Gear Head Tuesday – ’57 Rambler Rebel V-8

Gear Head

1957 Rambler Rebel V-8 – Seldom Remembered Hot Rod

AMC Rebel

1957 Rambler Rebel V-8

Seldom remembered today is a real hot rod from a most surprising source: the 1957 Rambler Rebel V-8 from American Motors.

American Motors was formed in 1954 by the merger of Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson, a merger inspired by Nash-Kelvinator boss George Mason. Years earlier, auto builder Nash, based in Kenosha, WI, had merged with Kelvinator, a maker of upscale home appliances, principally refrigerators. Mason had been at Kelvinator and had become the boss at the merged company. We’ve covered previously how Mason correctly perceived that as World War II ended, there would be a huge sellers market for all automakers, then a shake-out among the independents. Fully intending to be one of the survivors, Mason set out to form American Motors by merging Nash, Hudson, Packard and Studebaker into what would have been the fourth full-line auto company in the U.S. As we know, that didn’t work out. Mason died of pneumonia and was succeeded by George Romney who had a different vision for American Motors.

Without rehashing the drama surrounding the uncompleted merger between the Nash -Hudson and the Studebaker-Packard halves of the new American Motors, we will say that Romney took AMC in his own direction and that included developing their own V-8 rather than continuing to buy V-8s from Packard.

The AMC V-8 was largely developed by engineer David Potter who had come to AMC from Kaiser. At Kaiser, Potter had designed a neat little aluminum block V-8 that was intended to replace the anemic Continental six that powered Kaiser cars. Kaiser didn’t have the money to put the engine into production and the engine never got past the prototype stage of development. So Potter re-potted himself at the newly-formed American Motors and in 1955 began designing the AMC V-8. Stories float around that the AMC V-8 was essentially a cast iron version of the aluminum block V-8 Potter had designed for Kaiser, but it was a “clean sheet” design.

Romney’s vision for American Motors was centered on the Rambler. As quickly as he could, he killed off the full size Nash and Hudson. The new Rambler originally was slated to debut for 1957, but at Romney’s direction, the company put its resources into getting the new Rambler to market a year earlier: 1956.


56 Rambler

1956 Rambler ad – touting its unitized construction.

Romney himself pitched the new Rambler in AMC’s TV ads, denouncing Detroit’s “gas guzzling dinosaurs.”

With Romney reshaping the company into an economy car producer, it is surprising that for 1957 American Motors built one of the hottest cars available in the market at the time – the Rebel V-8. In fact, the Rebel was the fastest U.S. production car for 1957.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 07.28.03

AMC built 1,500 Rebel V-8s for 1957. They were all painted silver and with the exception of a few pre-production prototypes, sported a band of gold anodized trim down the side. There was not a two door body style in the Rambler line, but there was a four door hardtop and all 1,500 Rebels were built on that body.

Rebel side trim

The V-8 Potter designed for American Motors was a fine power plant and became the basis for most of the V-8s AMC would produce until the company was absorbed by Chrysler.

The Rebels were announced as being fitted with the Bendix Electronic Fuel Injection system. However, the Bendix EFI unit wasn’t “ready for the prime time,” and all of the production Rebels were fitted instead with a four barrel carburetor. The V-8 used in the Rebel displaced 327 cubic inches and developed 250 horsepower.

Rebel wheel covers

The Rebels could be ordered either with a 3 speed manual transmission with overdrive or with a Hydra-Matic automatic sourced from General Motors. All of them came with a long list of standard equipment: full wheel discs (as opposed to hub caps), wide whitewall tires, reclining seats with foam cushions, electric clock, radio with decklid antenna (rather than front-fender antenna found on other Ramblers), Weather-Eye heater, back-up lights, adjustable shock absorbers, stabilizer bar and dual exhausts.


The Rebel as configured for 1957 was only offered that year, but American Motors continued the name but with different trim into the 1958 model year and used the name off and on for many more years. The 1957 Rebels, largely unremembered today, were really a spectacular car for that one brief year.

Rebel -rr

 blog-divider“Chris-to-Fear” sends us this link to a photo essay of old gas stations. Enjoy!




Add yours →

  1. I had forgotten about the REBEL. I had a 55 Nash Rambler, ’57 Rambler (Cross Country?), ’60 Wagon. I loved those cars to be honest. I can’t believe I had forgotten the REBEL altogether until this post.
    Enjoyed the back ground, etc. THANKS!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matthew J Wertz 22/01/2019 — 07:21

    The V8s based on the AMC 327 lasted through the 1966 model year. Another version was the 287. An all-new, AMC designed, lighter, modern V8 debuted in the 1967 model year, initially available in 290 and 343 c. i. forms, and subsequently offered in 304, 360, and 401 versions. These were not based on the 327 at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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