- AMC Machine
boxcolor = darkgreen
name = The Machine
aka = The Rebel Machine
American Motors Corporation
production = 1970
class = Mid-size
body_style = 2-door
The Machine is an
automobile(2,326 built in 1970 [ [http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z9472/default.aspx 1970 AMC Rebel Machine by Conceptcarz] , retrieved on March 7 2008.] ) produced by American Motors Corporation(AMC). It is a muscle carversion of the AMC Rebel. The Machine featured factory performance enhancements with serious power at a budget price.
The Machine was announced to dealers by then Vice-President William Pickett on
August 5 1969(from original AMC letter posted on the net by Tom Benvie, former AMC Apprentice) and as stated in the letter it was the company's intention to finish all of the first one thousand Machine with the "Red Streak" graphics kit, making it one of the most distinctive cars ever built by any company at any time. Each dealer was committed to one Rebel Machine that they were instructed to display in their showrooms, not on their lots. One known exception to this was Empire Motors in Sudbury, Ontario. They sold more Machines than any other dealer with 60 units sold. Their technique was to have the son and the nephew of the owner take the cars from the trailer to the local drag strip, disconnect the exhaust pipes and race them. They made deals right at the strip. Sudbury is a mining town and in those days a Rebel Machine onslaught must have been over-whelming for young miners with lots of money and nowhere to spend it. A number of the cars in the area are still owned by their original owners. (John Newell) [ [http://clubs.hemmings.com/clubsites/classicamx/RebMachArticle/RebMachineArticle.html Truesdell, Richard. The Rebellious American Machine] , retrieved on March 7 2008.]
First proposed in June 1968, the car was to have been a 1969 Rebel coupe finished in black with authoritative black wheels and fat tires, without any stripes, scoops, or spoilers, but with a cartoon "Machine" logo being run through a couple of graphic gears, (International Rebel Machine Newsletter, John Newell, 1995), aggressive street-fighting stance. [ [http://musclecars.howstuffworks.com/classic-muscle-cars/1970-amc-rebel-machine.htm "] , retrieved on
March 7 2008.]
American Motors' high performance
halo vehicleannounced to the press on October 16 1969[AMC PRESS KIT] and made its official debut October 25 1969, in Dallas, Texas; the site of the National Hot Rod Association's World Championship Drag Race Finals. The Machine was conceived by American Motors, and probably the idea developed from a collaboration between Hurst Performanceand AMC, but unlike the compact SC/Rambler, there was no public recognition by AMC of Hurst's contribution once production commenced.
Hurst was however still involved in every aspect of developing the performance image of the car. The February issue of Super Stock magazine stated bluntly that "since we introduced you to the car, we have made a couple of trips and a lot of phone calls to the Hurst Performance Research Lab in Detroit where the Rebel Machine was born and raised..." The Super Stock article titled 'The Machine Part II' went on to state that "the Hurst organization and AMC have been collaborating on a couple of very interesting publications that are issued with each Machine sold. The booklets describe to the new Machine owner just what he has bought, and offers explicit instructions on what he or she can do to make it better (i.e. quicker) in four stages of modifications."
The marketing was backed up by multiple sessions of drag strip testing at Florida's Gainsville Dragway. The aforementioned Super Stock article and the article by the late Roger Huntington titled 'Are You Geared to Go' [Rodder and Superstock Magazine, November, 1969] became the benchmark performance article for The Machine and in the case of the Huntington article, a template for how to write an informative, useful article about muscle cars. [ [http://clubs.hemmings.com/clubsites/classicamx/RebMachArticle/RebMachineArticle.html Truesdell, Richard. The Rebellious American Machine] , retrieved on
March 7 2008.]
The standard engine in The Machine was AMC's auto CID|390 V8 engine with Convert|340|hp|kW|1|. More importantly, from a racing point of view, the engine developed auto ftlbf|430 of torque at 3600 rpm. The horsepower rating only qualified the Machine as a muscle car - and thus higher insurance premiums by one single horsepower; the torque is what made the difference at the starting line. (Pat Wnek/John Newell) This was the most powerful engine in any AMC vehicle while retaining features required for normal street operations, as well as components to assure outstanding performance characteristics without incurring high-unit and warranty costs (John Newell) penalties. [ [http://www.sae.org/technical/papers/700349 Petersen, Robert A. SAE Technical Papers (Document Number: 700349)] , retrieved on
January 25 2008.] The engine is fed by a miserly 600-cfm Autolite four-barrel carb. Compression was advertised at 10.0:1 and required high- octane gasoline. [ [http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/autos/columnists.nsf/oldcarcolumn/story/E29F5B221D816D6F862573BB005A3428?OpenDocument Kunz, Bruce. "1970 AMC Rebel" St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/24/2007] , retrieved on March 7 2008.]
The heavy-duty suspension was initially augmented by station wagon springs in the rear giving the car a raked look. These springs caused violent wheel hop in drag racing situations and were phased out of the cars over the model year (Drag Racing, September, 1970, The Rebel Machine - what hath AM Wrought?, John Lawlor). Lawlor wrote: "Heavy duty suspension was another part of the Machine package. When the car was first announced, it had super heavy duty coils at the rear, borrowed from the Rebel station wagon. These didn't serve any truly functional purpose. They were installed simply to lift the tail of the car for a rakish appearance.
However, there appears to have been a running change on this point, though we haven't been able to confirm it with the AM factory. There were complaints that the extremely stiff wagon springs caused severe wheel hop when the clutch was popped at the starting line and many drag racers replaced them with the softer standard coils used on the Rebel sedan and hardtop.
Our test car certainly didn't have a noticeable rake, as the accompanying photos show. Nor did it suffer from really severe wheel hop during our drag runs. We can only conclude, therefore that it didn't have the wagon rear springs at all. The ride was still firm, though, so we suspect that we had the rear coils normally supplied as a heavy duty option on the sedan and hardtop. These are stiffer than absolutely stock springs but are nowhere near as harsh as the wagon units." (John Newell)
The weaker springs didn't help the wheel hop much but eliminated the raked look and lowered the overall factory spec'd height of the car from 54.4" to 53.4". The spring change was further verified by the delivery day (December 23, 1969) photo of my own Rebel Machine (August, 19, 1970) that was delivered to the original owner, Ralph Stigger of Mississauga Ontario. In that photo, the car sits perfectly level. This was the first Machine ordered and delivered in Canada. It was ordered by Ralph's uncle who was an AMC executive at the Brampton AMC Assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario. (International Rebel Machine Newsletter, 1995, John Newell) As well, when the photographs of the cars are reviewed (and I have seen more than my share of the cars that are still out there, they are almost all sitting level. Very few still have the raked appearance and on at least one of them the raked appearance was achieved by the owner replacing the springs with the station wagon units.
Standard were a
Borg-WarnerT-10 four-speed manual transmission with a Hurst floor shifter backed by either 3.54:1 or optional gear ratios up to 5.0:1 rear axle gear ratios, as well as power disc brakes, wide E60X15 Goodyear Polyglas white letter tires mounted on "Machine" mag-styled steel convert|15|in|mm|sing=on wheels by Kelsey Wheels, and a black interior with high back bucket seats and a center armrest upholstered in red, white, and blue vinyl. Numerous other upgrades were standard to make each Machine a potent turn-key drag racer.
The trend to increase the power output from muscle car engines has seen AMC engines top convert|500|hp and big block engines top convert|1000|hp. It should be understood that neither the stock clutch, bellhousing, Borg-Warner T-10 nor the automatic transmission were designed to channel this much horsepower. A Richmond Racing Transmission is much safer. When something small goes wrong under load with high horsepower, the effect is exactly the same as a car bomb and any occupants of the car can be killed or maimed instantly as well as the car totally ruined. That goes for any other muscle car with an original transmission, so pay attention and live. (John Newell)
As a potential drag racer for the average guy on the street with a micro-budget, The Machine knew no equal when all costs and results were factored in. The optional service kit boosted the horsepower to well over convert|400|hp and lowered its times from 14.4 with the Autolite carb and bone jarring wheel hop to 12.72 in the quarter at a cost of about $500.00 US. (Cars Magazine, Nov. 1970, Are You Geared to Go?, Roger Huntington) According the benchmark book on comparative muscle car statistics "How Fast Were They?" no muscle car of that era in dealer/factory stock history ever beat those times. (Steve Schultz, GaS Publishing, 1996) As of 1996, neither the fastest Viper nor the fastest Vette of that year could yet beat it. That is a long reign for any car that will probably never be equalled, especially since The Machine was only produced for one year.
suggested retail price(MSRP) price was US$3,475 US - 4,400 CDN (approximately $20,000, in 2007 dollars). The October 16, 1969 Press Release stated that the company's aim was to release the first one thousand Machines in the Red, White and Blue (paint code 25A) paint/graphics scheme. But in the (December? and) January issues of SUPER STOCK magazine the number was apparently revised downwards to 300 RWB units before launching the P8 (blacked out hood designation, AMC Parts Book) solid colour car production. This is more in keeping with the reality of the Rebel Machine Registry compiled by Mickey Ziomkowski and the manner in which the vehicles were "awarded" to the dealerships. More about that later.
Jim McGraw, the author who broke the news indicated that this information appeared in the December issue as well, but I don't have a copy of that issue. Performance car magazines appeared on stands in the month before the date on the cover and the magazines required a month of set up, press run and shipping time so Jim's article had to have been written in October and his information acquired very shortly after the October 16th Press Release. What's unique here is that no other journalist from that era whose documentation has survived reported those numbers.
When the cars were announced it was reported in the media that every AMC dealer would receive one Rebel Machine that was to be displayed front and centre in their showrooms (Official AMC Audio salesman's training tape). They were not to be left out in the lot. The idea was to use the flamboyant paint scheme to lure non-AMC potential customers into the showroom where they could be introduced to the rest of the AMC line-up. Selling the RWG cars was never a high priority for AMC despite the official public stance. But in true AMC fashion, the company covered every base to ensure that the car as produced matched the hype. Also in true AMC fashion, once all the hard work was done, they spent hardly any money to promote what history now accepts as the best all around car that American Motors ever built. In fact from marketing standpoint, after the most expensive and labour intensive performance project for a car offered for public sale, the company abandoned the car to its sales fate and the larceny of the performance car magazines of the era; most of whom, officially, didn't like the paint scheme and trashed the car and the company that produced it. But that was only part of the story. (John Newell)
The performance magazine industry in the 1960s and 1970s were essentially marketing tools for the domestic car companies. Advertising by the "Big Three" GM, Ford and Chrysler funded most of them in large part. AMC - a Johnny-come-lately initially wanted no part of the performance market and didn't begin to buy into the hype until the 1967 model year although they had been conducting performance related projects including the AMX before that time. (John Newell)
When AMC finally did enter the performance game, the marketplace had been lying in wait for them for some time. It was a marketing ambush in every sense of the word. AMC's first efforts at performance were met with derision by the public who had essentially no knowledge of American Motors products at that point. Their views were shaped entirely by what appeared in the newspapers and car magazines. Journalistic integrity was not a factor in whether an article was published or not. Honesty did not sell newspapers or magazines. Controversy did. The easiest to pick on is always the new kid on the block with the least amount of wherewithal to defend himself. AMC fit the bill and the journalists had a field day. (John Newell)
For example: Hot Rod magazine published an article, February 1970, by Steve Kelly titled 'Too Much of a Rebel' and contrary to SUPER CARS and Rodder and Superstock magazines, this is what this journalist, typical of his era had to say:
"AMC's Rebel Machine reminds us of a great defense lawyer who, despite losing his biggest case, still boasted that it was his greatest courtroom scene. The Rebel Machine is a good effort on American Motors' part but it isn't a winner. If there is an attempt here to chase down the well-known middle-class supercar market nobody but American Motors need worry. Here's a car that lists for $3500 at the starting point, but lacks and appealing interior, feels way too big (and is) to be a handler, and is marked with more identity than Peter Fonda's two wheeler, with about the same taste. Not many of the folks we talked with while we had the car could think of any reason they'd want this car, with 36 months to pay and all the bright paint."
The tach was roundly criticized in all of the performance magazines of the day but the same tach in the same location was praised as a great and functional idea on General Motors cars in those same magazines, sometimes in the same issue. (The International Rebel Machine Newsletter, 1996, John Newell)
Steve wasn't done yet. He went on to say: "A box type hood fixture incorporates a vacuum-operated fresh-air inlet to the carburetor. It also contains a hood mounted tachometer upon which little value can be placed. It's functionality in this spot is questionable. When you're driving into the sun the tach face can't be seen, because of the backlighting and dashtop reflection into the windshield. When the sun is behind you, it quite often shines into the tach, and its glass covering reflects the sun into your eyes. At night the trouble with it is that the light inside is at the top. It should be on the bottom and closer to the dial face and the needle."
As a multiple Machine owner spanning several decades, a drag racer and a designer to boot I can state with certainty the information about the tachometers is essentially wrong. To call the hood scoop a "fixture" was an automotive insult. The tachometer is located where it is so that when drag racing, you could literally watch the tachometer rather than the track without looking in a completely different direction. Peripheral vision was enough to keep you straight. I have never heard of nor seen a dragstrip that ran from east to west and therefore into the sun. Such a setup would have caused problems for everyone not just Rebel Machine owners. Most strips ran west to east. Never in all my years behind the wheel did the sun ever shine from my tach face into my eyes. In addition, the black Machine dash didn't reflect into the windshield - because it was black! The location of the light puts the light source was two bulbs directly behind the dial face and set back approximately 2 1/2" from the back of the dial. The light entered the dial face through a hole behind a small semi-circular metal tab where the AMC logo was silk-screened in place. It was an inefficient design but this is a standard tachometer design technique and nothing to do with AMC in that respect. If the light had been located in the middle at the bottom as suggested by Steve Kelly, the tachometers of the day would have needed to be completely re-engineered with technology that was still decades away. (John Newell)
All of the hood-mounted tachs installed on muscle cars in 1970 came from the same manufacturer and differed only in the graphics painted on the dials. (John Newell)
In the October 1969 issue of Hot Rod, Steve Kelly described 1970 Pontiac GTO styling with the hood mounted tachometer thus: "GTO styling is about the best it has ever been, although it has never had any weak points." No mention about sunlight in that statement. (John Newell)
The April 1970 issue of Car Life magazine did a road test and compared mounting locations on the 1970 GTO: "One of our GTO's had the inside tachometer, while the other came with it mounted on the hood. We would have switched around. The hot 400 which needed an eye on the tach at all times, had the tach inside while we would have preferred it outside. The 455 had it mounted outside and since you hardly ever needed it, you might as well have it in its not-too-easily seen inside mounting pot." They went on to make a valid point about the potential failure rate of hood mounted tachs due to slamming the hood. That was a valid point but the tachs turned out to be sturdy enough to give many years service regardless - many outliving the actual cars. (John Newell)
Unlike most other muscle cars whose scoops were too low to the hood to grab the air properly, The Machine featured a large, functional
ram-air intakehood scoop that was painted Electric Blue (code B6) and silver with the generic tachometervisible to the driver integrated into a raised fairing at the rear of the scoop. The tach was also available in GM cars with different graphics. They appeared on Firebirds, GTO's and Buick GSX's. (John Newell)
The early hood scoops produced in mid 1969 were fibre glass layups and the hoodscoops installed on Machines sold after January 1, 1970 were equipped with injection molded hoodscoops. There was a big difference in weight and finish quality. (John Newell, THE INTERNATIONAL REBEL MACHINE NEWSLETTER)
After the initial run of 300 units with its distinctive and easily recognizable identity, The Machine was available without the stripes in 14 stock colors and 2 special order colours (Larry Mitchell, Patrick Foster) with a blacked out hood. The rarest of all paint/configuration schemes for the Machine was Frost White with no hood scoop (72A-8A) but with the hood blacked out, with only one made. All of this car's ownership history is known and verifiable. When I had the car repainted, I chose to convert it to a RWB paint scheme because without the stripes and hood scoop the car would have been worth less than it cost to paint it as it was completely unrecognizable as a Machine without resorting to the VIN and the glovebox door logo. (John Newell, THE INTERNATIONAL REBEL MACHINE NEWSLETTER)
The "Sleeper Machine" was sold by Jeffery Lynch Motors in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. The original wiring harness is still in the car and has never had the pigtail for the tach as part of the wire harness which is still completely original. The car was ordered as a "sleeper" with the only Machine identification being the logo on the glove box door and the VIN. The car was also ordered with the optional 4:10 gears. There is a myth surrounding the production numbers of Frost White Machines that were sold with blacked out hood and no stripes. The myth states there were only 3 sold. But when I was writing the International Rebel Machine Newsletter, I easily identified 6 of them. In truth they are no rarer than Machines of other colours. They seem rarer because most of them were converted to RWB by subsequent owners. As the supplier of the only authentic and completely correct Rebel Machine reproduction stripe kits, I can state this with authority. (John Newell)
Typically, those who don't want to draw attention to the switch don't list their cars in the Rebel Machine Registry. There is no need for concern on this point because a number of the P-72 cars were apparently converted by the factory after the door tags were riveted to the doors and window trim. The evidence for that came from two doors I spotted in the rafters of Al Timmer's barn. The switch was an easy one since the Electric Blue paint was blown onto a previously painted Frost White body. A change of hoods and the application of the stripes was all that was involved in making a switch since all other Machine options were already installed. Since the body was predominantly Frost White and recorded as such on ownership documentation, there were no legalities involved. So while 25A was the "official" RWB paint scheme, P-72 was a factory initiated though unofficial option.
The original trim scheme was a $75 option. The graphics were known as the Red Streak Racing Stripes (Rebel Machine booklet, 1970, American Motors, back page). The original stripe kits were warranted by AMC but that fact was not advertised. 3M the manufacturer, warranted them to AMC for 7 years (3m Minneapolis). Today the 25A designation or paint code shown on the metal door tag generally adds at least $1000.00 to the value of a Machine and a solid colour Machine can increase in value by the same amount when converted to the Red, White, and Blue (RWB) paint scheme. Of course purists are horrified to some degree at the thought of such a conversion, but the fact remains that since AMC did virtually nothing to publicize the solid colour Machines, the buying public generally has no idea there was such a car. Since most people become aware of Machines due to the stripes, an instant like/dislike was formed in an instant that was not generally overcome at a later date. (John Newell)
The RWB paint scheme met with controversy almost from day one and that controversy is still on-going. Its' a case of love it or leave it. Neither journalists nor the public are immune. However, it's undeniable that the Red Streak Racing Stripes are entirely responsible for the unprecedented popularity and awareness that the car is presently enjoying. The Machine is the most rapidly appreciating domestic muscle car and the RBW cars are leading the charge. When I started THE INTERNATIONAL REBEL MACHINE NEWSLETTER in 1995, a #1 quality Machine was worth $8,000. Today, the same car could go for upwards of $50,000. If The Machine had been built by GM, Ford or Chrysler, there is absolutely no doubt the price tag would be at least $30,000 higher. Regardless, Machine prices are headed in that direction fairly quickly. Many smart investors have paid attention to the trend, bought good examples and have added to their collections or otherwise archived them. As such, these Machines don't appear on the Rebel Machine Registry and are more or less divorced from the hobby, having become "commodities".(John Newell)
An incorrect stripe kit devalues the cars by thousands of dollars since the car has to be completely stripped, repainted and re-striped to achieve a correct look. (John Newell)
According to the original owner and drag race driver of the Kelowna Machine, there were ten official factory Rebel Machine drag race cars. They were equipped with chrome rally wheels and knock of spinners - completely different than the traditional "Machine" Wheels. Each of the racers were hand lettered by Robertson signs with body length gold script that read "The Machine" The artist signed the company name to each car. On the left side it was on the lower front fender next to the doors. On the right side, it was signed behind the passenger door on the rear quarter. (John Newell)
Two of the factory race cars survived into the 1990s, one in pieces stored in Al Timmer's barn in Ypsilanti, Michigan and the other in Kelowna, British Columbia. The car in pieces was a rust free car and Al the owner, was a major Rebel Machine parts supplier and specialist who made his living buying and selling Rebel Machine parts almost exclusively. He had more than enough NOS parts to fully restore the car (except for the stripes and script). Unfortunately Al sold out and all of the cars and parts he had disappeared from the hobby. Most likely the new owner didn't know what he had, but that car has to be still out there somewhere. (John Newell)
The last race car was sold to a new owner still in nearly mint condition. Unfortunately, a misguided attempt to improve the look of the engine by the original owner destroyed the car's originality to some degree. Purists were horrified at the shots that appeared on the internet. The new owner decided to restore the car to "factory" original. That may have seen the end of a piece of AMC history - the last original factory race car. The wheels were removed, the Doug Thorley headers removed. The original paint was not perfect but as a Red, White and Blue Machine, it was at the time, the best example of a Rebel Machine in factory delivered condition at the time. It wasn't a production car, but it was an important car. (John Newell)
According to the original owner, his father owned an AMC dealership in Vancouver. He used to race the cars in showroom condition at Mission Drag strip in Langley B.C. and in the US. as far south as Los Angeles. AMC was so impressed, they gave the car to him for free on the condition he race it as he had the other cars. He raced it for two years in pure stock and retired the car undefeated. It was only wet once, according to its owner, in its entire history to the point where I saw it in Kelowna. I photographed it thoroughly at the time. The original owner owns the Cars R Us in Kelowna. He can be reached there for verification. (John Newell)
The car shown at the beginning of this article is not likely one of the official factory racers. It looks like one of the test cars that were debuted first at Dallas and later Gainsville, Florida. When the Machines made their debuts, they were not trailer queens. There were ten of them, half automatics and half four speeds. They were driven from the factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas and raced in the condition they arrived in. Each car had over one hundred races apiece put on them before the flogging was over and were still in saleable shape. All of the cars were subsequently sold to customers according to AMC policy. (John Newell)
In the September 1999 issue of Motor Trend the magazine ran a feature titled "The Best, Fastest and Most Outrageous" - The 50 most memorable cars ever tested by Motor Trend. The years it covered were the last 50 years of the 20th Century. The Machine was listed number 25. Its forerunner and inspiration, the '69 SC/Rambler was included in the shot used as an honourable mention. Their author Bill Sanders said, "For a price below $3,500 the Machine performs like a champ, both in straight out acceleration and excellent handling." (John Newell)
The following year, the Rebel became the Matador and convert|2|in|mm longer. The Machine survived only as an option and not a popular option at that. Production figures are said to be 42. (Pat Wnek)
THE REBEL MACHINE CONCEPT John Newell, The Rebel Machine Guy
Cars like Rebel Machines don't just happen. For a concept like this to gain enough traction, a lot of factors and circumstances have to come into alignment all at once. It's the unlikely alignment that brought about the Rebel Machine that made it truly unique among any car ever built and made the car more than just a car. It became to most of the people who owned these cars, an iconic event in their lives for reasons they seldom comprehended.
Before the advent of the multimedia advertising and the development of what were in effect factory built race cars somewhat de-tuned for street use, cars were just a means transportation for all but a select few. By the mid-sixties, car wars were being fought on dragstrips across the United States and to a much lesser extent in other countries. It was marque against marque with the adage win on Sunday, sell on Monday. For this part of what became the biggest marketing battle ever fought, there had to be participants an aware target market and someone or something to bring the two together.
In the US, the participants were GM, Ford, Chrysler and AMC. Automotive racing has a long history and it was a happening thing from the outset, steadily growing in popularity and in public awareness. What changed in the mid-sixties was the sudden availability of inexpensive colour televisions that needed exciting programming to show on them. The programs needed sponsors with products to sell who needed media exposure in the form of advertising that would in turn pay for the programs people wanted to watch.
At the same time, new developments in the printing sector brought about sparkling new colour images on glossy paper. The magazine industry leapt from newsprint pages printed in black and white to medium format publications printed on glossy stock with a profusion of dramatic colour photographs. The magazines also needed content and advertising to keep the presses running and cash flowing.
Meanwhile the population of the western world was steadily churning out better educated graduates who wanted more and better than their parents had and for the first time in history, seemed unafraid to say so.
In the background, the automotive scene was also being transformed as technology and new sophisticated techniques and materials that had never existed before rolled like a tidal wave into the marketplace aided and abetted by extravagant new artstyles that even included radical cars as artforms.
This new market segment was labelled the "Baby Boomers" due to the sudden bump in the birthrate after the Second World War. The bump lasted until the end of the 1950s. Members of this generation as they matured, rode on a wave of marketing that had never happened before. Almost all marketing money was devoted to pleasing the "Boomers".
None of that was lost on the Automotive industry. As manufacturing and systems processes increased in sophistication and the ability to process information, cars appeared on the market with design cues that weren't possible earlier. Consoles and convenience options that formerly only appeared in high end automobiles made their appearance in midsize sedans.
By the late sixties, the Boomer generation was the Me generation and the me generation - each and every member of the me generation felt it was different and had each had personal needs. Those personal needs were met with what the market called personality options. The most iconic being the Road Runner cartoon when it was applied to the Plymouth Satellite in 1968. The Satellite became a poor man's race car and a performance icon almost immediately. The market had to respond in kind. And it did.
In 1969, AMC's response was the little Rambler American that was rebadged and repainted as the SC/Rambler with 315 horse engine nestled between the shock towers. The car was exactly the image success AMC had hoped for. Too bad they didn't build more. The cars were so popular that many plain Americans continue to this day to be converted to what they became known as: Rambler SC/Ramblers.
For 1970, AMC initially wanted to hit the ball out of the park. That was before they'd started analyzing the cost of picking up the tab for blown engines, transmissions and rear ends from the '68 and '69 model years.
There were two concept cars - a black one whose driver's side photo is widely available and a yellow one whose picture isn't available. The black car is long gone, the yellow one still exists.
That concept was considered to brutish and unsophisticated to make the impression AMC decided it wanted to make. And anyway the body style was different for 1970. Or at least the rear half was. AMC collaborated with Hurst again and like any company with a strong appreciation for the impact strong graphics can have on the viewer, another powerful automotive image grew on the drawing boards.
This relationship with Hurst was far more important to AMC than nearly anyone at AMC understood. Before the 1967 model year, AMC products all suffered from a flaw that reasserted itself at the end of the muscle car era - their cars were all out of proportion from a design standpoint. Basically, AMC engineered their cars to the point where the pleasing proportions that sell cars were dispensed of in favour of engineering convenience. In many ways Hurst helped AMC overcome that built-in blind spot and assemble for a short time the best looking cars in its history. History confirms this view. The out of proportion cars are still hugely appreciated by people who appreciate sound engineering design and assembly regardless of how ugly the actual car looks. Engineers aren't noted as a group for their sense of proportion. If they were, the world wouldn't need designers. A quick look through 'the Nash Styling Sketchbook' (1998) by Patrick Foster shows you all you need to know on the subject.
But in that book on pages 38 and 58 there are a couple of jewels in the rough; drawings by designer William Rettig that must have inspired The Machine in later years. In fact many of his design cues still appear on cars today.
All this aside, the executives at AMC actually built a mini-philosophy around the Machine concept. They must have spent time and money deciding exactly who their target market was. Unfortunately they swallowed all the hype about the Me generation and wildly over-estimated how many people in the waves of protest movements were actually the movers and shakers. If they hadn't The Machine would never have been built.
Their Press Release of October 16th, 1969 says it all:
AMC VP R.N. McNealy noted "the supercar buyer is usually young, relatively affluent and has a "critical awareness" of exterior styling. At the same time he wants to be treated as an individual and stand out from the crowd. The Rebel Machine's distinctive paint job, rakish nose-down attitude and obvious performance characteristics lets the supercar buyer express his identity, or, in the words of today, 'Do your own thing'. Being different from the crowd today does not necessarily mean being against something, but rather in reinforcing certain specific ideas. We anticipate that the Machine will identify with this new brand of rebel, who demonstrates for something."
This was very bold marketing statement for its time and one that remains unique to this day in automotive marketing history. Essentially, this statement aimed the car at a very specific sort of person and that type of person is almost never the target of a marketing strategy. The reason for it is because the number of people in a given population who are real rebels is always no greater than 2% and generally less. That's because the nature of a real rebel is to be a loner or a leader. Real rebels are never the followers in a rebellion. So the crowds of people doing the actual protesting were not the actual rebels. Luckily, that sort of rebel was not who AMC had in mind.
They were looking for the then tomorrow’s leaders. And in truth, they did find them. A very high proportion of Machine owners went on to become professionals and business owners. The original owners were generally of the same age, income level and their personalities must have stood out like a beacon to any perceptive sales person. But the same factor held true, only 2% of a given population becomes has the mental and emotional tools to become a business owner. The numbers are higher for professionals but not much.
Some of the reasons for this are wrapped up in the image the car projects. It takes a certain type of person not to be phased by driving a vehicle that virtually everyone stares at. It’s like being in a fish bowel and there continue to be plenty of examples of people buying RWB Machines and selling them shortly there-after because they couldn’t handle being stared at wherever they went. Another aspect; is continually having to defend your choice of vehicle from others who drive granny’s grocery getters. That takes some getting used to and some just are not up to that part either and end up with a lesser car and happier for it.
So AMC misunderstood perhaps intentionally the sales potential for the Rebel Machine by a fairly wide margin. That misunderstanding was compounded by the fact that unlike the Rambler SC/Rambler, the Machine could not win its class in pure stock at the track in most cases because it was at the heavy end of the weight scale vs. horsepower in its class. The only way to have overcome that would have been to put more Service Package components into the car at the factory. Since the cost of obtaining the required emissions certificate was too high for no financial return, AMC was caught in a classic "Catch 22". It didn't become really popular until AMC found itself caught in this trap with its approach to underpowered performance car offerings that were too heavy for real success.) The bottom line is that no company should ever go to the extravagant lengths AMC did to market a car for such a tiny market for such a low price.
* [http://www.geocities.com/rebel70blue The Rebel Machine Scrapbook]
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