25 June 2008

AMC = Always Means Clunker

Reintroducing the 1967 American Motors Ambassador ... with the RED CARPET RIDE:
Goodness gracious, that is one ugly car. The stacked headlights might've been all the rage, but that doesn't make it right. There's a roof, but that's just ornamental. Beware of car washes or heavy downpours.

My recent post about early 1972's music and with it some memories of my grandparents' rolling lemon tree got me Googling around for pictures and adverts of the Ambassador, the unfortunate attempt by American Motors at taking on Ford and Chevy in the full-size car market. AMC to date had been known primarily for its smaller cars, especially the Rambler. ("...its horn went beep, beep, beep!")

My grandfather had a bizarre fascination with AMC. I think they had a couple of Nash cars (AMC/Rambler's predecessor) in the '50s, and then they drove a '63 Rambler for many years. Mom even drove it during college (some home movies Big John took show a Zeta Tau Alpha sticker on the side window). I remember that Rambler -- it hung around the Birmingham homestead until 1974-ish, and I also recall the comments on how indestructible that car was.

However, Big John traded in the Rambler for another AMC car: a 1973 Gremlin. Silver. Three on the floor. It was the first stick I'd ever seen. The Gremlin had a nasty habit of 'dieseling' - that is, the engine running on after the key was switched off.

Then, of course, they bought me my first "car." Yeah, the Pacer. All of their AMC'ers came from Roy Bridges Motors in Birmingham.

I didn't get it then, and I sure the hell don't get it now. Big John's brother, Mayo (whom I credit as a source of incredible sarcasm back in the day), worked for Chrysler Corporation!

A couple of times my Dad said that AMC used salvaged parts from Ford, GM and Chrysler. He might be onto something.

But the Ambassador. It was a fancy, lofty name. And my grandparents' specimen was the 990. For whatever that's worth:

The "landau" roof was made of recycled RCA Dynaflex polyvinyl. It had windshield wipers, although I'm not sure where they were needed most - outside or INSIDE. The retarded-looking vertical-style AM radio gave great, full-throated audio to such classics as "Rhapsody in the Rain" by Lou Christie, "Rain" from The Beatles or Sir Douglas Quintet's "The Rains Came." Especially that last one.

I already told of the incident in Amory, Miss., when this bucket of salvaged bolts coughed up a mechanical hairball. Its demise occurred about a year later, when they were on a trip to Mobile. Parts of the exhaust - muffler, tailpipe, if not more - chose to litter itself along the asphalt of I-65 just outside of Montgomery. And the engine was pretty much declared toast, as well. Don't know how these things were connected, but just imagine my grandparents as Jake and Elwood Blues. And this sh*tbox Ambassador as their Mount Prospect Police Car.

"It's the engine. We just threw a rod." "Is it serious?" "Yup."

On their next trip, they showed up in our Tupelo driveway showing off their new set of wheels: a 1973 Pontiac Catalina. Royal green. I mean, very very green. That car, in spite of being your typical GM piece of guano, was less temperamental. Well, except for the time the windshield wipers died ... in a Summer downpour outside of Zephyrhills, Fla. I was with 'em and watching my grandfather crawling along I-75 in the torrential rain, feeling his way for the next offramp, is quite the unforgettable memory.

At least I didn't get drenched inside that car.

Still to come: more thoughts on family rides over the years......

Ciao for niao.

--Creampuff '65 Talmadge Gleck hardtop, used and slightly abused, firing on just two cylinders


Georgia Road Geek said...

Yup, sounds like a clunker to me.

BTW, my wife is a Zeta from Florida Southern and several of her relatives live in the Zephyrhills ("Z-Hills") area.

I enjoy reading your blogs and always look forward to more. :)

Melissa said...

What's "Amory" Mississippi like?
My last name is Amory and I'd love to go there sometime...just to take a picture even...

Talmadge Gleck said...

Not really much to say about Amory. It's a small-ish (~5,000) railroad town about 30 minutes southeast of Tupelo. It's fairly clean, as far as cities go. I drove through there last October, and it's on the grow.

According to the city website www.amoryms.us, it's the first "planned" city in Mississippi. I never knew that.

Melissa said...

how funny that the website is "amoryms"....my "teacher persona" is Ms. Amory! :)

I have never been to MS so if I get down there I'll def have to stop!