I drove up to a red light yesterday, and to my left there was a new car that looked like some kind of bloated, rounded blob of plastic. Clearly, somebody liked it because somebody was driving it, but like a lot of newer models, it was disruptive to my sensibilities.
I looked at the nameplate, and it was a Buick LaCrosse. Now, the Buick LaCrosse may be a fine vehicle, but who names a car after a rather obscure sport? What’s next, the Chevrolet Badminton, the Fiat Bocce, or the Ford Foosball?
Really, if you are a guy and you are talking to your manly man friends, would you rather say that you are driving a LaCrosse, or an Ambassador?
American Motors Corporation was formed by the merger of the Nash Motors and Hudson Motor Car Company. The Ambassador nameplate was originally used by Nash, and dates back to 1927. AMC introduced the Ambassador V8 by Rambler for the 1958 model year.
The Ambassador was a full-size luxury car, and it was offered as a four-door sedan, a four-door hardtop, a hardtop station wagon, and a standard station wagon.
Under the hood the ’58 Ambassador had a 270 horsepower, 327 cubic inch V8. The engine was powerful and the car was reasonably light, so it was fast. It could go from zero to sixty in under ten seconds, and it could get a quarter mile in about 17 seconds.
The car had some cool features that were innovations at the time, including front seats that reclined into a bed. That feature was great for drive-in dates, and it had an electric clock so you could get your date (and your dad’s car) home on time.
AMC brought the Ambassador back for the 1959 model year with some improvements, including optional adjustable front seat headrests and an optional air suspension system. Sales were solid during the second year of production, with almost 24,000 units sold in all. If you locate a 1959 hard-top Ambassador station wagon you have nabbed a rare bird; there were only 578 of them produced.
The Ambassador remained in production through the 1974 model year. It was around for a long time when you factor in the Nash Ambassador, and you could see a microcosm of the evolution of American automaking if you were to study the history of the nameplate.