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imaginaryderek 12-09-2010 03:37 AM

1965 AMC Rambler American Engine Swap
What would you do!?
Hi I have a pretty clean 1965 Rambler American and I was interested in restoring it. It runs and drives with it's tired 195.6 inline 6 engine but it has lost a lot of compression and I haven't been able to enjoy driving it.

I am looking for the most cost efficient way to put a little more spruce in it's stride. I was looking into engine swaps but I am not really mechanically inclined in the automotive department. I have a general understanding of cars, but I am definitely not a mechanic!

From my research, I see that many people use ford inline 6 200/250 engines (because they fit the small rambler american design) Also 4.0 jeep engines are frequently used. I am looking for something with some power but gets decent gas mileage as well. I have found the AMC inline 6 232 engine from an ambassador for $500 and another Rebel with a "balanced 287" for around $1000 locally. I am new to car restoration but I am very eager to learn. Once again I am not really a car guy so the more you explain something the better!

Any information will greatly be appreciated
Oh I forgot to ask if an old chevy 350 will fit without any crazy modifications. My dad said the c20 at my grandmothers house has a corvette engine in it...
But my dad is kind of crazy so I'll let you know the exact engine that is in the truck when I get a chance to look at it. Thanks

poncho62 12-09-2010 04:56 AM

Lots of guys have put 350s in these,,,,May be some problem ih the windshield wiper motor area with the distributor.......

Me, I would stick with the 232 AMC or the Jeep engine, which is basically a 258 AMC........I am not sure if the 65 American still had the closed driveline. That will be your biggest challenge if it does.

matt167 12-09-2010 07:37 AM

350's do fit, and there are plenty with them in there, but they destroy the value of the cars due to AMC's being stuck within a tight nit group of enthusiasts..

'65's were optioned with the 232, and a '65-'71 232 ( old bellhousing pattern ) or the super rare '71 258 will bolt in... I would use a 232. it bolts in, power is decent. the only thing you cant use is the air conditioning, as the '64-'65 is shorter than the '66-'69 Americans and the pump doesn't fit with the longer engine in place. to get A/C in '65. you had to order the 195.6 OHV.... there a high maintinance engine, and they have solid lifters so they do need to stay adjusted every other oil change. your compression loss could be due to valves that are way out of wack. it could just need a tune up

'65 American has an open driveline, but it has a goofy pinion nut on the rear

imaginaryderek 12-09-2010 01:23 PM

Thanks for your help guys. Yeah you are right about the AMC enthusiasts! I like the car but I wouldn't mind sticking a chevy motor in there. I read a lot of people who did opt for the 350 had to make custom fabrications and body mods to the firewall to get it to fit in there... I would rather avoid that if I can to be honest.

If the 232 is just a bolt in I would much rather go with that. Also if you know where I can likely find one for cheap I would appreciate that very much.
(I am a very poor college student!) :D

Do you know how much a shop charges for swapping engines by any chance?

Again thank you for your help!!

matt167 12-10-2010 12:44 AM

That engine swap doesn't require very much. just a pre '71 AMC 232 6cyl or a '71 only 258, the correct crossmember from a 'small body' car ( pretty sure any will work up to the 80's Spirit's ) so American, Hornet, Gremlin, probably a days work at a shop that knows what to do... you could go a bit farther and find a '72-up 304-401 CID V8 and with a 232 crossmember, you can get 232- V8 conversion mounts from Bulltear and then you have a bolt in V8. of course the AMC-15 rear end will not hold that, and it would need a new trans also ( TF-727 from a '72+ V8 car would be best, but even a 904 would hold a 304's power for a while )...

But with the 350, your taking a car that might be worth $8k restored ( unless it's a 440 convert or hard top ), cut that value in 1/2 and your going to have twice it's value in it by the time your done... with an AMC V8, you could double the value, especially if it's done right.. everything bolts and swaps. the only thing you might get into trouble with is, the trunions probably need rebuilt by now, and they will cost $400 or so to replace with rebuilds unless you know how to do them, and that's 1 thing I don't know how, as they were never ment to be rebuilt, but now there not available as assemblys over the counter anymore,

imaginaryderek 12-10-2010 02:24 PM

Ok now I am starting to see the value of keeping an AMC an AMC... Matt you said "unless" it's a 440 convertible or hardtop..." I'm hoping that it is a good thing that it is, because mine is a '65 Rambler American 440 Hardtop. :-/

Anyway, I am gonna look for a 232/258 engine because that seems like it is the easiest way to go. I don't really want to mess with the transmission or rear end because I will probably kill myself haha. Do you know where I can find a good junkyard that carries older cars!? I live in Los Angeles county but I am also very close to Orange county so I am hoping there are some good cheap resources for parts around here. (all the local junkyards are polluted with new cars around me - 85 and up)

Alright I guess for now I'll be looking for a healthy running 232/258 engine to drop in my baby. Thanks for the information!!!

farna 12-11-2010 11:51 AM

Remember, you need a pre 1972 engine if you want to bolt it to the transmission you have already. 1972 and later are easier to come by but won't bolt up -- you'll need the transmission too, and will have to have a driveshaft custom made ($200 or less, usually). The rear axle will be fine with a newer six. You will also need a 1965 American or 70s-early 80s CJ-5 (NOT CJ-7!) water pump and pulley. Those are short enough to fit, the others have a shaft about an inch longer. You will need to flip the radiator brackets from side to side to get another inch or so of room. Have a radiator shop do this unless you know someone good at soldering (a welding shop can do it too). Just remove the brackets and swap them side to side. Then remove the filler panel between the radiator and hood latch before installing the new radiator.

You don't have to have a new crossmember, but it's a bit easier if you do get one. Matt's correct -- any American, Hornet, Gremlin, Concord, or Spirit crossmember works. Must be a six cylinder car, but that's the most common. Doesn't matter about size or year of engine.

You can make perches for the engine easy enough. I used a pair or 4" long pieces of 2"x3" 11 gauge (roughly 1/8" thick) rectangular tubing. Drill them to fit the mounts on the engine with the open ends of the tubing 90 to the engine. The inside edge should be even with the inside edge of the motor mount, doesn't matter if the outside edge sticks past the mount. Bolt the tubing to the mounts then lower the engine in place. Make sure you have the engine where it needs to be, then mark the holes in the 196 crossmember on the tubing. Drill and tap for a 3/8" FINE THREAD bolt. The 1/8" thick material is just thick enough to take fine threads. For coarse (standard) threads you'd need thicker material. I used lock washers and lock-tite on those bolts. you want about 1/4" clearance between the oil pan and crossmember. You may need to make a spacer to go between the 196 crossmember and the tubing. If so just use some flat steel and drill it for the single 3/8" hole. Fender washers would be okay, but not regular washers -- not enough surface area to prevent bending the tubing. 3/8" fender washers would be about 1-1/2" in diameter.

imaginaryderek 12-11-2010 01:49 PM

Farna you are freaking me out!!
Okay so do you mean if I get a pre 1972 engine, I can just bolt it in and bypass all the other modifications you mentioned? (Please say yes)
Or do I have to change the radiator/water pump/pulley/perches regardless of the newer engine I get?
Once again I am confused...

Farna I've noticed you in other rambler related posts (it's much of the reason why I came to this forum) and you really seem to know your AMC stuff. Are there any sources of good solid information on the internet regarding Rambler modification/restoration?
Thanks for your help! :D

RAYFIN 12-11-2010 09:02 PM

I had a friend that installed a 283, powerglide, and 9" ford rearend in one without much trouble. Have fun they're not that collectable.

farna 12-26-2010 02:45 PM

It's almost a bolt-in. You still need a 1965 American w/232 or 70s CJ-5 w/232 water pump and pulley. You would need a 66-69 American or 70-83 AMC Hornet/Gremlin/Concord/Spirit crossmember to bolt the engine to, or make your own perches to bolt to the existing 196 crossmember. Pretty easy to make some, just a couple 4" lengths of 2"x3" 11 gauge (1/8" thick" rectangular tubing between the 232 mounts and 196 crossmember. The 196 trans will bolt to a pre 72 199 or 232 (even a 71 258, but those are few and far between -- one year only that will bolt to the old trans).

Best bet might be to get a 258 with the trans fom a 1972 or later car though. If you plan on hopping up the six much that's the best way. The old stick trans is weak, the old auto better, but not as strong as the Chrysler 904 used in 72+ cars. Chrysler trans, but special case with AMC bell pattern -- everything else is identical to Chrysler versions, so parts and places to work on them are easy to find.

Best swap is a 4.0L from a 2WD Jeep Cherokee. More power than a 304 V-8, about the same as a STOCK 1974 AMC 360 w/4V. The 360 has much more potential to upgrade though, the 4.0L six is just about as far as it can go from the factory, at least at low cost. Keep the EFI or use a 258 dizzy and intake with a carb. EFI is best an not too hard to put in. Then it's one heck of a good driver!

Best Internet source for AMC is, second is Be cqareful about mentioning putting a Chevy engine in the Rambler. You will get some help, but also a lot of flack. You'd expect the same if you went to a Mustang site and asked about dropping a 350 Chevy in one of those too, right?

ramzoom 12-26-2010 10:50 PM

Seems like for all the trouble of "getting" these parts..and then most likely rebuilding them as well..then the'd be better off to just rebuild the 196 and keep going...I know theyre not a powerhouse but I'll tell you they sure do run good! I have been driving a 65 American off and on for a few months now and I can tell you we were going to do a swap but the more I drive this thing the more it proves itself to be a really good driver! I think it will remain stock :sweat: And I really like to swap motors in Ramblers!! lol.....I'd just rebuild what you have..

ramzoom 12-26-2010 10:55 PM

Dont listen to Farna! :D
I'd go to the AMC forums and tell them your swapping the stock stuff out and putting in a Russian Diesel with a Chinese 3 speed trans and a International Harvester rear...that'll get em going! lol..... I'll go get my popcorn and sign on!

:spank: :spank: :spank: :spank:

matt167 12-27-2010 10:10 AM

problem with the 196 is, parts to rebuild are expensive or not available ( like new camshafts ).. they are really good runners with good maintinance, and even the 1 I had with bad oil control rings, blew a quart of oil out the tail pipe in the form of a blue cloud every 1k miles or so. but never failed to start with 2 pumps of the accelerator pedal and about 2 rotations on the engine..

a 258 isn't that hard to find. lots of those 70's jeeps have rusted to heaps but still have good engines.. after that, you just need the crossmember, and a trans, but there are ways to bolt Chevy transmissions to them even using factory parts because some Jeeps used TH-400's. I think a factory TH-400 4x4 trans can be converted to 2wd with a standard TH-400 tailshaft.. crossmember should not be hard to find. lots of these cars and parts are still around

I'm eyeballing a '76 Hornet sportabout 232/auto myself... be a nice sleeper with a 390/401 w/ a 4spd

JeffB 12-27-2010 10:53 AM

Another option
It been mentioned about firewall clearance issues with a SBC,no problem with a 302/5.0 Ford, distributor is up front like an AMC V-8 also weighs 80 lbs less than the SBC, '85 and up 5.0 is roller cam and parts are available new and used like a SBC for similar prices.Also a C4 is smaller in size than a T350 so that will make the swap EZ also.Since you are in L.A. checkout craigslist put Ford 302 in search, there is a 1990 5.0 roller & trans $395

ramzoom 12-27-2010 10:56 AM

So you dont like my Russian diesel idea??

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