Twin Stick: 1964 AMC Rambler 440

1964 AMC Rambler

It wasn’t the styling of this 1964 AMC Rambler, or the fact it’s a barn find, or even its original condition that grabbed our attention while surfing eBay. What did catch our eye was the unusual twin stick shifter. We hadn’t ever heard of such a thing and given that it’s an AMC, we were sure it would prove to be an interesting bit of technology. Our first thought was that this could be another take on the His/Hers shifter, but closer inspection proved that theory wrong, so we decided to do some research. Before we get into the history of the Twin Stick, take a look at this Rambler here on eBay.

AMC Twin Stick

As it turns out, the Twin Stick was more than just a sales gimmick to win over the hearts of domesticated males who were looking for a family car that was fun, but that could also keep the misses happy. It was in reality about offering 5 forward gears for improved mileage, although we hear it was also a hoot to row through the gears. To create 5 gears, AMC took their three-speed transmission and added overdrive for 2nd and 3rd. When driving, the driver would shift from 1st to second like normal, but then could engage 2nd’s overdrive with the In/Out selector lever. Once the driver was ready for 3rd, they disengaged overdrive and then selected 3rd on the primary shifter. Once up to cruising speed they could select 3rd’s overdrive gear in the same fashion as the previous gear.

1964 AMC Rambler interior

While the system accomplished the task of adding more gears, it also required a lot of engaging and disengaging of the overdrive gears. For those that didn’t want to be moving hands between sticks, there was an overdrive button built into the top of shifter as well. To make sure the overdrive system was worth the added work, 2nd gear was substantially different from the standard three-speed and made a noticeable difference with acceleration. We aren’t sure if it will make a major difference in driving this Rambler, but the interior is surprisingly sporty for a four door. Obviously it is going to need lots of work, but the bucket seats and A/C are nice bonuses.

1964 AMC Rambler motor

While the Twin Stick would be a fun novelty, we aren’t sure it would offset the inline six and the power drain from the A/C system. The Rambler was offered with a number of engine choices ranging from a 195 cui six to the 390 V8. We are sure for regular driving, the six would be more than adequate, but we would enjoy a V8 for spirited driving. Seeing as it runs and drives, we would leave it as is and just enjoy it. The fact that there weren’t many built with the Twin Stick in the two year period it was offered, we wouldn’t want to change much anyway.

1964 AMC Rambler Twin Stick

While it would certainly be more fun to have a Marlin with this Twin Stick setup, we think this four door could be a fun project that could haul the family to events in style and comfort. Getting it to the point that we would feel comfortable doing so would take some time and money, but should be worth it. Using this trick overdrive system would be a challenge at first, but could make even the most mundane drive interesting. Do you recall any other interesting technology to come out of AMC during this era?

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Comments

  1. Brian

    I always thought the twin stick was gimmicky, and probably caused some missed 2-3 shifts if your not paying attention and grab the wrong lever. I like the six with o.d. though; the mileage must be amazing! I’ll hold out for the ’65 or ’66 Classic 770 2 door HT or convert … Rebel!

    • Steve Merz

      My “new” 1964 Rambler Classic 770. All original, wheels and caps in trunk. Found in Washington with 206xx original miles.

      Like 1
  2. Livermoron

    I like to think I learn something new everyday – this one made it to the top of today’s list. Thanks!

    Like 1
    • jim s

      yes, top of my list also. thanksi

  3. Graham Line

    Interesting. Appears to be several shades of white.
    The same gearbox games were available earlier, though the O/D was activated by the accelerator and a vacuum mechanism. Twin Stick was a minor advance over something they had already had.
    Fuel economy is relative. A VW of the period wasn’t good for much more than 30, and the American might have seen the 30s on a long, slow, flat cruise with a light tail wind. Low to mid-20s is more like it.
    Automatics of the time caused a greater % mileage penalty than they do today.
    On the other hand, the American is a reasonably sized car with good all-around visibility. No back-up camera needed.

    • Frak

      1964 Mobil Gas Economy Run shows the Class B Compact cars, Rambler American 400 rated at 25.65 miles per gallon and the VW Beetle of the same time rated at slightly more, 26.00 miles per gallon, for all intensive purposes, they were the same.

    • Jim

      I had a ’64 American 330 196 and 3spd. I consistently got 25 mpg whether driving 55 or 75 mph.

  4. MikeW

    I remember the 61 Rambler with the autostick, you shifted it on the column like a standard but there was no clutch.

    • Robert

      Not called auto stick. It was called. E-stick. My Dad had a 1964 4door American 440 with E-stick and overdrive. He actually ordered it that way from AMC that year. I’ve driven it and enjoyed the way it worked. We drove it to Florida many summers from 1964 onward. It was capable of over 30 MPG on those long drives.

  5. paul

    I remember hearing about these & have seen them but not close enough to realize they had a clutch, go figure, the other quirky thing about these was the harder you accelerated the slower the windshield wipers would move in the rain due to the vacuum system that operated them.

    Like 1
    • John

      I had a Ford with the vacuum system wipers when I was in high school and remember what a thrill it was to drive uphill in a hard driving rain.

  6. stanley stalvey

    The early sixties were very exciting technology wise. I learn something new every day or try to. This was very interesting and I’m glad to read Barn Finds on a daily basis. My first car was a 63 Dodge Dart. I’m glad it wasn’t a 62, those cars were ugly.. hehe..

  7. Moxman

    I remember the Twin Stick in AMC cars, but never figured out who built that unit. It must have been some sort of a two-speed transfer case added to the back of the transmission. Since there was a button to engage it, it must have been solenoid activated? Anyone who knows anything about this; I’d love to hear about it. I remember working on early Volvos with the push-button overdrive. Is this the same thing?

    • Bill

      I bought a two door, six cylinder, Rambler American, new, in 1964 with the push button overdrive (one lever). The button was an electric switch that actuated sun gears with a solenoid. Perfect for cross country trips and going over mountains. Going to Denver I put it in second gear overdrive and passed everyone on the hills. It had three gears with overdrives in each. Would easily get 25 mpg and drove it for seven years!

  8. MikeW

    On the early overdrive tranny’s we used to put a switch on it and you catch 2 over and 3 over with the flip of a switch.

  9. C Bryant

    I went thru all the comments until the last by MikeW and low and behold there was what I was going to add.I had a 54 Ford with a bored out 6 swiped from a truck and I had my mechanic put on a flip switch making the thing work without a “lag” and could beat 283/automatics in the quarter.Fun car in more ways then one.Dropped a bored 265 Chevy in it(272) and it wasn’t long before one of our famous tornados in Nebraska did a number on it.(God blew my doors off!!)

  10. Rick

    Back around ’88 I bought a used mitsubishi (badged as a Plymouth as I recall) from a co-worker for $250 that ran great, anyhow it was a little coupe w/ a transverse 4 banger and a twin stick, basically a 4 speed with a 2 speed dual range overdrive box. Amyhow was hysterically fun to drive, because you could start out in 1st low, then shift the o/d box next to 1st high, then shift both boxes to 2nd low and so on resulting in 8 fwd speeds. Could even shift low-high when in reverse. Anyhow i drove it for awhile unt

    Like 1
  11. Rick

    I drove it for awhile until i got tired of it and flipped it to a friendthe that needed transportation for $700, and he drove it for several years

  12. Rick

    Seems like it got about 40 mpg on the highway

  13. jim s

    this looks like it could be a nice daily driver with a little work. someone needs to roll the dice and buy it. great find

  14. Jim-Bob

    What would make it more interesting is if it had the aluminum version of AMC’s 195.6 straight six under the hood. This engine preceded the engine which would later grow up to be the 4.0 in Jeeps (the 199/232/258 that debuted in 65 or 66). This year would only have been offered with a straight six as AMC’s 250/287/327 V8 would not fit between the fenders, and the narrower, lighter, thin wall cast 290 wouldn’t come along until 1966. AMC’s new V8 was actually introduced in the Rambler, with 1,700 being built (one for each dealer) in a special Classic Black and Sun Gold paint scheme to celebrate the new engine. (I was horrified to find one of these rare, special edition Rambler Rogues at my local U Pull It 10 years ago as they wouldn’t sell it and so it was crushed!) In 1967, AMC went a little nuts and offered ANY AMC engine in ANY AMC car-meaning the new 343 could be had in all body styles of the American. It was not a good idea though, as the convertibles and hardtops couldn’t take the torque and would twist themselves to death (they were know to crack their windshields!). The 390 was only available in the 1969 Hurst S/C Rambler, and that car received substantial reinforcement to withstand the more powerful engine.

    That being said, I really like these cars. The front end shows a grille and headlights lifted from Chrysler’s Turbine Cars, and to me, boxy cars are the best cars. I especially like the wagons since they are just the right size and I would probably equip one with some interesting alterations-including a R32 Skyline GTR’s AWD system (and suspension/brakes) and RB26DETT engine.

  15. Mike

    I had a 62 rambler with overdrive that I think had a lever you pulled out for overdrive.
    It worked kind of like a 2 speed axel on farm trucks.

  16. RetroGreg

    I believe this arrangement used a New Process Div of Chrysler transmission with a Laycock Div of GKN two speed (overdrive and direct) transmission. This is the same ‘J’ Type OD as used on the Volvo’s and similar to the LH model used on the ‘big’ Healeys and other post war Brit sports cars. These are a planetary transmission (constant mesh) and is shifted by the sun gear attached to a cone clutch locking against a brake ring. My understanding was AMC failed to pay their bills and New process halted the supply of the three speed tranny(s) which left AMC with a bunch of leftover J Type Laqycocks – a group of crazies in CA bought the dormant inventory & used it as the basis to start Gear Vendors – I am one of those crazies, cheers.

    • Moxman

      Wow…what a great story, Greg. I know all about Gear Vendors, as I live in San Diego and drive by GV on the 67 Fwy all the time. You guys have taken the overdrive concept to the extreme! I kind of thought that the early overdrive units were related to to Volvo, as I used to work on them, and they were really the only European cars with overdrive. Keep up the good work at GV!

  17. Alan

    “CAR HAD NEVER BEEN INTO ANY TYPE OF ACCIDENTS,OR HAVE EVER BEEN PAINTED OR ANY BONDO ON THE CAR.”

    Balderdash. This car wears a not-too-good rattle can paint job.

    • Plasticman

      Agreed; it’s clearly several different shades of white. Interesting gearshift but rather pointless if you have a push button shift on a column stalk anyway. The Laycock system is reliable and common though.

  18. Alan

    @ Rick,

    I bought one of the twin-stick Colts new in 1983. Mitsubishi had imported them for mostly the Dodge and Plymouth brands. Originally, the Plymouth versions were labeled “Champ”, but later all of them, under both brands, used the Colt name. Some were available with the standard 4-speed, and some got the 8-speed.
    The transmissions were a huge feature for the cars which had very little power. The econo-boxes on the low end had 1400cc SOHC at a bigtime 70 hp. There was a suspension/handling and trim option called the GTS, which is what I had. Upgraded cars had a 1600cc SOHC which was rated at 80 hp, and in 1984 came the original “Pocket Rocket” version, with the 1600 SOHC Turbo, @ 102 hp.

    I autocrossed the Colt extensively, which meant using the transmission to its’ fullest advantage. Because of the spacing of the gear ratios when viewed in total, and also due to the difficulty of moving both the gear and range levers in opposite directions to cover all possible combinations, there were a couple of them I virtually never used. Changing from first low to first high was virtually worthless, as the ratios were too close, and then going from first high to second low meant moving the levers in the opposite direction, a time-consuming task.

    Competition mode meant using the box this way: Low range First, Low range Second, High range Second. That covered most events. Where higher speeds were required on occasion, the right hand was placed palm up between the levers, with the thumb and small finger extended fully to the sides. The thumb pushed the range selector forward, at the same time as the little finger moved the 4-speed’s lever from second to third. One motion, done in the blink of an eye, to the astonishment of anyone who ever rode with me in the car. I am grinning thinking about it….

    As you mentioned, using the range lever when backing up really got people’s attention….
    I loved that car, but in the end I just held onto it too long, and was glad to see it go. The tinworm had gotten a foot-hold, and was beginning to weaken the structure.

    Sorry for the side-step everyone, back to the AMC….

  19. Ramblin

    The Twin-Stick was just a floor shift variation of the Borg Warner T-96 3 speed tranny and BW overdrive. And the only engine size available on a ’64 American was the 196 cid engine, but in both flathead and overhead valve configurations. And yes, in that vintage of AMC you could get bucket seats and floor shift in a 4 door or wagon, as you could in some other makes. Factory Air would have been a very rare option, particularly with this combination.

  20. John R Briscoe

    I learned to drive in a 62 Classic 4 door. It was also white,but was automatic 6 banger.Got caught racing it once. Seems the 6 banger would throw oil all over the hood and engine compartment if you were to leave it in second gear while accelerating in a race. Cost me my DL for two weeks,and I had to clean up my mess with Gunk. What a way to spend a Sat.morning!!

  21. Rich Member

    My first car in ’76 was a ’63 Rambler Classic with auto. Twin stick notwithstanding, I believe Rambler’s greatest technological advancement was the seatbacks that could be laid flat, thus creating a twin bed. That summer of ’76 was a good one….

  22. Johan Lindersson

    I have a 65 Ambassador with 287 V8 and twin stick. It has great gas milage and one thing i really like is the free wheel function. It is working under speeds under 45 mph and very convenient in city driving. One other nice thing is the button on top of the overdrive stick. By pressing it while crusin in over drive it disconnect the od works like a kick down on automatic cars.

  23. Steven

    In the late 50’s, I rewired the Laycock de Normanville Overdrive in my 1954 Austin-Healey so that I had 8 forward speeds. (And 2 in Reverse!) On the occasional Saturday i would be at Long Beach Lions doing my best to trophy in E Sport class. Never did as there was always a Porsche around to take it from me. But I did enjoy the shift from 2nd low to 2nd high, as it was done beforehand. I would leave the line in 2nd low with the switch already up for 2nd high; at 18 or 20 mph the transmission would shift automatically without my having to take my hands off of the wheel. This resulted in a satisfying ‘chirp’ from the tires and get a 2nd look from the Porsche drivers.

  24. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Sold for $2,275 with 19 bids.

  25. wendell benner

    As Ramblin stated the 195.6 in L head and OHV was the only engine but the OHV came in two flavors….1bbl or 2bbl carb set up. The latter had 138 horsepower. That latter set up with the twin stick would have been a most peppy performer for the day in the econo class.

  26. dennis

    i had a 65 rambler 770 with a working twin stick. it was a working overdrive. (about 30 mpg at a cruising 70 mph, 1750 rpm) around town, i used it as a regular 3 speed, and on the open road, used the od. remember, 1st gear (probably) isn’t synchronized, so once you’ve shifted to second, you’re done with 1st until you stop.

  27. Jeremy

    We purchased this car, runs great after carb rebuild. Still need to work on a/c. Twin stick works, fun to drive.

    Like 1
  28. Jim

    My ’64 i restored after high school 196 3spd.

    Like 1

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