Model year 1967 was a turning point for American Motors, with complete overhauls to both the automaker’s products and image. Here’s the story, including an original AMC commercial spot featuring the Now Cars for ’67.
REVISED AND UPDATED: As we noted in our AMC Marlin feature here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, the mid-1960s was a critical time for American Motors. Literally, the company was struggling to reinvent itself. In 1962 CEO George Romney, the father of the Rambler American and the automaker’s guiding force, departed to become governor of Michigan. He was replaced by Roy Abernethy, the company’s highly regarded sales manager.
The mission for Abernathy, as he saw it, was to transform AMC from a maker of economical granny cars to a full-line auto manufacturer with a youthful image and a full slate of models from compacts to luxury sedans. The old Rambler market segment was eroding away, displaced by the baby-boomer youth market, and the company would have to adapt to survive.
1967 American 440 Station Wagon
So the Rambler name was banished from all but the American and Rebel models for 1966, replaced with American Motors badges in an effort to redefine the company’s brand. Next, the automaker embarked on a complete redesign of the intermediate Rebel and full-size Ambassador lines for 1967, investing $60 million in all-new chassis and body shells and an updated V8 engine family as well. The money was well spent, as some some outdated Rambler-era features, including the torque-tube drive, were finally sent to the scrap heap. We can see today that the difference between the ’66 and ’67 models is night and day—from dowdy to cutting edge.
1967 AMC Rebel
Unfortunately, while the product overhaul was effective, not to mention desperately needed, AMC couldn’t afford the $60 million tab due to the company’s rapidly deteriorating cash position. Abernethy would take the fall for the cash-flow troubles, banished into early retirement on January 9, 1967. The company’s chairman and leading shareholder, Detroit industrialist Robert Evans, then hand-picked Roy Chapin Jr., son of Hudson co-founder Roy Chapin, to be Abernethy’s replacement. The second-generation auto executive would serve AMC in various capacities until 1987, when the company was acquired by Chrysler.
This original commercial spot features the entire American Motors product line for 1967, including the American, Rebel, and Ambassador. A little oddly, the fastback Marlin isn’t mentioned (its replacement the Javelin was already on its way) but there’s an emphasis on convertible models, a priority for Abernethy as an old-school sales guy. There’s also a new tagline for the AMC lineup: “The Now Cars,” which nicely captures the company’s effort to reinvent itself. Video follows.