I have a real love for the 1965-66 Rambler Ambassadors. Part of that may be due to my chance encounter with a metallic lilac ’65 sedan back in the ’90s (a story told once before; I’ll share it here on RG eventually) but the plain truth is I find them very clean and elegant. It was 1965, the Big Three were at the top of their game, BUT even little Wisconsin-based AMC fielded an attractive line. The arguably frumpy cars of the late Fifties were banished, and clean, smooth lines were in evidence throughout the line. The luxury Ambassador convertible was the top of the heap. And if you happened to have one in Woodside Light Green with a white top and green interior? Holy cow! I’m in.
Many years went by before I discovered the 1965 Ambassador and Classic were not all-new, as I had previously assumed, (blame over-the-top Sixties braggadocio and advertising) but were in fact heavily facelifted 1963-64 models. While it can be seen in the rooflines–particularly on the two-door hardtops (damn, how did I not notice that?!), the middle-tier Classic and upper-crust Ambassador both looked new, modern and attractive. I especially like the Ambassador’s stacked headlights and peaked fenders. Did the top-tier wonks in Kenosha know Cadillac was going for quad stacked headlamps in ’65, or was it just a happy coincidence? At any rate, they looked great.
Yes, the stacked quad headlamps, first introduced on the 1963 Pontiacs (although the true pioneer was the 1958 Lincoln and Continental Mark III, albeit with slanted spotlights rather than strictly vertical) was getting extremely popular in Detroit by 1965. Members of the brigade included, as one would expect, the Rambler Ambassador, but also the full-size Ford, full-size Plymouth, Pontiac (well, duh) and Cadillac. They all looked good too. With the slab sides and clean, rectangular lines, ushered in by the ’61 Continental and widely copied thereafter by all manner of manufacturers.
Ambassadors were available as a four-door sedan, two-door sedan, two-door hardtop, wagon (with or without Di-Noc, depending on the buyer’s whim and pocketbook), and, of course, the highly attractive topless variant. Two series, the 880 and 990, made up the Ambassador’s trim choices, but if you wanted a drop top you were just going to have to plump for the flossy 990, the sole choice for al fresco motoring, and WAY better looking than the somewhat cheaply-trimmed 880s. Not nearly enough chrome, in your author’s opinion. If the $2955 base price was a bit too dear, you could always get the very similar Classic convertible, but you’d lose those most excellent stacked headlights. And the snob appeal (at least among Wisconsin cognoscenti) of having the very top-drawer AMC product.
The 990 convertible was the flashiest Ambassador, but the station wagon actually had a higher price–$2970 compared to $2955. You must really have needed the extra space (or had way too many kids, haha!) to spend fifteen bucks above the beautiful convertible for the Badger State Estate Car! And this one not only has a green interior, but also the optional Flash-O-Matic Shift Command automatic transmission (don’t you love the old, cool names car features used to have?) with bucket seats and a center console. It cost $227.30 with the 155-hp 232 Six and $234.50 with the 250-hp 327 V8. It was only available with the console and buckets; non Shift-Command Ambassadors with the automatic got a column shift. And let’s face it, if you were getting the top-drawer 990 convertible, it would be a crying shame for it to not have a V8.
Only 3,499 1965 990 convertibles were built, and I imagine those with the buckets and console were probably in the hundreds at most. This car, on display at the AACA Grand National in downtown Moline a few years back caught my eye immediately, with that lovely color. When I peered inside and saw the buckets and floor shift, I was in love. A stunner, for sure! Were the redesigned (and costly) all-new 1967 Ambassadors really necessary? I think this car was clean and attractive enough to last at least into 1970 with only minor changes. And how might this car have done when the gas crisis hit? The exaggerated Coke-bottle 1970-78 Rebel/Matador were bigger, and certainly bulkier looking compared to this car. It is so clean and elegant.
1965 really was a banner year for domestic rolling stock, and not just in terms of sales. The excess of the Fifties had been tamped down, and the regulations of the late Sixties and early Seventies had not yet marred the aesthetic appeal. A damn good year for automobiles. Even at little old AMC, eclipsed by the Big Three in terms of sales, but with an appeal all their own.