Hooniverse Weekend Edition – The Rambler that became the Hornet, and soared to become an Eagle

Welcome to our continuing conversation about platforms that went on to live extraordinarily long lives. You knew it was only a matter of time until I brought up the AMC Rambler, Hornet, Concord, Eagle platform, and here it is. The Rambler American for 1964 was a completely new model with a modern appearance, curved side glass, and were very robust. Little did anyone know that this platform would outlive AMC, and briefly become a product of Chrysler.

The third generation Rambler American emerged in the fall of 1962 1963 and would be its only complete redesign ever. It was built on a new chassis with a 106 inch wheelbase, using full coil spring front suspension and softer leafs at the rear, rivaling the ride of many domestic full sized cars. Many components were shared between the American and the larger cars of AMC like doors, and interior hardware. These were arguably the best looking compacts at that time.

Through the years, the American received very minor trim updates, and it was the last US Car to offer a flathead engine (in 1965). The American was produced through 1969, and was offered in more body styles that the competition including 2-door and 4-door sedans, a 2-door Hardtop, a Convertible (until 1967), and a Station Wagon. One of the most collectible Ramblers was the Hurst Scrambler, with a 360CID V-8 and 4-Speed Manual.

In 1970, AMC introduced the Hornet, which was nothing more than a complete re-body of the Rambler American. The Hornet gained 2 inches in its wheelbase, but otherwise was much the same under the skin. The design of the Hornet took three years and $40 Million. Unfortunately, only 2-Door and 4-Door sedans were introduced in the fall of 1969, but the car line went on to become a best seller for AMC.

Fortunately for AMC, they had industrial designer Dick Teague on board, who was responsible for many of the memorable AMC products during this time period. While Ford, Chrysler, and GM had only Sedans in their compact car lineups, AMC decided to introduce a new take on the station wagon, the Sportabout. It quickly outsold all other body styles for every year since introduction. In 1973, the Hornet gained a particularly good looking 3-Door Hatchback, expanding the line to four different models. The Hornet was virtually unchanged through 1977.

Lacking in resources compared to the other domestic car companies, the Hornet became the Concord in 1978. This was nothing more than gilding the Hornet with more luxurious trimmings, and softening of the suspension. This was done to compete with the Granada and Monarch from Ford, the redesigned Nova and clones from GM, and the Volare and Aspen from Chrysler. Changes were minor from Hornet to Concord including new front and rear fascias, upgraded interior appointments, additional sound insulation, and a redesigned dash. Changes were minimal throughout its six year run, except that the 3-Door hatchback was discontinued in 1980, and the 2-door coupe was gone by 1983.

The most significant addition to this platform was the introduction of the Eagle in the fall of 1979. AMC had successfully married a four wheel drive system to one of their aging passenger car lines, and history was made. These were the first mass produced American 4WD vehicles with a fully independent front suspension, and were the first true full time automatic 4WD system (later units were part time). The Eagle actually pushed the Pacer over the cliff because production capacity was needed to build the innovative vehicle.

Produced as a Coupe, Sedan, or Wagon, the 1980 eagle was wildly successful. The SX/4 and Kammback versions were introduced the following year (Which were clever reuses of the old Gremlin and Spirit body styles). Eagles changes were minimal throughout its production life, with trim changes, engine offerings, and engineering upgrades installed as needed. They soldiered on, even after the Chrysler takeover in August of 1987. There was a brief run of 1988 Eagle Wagons, and make this platform over 25 years old.

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