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Half Finished Creamsicle: 1960 Rambler American Wagon

With summer creeping up on us with its usual vigor, everyone needs ice cream and a summer project.  The ice cream is easy to find at your local convenience store or grocery store.  As for a summer project?  Reader TJ has located a distinctive wagon that looks like a good candidate for the product placement vehicle for Good Humor’s Creamsicle ice cream bar.  Feast your eyes on this 1960 Rambler American wagon for sale on Craigslist in Fresno, California.  Boasting a rebuilt engine and a rust-free body, is the asking price of $5,000 too much to ask for this refreshingly groovy wagon?

The story of the Rambler American line of automobiles is very interesting and unorthodox.  The basic unibody structure of these vehicles was produced from 1950 through 1955 as the Nash Rambler.  Many historians consider these the first modern compact car.  Customers were generally receptive to the styling and value the car offered and they were a sales success for Nash at a time when they needed the money to absorb the Hudson Motor Car Company and become American Motors Corporation.

Once a specific vehicle goes out of production most of the tooling not needed to make spare parts is recycled or repurposed.  In this case, Nash kept the tooling in storage while building a larger Rambler as a successor.  When the economy was showing signs of faltering in 1956, American Motors Corporation president George Romney (Mitt Romney’s father) decided to reintroduce the smaller, out-of-production vehicle under the Rambler American banner.  The idea was that it would be cheap to produce the car because it wasn’t a new car.  Thus, lowering the sticker price to lure in cost-conscious buyers during an economic downturn.

When the car debuted in 1958, the country was in a deep recession.  While nearly every other car brand lost money that year, the Rambler nameplate was the only one to increase sales.  Cost-conscious shoppers, encouraged by glowing reports from Tom McCahill (perhaps with some financial stimulus), flocked to Rambler dealerships to see and purchase the car with the lowest sticker price in America.  How did they get the price so low?  When you reuse old tooling and make minimal styling changes, these things just work themselves out.  Also, people always need reliable transportation.  This particular car and its innards were time-tested.

Rambler managed to keep the party going until 1959.  Amazingly, the cars gained a lot of respect from the public due to their reliability, build quality, low price, and great gas mileage for the time.  In 1960, the car was heavily restyled using the same basic body structure.  The second-generation car lasted until 1963.  Finally, the 1964 model year saw a completely new Rambler.

The 1960 Rambler American wagon you see here is a good example of the breed.  In the ad, the seller tells us that the engine and transmission have been rebuilt.  Only sorting out the wiring is left to do.  While the ad is the usual bare-bones description, we can see that this car was originally white and currently suffers from a reddish-orange paint job.  That paint job must have happened long ago and leaves a lot to be desired.  Perhaps it was a Fact-O-Bake special.  The good news is that the car is advertised as rust-free and is all there.  We are also assured that the seller has the manuals needed to put it back together.

This little Rambler would benefit from having the old paint stripped and the car completely refinished.  It is a neat car and would make a great driver considering that the engine and transmission are rebuilt and these cars’ reputation for quality.  Would you be underwater after spending the money on restoring it?  Almost certainly.  Still, I think you would be rewarded by having a good car that you could rely on for cruising distances big and small.  Just make sure to paint it in Creamsicle colors.  They just match the style of the car.

What would you do with this Rambler American?  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.




  1. RayT Member

    If I were to pick this up, I’d repaint it, fix what needs fixing, put it back together and drive it. These are neat little cars. There are too few left to do anything but keep it stock, though I can remember one in my area that had a 327 Chevy engine replacing the flattie “six.” The guy who built it even had the “Nash” logo on the rocker covers….

    Though this looks like a decent deal, I’d want to hold out for the earlier version, which had “wood” paneling on the upper sides aft of the B-pillar. Someone in my neighborhood had one, and it was cute as can be.

    Like 4
    • Norman K Wrensch

      are you sure it was a 327 Chevy? Amc also had a 327 at that time but it was not a Chevy, nothing interchanged, so that may be the reason for the Nash logo.

      Like 1
  2. Gary

    My Dad traded in a 1956 Pontiac for one of these, it was a copper color and he loved the mileage it got. From then on it was a new Rambler or AMC every 2-3 years. I remember him always saying that with a overdrive and three speed manual he could do 60 in second gear.

    Like 1
  3. Kenneth Carney

    …Or how ’bout the guy in the song Beep Beep by the Playmates who couldn’t get his American out of second gear?!

    Like 2
  4. bone

    This body style American was used from 1958-1960 , in 1961 they were restyled .

    Like 1
  5. Frog Man

    Ive got a 66 Rambler American sitting on my property, hard to find parts, ive got it running and stoping. Surprisingly little rust green n cream paint some hella patina. Stripped naked w a drive around yard seat from a Nissan and a God Awful whack in drivers rear panel all glass still goes up n down doors still shut its my zombie apocalypse car these things are tuff.

    Like 0

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