Kenosha Kruiser: 1967 AMC Ambassador Wagon

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I stopped counting when I got to the 12th different shade of brown on this car! (I’ll bet there are more) But since brown and green cars always seem to survive, it doesn’t surprise me that this 84,000 original mile car is in daily commuter use (2 mile trips). It’s located in Ocean Park, Washington and is up for sale here on eBay, where the opening bid is $4,500 without a reserve. I think it would make a great addition to my fleet! (not going to happen)

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While there aren’t a tremendous number of pictures of this car, especially the exterior, I can’t find any rust on any of them! There are some tailgate dents that you can see, but I’ll bet a paintless dent removal shop could make them look a lot better. If this is indeed the original paint, or even a quality repaint, it would be worth it. The seller says it’s been garaged its entire life, so I’m hoping that is the original paint!

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AMC thought enough of the Ambassador wagon to put it on the front of their 1967 wagon brochure, although this one has the optional wood grain side panels. My grandfather had a ’67 Ambassador sedan (green, of course), that lasted seemingly forever, and he wasn’t gentle on cars–so I’m biased when it comes to these beasts.

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The interior provides a lot of the brown shades. It’s obvious that this front seat has been reupholstered, especially when you see the back seat. Are you ready? Then page down!

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Yes, that is a two or three tone brown toile (!) pattern covered in plastic covers that have probably been there since the car was new. I don’t know if I could stand restoring the front seat to this even if I could find a set of NOS covers! Opinions? Maybe I should just embrace the browns?

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The 343 V8 is original and looks the part. It does appear to have overheated at some point, but that might just be a radiator cap failure. I remember marking the anti-freeze test in grease pencil for my father just like this (look at the bottom of the picture). I would love to own this car, even with the multiple personalities going on in the interior. How about you? Have you got room for this Kenosha Kruiser in your garage?

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Comments

  1. 84 Lincoln

    That’s a sweet Ambassador! Love AMC vehicles… I’ve had six over the years, 3 Pacers, a Spirit, a Gremlin, and a Matador Coupe.

  2. Moxman

    The back seat is covered in the (in) famous Fingerhut seat covers. I experienced them on my dads car when I was a kid.

  3. Howard A Member

    I believe, this was top of the line in ’67. Car makers threw everything they had into luxury wagons. They were a big seller. As families grew, wagons were a must have. Our family had many. Engine looks a little crusty, I’m surprised there’s no a/c, so must have been a northern climate car. I’d look it over pretty close. Especially those front shock towers. (right side a little crusty) I’ve seen seemingly nice body’s on AMC cars with rusted undersides. Grandfather had a ’61 with a perfect body, but the front suspension rusted clear of the unibody. Very nice find.

  4. packrat

    Wow. I have not thought about Ambassador wagons in years. So many memories. In the late eighties, a friend of mine buys a 1967 Ambassador station wagon for SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS. (Actually I think he may have traded an old Sears single-shot shotgun for it, valued at about that much). He brings it by my house one bright, humid, summer Saturday morning. I am waking up slowly, he’s talking, excited…it’s somehow important to him that I ride in it right *here* and *now*, and I don’t have the heart or the will to protest. This means I’m in a groggy dreamlike state as I am chauffeured around the neighborhood, listening to the lusty bellow of its six cylinder engine through the partially absent exhaust system. If I would but admit it, I am nursing a hangover from the night before. I remember the medium-sized headache and cotton mouth (I was young and, as the custom with the boymen of my species, I was dumb as rocks). Adding to this dreamlike atmosphere, I had uncharacteristically been coaxed outside into the public ways clad only in my “tighty whities”, ratty bathrobe, and worn out house slippers, a la Douglas Adams’ Arthur Dent. (No towel. If I had instead pictured myself as sitting in a classroom taking a final exam for a course I had no memory of attending, the morning would have been a completely familiar dream sequence in every way.)

    I was alternately sipping on, and burning my groin with, dollops from a too-large mug of steaming black coffee, too hot to drink and too good to pour out. This I ineffectually try to control, and slop wildly on myself with every bump, as he giddily narrates the car’s assets and benefits to me and again lurches through the three-on-the-tree gear pattern, up and down the hills of the well-worn version of Shelby Park and the pre-hipster East Nashville neighborhood of thirty years ago. It doesn’t help my predicament that there are no seatbelts and the shocks seem to need replacing. The car is ‘patinated’ (we just called it faded, and failed to appreciate it) by its two decades and quarter million miles of life, rendered in a still-handsome deep blue. At some point in its checkered past, the driver’s door had been mashed FLAT backwards against its side by a passing car. The front fender and door had then been painstakingly and artfully restored by the bodyman/owner in a manner to make any professional panelbeater proud, with no acquiescence to filler. Only slight ripples were left, and the result latched well with no sag: the most notable telltale of the incident is that the driver’s door has none of the usual resistance in its hinges, no clickstops. When open, it disconcertingly races beyond a ninety degree angle at the slightest touch, bouncing slightly back from the end of its arc. The upholstery is evenly shot, coming up in tufts, the padded dash full of deep cracks. There are bald tires all the way around, but it is indeed not a rusty car, as my friend proudly declaims. Later that morning, I–now more awake but still clad in the bathrobe–help him remove assorted detritus from the back seat and cargo area, including the mound of beer cans which by themselves are sufficient to fill a separate 45 gallon trash can, and ultimately go to recycling. Most of its original glory appears in tatters, but the headlight rings, grille, taillight surrounds and bumpers are all still hard and bright Kenosha chrome, which shine as brightly in the sunlight as the four identical heavy-stainless “poverty cap” factory wheel covers.

    By the way: Neither of us are strangers to the clash between generations, which helps cement our friendship. We are two introverted survivors of a fairly hostile world. He catches continuous, uninterrupted s__t from his dad about buying that “piece of junk” and having it in his parent’s driveway. I have witnessed his dad explaining, (and at this point I should clarify, that by the word ‘explain’ I mainly mean a great deal of repetitive yelling), that he needs to buy a *modern* car. You know, one like his dad had.

    Somehow. On his youthful, crapsack job with minimum-wage earnings, which would probably not go up soon since he had stressed out and tanked in college, which of course had pleased his dad to no end. It didn’t help their relationship that this car had the potential to wound his dad’s ego. This old wagon *always* caught and ran on the first turn of the key. That was quite the contrast to his dad’s then-current car, which got washed, waxed and towed on a regular basis. His dad was one of the Greatest Generation. He stuck with his job, no matter how soul-sucking, for decades. He took both daily papers, believed what the government told him, and upgraded his car every couple of years, as befitted a citizen of the Free World. His current queen was a shiny, expensive, no-mud-on-the-floormats-please, malaise-era overheating slushbarge, spiderwebbed with unknowable vacuum lines under the hood, stinking of hot plastic, having to be stopped in gear to keep it from dieseling. It seemed to spend every other weekend away from home showered with attention of various men while on the lift of the local GM dealership, like a spoiled rich golddigger matron making regular ineffectual visits to the beauty spa in search of her lost youth. This, pop would ‘explain’ (remember what that word means) is what adults do. They buy new pretty cars.

    Even if my friend is a bit of a stoner, he is every inch a *fixer*, my friend is. The mechanical problems that easily stymie me, he can see right through those to a remedy, provided he can have a bit of comforting mystic smoke and a quiet place for his zen focus. He later tells me the wagon broke on him on the way home. When he suddenly finds his rusty steed won’t shift on a hill, this means he is, by the intractable Murphy’s law which rules both our young lives, stranded in a rougher section of our ‘hood with no service station or payphone in sight. (Remember kids, there weren’t any cellphones back then!) He scoots underneath the car to the middle until he can sort of see/sort of feel the smooth void left from the bolt vacating its role in the shift linkage. He walks the road behind, but the hardware is long gone. I can visualize what he does next: Him sitting on the rusty tailgate, burning one down (a cigarette this time, since he’s out in public), focusing on his greasy conundrum. Stubbing it out, he pulls a screwdriver from his jeans pocket and once again scoots back underneath to the transmission. He works the linkage back and forth. He’s trying to find a gear. He works it until he gets it into a gear, any gear… stabbing the screwdriver home, holding it in place. He triumphantly drives it the rest of the way home…in REVERSE! Close Enough.

    When he bought it, the back glass wouldn’t go up. This didn’t bother the previous owner, who, as I described, used it mainly to drive to his job on the industrial side of town and as a rolling trash can. That evening, he pulls the tailgate apart and goes to work, seeing the mechanism doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. Since pop is one of those that believes in the power of bellowing early and often to persuade a person of the rightness of his point of view, this happens at a friend’s house– out of sight (and earshot) of pop, where my friend can hear himself think, and, even more importantly, perform the mystic smoke ritual unimpeded. He is in a safe harbor here, as this is in the garage area of a house that is ringed with ‘fifties vintage Buicks and Oldsmobiles, the owner being a hoarder sympathetic to the cause of ancient automotive iron. Said hoarder is unimpeded by parental disapproval, and unhampered by episodic summonings of the Codes Inspector, who on any occasion of complaint of one of hoarder’s fussbudget retiree neighbors (all of whom righteously maintain shiny, late-model cars, and don’t understand why he doesn’t want to do the same) is greeted by name, and offered a cold Coke, which he sips as the hoarder again starts all of these cars in turn and demonstrates they all drive back and forth. In this sanctuary, my friend the Fixer quickly coaxes the electric motor back to life, re-tracks the glass, greases the linkage. He proudly runs it all the way up to show off to his friend, who slams the gate shut, dousing them both with a noisily explosive rain of safety glass cubes.

    In his defense, I’ve got to say that all three of us were more used to the GM and Ford wagon offerings of the seventies, the next generation after this. Those had a flush-mount doughy gasket seal on the rear gate like they had for their pillarless window sedans. You *could* shut any of those doors with the windows in the fully-up position. So I never get to see this tailgate perfected, but he later shows me the empty guides that, indeed, glide smoothly and quietly up, and would do an excellent job on moving the replacement glass that never gets bought. Oh, well. In the middle of that smoky evening work session, the deep rear window track in the upper portion of the wagon body had failed to register on the mind of his buddy through the Cannabis which was night-clerking for their analytical sides. Good times.

    All good things must end. As I mentioned, the very presence of this car irritated his dad at a personal, perhaps even ideological level. He hated the sight of it being in HIS driveway, and waged a non-stop whinge campaign at my friend to get rid of it. One day, dude finally had enough and he did. At that point, it had become a second car anyway. His dad had swiftly saddled him with an underpowered secondhand s__box Chevrolet Chevette bought at the worst kind of used car lot, and so my friend was chained to insane payments on THAT for the foreseeable future. He had been bullied into that, of course, for his own good, as Paying a lot of Interest to The Bank for The Things You Want is also What Adults Do, his dad had Explained. I think that somehow his pop thought that saddling dude with seven years’ worth of payments would make his boy into something more like himself. It didn’t work. To this day, my friend has never been a ‘Type A’, and never will be. To this day, he hates the complexity of modern cars and wage slavery, and I understand that. This proud Ambassador ran to the scrapyard under its own power–but not before dude saved those jartop hubcaps for me, at my request. I have those still, as a “souvenir of our trip”.

    • Howard A Member

      wow!!!

    • Rando

      Awesome story.

  5. jeff

    In 1985 …. we were moving my Great-Uncle ( age 85 ) into a retirement home….. State of Illinois –bought his home ( that he built himself ) because of the construction of I-355 ….. and at this time he still had in his possession a 1971 AMC Ambassador wagon with 20K miles on it. So not a bad average of 1,400 miles a year . Long ago retired carpenter and would basically only drive to Jewel grocery store and the eye doctor ( Lombard/Glen Ellyn ) for himself and his wife……. I wanted it but was only 14/15 at time …CAR WAS BEYOND ” Mint ” :) I believe he sold it for $ 1500-2000 .

  6. rotag999

    Ocean Park Wa. just up the road from Long Beach Wa. Love to go down to that area but it is a rust belt down there things get rusty with all the salt in the air. So be sure to have this one looked over it is a longtime resident.

  7. rotag999

    Not sure about fingerhut seat covers but Sure Fit use to carry them here in Wa. (same as back seat) not sure if they where across the USA or not if there still in buisness my Brother inlaw had some installed on his 64 Ford Galaxy back in the day.
    JC Whitney also carried them but never was sure what was going to show up from those Guys.

  8. Tom Driscoll

    Loved the way you could recline both front seats and it turns into a bed!

  9. slickimp

    My parents had a 68 ambassador wagon green with the 343 in it learned to drive in that car this one is very nice

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