This classic car from 1965 happens to be identical to the first car I ever owned. No one forgets their first
love car and I didn’t forget mine. So when I found this on eBay 8 years ago I couldn’t resist the chance to recapture a small part of my youth. So here is that story, in more detail than you might want to read…
Finding and buying my first Rambler was purely accidental. I was working with my dad doing a driveway for a couple in Melrose. My dad noticed a car in the garage and told the wife that she should move it because she can’t drive on the driveway for 3 days after we finish. Her reply was “that is my old college car. It is 10 years old (this was 1975). We are going to sell it. If you know anybody…” My dad asked her how much it was, and her reply was, “oh…. I don’t know, $50?”. My dad said that my son (me) would buy it.
Well, I was 16 at the time and didn’t even have my license, but the change to own any car was one that I gladly took. My dad figured I could learn about car maintenance and some mechanical skills in the process.
I broke my piggy bank, pulled out the $50 for the car, and we went to pick it up. The bill of sale in those days was basically “I sell this car for $50 as is and where is (and the rest is up to you)”.
We went into the garage to start the car. It did start, but smoke poured out of the exhaust like a fog machine, which only slightly dampened my mood, but I was having fun and I was about to take a ride (as a passenger) in my new-to-me car!
My dad and I opened the hood looking for the magic button to stop the smoke. My dad was a self-taught mechanic, meaning he fixed things when they broke, expediently, quickly but often he broke 2 other things at the same time.
Incredibly, we found the magic button. One of the spark plug wires was disconnected! (There were 6 spark plug wires, one for each of the 6 cylinders in the 232 cubic inch engine). We re-connected it, and the exhaust smoke stopped and the engine was extremely quiet. I was dumbfounded, but thrilled at the same time that we fixed it so easily (and so cheaply)!
My dad had to drive the car home (about 3 miles). I didn’t have my license yet, so I sat in the passenger seat and tried out everything I could, the window cranks, the glove box, the AM radio, the clock (which never worked and doesn’t work in the current Rambler either). Then a very scary thing happened. The car did not have power steering, but neither did our truck, so I was not worried. But when my dad turned a corner on a narrow side street heading for home, he was surprised at how much force he needed to turn the steering wheel, he didn’t turn enough and nearly hit a lamppost! All the while I was thinking this is the first and last day I am going to own this car. Luckily for me, he hit the brakes, slowed and turned past the lamppost, and the collision was averted.
The car sat patiently in our driveway, waiting for me to get my license and drive it anywhere. In the meantime, I sat in that car every day from that summer till I got my official license. The car was a convertible, and I raised and lowered the top hundreds of times, waiting for the maiden voyage with me as the sole driver.
So that is how I acquired my first Rambler. Fast forward to 2006. I googled Rambler Classic and found lots of ads like this one from Life and other magazines.
It was great dreaming of that first car, and looking at all the collectors. I always had a hope of driving by a used-car lot and seeing one for sale. But there weren’t any to be found …until one day, there was a listing for what seemed to be a collector’s car. It turned out to be a former AMC dealer who had four or five cars in storage from 1987 when he closed his dealership. He was 87 years old and reluctant to have me pay in any format except cash, as he had heard bad stories of buyers taking advantage of sellers. So off to the bank I go to get 11 thousand dollars. Well, it turns out banks don’t actually have a lot of cash, so I had to go to three branches in 3 cities to get my 110 hundred dollar bills.
I took my son Frankie, who was 15 at the time, with me. We rented a car and drove 5 hours to Pennsylvania to inspect the car (we had the right to cancel the sale if the car was not in running condition). I got to recount the story that you just read, in vivid detail, to Frankie who pretended to be enthralled.
When we arrived, the seller greeted us and I inspected the car. It was in fantastic condition for a 40 year old car. It had no noticeable rust or rot and everything worked fine. He had recently replace the convertible top and it went up and down as well as my first car did in my driveway 30 years earlier.
We took it for a ride. First the younger brother of the owner drove us around. He was only 79. The owner didn’t drive anymore (much to his chagrin). The car rode like a 40 year old champ. Then came my turn to drive. OK! This is why I am here. We were on city streets, and I came to my first red light. While I pushed the brake with my toe, we didn’t really slow down, but we did start to enter the intersection. I used my whole foot but it still wasn’t enough. Finally, I pushed down hard and we stopped, about a full car length into the intersection. OK, so maybe the brakes need a little work, or I have to adjust to regular brakes. The rest of the test ride went smoothly and we returned to his garage. It was now the moment of truth. Buy or head back home in the rental car. I asked Frankie if he thought buying this car was a good idea. He responded, as best as I can remember, with the most memorable moment of that day:
“this is a sweet gem, you are lucky to have found it, so yes, buy it”.
And that is what I did. You have to recognize good advice when you hear it!
Now came the paying part. I pulled out the 110 hundred dollar bills and counted them out on the hood of the car in piles of 10. Then I stood back while he counted them all twice to be sure. I asked if he was satisfied, and he was, so he signed over the bill of sale and we were off.
It took us 5 hours to get there, 3 hours for all the test drive. It was now about 2 PM and we had a slow 6 hour ride back home. I never went over 50 MPH as I really wasn’t positive that all the systems were in good working order. We finally arrived home around 9 PM after a long day.
So that is how I came to be the owner of a 1965 Rambler Classic 770 convertible for the second time.
Here is the original window sticker from 1965: