1963-66 Rambler Classic & Rebel

1963-66 Rambler Classic
1966 Rambler Rebel

1964 Rambler Classic Four Door Sedan
1964 Rambler Classic Four Door Sedan

General Information

The entire 1963 AMC model line-up was awarded the "Car of the Year" award by Motor Trend magazine for excellence in engineering. This award was earned by the all new 1963 Classic and Ambassador, the old style American (which would be overhauled for 1964) was included simply "because it was there". The only change to the American line was the introduction of a hardtop model.

Until the introduction of the 63 Classic, unit body cars were welded together piece by piece from many small stampings. The sides of the new body still required many pieces, but the outer panel was one large stamping. This formed a very rigid box structure that included the door frames and outer rocker panel. Doors fit better due to the nicely rounded corners and fewer welds were required for assembly. A very large press was required to make the approximately 4'x6' panel, the largest press used by any auto manufacturer at the time. The car could be lighter, and was much safer in side impact situations than previous models since it was now unlikely that any of the side structure would come apart by breaking welds, no matter how hard the impact. The author got to test that theory when his 1963 Classic wagon was struck in the side by a 1999 Nissan Exterra traveling at 45-50 mph. The Classic was totaled, but the driver received nothing more than a bruised shoulder. The driver's side rear door and the rear suspension rail was pushed in 14 inches, but all welds held -- partly due to the single outer panel which couldn't break apart.

The main innovation was not the much applauded one piece outer panel though, it was the floor pan. Older unit bodies were built similar to full frame cars. There was a rail made up of sheet metal welded to the floor that ran from bumper to bumper. From underneath the car, this looked very much like a full frame that had been welded to the floor panels, and in essence it was. Since the rails were integrated directly with the rest of the body they could be much lighter than full frame rails, which had to stand alone with no other support. The body did provide some rigidity in full frame construction, but it wasn't the major support like it was with a unit body.

The 63 Rambler introduced the now almost universal "three box" construction process. The car body is made up of three main sections: passenger compartment, engine bay/front suspension rails, and trunk area/rear suspension rails. The key to the strength of the passenger box was the big one piece outer stamping. This made the rocker panels much stronger and created a strong truss-like or "bridge" structure by incorporating the door frames into the rocker panel. Stronger rocker panels were needed because the continuous rail was gone -- the rockers now formed the center part of those rails. The front and rear suspension rails extended from partially under the floor to the bumper mounts. They were held to the floor by the wheel well panels and cross braces welded directly to the floor. The front and rear raisl were in turn welded to these cross braces, forming the complete floor. Much of the engine and trunk compartments could be crushed with little effect to the passenger "box", though "crush zones" weren't yet part of the design. In fact, front and rear sheet metal design to crush at a predetermined rate is just about the only improvement to the "three box" design since AMC introduced it in the U.S. (the author is uncertain if this construction method was introduced earlier elsewhere, but doesn't believe so).

1963 and 64 Classics are almost identical. The grille was changed from a concave to a flat design in 1964. Fenders remained the same as 63 models with new headlight bezels to match the new grille. The grille dipped some in the center, requiring a new hood to match. Rear treatments were virtually the same for 63 and 64 as well. The 64 models received a new casting for the tail lights with flat oval lenses. Most parts will interchange between 63 and 64 models with few exceptions. Since 1963 and 64 Ambassadors shared the same body, including wheelbase, with the Classic, Ambassador parts interchange as well. The only differences between the Classic and Ambassador are trim, grilles, and tail light treatments. The Classic was sold in some overseas locations with some of the Ambassador trim pieces. These models are still considered some of the best looking "run of the mill" AMC sedans ever made.

The 1963 Classic/Ambassador design is often wrongfully attributed to Richard Teague, but was mainly the work of Edmund Anderson, who had been with the company since around 1950. Part of the reason Teague often gets credit is that Anderson retired from AMC in late 1962, leaving Teague, Anderson's number two man, in charge of styling. Because of his position in the AMC styling department, Teague certainly did some work on the 63 Classic, but by the time Anderson left the 63 Classic design was already "set in stone". Auto designs are developed years in advance, and have to be finalized one or two years before production so that tooling can be made ready. Anderson was responsible for the "Farina" Nash of 1952 -- he revised the highly acclaimed Italian designer's contracted work for Nash into something that the Nash leadership found more to their tast, but the "Farina" name stayed because of marketing value. Anderson revamped the 1955 Nash Rambler into the 58-60 American, and the restyled the American for 1961. The 1964 American, based highly on the 63 Classic body, was also Anderson's work.

For 1965 the Classic received a styling change. This was the first car that the new AMC president, Roy Abernethy, was able to influence. Mr. Abernethy took over AMC in mid 1962 when George Romney resigned to pursue a political career. Abernethy liked big cars. He couldn't remake the total Rambler line, but determined to push AMC up in the automotive market. It makes some sense, though it proved to be a disastrous move. Mr. Abernethy saw the higher profit potential that could be reached by putting the bigger Ramblers in the Mercury/ Buick/ Pontiac/ Oldsmobile/ Chrysler segment. There turned out to be two problems: this was a highly competitive market, and the traditional Rambler buyer was looking for good value (more "bang for the buck") and something a little different than the other makes, not more of the same. Once put on this path, it would take several years to realize how it would affect the company, then several more years to bring it back around -- years that AMC couldn't afford. For this reason Abernethy takes the brunt of the blame for AMC's eventual demise, but he made decesions that made sense at the time. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing! Would AMC still be in business today? Well, it may have lasted a bit longer, but there are no more independent auto manufacturers in the world that have any real impact like AMC once did.

The 1965 and 66 models are, like the 63 and 64, nearly identical with good parts interchangeability. To make the cars look bigger while retaining the same bare unit body design, the bodies were squared off. The square bodies looked bulkier, but were actually the same size as the 63 and 64 models. A ridge appeared down the outer side of the car, the peak formed by a strip of chrome trim. The squared off styling cost a lot of money to implement -- every outer panel except the roof had to be replaced. While the 63-64 Classic and Ambassador shared most body parts, the 65 Ambassador received a totally different front and rear end treatment with vertically stacked headlights, requiring different front fenders, hood, and grille as well as different rear quarter panels, and a four inch wheelbase extension between the firewall and front wheels. The shared panels of 63-64 reduced production cost dramatically, the totally different styling of 65-66 was costly. That's one reason that the 66 models had very few changes from the 65. The only major change was a different grille that retained all the 65 sheet metal. Some interior and exterior trim was changed as well.

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Body Styles And Trim Levels

There were three trim levels and four body styles available. The body styles and trim levels can be determined from the model number on the Unit Body Identification Plate. The body styles and trim levels are:

  • 4 door sedan in 550, 660, and 770 trim
  • 4 door station wagon in 550, 660, and 770 trim
  • 5 door station wagon in 550, 660, and 770 trim; 1963 only (side opening tailgate; 5 door not counted as separate body style)
  • 2 door sedan in 550, 660, and 770 trim
  • 2 door hardtop in 770, 770H (bucket seat hardtop), and Rebel (1966 only) trim

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Engines

1962 and 1963 Classic models did not have a V-8 option -- the 250 V-8 was dropped after 1961, leaving just the 327. Since the bodies were shared between the Classic and Ambassador, the engine was used to differentiate between them. If you wanted a V-8 Rambler you had to buy an Ambassador. There had been less than $200 between the 61 Classic six and V-8, and there was just under a $300 difference between the 63 Classic and Ambassador. There was the perception, however, that the fancier Ambassador was much higher, leading dealers to clamor for a V-8 option for the Classic. Part of this perception was caused by the dealers, who tended to order lightly optioned Classics for value, and heavily optioned Ambassadors for comfort and style. A smaller displacement V-8 (287) was introduced in the Classic line in February of 1963. The cost difference between it and an equivalent Ambassador (with a larger 327 V-8) was only $100, but this gave dealers a lot more flexibility in giving the customer what they needed or wanted.

  • 1963-64: 195.6 cid OHV inline six, 1bbl, 127 hp, cast iron or aluminum block. A 138 hp 2bbl version of each was optional.
  • April 1964: 232 cid OHV inline six, 1bbl, 145 hp. Stock Typhoon coupe, optional all
  • 1965-66: 232 cid OHV inline six, 1bbl, 145 hp. Stock for 660, 770, 770H, optional for 550
  • 1965-66: 199 cid OHV inline six, 1 bbl, 128 hp. Stock for 550 only
  • 1965-66: 232 cid OHV inline six, 2bbl, 155 hp, optional all
  • February 1963-64: 287 cid OHV V-8, 2bbl, 198 hp, optional all
  • 1965-66: 287 cid OHV V-8, 2bbl, 198 hp, optional 660 and 770 only
  • 1966: 327 cid OHV V-8, 2bbl, 250 hp, optional 660 and 770 only
  • 1965-66: 327 cid OHV V-8, 4 bbl, 270 hp, optional 660 and 770 only

There is a machined pad on the left (U.S. driver's) side of the engine near the front and just below the block/head division. This pad contains the Engine Day Build Code. The first digit indicates the calendar year the engine was built. 1959 = 1, 60 = 2, 61 = 3, etc. Numbers repeated, but no zero was used (1967 =9, 1968 =1; due to a change in the numbering system, 1980 and later uses the last digit of the year (1980 = 0, 1981=1 etc.). The next two numbers will be the month the engine was made in. A letter code will tell engine size, followed by the day the engine was assembled. 503C12 indicates 1963, March, 195.6 OHV cast iron block, 12th day (of March). Letter codes are:

  • C - 195.6 cast iron OHV inline six; 1bbl or 2bbl
  • B - aluminum 195.6 OHV inline six; 1bbl or 2bbl
  • J - 199 OHV inline six, 1 bbl
  • L - 232 OHV inline six; 1bbl or 2bbl
  • E - 327 OHV V-8, 2bbl
  • F - 327 OHV V-8, 4bbl
  • G - 287 OHV V-8, 2bbl

It is possible that the engine has been replaced with a newer or older engine. 195.6 cid six cylinder engines made between 1956 and 1965 are direct bolt-in swaps and are externally identical, though water pump design varies slightly on the 56-57 OHV engines. Many aluminum engines have been replaced with longer lived cast iron models. There was nothing wrong with the aluminum engine design, it just required a little more careful maintenance to prevent corrosion and overheating. The wrong anti-freeze would accelerate internal corrosion, and extreme or repeated overheating could warp the block. A 199 or 232 is often used as a replacement for the 195.6 due to greater parts availability and, in the case of the 232, more power.

199/232/258 engines made from 1964-71 share the same bell housing bolt pattern with the 195.6, but the block design of the 199/232 repositions the starter so that it will not mesh with the 195.6 flywheel. Transmissions will interchange with the correct bell housing and flywheel (or flexplate). Six cylinder engines are often replaced with V-8s. Consult serial numbers to confirm original engine size and type.

Note: Engine dates are calendar dates and not model year dates. Since model year production actually starts in the previous calendar year, it is possible to have, for example, an engine coded 1962 in a 1963 vehicle and be correct but an engine coded 1964 would not be correct for the same car since no 1964's were manufactured in calendar year 1963.

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Transmissions

The following Borg Warner transmissions were used in the 1963-66 Rambler Classic. There is no way of knowing what transmission or type was originally installed in a vehicle made before 1966.
  • T-96 three speed manual, available with an optional Borg Warner overdrive unit, 195.6 and 199 six cylinder only
  • T-86 three speed manual, available with an optional Borg Warner overdrive unit, 232 six and V-8s; heavy duty option for 195.6
  • T-10 four speed manual, 1966 V-8 only
  • Borg Warner "Flash-O-Matic" T-35 three speed automatic, air cooled torque converter, cable operated throttle valve; 195.6 only
  • Borg Warner "Flash-O-Matic" M-4x three speed automatic, water/oil cooled, cable operated throttle valve; all six cylinders except 195.6
  • Borg Warner "Flash-O-Matic" M-10 three speed automatic, water/oil cooled, cable operated throttle valve; V-8 only

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Production Numbers

Blank columns indicate that the body and trim style were not offered that year.

Body & Trim Style1963196419651966
4 door sedan, 550
46.759
24.070
28.38122,485
4 door sedan, 660
82.713
48.958
49.158
-
4 door sedan, 770
43.150
23.78823.54746,044
2 door sedan, 550
15.409
6.999
7.0825,505
2 door sedan, 660
12.433
4.849
4.081-
2 door sedan, 770
6.837
1.947
-
-
4 door station wagon, 550
29.579
15.36313.759
9,390
4 door station wagon, 66053.51937.579
31.948-
4 door station wagon, 77023.71819.358
15.59924,528
5 door station wagon, 660, 8 pass.6.902-
-
-
2 door hardtop, 770-
20.868
14.7628,736
2 door Typhoon hardtop (1964), 770 H (1965), Rebel (1966)-
2.520
5.7067.512
770 convertible (1965), Rebel convertible (1966)-
-
4.9531.806
ckd units
-
5.252
5.040

Total
321.019
211.551204.016
126.006

NOTE: 1963 8 passenger "5 door" wagon has side hinged tailgate.

These models were also built in Canada. Available AMC model year production totals for 1963 to 1965 do not report subtotals by car line or models. However, estimates can be made from  available Canadian serial numbers, sales numbers and partial information reported by Automotive news and Ward's. Based on a review of information available, the Canadian model year production of Classic models is as follows :

              1963 :  19.008        1964 :  18.993      1965 :  18.992      1966 : 11.606.

Dates of model introductions:

  • 1963 - October 5, 1962 (Classic V-8, February 1963)
  • 1964 - October, 1963
  • 1965 - September, 1964
  • 1966 - October 7, 1965

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Serial Numbers & Body Tag Decoder

1963-Early 66 Serial Numbers

Before January 1966, all cars had a manufacturers assigned serial number, not a VIN, which was mandated by the U.S. government for all cars built from 1966 (calendar year) on. The serial number is on a tag located on the top of the right side shock tower in the engine compartment. The serial number gives no information except year and model series. Technically, any changes can be made to the car that were available from the factory and it will be "correct". Serial numbers were assigned to the car when it was ordered from the factory. Numbers with a single letter are assigned to cars made in Kenosha, WI. Special "knock-down" kit cars were made in Kenosha for final assembly at overseas locations. These kits typically excluded upholstery, tires, belts, batteries, and other items that could be supplied from the country of final assembly. Cars built in the Brampton, Ontario, Canada, plant have a "T" as a second letter. Only a few early 1966 models have serial numbers, the majority will have a VIN. Starting serial numbers (first number used for the model year) are listed below:

  • 1963 - six cylinder: G100001, GK100001, GT220001 (195.6 1 or 2 bbl); V-8: Z100001, ZK10001 (287)
  • 1964 - six cylinder: G500001, GK140001, GT239001 (195.6 1 or 2 bbl); V-8: Z155001, ZK11001 (287); Typhoon HT: L100001 (232 2bbl)
  • 1965 - six cylinder: J100001, JK100001, JT500001 (199); L150001, LK100001, LT500001 (232); V-8: Z275001, ZK12001, ZT500001 (287); U100001, UK100001 (327)
  • 1966 - six cylinder: EK100001 (199 1bbl, export only); F100001, FK100001 (232 1bbl); G100001, GK100001 (232 2bbl); V-8: H100001, HK10001 (287 2bbl); J100001, JK100001 (327 2bbl); K100001, KK100001 (327 4bbl)

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1966 Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

A Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, was mandated by the U.S. government beginning in January 1966. Most manufacturers started using them prior to this date, but it is unknown when AMC actually started using them. The VIN tag on all 1966 AMCs is located on the top of the right side shock tower in the engine compartment, the same location as prior model serial numbers. The VIN is also stamped into the left frame sill behind the steering gear box. It is necessary to remove the steering gear box to view the VIN in this location. A 13 character VIN is used from 1966 through the 1980 model year. The government mandated the number of characters and that the first two characters contain manufacturer and year of manufacture. The VIN was required to contain specifics of the drive train but in no specific order. The remaining characters were under the discretion of the manufacturer.

The 1966 Classic 13 character VIN can be decoded as follows:

CompanyYearTransmission TypeSeriesBody TypeTrim LevelEngineSequential Serial Number*
A6
F1
3
7B100001
Note: Character one is always an A (American Motors) and character four is always a one for 63-66 Classics.
Char. 2 - Year
6
1966
Char. 3 - Transmission Type
AColumn shift automatic
CFloor shift automatic
S
Three speed column shift
MFour speed floor shift
Char. 5 - Body Type
54 door sedan
62 door sedan
72 door convertible
84 door wagon
92 door hardtop




Char. 6 - Trim Level
0
550
5
770
7
Rebel
Char. 7 - Engine
E
199 cid, 1 bbl
F
232 cid, 1 bbl
G232 cid, 2 bbl
E232 cid, 1 bbl
H287 cid, 2 bbl
J
327 cid, 2 bbl


The last six digits are the numbers assigned to the car when it was ordered from the factory. Numbers starting at 100001 are assigned to cars made in Kenosha, WI. Numbers starting at 700001 are assigned to cars made in the Brampton plant in Ontario, Canada.

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Unit Body identification Plate

The Unit Body Identification Plate for a 1963-66 Rambler Classic can be located on the latch edge of the driver's door. It can be decoded as follows:

Body

This is the number assigned to the body as it was being produced. It is different than the serial number. Bodies were produced in batches, so the numbers aren't consecutive to each series.

Model

This identifies the body and trim styles. The first two digits are the year, the last two or three identify the series, body style, and trim level. Blanks indicate that the body and trim style was not available for the year in question. Replace the "1" (Series 10) with a "2" (Series 20) for 1963 Classic V-8 models. 1964 and later six and V-8 models used the same Series number (10).

Code w/Body Style and Trim1963196419651966
15 = 4 door sedan, 550 (base)XXXX
15-2 = 4 door sedan, 660X
XX 
15-5 = 4 door sedan, 770XXXX
16 = 2 door sedan, 550 (base)X
X
X
X
16-2 = 2 door sedan, 660 XXX 
16-5 = 2 door sedan, 770X
X


17-5 = 2 door convertible, 770

X
X
18 = 4 door station wagon, 550 (base)XXXX
18-2 = 4 door station wagon, 660XXX 
18-4 = 5 door station wagon, 660, 8 passengerX


18-5 = 4 door station wagon, 770X
X
XX
19-5 = 2 door hardtop, 770

X
X
X
19-7 = 2 door hardtop, 770H

X
X

19-7 = 2 door hardtop, Rebel


X

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Trim

In 1960 a four character code that may be prefixed by a "T" was adopted. The first character is the last digit of the model year. The second character represents the seat type 1960-63, the first digit of trim designation (5 =550, 6=660, 7=770) from 1964 on. The third is the upholstery color, and the fourth (always a letter) is the upholstery material for standard seat types or optional seat type and material. Special order interiors were available for large orders (usually fleet vehicles) and will have a code of "00".

1963 seat types are as follows:

  • 5 - Standard Bench, Deluxe
  • 6 - Standard Bench, Super
  • 7 - Standard Bench, Custom

Standard seat upholstery material codes:

  • C - cloth
  • V - vinyl
  • P - porous vinyl

1964-66 optional seat types:

  • B - porous vinyl ("Vinylair")
  • D - slim bucket, cloth (64-65)
  • D - reclining bucket,cloth (66)
  • E - slim bucket, vinyl (64-65)
  • E - reclining bucket, vinyl (66)
  • G - wide bucket, cloth (64-65)
  • H - wide bucket, pleated vinyl (64-65)

1963-66 trim colors are not currently available.

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Paint

The following colors were available for the 1963-66 Classic. The original color can be determined by looking at the Paint code on the Unit Body Identification Plate. If there are two codes separated by a dash, the first code is the primary body color and the second code is the upper body (sometimes roof) or accent color. For example, a car that was black with a white top would have a paint code of 1-72. Paint codes may also be prefixed with a P (for "paint"?) or suffixed with an A (for acrylic enamel). Note that some cars were painted non-standard colors. These cars will typically have a code such as "00" or "SPEC". This was normally reserved for large orders in the special color, usually for fleet use.

Paint CodeColorYears
P1
Classic Black1963 - 1966
P3AAntigua Red1965, 1966
P4AMystic Gold Metallic1965
P5ALegion Blue1965
P6AViscount Blue Metallic1965
P7ASeaside Aqua1965
P8AMarina Aqua Metallic1965
P9AAtlantis Aqua Metallic1965
P10AMontego Rose1965
P11ABarcelona Taupe Metallic1965
P12ACorral Cordovan Metallic1965
P13ASolar Yellow Metallic1964, 1965
P14ASilver Metallic1965
P15ABrisbane Blue Metallic1966
P16ABritannia Blue Metallic1966
P17ACrescent Green1966
P18AGranada Green Metallic1966
P19ABalboa Aqua1966
P20ACortez Aqua Metallic1966
P21AMarquessa Mauve Metallic1966
P23ASamoa Gold Metallic1966
P24ACaballero Tan Metallic1966
P25AApollo Yellow1966
P30Briarcliff Red1963
P37ASungold Metallic1966
P40Majestic Blue Metallic
1963
P41
Corsican Gold Metallic
1963
P43
Scepter Silver Metallic
1963, 1964
P44
Bahama Blue
1963
P45
Cape Cod Blue Metallic
1963
P46
Palisade Green
1963
P47
Aegean Aqua Metallic
1963
P48
Calais Coral Metallic
1963
P49
Valencia Ivory
1963
P50
Concord Maroon Metallic
1963
P51Rampart Red1964
P52ASentry Blue Metallic1964
P53Forum Blue1964
P54AWoodside Green Metallic1964, 1965
P55Westminster Green1964
P56Aurora Turquoise1964
P57Lancelot Turquoise Metallic1964
P58Bengal Ivory1964
P59Emperor Gold Metallic1964
P60AContessa Rose Metallic1964
P61Vintage Maroon Metallic1964
P72
Frost White
1963 - 1966


Instrument panels were painted body color (primary body color if two tone). Remaining interior molding and trim was painted one of only a few colors to harmonize with interior trim. Interior colors were usually semi-gloss to reduce glare

Color samples can be viewed at http://autocolorlibrary.com/aclns.html

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Sequential Assembly Number
The unlabeled number at the bottom of the Unit Body Identification Plate is the Sequential Assembly Number. This number was assigned to the vehicle as it entered the final assembly line. Vehicles were assembled in batches as needed -- i.e., 10 Americans may be assembled then 20 Classics followed by 15 Ambassadors, etc. Minimum and maximum sizes of batches are unknown -- in some cases single cars may have gone through the lines. At this time there was only one final assembly line in Kenosha; the second line wasn't in operation until 1961. Brampton opened in 1960, with 1961 Classics being the first cars to roll off the line.

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Bibliography

The following sources were used to verify the information contained on this page:
  • AMC Rambler Club 1958-1969 Production Handbook
  • Standard Catalog of American Motors, ISBN 0-87341-232-X, Krause Publications
  • 1958-62 American Motors Technical Service Manuals
  • 1958-62 American Motors Sales Flyers
  • 1958-62 American Motors Collision Parts Books
  • The Compact Chronicles, copyright 1992, Frank Swygert
  • Ward's Automotive yearbook, 1967
  • Automotive news almanac, 1963 - 1967

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This page maintained by Frank Swygert (farna@att.net)