there with all of the other legendes. Disc brakes were standard on the 65 Marlin and you could order drum brakes as an option. You could also order headrest as an option for both seats or just the driver seat or the passenger seat. One last point that might get you thinking the Marlin was almost a Muscle car was the Twin stick overdrive system . It could actually be shifted as a 5 speed by using the push button selecter on the main gear sttick. it worked like this . Engage the over drive launch the car in first gear, Shift to second, then engage the overdrive with the push button. When shifting to 3rd disengage the overdrive by pushing the button again run through 3rd low (4th gear) then go to 3rd high (5th gear) by re-engaging the overdrive button.

  • Bob Kjelland

    If only… The 67 Marlin had exceptional lines, a new engine and suspension. Just imagine if a late year model introducing the new 390 had been released. That could have pushed this fish into legitimate muscle car status.

  • The Tarpon should have seen production, it probably would have sold in respectable numbers. The bloated Marlin should never have made it off of the drawing board.

    • Grady N Bledsoe

      kiss a dog in the ass! The Marlin is the best car ever engineered. You can stick that tampon up your ass.

  • Bob Church

    I want the ’67 with the V8 please. Did they make a yellow one with a black or white stripe down the back?