If you look at the vast majority of marketing materials today, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ll be unceremoniously shipped off to Timbuktu at the age of 41. The youth are the demographic that gets all the attention- and that’s fine. Millennials have given the world all kinds of great things: from apps that summon personal chauffeurs to your door to shops that sell only cookie dough. But recently, the 18 to 40 demographic has made a terrible mistake. The tastemakers have made something in poor taste. And this car can explain why. This is a 1965 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country.
But first, some history. Rambler was a defunct brand under the also-now-defunct American Motors Corporation, or AMC. They essentially served as a smaller, independent counterpart to the “Big Three” Detroit brands: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Rambler as we know it today actually began its life as a type of car under Nash (yet another extinct American company). The Nash Rambler eventually proved successful enough to be expanded into its own brand in 1957, following a merger between Nash and the Hudson Motor Car Company, which became American Motors. This particular car, the Rambler Classic, was their midsize offering, slotting in between the smaller American and opulent Ambassador.
1965 marked the first year of the third generation of the Classic (confused yet?) and that meant a full restyling. Well, a full restyling if you don’t count the roof, doors, and windshield, which carried over from the second generation. In 1963, Rambler adopted a “Mercedes-like” three digit model designation system, meaning you could get a Classic 550 if you were a plebeian, a Classic 660 if you were an average Joe, or a Classic 770 like this one. That meant you were showered with such opulent luxuries as more chrome and, well, that’s pretty much it. Engines were mostly inline 6 cylinder units, though a couple V8s were offered in later years. This particular Classic has a 3.8 liter six cylinder developing either 145 or 155 horsepower, depending on how it was tuned at the factory. Three speed manuals or automatics were the only options you had when it came to transmissions, though you could get overdrive (essentially a higher gear for improved fuel economy on the highway) if that was what your little heart desired. Anyone still reading? Good, because now we’re going to talk about how my generation ruined something beautiful.
If you kept your eyes peeled in some of the earlier photographs, you may have noticed that this is a station wagon. Rambler offered the Classic in all sorts of bodystyles: sedans, coupes, pillar-less hardtops, and even a convertible. But the wagon was by far the most practical, and my favorite of the bunch. Europeans call them “estates,” Americans call them “wagons,” but Rambler decided to call their wagon the “Cross Country,” which finally explains the end of the Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country’s exceptionally long name. In the early 1960s, Rambler was first in sales when it came to station wagons, and it was easy to see why. The Cross Country was solid, reliable, good looking and well-packaged transport that could easily be all the car most people would ever need. There was enough space inside to keep your children from killing one another and just enough design flair for it to be suitable for a night out on the town with the missus. Today, no American automaker offers a wagon (with the exception of, debatably, Ford). That’s because the market has shifted to the La La Land of automotive bodystyles: the crossover.
Crossovers are small SUVs built on car platforms, and they’re as popular right now as remaking old cartoons into gritty, live-action feature films. But crossovers suffer from the same flaw as season 2 of American Horror Story: they try to do too much. Aliens? Nazis? Nuns possessed by the Devil? Much like Ryan Murphy, the crossover needs to pick a plotline. They try to put on this rugged, practical and sporty vibe, but all they really end up being is anonymous blobs of automotive wallpaper. The wagon was different. It didn’t pretend to be a burly off-roader, though some were. It didn’t pretend to be a sports car, though some could play that game too. The wagon didn’t pretend, period. It was honest. And moreover, it was a reminder that sometimes, the old ways are the best.
- George Romney, the one-time head of American Motors and the father of Mitt Romney, actually owned a Rambler Classic. Though his was a coupe, not a Cross Country.
- In 1963, all Ramblers received Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award.
- The Classic featured “unitside” construction, which not only made the car more robust (less parts mean less squeaks and rattles), but cheaper to manufacture as well.
- From a design perspective, I actually find wagons to be more cohesive and better looking than their sedan counterparts, generally speaking. Don’t agree? Take your thumb and place it over the rearmost windows in the second-to-last picture- it makes it look as if the sedan were carved out of the wagon shape.
- I shouldn’t say all crossovers are bad. There are a couple that I like.