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Ramblin' Man 12-15-2003 03:07 PM

1960 Rambler American engine swap
HI, I'm new to Hot Rodders website, but it looks cool.
I searched this subject but only found info about swapping the stock flathead for the OHV engine.
I have a stock 1960 Rambler American station wagon with the OHV straight-6 engine. Would like to upgrade to a V-6 with auto trans & appropriate rear-end, Surly someone has done this before and can give me some pointers or connect me with someone who has or direct me to a magazine that covers this swap.


astroracer 12-15-2003 04:49 PM

J ust doing a quick look see on the net didn't bring any good info... BUT, I wouldn't think this swap would be that difficult if you have any type of basic fabrication skills.
I will tell you up front to go with a V8 small block though. Parts are cheap and plentiful, an overdrive trans would be nice and I would stick with the stock rear if it's not broke. I'm not at all familiar with the Rambler chassis but I think a donor late 80's early 90's truck would be a good purchase and would get you most of the parts you need for this swap. Keep us informed.

EBlack36 12-15-2003 06:50 PM

Might want to check with OddRodder, I think he is currently doing an early rambler.

78novaman 12-16-2003 08:01 PM

If you're looking at a six popper, why not go for a 232, 258, or even a 4.0L swap? I've got a 1969 American and I'm working on putting a 4.0L head onto my 232. A 232 can be a 300hp engine without too much difficulty. Ask around and you'll find some members that still remember the Henry J's with 232's and triple webber carbs:drool:

If you're still hellbent on non-AMC power, oddrodder would be able to help you out, he's got an awesome rambler with a chevy 327 in it. 12-16-2003 08:23 PM

The biggest problem with Rambler vehicles built up till the late sixties is they have a torque tube drive system. This requires a complete rear suspension swap if some serious hp. is going to be used. This is not simple as the cars are unit body and have no provisions for a defferent style rear.

I have built a 65 Rambler 770 coupe, with the "Twin Stick" overdrive trans and a Rambler 3:54 posi rear. I installed a small block Chevy, using a Lakewood Scattershield for a belhousing, this allows you to connect to the Rambler trans (Ford trans) pattern and then use a Ford clutch disc and a three finger pressure plate. adapted the clutch linkage to work. The motor mounts to the frame were simple "T" shaped stands welded to the inner unibody, there is plenty of room and a big block would probably fit, but the rest of the car would have to be updated and replaced to handle the power. As it was the stock posi rear is a tapered axle with a lock nut (similar to old Ford and Mopars) and tends to strip the splines. It made for a lot of looks and surprised a ton of people who thought it was a "Grannie" car. I actually bought the car from an elderly retired school teacher, who fit the part of a blue haired granny. Good luck, I love the odd rods.

farna 02-01-2004 05:41 PM

Hey Ramblin man, you won't have to big a problem, the 58-60 American has a tough chassis and front end, and no torque tube. Only the big 56-66 Ramblers had torque tubes, the 50-55 Nash Rambler and the 58-69 Americans used an open driveshaft.

You can't put a newer AMC inline six in as suggested. That car was literally built around the short 195.6 engine. You'd need another 4-5 inches to put the longer 199/232/258/4.0L in, and it just isn't there unless you want to take the stock heater out and cut the firewall up. A narrow 60* V-6 would be ideal. The only problem is the accessory mounts. You'd need narrow mounts such as used for hot rods to get everything in there. The humps inside the spring towers can be cut out for some extra clearance-- they are remnants of the original 1950-53 design. Back then the shock mount had a rod that ran from the mount to the "peak" of that hump. The shock mount was redesigned in 54 or 55, but the humps stayed -- why spend the money to make a new inner fender panel when AMC didn't need the room? So carefully cut the INNER PANEL ONLY and weld a piece of flat metal in. It will gain you about 3" clearance on each side. Then you can put in a 90* V-6 or even a small block V-8 -- but changing sparkers will be a b----h!

Look closely under the car and you'll see that though it is a unitbody there is a rail running the entire length of the car on each side, more or less an integrated frame. The easiest way to mount the engine is with one of the universal tubular crossmembers. The rails are 27" apart in the engine compartment in front of and just behind the suspension mounts, 20.5" between the suspension mounts. I wouldn't advise welding the crossmember in as that could weaken the metal. Instead, weld plates to the end of the crossmember and bolt it to the rails. There should be enough shims in the lower control arms to use a piece of 1/8" thick plate on the ends of the tubular crossmember going down to the lower suspension cross rod bolts. Then drill near the upper portion of the plates for a couple 3/8" bolts going through the rails and/or suspension mount brackets. You could fabricate side mounts over to the rails without a crossmember, but a crossmember is advised to keep the frame from spreading, something that has been known to occur over the years.

A new rear crossmember will need to be made, but that's relatively easy. Run angle iron across the car so that it reasts on the frame rails. Drill up through the rails and floor, then drop some 3/8" bolts down from the top. Once covered with carpet you'll never know. I would tack weld a fender washer up there, and the bolt to the washer to keep it in and from turning, that way you never have to lift the carpet.

You won't have to worry about the front suspension. The old 195.6 weighs maybe 100 pounds less than a fully equipped small block V-8 -- not much lighter at all. The Rambler suspension will hold the V-8 well. It doesn't have any anti-dive built in, and was sprung rather softly. I built one and ordered custom wound front springs 10% stiffer than stock. It handled like a roller skate after that!

Any more questions on the little Rambler, just drop me a line! I only check here occasionally... otherwise I'd have seen this earlier!

bullheimer 02-06-2004 12:09 PM

just fyi, in case you decide to use a v-8, either this month's hot rod mag or pop hotrodding has a how to art. on hoppin up a 390 american motors v-8

OddRodder 02-06-2004 12:28 PM

Darn, just when I get the perfect question, farna beats me with ALL of the answers! I am using a Comp. Eng. crossmember for my chevy 327, and building my own crossmember for ladder bars out back. Just my personal opinion, but if you just want this car to be a nice trouble free cruiser, go with a chevy 4.3 and 700r4 trans.

JaxPop 02-20-2004 05:44 PM

Rambler American engine swap
Ramblin' Man,
It looks like you have been sent quite a few ideas about possible swaps. I have a '59 American wagon project car that runs on 5 of the flathead's 6 cylinders. Due to the narrow engine compartment, I had been thinking in terms of a more recent and powerful inline 6. Unfortunately, most everything I looked at was a much longer engine, so I would have to cut the firewall to make it fit.

One possibility I am considering is a major transplant from a '78-'83 280ZX (though I'm sure plugging a Japanese drivetrain into an American will make some of my buddies shudder). The beauty of this swap is that the 280ZX had front and rear subframes, the 2+2 model was within an inch of the same wheelbase as the Rambler, it would have discs all around, much improved suspension, and ZXs are readily available and cheap.

The down side is that I don't have the equipment or skills needed to do it myself so I would need to find a creative and trustworthy shop and the firewall would definitely need to be cut. In theory, with front and rear subframes, it should be fairly straightforward to swap engine, transmission, suspension and the works.

Alas, my '69 Fairlane's 302 croaked, so my car budget is currently covering a rebuild. Best of luck with your project.

poncho62 02-20-2004 06:02 PM

Since the Ramblers engine compartment is narrow, the small block Ford would be the obvious choice. It is narrower than the other V8s.......this from a Chevy guy. But they are narrower, plus the distributer is at the front, so no firewall problems.

By the way, the small AMC V8s also had the front distributer, by not quite as narrow, but still might fit.

SkyMan9600 02-20-2004 07:39 PM

Cousin has a 1960 Rambler wagon too!! I don't know what engine it had in it, but he recently put in a mostly stock Ford 360ci (360 de-stroked and differant heads basically) from a 1967 Ford Pickup and it will move! Fastest wagon I've ever seen in my life...

P.S. - Farna, that is the biggest post I've ever seen in any forum except some of the classifieds where people have one million things in one post for sale.

rodnees 04-29-2004 05:13 PM

Hey, I am in the process of putting a 350/th400 into my wifes 59 Rambler American wagon. Talk about a tight squeeze! I used a universal street rod crossmember for the motor mounts and mounted it between the control arm mounting brace. I mounted the engine just high enough that I could get spark plug wires on. I had to recessed the firewall back 4". I had to remove the heater and fill it in. You need to cut down the inner fender like farna said and weld in some panels. I put in a rack and pinion so I removed the steering box and made my own crossmember to mount the rack.

For exhaust you can use fenderwell headers like oddrodder , custom make some headers( I have some picts of some in a rambler american wagon) or like I used, a right side 265 chevy cast iron exhaust manifold and a 70 chevy driverside mainfold. I did this because these manifolds are rear dump out, there is no room for center dump ram horn exhaust or shorty headers.

A cross member is easy to make out of 2 x 3 rectangular I cut into the intragal frame (loosely named) and set the 2 x 3 inside and welded it up I also bolted it to the floor. I ran each side up to within 3 inches of the trans then made a drop out center sectionto hold the trans mount.

Rear end can be any one that fits in I think a rear out of a maverik
will fit. I used a extra rear out of a AMX and used the HD spring that were an option for the wagon.

I wanted to use what I had around and keep the cost down. If this is any way helpful your welcome. If you want any more info or picts let me know.

farna 08-26-2004 03:34 AM

I'd really like some pics of these V-8 installations, especially showing the exhaust and crossmember hook ups. Naturally an under hood shot! I have some, but more wouldn't hurt. Please send to my e-mail ( even if you post here.

One I've seen used rear dump exhaust but switched side to side (lucky you can do that on a Chevy!) so they exited the front. That was done to clear the stock steering. The engine can be moved forward a bit to keep the heater -- it won't be any more nose heavy than with the heavy old stock six (which isn't much lighter than a modern SBC!).

The old L-head just has a 3.125" bore, that's why it's so short (4.25" stroke if it's a 195.6, older 184 and 172.6 had same bore, shorter strokes). No other inline six is that short, maybe a couple of the olde L-heads from way back, but nothing modern. The 60 degree V-6s are the best bet. I've considered a Caddy 4.1L myself, just to get a cheap aluminum V-8. The light American doesn't need a whole lot of power to be a real hot rod!!

ramzoom 12-21-2007 03:03 AM

Rambler engine swaps
Rambler wagons are the coolest cars that suck to change over....

Watch the engine compartment especially with accessories. Damn that steering box and those frame rails :drunk:

I found that pretty much nothing would fit as a trans goes in the stock tunnel..too short. I threw in a Mazda 5 speed..believe me not very long really and sure enough there was some fabrication to do. Not a little fab...alot.

I think the v-6 is a good idea..a narrow one. a Maverick 8" will work.

I dont know about you other guys but I dont think I will shed any tears :sweat: if the RAMBLER purists dont like my modified wagon...Good lord they are RAMBLERS PEOPLE..Show me a Rambler guy/gal that doesnt want to "let" my wagon in a show and I'll show you a complete dork that likes Ramblers. Rambler purists.....Lord help us all :drunk:

oldcut73c2 12-30-2007 01:23 PM

rambler engine swap
I was interested in doing an engine swap i my 59 american also, but don't really have the time. If any of you want to sell the stock six let me know. Thanks

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