Around the end of the 1950s, compact cars began to grow in popularity in the United States. During that time there were a number of competitors within the niche, led by the Rambler American.
The car was the brainchild of the head of American Motors, George Romney. Since any exploration of the classic car realm is a history lesson of sorts, we may as well mention the fact that Romney went on to become governor of Michigan, and he is Mitt Romney’s father.
The Rambler American was first introduced for the 1958 model year, but the Rambler name was previously used for the Nash Rambler. The Nash-Kelvinator Corporation (including its automotive branch, Nash Motors) and the Hudson Motor Car Company merged in 1954; the result was American Motors. The Nash Rambler was introduced for the 1950 model year, and was produced through 1955.
The country was going through a recession in 1958, and Romney thought that an economy Rambler would be the right car under the circumstances.
The Rambler American was one of the cheapest cars you could buy (the sticker price was under $2000), and it was very economical to run. This winning combination had great appeal to a cash-strapped populace. For the most part, people were not buying things in 1958, but over 30,000 Rambler Americans were sold during that year. This was considered to be a smashing success given the dismal state of the economy.
The only body style offered during the initial model year was a two-door sedan. The engine used to power the 1958 Rambler American was a 195.6 cubic inch straight-six which was rated at 90 horsepower. This was the only engine offered at the time.
The Rambler American did well the first year, but it really took off in popularity during the 1959 model year. They offered a two-door Rambler American station wagon during this sophomore campaign; it was a great idea, a family car with a low price tag. The company had a difficult time meeting orders, but they managed to produce 91,491 units, including over 30,000 station wagons.
American Motors produced the last Ramblers during the 1969 model year. In all, over four million units were produced. The Rambler was a very good thing for American Motors, and in retrospect, things were never the same after it was discontinued. The company ultimately went out of business in 1988.