Easy Restoration: 1966 AMC Marlin

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We don’t see a huge number of Marlins here at Barn Finds, so to have two of them come across our desks in the same week is a rare treat. Barn Finder Pat L referred this one to us, so thank you for that Pat. Earlier this week we featured this 1965 model, and this latest one is a 1966 model. It is actually a better-looking prospect than the last vehicle, and with a sale price of a mere $2,500, it also seems to have a lot more potential. The Marlin is located in Cartersville, Georgia, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist.

The Marlin has been in dry storage, but it isn’t clear how long this has been. The owner doesn’t mention rust anywhere in the listing, but I think that there might be a small amount visible around the rear wheel opening on the passenger side. The Marlin is finished in a combination of Barcelona Medium Taupe Poly and Frost White, and while there are a few marks on it, I would be very interested to see how it responded to a buff and polish. The hood ornament on this car isn’t original, and I would be very inclined to change it. The Marlin has sensational styling, but for some reason, it never captured the public’s imagination. The result was that in 1966, AMC only managed to sell 4,547 cars. Why this occurred isn’t clear, but it may have been the result of a certain amount of confusion about the car’s identity. In 1965 when the car was launched, it was badged as the Rambler Marlin. For 1966 it was simply known as the Marlin, while in 1967 it was badged as the AMC Marlin. Whatever the cause, the ultimate result was that flagging sales saw the Marlin only remain in production for three years.

The interior of this Marlin is in significantly better condition than the last car, and it is also more lavishly optioned. I believe the driver’s seat has either been repaired or recovered at some point and while the Platinum cloth insert looks correct, the Tan vinyl doesn’t match the Grey on the other seats. the rest of the interior looks to be in great condition, and I think that it would respond well to a deep clean. There are no aftermarket additions to the interior, while the dash, pad, and the optional center console with shifter appear to all be in really nice condition. Luxury appointments in this car include air conditioning and power windows.

Okay, grit your teeth, because I’m going to say it: the Marlin is said to have run when parked. Sorry about that. Under the hood is the 327ci 2-barrel V8, which produces 250hp. The car also features a 3-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power front disc brakes. The engine bay looks fairly tidy, and given the fact that it has been in dry storage, it may only be a case of cleaning the fuel system and that 327 might just kick back into life.

At $2,500, this Marlin represents a very tempting project option. That price is half that of the other car, and this one looks like it might need a lot less work to bring it back to a decent standard. As I said in my previous article, these simply aren’t a “big ticket” car, and for their relative rarity, prices remain quite low. Having said that, this one could well represent an inexpensive way for someone to own their first classic car.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Fred W

    Looks like someone added a flying goddess hood ornament from a 50’s Nash- worth a couple hundred bucks on it’s own!

    Like 9
    • Lance

      flying goddess AKA Petty girl.

      Like 1
  2. That AMC guy

    Master cylinder looks like the drum brake type with both chambers the same size. Front disc brakes were no longer standard for 1966. From a maintenance perspective this is good news since the drum system is much easier to get parts for. (My ’65 with disc brakes has a flat-top master that conceals chamber sizes externally.)

    Looks tired but pretty complete. As mentioned, the hood ornament is definitely not factory. Hard to tell but it appears that the chrome Marlin emblem is missing from the center of the blue bullseye on the trunk lid. Not sure if that two-tone scheme is factory. Typically on a Marlin only the roof, trunk, and area behind the rear side windows would be in a contrasting color.

    Compare these to a Mustang or even Barracuda and it becomes evident why they didn’t sell! Too big for a sporty car, and awkward-looking from all but rear 3/4 view. While in development, management dictated that the back of the roof be lifted 1.5″ for rear seat headroom while Dick Teague was on vacation in Europe, making the Marlin even more ungainly looking. There really wasn’t a market for large fastbacks that had “plenty of roof for six swingers” (as the Marlin was advertised). Sales plummeted even further when the Marlin was made larger for ’67 even though it had a more balanced look overall.

    The Tarpon would have likely sold a lot better had it been put into production instead.

    Like 9
    • That AMC guy

      Ack, that should have been “plenty of ROOM for six swingers.”

      Like 2
    • Barney

      I don’t disagree with in most of what you say with exception of there being no market for a large fast back. How would that explain the first years of Chargers?

      Like 6
      • That AMC guy

        The large fastback market petered out pretty quickly overall for all concerned. The Charger had the advantage of Chrysler’s performance and engineering reputation at the time, and the look was better balanced than the Classic-based Marlin.

        Like 3
    • Reggie

      These cars were not to compet with the ” pony car” segment ,they were midsize cars made to compet with the likes of Dodge Charger and Ford Fairlane , they were on the right track with the fastback idea, but just didn’t quite hit the target, in style or sales.

      Like 2
      • That AMC guy

        That’s the problem, AMC should have gone after the pony car market with the Tarpon instead of a nearly nonexistent mid-size fastback market. In his book “American Motors Corporation – The Rise and Fall of America’s Last Independent Automaker”, Patrick Foster refers to the Marlin as AMC’s biggest missed opportunity of all time.

        Like 2
    • Dave

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the Marlin based on the Ambassador, or whatever Rambler called their large car at the time? American, Classic, Ambassador. Then along came the Rebel, that replaced the Classic. American carried the economy flag, Rebel followed the trend of hi-po intermediates, Ambassador was the luxury car.

      Like 0
      • That AMC Guy

        The Marlin was based on the Rambler Classic for 1965-1966, and the Ambassador in 1967.

        From ’65-on the Ambassador was a Classic or Rebel with a wheelbase stretch ahead of the cowl and different front clip. Ambassadors generally came better equipped. (In fact in 1968 the Ambassador became the first U.S. car to offer standard air conditioning, something even Cadillac and Lincoln did not come with.)

        Like 2
    • David Nation

      I bought this vehicle approximately 2 months ago and it does have factory disc brakes.

      Like 0
  3. dave brennan

    If I had the space for a building, I’d be on my way there! Nice chunk of iron!!

    Like 7
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Ugly! ugly! Ugly. These cars along with Chargers of same vintage are in the top ten of ugliest cars ever. IMHO.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  5. Scott Marquis

    Sometimes a two-tone scheme really serves to accent the lines of a car. Sometimes not so much.

    Like 0
  6. Mark Evans

    All of these should have been built with the shifter on the floor just as this one has. That alone puts it miles ahead of the the other one. Personal favourite of mine is the 67. It has the best snout to match the snappy looking posterior.

    Like 2
  7. CJM

    Two tone white is incorrect on the body sides. They never came that way. Only the roof and trunk center would be white. Cloth in seats is incorrect velour style. Should be a brocade. Sew style is close to correct. Fantastic looking cars in general. They should have sold better. This one looks like a decent buy for the price.

    Like 2
  8. Wayne

    Cut the overhang by 1/2 (along with the rear 1/4 windows and the appearance improves dramatically. Fastback medium and large cars never did well in fastback guise. ( Mercury Marauder for instance) I like the design but always was disappointed with amount of overhang. (Reminds me of a non-pusher motor home) With the staying changes that I mentioned and IF they had beat Chryslet to the punch (Charger) they may have had a winner. (IMHO)

    Like 1
  9. Del

    These are rare and neat.

    Price was wonderfull and car long gone

    Like 4

    The Tarpon was designed to take on Mustang, but since it was based on the American platform and the engine compartment was not large enough for the 327 V8( and the 290 etc.) was not being built yet it was decided to go with the larger platform. In an article in Special interest autos 1997 (published by Hemmings m.n.) Dick Teague said that the proportions went all to H..L with the Marlin. Management cost AMC to miss many opportunities that the design team came up with that might have kept AMC afloat. Some examples AMX 2 and 3 were mid-engine sports cars designed before the Pantera. Cavilear had interchangeable doors and fenders to reduce costs. Maybe the powers that be had given the green light to just a few good ideas who knows what might have happened with AMC the might have survived.
    Even when the javelin came out in 68 AMC had a pony car finally but 3 years late and the Marlin might never have been.
    To clear up a misconceptions the AMX was on the drawing board before Javelin and was not a Javelin with 16″ cut out as I have seen in print so many times. I can only report what I read in the magazine listed above. If another B.F. reader has different info. I would like to hear about it.I don’t know it all.

    Like 1
    • That AMC guy

      I remember reading years ago that a dealership did manage to install the early series V8 (probably a 287) into a ’64 or ’65 Rambler American but could not interest Company management in the concept.

      There was definitely room for the new-series 290 etc. V8s as those were offered in the American by the factory starting in 1966. The new V8s were in the pipeline when the Tarpon was conceived. If the small fastback was marketed in ’65, within a year it could have been offered with the new series V8 engines.

      From what I have read over the years the Marlin decision really came down to Abernethy being a “big car” guy who wanted to go toe-to-toe with the Big 3 and discard Romney’s compact-car image, instead chasing big-car profits. As the saying goes, the boss may be a lot of things but he is still the boss.

      Like 1
  11. PRA4SNW

    Posting is gone.
    Someone quickly grabbed it.

    Like 3
  12. Dave S.

    Wow it certainly looks like it would be a great project . I wish it was closer to where I live , I think I would check it out. Seems to be a very reasonable price.

    Like 1
  13. Hotroddaddy

    Love it love it love it! Right car, right generation, wrong location. Wish it were closer to Arizona! By the Rambler Marlin which came out in 1965 is NOT a copy of the Charger which came out in 1966. Who was copying who?

    Like 2
  14. TimM

    This is why I like this site so much!! Thanks to guys like the AMC guy who knows more about this car than I ever will!! I don’t know if I’ll ever own a car named after a fish!! But I have owned a couple whales!!

    Like 5
  15. David Nation

    This restoration is moving along very well, hit a couple of roadblocks but nothing major. Looking forward to showing it off when I finish it.

    Like 0

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