BORN AGAIN – 1966 Rambler Rogue

Simon Coates and Ramblers go back to when he was a wiry teenager. “A friend of mine owned a Rambler Hornet.  Years later, another mate of mine was looking for a car to buy so went searching for a Hornet. We found an example with a 350 Chev – that was a wild car.  Years later, I drove past what I now know to be a 1965 Rambler Classic hardtop, and I thought that was a great looking car.  Eventually, my time would come to own a Rambler,” said Simon.

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Eventually, he purchased a white 1967 Rambler American four-door sedan. “It was an Australian produced 6-cylinder with an auto.  This was a really reliable car. I had fun with that but I wanted something a little tougher. That is when in 2000, I started looking through the eBay USA ads for a Rambler American to buy and restore. I really wanted my own project.”

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A car eventually came up for sale on eBay that grabbed Simon’s interest. “It was located in Cali. A bloke had given it to his young daughter, but she hated it.  The car was pretty run down so I understood why she wasn’t that keen on it. It was a ‘66 Rambler Rogue, which was the feature-packed, pillar-less hardtop model.  It was painted Balboa Aqua, with a black vinyl roof and a green interior.  The car had a 232 six cylinder engine along with a column shifted 3-speed manual.”

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It was hard to say what the true condition of the car was from the eBay photos but it seemed okay. “Most of the trim was with the car and there was only a little bit of rust so I paid the measly US$800. I called her dad to say that a tow truck would be picking up the car from his place and it was headed to Australia – he thought I was joking!” laughed Simon.

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Knowing what he was getting himself into, Simon collected another three ‘donor’ cars to assist with the rebuild on the Rogue – a ‘67 Rambler American 440 4 door, a 1970 Hornet and a 1976 Matador. “First thing I did was remove the motor and ‘box and stitch in a new firewall I salvaged from the RHD American. The dash, pedal box and the steering components were also salvaged.” The front cross member was modified to suit the larger motor the car would be rocking. Vented disc brakes and callipers from the Matador were mated them to the stub axles. The Matador also donated the power steering too.  The unique trunnion front suspension system was completely rebuilt, and stronger front springs added. Out back, the original diff was replaced with an AMC 20 LSD.

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At this point, the car was shipped off to Grant from GT Restorations.  “The body was stripped back to bare metal with Grant working his magic over it. I decided to keep the car the original colour, but delete the vinyl roof. While the car was with Grant it gave me plenty of time to start sourcing some of the harder to get parts.”

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Many of the parts for the Rouge are unique to that car, so Simon scoured the internet for hours until he struck gold. “I remember my favourite shipment from the US which was a pallet that contained an AMC 401ci engine block, 401 steel crank, Engle high lift- short duration cam, Keith Black flat top pistons and probably my best pick up and most lucky find, some OE turquoise seat trim material.”

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It was West Australian speedway legend and AMC expert, Ben Ludlow, who bolted the motor together. Up top are mildly ported 360 steel heads and an Edelbrock Air Gap Dual Plane manifold that wears a 750cfm vacuum secondary Holley carby. For the ignition, the MSD RL4 was used with the coil mounted behind the wheel arch to help keep the engine bay looking as the ‘60s as possible.

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“As the Rogue was originally a column shift 3-speed, the clutch pedal assembly and steering column were swapped out.  In came a Shift Command floor shifter sourced from a ‘66 Marlin. The steering column was replaced with a modified XP Falcon floor shift version. The transmission was beefed up, a 3,000rpm converter installed and the larger Matador tailshaft added. Finally, ceramic coated extractors were made up and a stainless exhaust system built to resemble the ‘69 SC Rambler design.”

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On the inside of the car, the original iridescent green seat covers were in bad shape, however, all the door trims and backs of seats were excellent.  “The seats were re-trimmed in the original material I scored on that pallet. Everything in the interior is original apart from a ‘60s 8,000rpm Sun Tach and Sun oil gauge hose-clamped to the steering column. The 1967 Australian AM radio replaced the US model and a pair of ‘60s steel chrome speaker covers were added to the rear parcel shelf.”

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The wheels are a bit of a custom job. “They are 14 x 6 Sprint Masters that were found on GTR XU1s back in the day. I had them polished on the high lights; then I taped them up and had them blasted.  The finishing touch is the AMC centre caps. The tyres are 215/75 14 Coker whitewalls.”

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Since completing the car, Simon has swapped out the 3.15 gears to 3.54s and added Moser one-piece axles.  The car has made 292hp at the wheels with 339ft/lb of torque and has run an impressive 12.93 on street radials.

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A special mention should go to Travis and Mark from the Hot Rod shop who played a big part in finishing off the car.  These two guys did an amazing job finalising a lot of the work to get the car on the road, no detail was too small for them to attend to.  What they were able to achieve was way beyond my expectations.  Grant did a perfect job on the body also.

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