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End of the Road: 1966

End of the Road: 1966

If you think this is just a photo of a well-worn old car, you're wrong. It's actually a significant moment in our family's history. June 27, 1966 was the last day for our 1956 Hudson Rambler. Previously, we saw it all shiny and sparkly, mere days after we got it. During the following ten years, it: took my sister to the church for her wedding; took us to graduations, my grade and high school and my brother's college; took us on our first visit to Yosemite, and later our very first camping trips (see our decals?); took my folks to visit their first grandchild; and perhaps most important of all, took me to my first visit to Disneyland.

I decided to record the event in a series of Ektachrome slides. Here, my father is clearing out all our personal items prior to the trip to the dealer to pick up our new car - a 1966 Rambler Classic station wagon. Oh; our trade-in allowance for this one: $50. View full size.

Fifty Bucks

As an avid S.F. Bay Area car-kid born in 1962 I remember seeing old used cars such as your dad's '56 Hudson-Rambler, in places like Berkeley and San Francisco, being used by college-aged kids as their daily transportation. These old cars lined the streets around campus, beaten by years of hard use and on their final decline before the scrap yard. Your dad's '56 wagon could have gone on to become a college kid's cheap wheels before succumbing to the pressure of 'planned obsolescence.' I seem to remember Hunter S. Thompson bought a new Rambler back in the late '50s or early '60s, he had nothing but trouble with it, and one of his books contains letters to the manufacturer over his car's ailments. Seeing your dad's ten-year old '56 makes me think of all the well-worn old cars around when I was a kid in the late 1960s.

Ah, Ramblers

tterrace, your parents' '66 Classic wagon pictured below sits in front of a car that looked just ours - a Frost White '66 American 4-door sedan. Ours was the high-line 440 model, with the all the brightwork that was missing on the cheaper 220. It had the 232 2-bbl Commando Six, a "Shift Command" (Borg-Warner) three-speed automatic, factory air conditioning, and pushbutton AM radio.

Ours came from Marty R's Roundup Rambler, in the Pleasant Grove section of Dallas. I can remember going with my dad to pick up the car. We had no trade-in, since the Ultramatic transmission in our '52 Packard Mayfair had gone out the year before. For several months, travel meant borrowing cars or bumming rides, while my parents saved up for the down payment.

Keep 'em

I'm not too sure I could take my old car in for a trade. I still have my first new car, a 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser. Just before it was due to change over to 400,000 miles, the odometer broke (third engine).

Those were the days

I agree, they knew how to design cars in the '50s and '60s. That's why I bought a Chevy 210 in Lake Tahoe some years ago and shipped it to the Netherlands.

Great pictures by the way (as always).


When I was a kid my grandmother owned a Rambler. On the front grille the word "Rambler" was supposed to be displayed, but it was placed as R A M B E L R. True.

On the Other Side

Well gee Dave, now everybody is going to be wondering "what did Dave see on the rear of that car?" So here is what Dave is talking about, the rear of a 1960 Edsel.

Rambler/Hudson connection

In 1954, Nash bought Hudson to form American Motors. The head of AMC, George Mason, died shortly after the merger and his second in command, George Romney, took over. The warmed over "step down" Hudsons were deleted and their new small car, the Hudson Jet, didn't sell in big numbers and was a potential threat to the 100 inch wheel base Nash Ramblers.

From 1955 to 1957, Hudsons were rebadged Nashes with some extra doodads and Hudson dashboards. The Rambler was essentially the same, as I have the pie pan hubcaps from my '58 with the "R" in the middle instead of the "H". Romney decided to concentrate on the Rambler line for '58 with no more Hudson or Nash nameplates, and it proved to be a wise decision as they made lots of profit and even beat Chrysler out in auto production in the early '60s, before Romney left to be governor of Michigan.

For many years, the Rambler Station Wagon was about 40 percent of their production. The little slope in the back roofline was due to welding the extra length of metal to the sedan roof, as they didn't have large enough stamping machines for a one-piece wagon roof. The addition of the chrome luggage carriers made the roofline more straight.

The engine for most Ramblers was the 195.6 straight six which evolved from the earlier Nash "Flying Scot" engines.

Romney was asked if it bothered him that most Ramblers were in the slow lane when it came to roads. He responded that it didn't bother him as long as there were a lot of them.

BTW, AMC was the only company to bring back a car from the dead. In 1958, they had the dies from the old 100-inch-wheelbase Ramblers, and slightly remade the car and put it out as the Rambler American to sell with the 108 inch "larger" Rambler.

Check out my '57 Ford Fairlane

This was the first new car I ever owned, bought with a loan cosigned with my Dad. It cost us $2300 and was worth every penny of that. It came without a radio, so I bought one. Its cable was very short, so I had to install it upside down for the fit into the dash. That confused a lot of my friends. I drove that car for about 18 months, but then sold it to a coworker when I accepted a job in Manhattan and moved into the City. Within two months, he 'totalled' it in an accident somewhere between Plainfield NY and Brooklyn. I still miss that car.

Back o' the Rambler

Like JD's little brother, I loved riding back there too, rattling around like a loose screwdriver in an empty toolbox, getting that vertigo-inducing backwards view through the roll-down window and getting slightly high on carbon monoxide. Great photo op angle, too.

I'm confused

We had a 1953 Nash Rambler in our family in the 60s. When did the Nash/Hudson change take place? Was there a period when they were both using the Rambler marque? I'm pretty sure ours was pre-AMC.
Maybe one of you Shorpycar experts can set me straight.

It was a 4 door sedan and the front fenders looked the same as this one, although the grillwork was different. The taillights were exactly the same. It also had the very neat full reclining seats.

Speaking of color, ours was a most hideous shade of green similar to an Army olive drab, only uglier! It was, however, as sturdy as anything the Army had on hand. It had a quite strong in-line 6 and 3-on-the-tree.
Oops, sorry tterrace and Dave. Had I jumped to your other link I would have found my answer in the comments there.

That'll teach me!

When I was 21, it was a very good year

This was my ride in 1958, a '54 Studebaker Starliner hardtop coupe, shown in the one photo with my friend Roger Baxter's chopped '48 Mercury. The Starliner (by Robert Bourke, a Raymond Loewy associate) has consistently been ranked as one of the best-designed cars of that era. Mechanically it was not a winner but oh those lines. I dropped a small block Chevy engine in it with a Chevy overdrive transmission, lowered it by torching the springs, and transformed a poorly-handling slow car into a seriously poorly-handling fast car. The color photo shows it after I dechromed it, painted it Chinese red, and slapped on a set of Moon aluminum wheel covers, just like they used then at Bonneville. (I was a dreamer.) My next car was a 1960 Austin Healey 3000. Photos taken on the Jaffa Mosque (!!!) lot, Altoona, Pa.

Our 1959 Cross Country Rambler

A photo of me and my younger brother in Mamaroneck, NY 1961. He always wanted to ride in the rear, facing backwards.

1960 Edsel

I too apparently have somehow escaped seeing a 60 Edsel before now, or at least I didn't notice, I had to Google it to see the back end.

The front is really quite attractive and "normal," but the back got an extra helping of weird!

Car trade ins

I vividly remember accompanying my late father when we took our '55 Chevy from Madison, Wisconsin to a nearby town to trade it in on a brand new '59 Chevy wagon. He said nothing at the time, but for years afterward complained that his impulse at the time was to take the wagon back for the '55. Too bad, because the wagon proved to be pretty awful, requiring numerous, expensive repairs. That damaged his brand loyalty for a long time, though he never joined the mass of his friends by purchasing a Japanese car. Pretty much a buy-American guy except for one area. When I returned from overseas service in the Army, there was a brand new Sony TV in the house, a quantum leap ahead of the dreadful American sets we had endured before. I'm utterly amazed that I don't recall any wagons like that Hudson. I remember the older slope backed ones, Studebakers, Kaisers and the rolling refrigerator-like Nash Metro though.

The white roof

Interesting factoid about the white roof on our Rambler wagon: that's not the way it came from the factory. Originally the car was solid green; the dealership talked my father into having them paint the roof, pointing out it would keep the car cooler inside. I remember it chipping slightly around the edges, and I was never able to get a good shine on it like the factory paint.

Later that day, our new Rambler (Larry Brink Motors, Mill Valley, Calif.), ready to drive home:

Oooh! That's a grand car

And so was the '66 Rambler Classic! I grew up with the 66 four door at the turn of the 70's and even slept with the whole family with the front seats reclined to join with the back on a rainy camping trip. What American design genius!

Miss the colors

I agree with Vintagetvs. I miss the shiny chrome, bright vivid colors and bold distinctive designs of the '50s. Today's cars may be full of hi-tech electronics but they are drab and monotonous on the outside.

Design stops at the rear wheels

Everything to the front of the rear axle is sculpted; everything to the rear is extruded.

The way cars were meant to be built

The bodies for these cars were built in Milwaukeen at the old Seaman Body Division of the Nash-Kelvinator Corp., on North Richards Street. They were trailered south to Kenosha for drive assemblies, interiors, etc. My car-freak friends and I witnessed hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of car bodies heading down 27th Street (Highway 41) on their way to Kenosha. The 1956 Rambler was pretty much the design work of Edmund Anderson, the first design chief Nash ever had. By 1956 George Romney was in charge at AMC, and bet the whole farm, with mixed results, on the small car niche. I believe one of the engines offered in this car was a 262 cubic inch inline 6, with 7 (yes, seven!) main bearings. With proper maintenance one could be driving a 56 Rambler yet.

My family car in June 1966 was ...

This 1960 Edsel. My father bought it new for my mother to drive me in the kindergarten carpool. Thankfully my father never traded in any car we had, ever, so I still have it.

This pseudo vintage photo of it was taken August 30 2011, at Center Studios in Los Angeles. It, and the other cars on the street, were working on a TV program set in 1966 that night.

In answer to your question Dave, the car is in turn key condition. It has about 300,000 miles on it and is never trailered.

Don't you agree that the green Hudson wagon, with its white roof, would look real good in the driveway next to it?

[My first (and only) 1960 Edsel encounter was circa 1977 in Lake City, Florida. It was parked tail-out in an alleyway, and as it loomed into view I remember thinking "What the hell IS that?" I considered myself to be a car guy but had never seen anything like this -- it looked like the mutant offspring of a 1960 Ford and Little Orphan Annie. The rear end is, to put it mildly, unique. - Dave]

Product Loyalty

Your dad was like I have been, loyal to the make of car I drive. Like your dad, I made my way from a Detroit built Hudson "Step-Down" and on to American Motors products built at the old Nash factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. All were well built cars and doggedly reliable.

Thanks tterrace for another glimpse into your fine family's interesting history.

Be still my heart

Oooh. My Edsel and Studebaker would love to share their driveway with that car. You just don't see many of those today, even at car shows. Hope it had power steering and an automatic transmission. Too much to ask for it to have air conditioning too. I'm pretty sure it did not.

Where is that time machine when you need it? It probably sold for less than one day's wages in today's money.

[How IS that Edsel of yours. Pic? - Dave]

They don't make 'em like this anymore

Was it like that episode of The Wonder Years?

I love the colors on that car!

Colors in the 1950s were wonderful, today everything is a shade of brown or gray.

My childhood car was a white 1965 Plymouth Belvedere four door. Purchased new by my dad, it was the most stripped down model available, three on the tree, AM radio, vinyl seats, Canadian built 318, and no AC.


That fellow doesn't look like Chevy Chase.

Romney connection

Well, Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors, and George Romney (Mitt's dad) became president of AMC in 1954.

Not a bad looking car, in my opinion. I'm sure a lot of happy memories were associated with it. Reminds me of the great "Wonder Years" episode where the Arnold family are prepping their memory-laden station wagon for sale.


Man, that is one ugly car.

Of course, I can't talk: in the 60's my folks didn't even have a car - and we lived in a way outer outer suburban area. So outer suburban that we didn't even have a made road, our street was a collection of potholes loosely joined together with gravel.

Our family's first car was an Austin A50 "ute" (pickup) with wooden floorboards in the back.

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