The rare 1957 Rambler Rebel was conceived by the American Motors Corporation as a medium-sized, high-performance sedan car. It has since been lauded as the first factory-produced, lightweight muscle car, and is the forerunner of icons such as the Pontiac GTO and Plymouth Road Runner, cars specifically designed in a memorable phrase for “kicking sand in the face of the 98-horsepower weakling.”
AS THE MUSCLE CAR tag suggested, the Rambler Rebel’s power and performance were somewhat at odds with its four-door configuration. Its 5.4-liter engine was by no means America’s largest, but it was one of the first cars to feature electronic fuel injection and so was considerably more powerful than the V8s offered by its Chevrolet rivals.
More than 250bhp gave the fight, mid-sized saloon scorching performance. The company hoped this would fit well with the hot-rod craze that was sweeping across America Capable of 0-60 mph (96 km/h) in 7.5 seconds—just half a second slower than the Ferrari Dino more than a decade later the aptly named Rebel had a top speed of around 115 mph (185 km/h).
|Rambler Rebel, 1957
|5,385 cc, V8
|3-speed manual or 4-speed automatic
|Front and rear coil springs
|115 mph (185 km/h)
The Rebel’s high performance under the bonnet was matched in its outward styling. It was only available in silver metallic paint, with gold anodized aluminum inserts along the sides. Grille-mounted headlights, padded dashboard, and visors completed the look.
The deliberately confrontational Rebel name was carefully chosen to alert potential customers to the unusual nature of the car. Prior to this new departure, the Wisconsin-based AMC had been most closely associated with cars offering little in the way of excitement.
ON THE ROAD
Highly unusual at the time, the Rambler’s distinctive styling is still something of an acquired taste, but it is even so not hard to see why owners love their Rebels. Now genuinely rare, and almost indecently fast for a four-door saloon of this period, the Rebel badge is far from famous, but being the first ever muscle car gives the original much kudos. This obscure American motor is an authentic automotive landmark.
Consider too the David and Goliath angle to this story: a comparative minnow taking on the might of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Where David had the sling. Rambler had the grunt. Squeezing a hugely powerful V8 into an otherwise ordinary family sedan worked a treat, and before long America’s “big three” were forced to retaliate with something of their own.
Front sidelights heavily trimmed with chrome
Wheel logo hints at racy performance
Angled wing mirror echoes car’s rear pillar
Textured gold stripe runs down car
Rear light clusters resembles front sidelights
Optional Continental-style spare tyre
Stylish chromed dashboard
Complex heating controls
Column-mounted gear selector
It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016