Saturday, November 13, 2010

1958 Rambler American Deluxe Club Sedan

"It was inevitable that the distinctively new Rambler American should enter the American automotive scene in 1958. For this is one car that the modern American demands  . . .  A car that combats rising operating and maintenance costs by giving more miles per gallon of gasoline with lowest maintenance costs  . . .  a car that is easier to park, garage and maneuver in traffic. The chic Rambler American styling imparts an air of smart practicality that sets a new American note. And the car's zestful get-up-and-go, quick-as-a-flash maneuverability and spacious roominess put real fun back into motoring. Your Rambler American will remain stylishly new for years to come. For it is conceived and built to the principle that a sound design does not need yearly changes or embellishments, with resultant economies to the owner. Today's big buy in small cars is the Rambler American for 1958. See and drive it now at your Rambler dealer's"

The 1958 Rambler American was already old when it was new. How did this happen?

Alongside the "Fullsize" car market, there had always been a margin for smaller, economic cars in the U.S. This market became the domain of smaller "independents" like Hudson, Nash and foreign producers who couldn't compete with the sheer power of the "Big Three" that clearly dominated the automotive landscape throughout the 50s. But the business was difficult, and the logical consequence, as Nash President George Mason rightfully had realized already in the early 50s, was merger to become bigger and get more market share. In 1954, Nash and Hudson, in financial trouble, merged to form American Motors (AMC). Their major new product, the Rambler, should soon become a big player in the small compact car market.

Despite being called a "compact", the Rambler with its 108-inch wheelbase was a pretty mature car, and no match for smaller compact cars like Volkswagen's Beetle, that became more and more popular among car buyers in the mid 50s. So, a smaller car had to be positioned to fight the growing demand for imported cars. The only small car in the AMC portfolio was the Nash Metropolitan, which was too tiny, just sporting an 85-inch wheelbase. Tight on budget, AMC found its redemption in revitalizing the Nash Rambler, a 100-inch wheelbase car that had been produced between 1950 and 1955, and actually was the predecessor of the 108-inch Rambler. The old tools were still in AMC's possession, and with a bit of clever restyling, namely by cutting bigger wheel openings into the Nash-"trademark" closed fenders, and by shaping a different hood and a flatter roof profile, Edmund Anderson and his styling team made the car fit for the popular taste of the end-50s. Such an operation was unheard of any car company before and after, but it saved AMC a lot of investments, making the car pretty cheap with a sticker price of 1.789 USD upon it's introduction in January 1958.

The Rambler American was only offered as a two-door sedan, in order to not cannibalize from the bigger Ramblers. The spartan equipment let the car look pretty clean, and although being a bit lethargic with it's 90 h.p. engine, it offered two things that won over the customers hearts and wallets: the Rambler American had a remarkable fuel economy and it was an american product, backed up by AMC's vast dealer network. This was an advantage that none of the import brands could offer. A third positive point for the Rambler American's success was good timing, although this certainly wasn't in AMC's hands: the biggest chrome monsters that the "Big Tree" had ever built arrived amidst the Eisenhower recession of 1957-1958. Customers ran away from thirsty, overstyled cars, and while the "Big Three" recorded massive losses, the demand for economic "compact" cars soared, paving the way for AMC's (and one year later Studebaker's) swift success. AMC was the only american car company that closed the financial year 1958 with a production increase.

In Cuba, though, compact cars remain a pretty rare sight. Here, the customers ticked a little bit different: for many citizens, the 50s were a period of tremendous economic upswing, and a new car had to represent this new wealth and be a show-off. Hence, in most cases, only the biggest and flashiest affordable cars found their way into cuban garages.

1 Kommentare:

Brian F said...

Man! I've heard that Cuban Cars are still stuck in the pre-embargo days. I was expecting dilapidated, rusted POS, but these cars are SWEEET! I wish I could do a trip to Cuba with some spare parts and actually restore on to the likeliness of your photos! Great posts!