Detroit’s emphasis on smaller, fuel efficient cars isn’t really anything new; it’s just finally become popular. In the early 1960s, AMC’s compact Rambler American was a fuel-sipping marvel beloved by economy-minded car buyers. But as the Motor City’s big 3 — Ford, Chrysler and General Motors — started churning out bigger, faster, flashier models, AMC started looking for ways to up its game and meet the competition.

American Motors Corporation had been running a distant fourth since its formation with the mid-1950s merger of Hudson Motors and Nash Motors. The company’s compact American had a loyal, if limited, stable of dedicated customers; but AMC’s mid-size Rambler Classic and full-size Rambler Ambassador seemed more likely to increase the company’s competitive edge – particularly after being named Motor Trend Car of the Year in their respective classes in 1963. It was the beginning of a new era at AMC.

By 1965, four inches in length had been added to new AMC models, although the Rambler lines retained their unassuming, some might say lackluster, appearance when compared to the flashier designs coming out of Detroit. The next year, AMC dropped the Rambler name in a rebranding effort; but sales continued to drop.

AMC’s attempts to redesign its product failed to excite the public. Only the company’s top-of-the-line Ambassador, which continued to grow in size, seemed to resonate with consumers. While sales were never exceptional, the Ambassador served as AMC’s bridge to the future.

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