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The Carchive: 1966 American Motors Marlin

Chris Haining July 28, 2017 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 12 Comments

After last week’s Rambler Classic, I thought we’d carry on the AMC theme for another week with a look at another Kenoshan creation.

While the Rambler brochure was gorgeously photographed and remarkably forward-thinking in terms of presentation, this is something else. Inexplicably, though clearly based on photographs, the illustrations have been meticulously produced in an archaic oil-painting effect. Weird. Yet kinda beguiling.

Welcome back to The Carchive.

Click the pics for a better chance of reading the words

“How to tell a ’66 Marlin from other sports fastbacks. Put your family in it.”

“Funny thing about fastbacks. They tend to get wives in a dither.

“Problem: ‘Sports car, my foot! We need a practical family car!’

“Solution: Marlin ’66… America’s first family-size sports fastback”

It makes sense for us to take a look at the Marlin after the Rambler Classic, as the former was the two-door fastback version of the latter. It was, ostensibly, a ‘personal luxury’, though this brochure goes to great length to emphasize its suitability as a sporty car for parents who weren’t yet ready to give up on fun in favour of family life.

The spec list, as you might imagine, wasn’t hugely different to the Rambler. It seated six, two, and provided a decent 12 square-foot trunk. Perhaps you really could have your cake as well as eating it.

“How does a guy get the most out of a Marlin? Slip a “327” V8 under the hood, put “four” on the floor and ask your wife to stop calling it a family car.”

I really like the way this is written. Yeah, it’s full of cliches, but they’re the kind I’d like to see more of. Speaking of the 270hp (presumably gross) V8, they say:

“…When you stick that kind of power in a car that goes 195 inches overall, you’ve got a thoroughly impatient machine on your hands”

Like the Rambler, you could choose a Torque Command Six with 145 or 155hp, or 198, 250 or 270bhp V8s. You could choose a three-on-the-tree, four-on-the-floor or a nice, sensible automatic. All of which you could get with the Rambler.

“You can swing to your own tempo in Marlin ’66. This list of options makes it easy.”

Kenosha may be a long, long way from New Jersey, but the Marlin really was remarkably like a mullet. It was almost El Camino in its business up front, party out the back attitude. That top image shows a front three-quarter view that’s pure Rambler Classic, though the rear view was a slightly bloated version of the ’64 Rambler Tarpon concept car.

The Tarpon was the sporty coupe that everybody wished that AMC had actually produced. The Marlin never quite convinced anybody as to what it was really for. Its down-to-earth nature meant it couldn’t really mix it with the Thunderbirds and Rivieras of this world, and it was a little too starchy and grown-up to match a Mustang or Barracuda.

“…you  can’t buy an American Motors car without a Ceramic-Armoured exhaust system. How good is it? Ever hear of a rusted-out china doll”

The list of quality boasts is as an impressive one, including the same ball-bearing smoothed ashtrays as the Rambler Classic (for obvious reasons), but precious little to make the Marlin seem any more exotic than the Rambler.

Which all makes the way it’s written all the more fitting and cunningly cast. Skillfully, AMC aimed the Marlin at that oh-so specific category, the couple who, at heart, know they need something sensible rather than sporty but aren’t quite ready to show it on the outside.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of either FCA or perhaps Renault. Who knows? I occasionally have dreams about what a newly reborn AMC might create. It’s the North American version of my “Rover never died” fantasy.)

  • Maymar

    I’d say the Dodge Challenger (which is even built in an old AMC plant) is probably a pretty reasonable idea of what a modern Marlin might be, at least in spirit. They’re right about the same size, it also sort of falls into that “family car, but looks racier” area, although the Challenger’s demographics probably skew a little closer to empty nester than young family (who’re probably driving your pick of Jeeps, from Renegade through Cherokee, if they want to look young and fun).

    • NapoleonSolo

      Try getting a baby seat into and out of the back of a Challenger a few times a day. As the kid gets bigger, it’s harder and harder.

      • Maymar

        Well, sure, but presumably easier than a Mustang or Camaro (low bar to clear there).

  • tonyola

    Strange car that just doesn’t work in terms of styling. The 1967 Marlin was better looking with its slightly curved beltine, cleaned-up roof, and longer nose. No-one cared and it didn’t sell. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/59bd5ac81eed468eab3acc259a362eca7dc08e5de74611f545bcb02d70bf23e1.jpg

    • Stacked headlights for the win!

    • NapoleonSolo

      I know my next door neighbor getting a shiny new black Marlin when I was a kid. At that time and in contemporary context, that car looked like a spaceship. Fastbacks were way cool.

      • dukeisduke

        Yeah, I can remember seeing them on the lot when we bought our American.

    • dukeisduke

      For ’67, the Marlin was moved from the Classic platform (which became the Rebel for ’67), to the Ambassador platform.

  • hwyengr

    Speaking of Kenosha, the tri-annual AMC Homecoming was this weekend. Mildred, the slowest station wagon in the west, is on the right.

    http://i.imgur.com/ViWnvtA.jpg

  • outback_ute

    “How to tell a ’66 Marlin from other sports fastbacks. Put your family in it.”

    Trying to make a virtue of having stuffed up the styling after the boss insisted you had to fit an adult wearing a hat in the back seat of their fastback…

  • dukeisduke

    Chris, do you have a ’66 American brochure, too? I’m hoping that one is next. I remember riding home from the dealer in ours (a Frost White ’66 440 4-door, with blue interior) with my dad. I think I have a brochure, somewhere.

  • dukeisduke

    And those “ceramic armored” exhaust systems? They didn’t last any longer than the average 1960s exhaust. I don’t know how many mufflers my parents had put on the Rambler, but I would guess it was one about every two years.