- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2008

Ten years ago, Carl Johnson, having grown weary of Chevrolets and Fords, began looking for something different.

As he drove past a junkyard in Pittsburg, Calif., he saw a Rambler station wagon on the back of a truck. It had just arrived at the junkyard.

The Rambler, with the odometer showing about 68,000 miles, appeared to be in pretty good condition, but the engine was inaccessible because someone had bent the hood-release mechanism.

Peeking under the hood and through the grille, Mr. Johnson could see the shape of a V-8 engine. The junkyard owner put what Mr. Johnson thought was a fair price on the car, so he agreed to buy it if the deal included the Rambler being trucked to his home across town.

The first order was to get the hood open. That was accomplished by removing the front bumper.

After checking all of the fluid levels in the 287-cubic-inch engine, Mr. Johnson says, “It started right up and sounded nice.”

Even so, he flushed the radiator and rebuilt the carburetor. An examination of the vehicle showed it to be a 1965 Rambler Classic Cross Country. It left the factory with power steering and power brakes and air conditioning.

To ease the cooling workload, the many windows are tinted.

“It was all there,” Mr. Johnson says.

Mr. Johnson is a firm believer that stopping is of equal importance to accelerating, so he replaced the entire brake system and mentioned that his Rambler has a dual-master cylinder.

Mr. Johnson noticed that there was no rust on the Rambler and that the chrome and stainless steel trim needed only to be polished. Mr. Johnson did find a pair of bumper guards to fit on the front bumper.

After a small ding on one of the doors was repaired, Mr. Johnson had his Rambler re-sprayed in the original color of Montego Light Rose. The brown and gray interior sits upon a black carpet.

Mr. Johnson replaced the worn original front seats with ones from a wrecked car.

True to the heritage of American Motor Corp., Mr. Johnson reports that “the seats make into a bed.” A panel on the floor of the cargo area behind the back seat can be lifted for access to the spare tire.

Mr. Johnson says the Rambler’s four 14-inch tires were replaced with white sidewall American classics. Each wheel is dressed up with a wheel cover with simulated knock-off hubs in the center.

“This is a smooth riding car,” Mr. Johnson says.

He attributes that fact to coil springs on all four wheels on a 112-inch wheelbase. The 198-horsepower V-8 engine easily propels the 3,156-pound station wagon. Although the speedometer can register speeds up to 120 mph, Mr. Johnson says, “I’ve never had it over 80.”

Mr. Johnson said the power-lock differential provides positive traction. The transmission is a three-speed automatic. He says the brakes are self-adjusting. The window in the tailgate is electrically operated either by a key on the tailgate or by a control switch located on the dashboard.

When new, the AMC Rambler station wagon, with the chrome-plated roof rack, had a base price of $2,634. Occasionally, for laughs, Mr. Johnson says, he will tie a surfboard onto the rack. Because Mr. Johnson rescued the Rambler from an unknown junkyard fate, he has driven it about 41,000 miles - remarkable for a car that someone discarded.

• For your car to become the subject of the Out Of The Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hotrods accepted.

COPYRIGHT, MOTOR MATTERS, 2008