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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings all,

I am an attorney in Los Angeles (please don't hold that against me) and I am just about to begin my second rod project and first since I was in high school. That first project was a '67 Mustang fastback with a 289 that I rebuilt using a Haynes manual and a couple of friends who knew just a little bit more than I did. I have now appropriated my wife's first car, a 1963 Rambler Classic 770 4-door she drove through high school. It had been sitting in my in-law's front yard for the last 5 years or so, but with a new battery, fuel filter and a little persuasion I was able to get it up and running. It is now sitting in my garage and I am debating which direction to take it - lovingly restored original, or rodded out custom you don't see every day. Hopefully you guys can give me some tips and suggestions on which path to take. I look forward to your input. :)
 

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I'm assuming that car has the aluminum six cylinder? Or is it a late 63 with a 287 V-8? The six could have been changed out for a cast iron block (head was cast iron on the AL engine), since many of the aluminum models gave some trouble due to lack of proper maintenance. If it's a six, the FIRST thing you want to do before driving it much is re-torque the cylinder head! Just loosen the head bolts one at a time then tighten back to specs. Once I know what you have I'll look that up for you. On those sixes, if you don't re-torque the head every other year or 10-15,000 miles, the head will loosen enough to blow a head gasket. The first sign of a blown head gasket is running hot. Good heads are hard to find for those things, and after being run hot a few times they crack -- being 46 years old doesn't help either! I can't explain WHY they need re-torquing, but I've got well over 20 years of experience with those engines! The factory spec is to check torque every 8,000 miles. I don't know what the break-point is, but I re-torqued mine every other year back when I was putting 6-7K a year on it, so 10-15K is good. I re-torqued every other year regardless of miles though.

Welcome to the board, and to the world of Ramblers! There aren't that many "real Rambler guys" around, but there weren't that many made compared to the bigger manufacturers either. I can answer most Rambler specific questions, as well as a few others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the input

Farna, thanks for the advice on the Rambler. I am pretty sure its a cast-iron 196 - however, I think its a '64 engine, not a '63 because the oil filter is vertical and located mid-block on the passenger side. You were right about the head gasket issue and it looks like its blown, which makes my decision as to which direction to take it easier.

I know from perusing this board and others that AMC guys are against putting anything other than AMC motors in an AMC vehicle, however, I am not concerned with resale value (or sideways looks from the occasional AMC enthusiast) - this is really just a practice rod. Therefore, I am thinking of dropping in a small block (the 454 idea is out) that will be at least slightly compatible with the '63 rear-end. Any thoughts? I am willing to swap the tranny as well.
 

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The "problem" with the rear end is the way it attaches under the car. On a "torque tube" axle, the driveshaft is inside a pipe (the torque tube) that is solidly attached to the front of the rear axle. The axle housing is made specifically for the tube to bolt to. The other end attaches to the transmission. The transmission has a special flange on the output shaft housing for the flexible flange end of the tube to bolt to. The tube then holds the axle in place -- or rather is the main thing holding the axle in place. There is a panhard rod to prevent sideways movement, and the shocks keep the coil springs from falling out (keep the rear axles from dropping far enough for the springs to fall out).

When you change the transmission, you lose the front mounting point for the tube. Ladder bars aren't hard to install, you just need to bolt or weld in a crossmember for them to bolt to. The same thing with the Hot Rods to Hell "truckarm" kit.

I'd go with the truckarm kit if possible. Ladder bars are a bit cheaper, but the truckarm setup will ride and handle much better. The G-body kit (http://www.hotrodstohell.net/truckarm/truckarm_gbody/truckarm_gbody.htm) wouldn't be hard to modify to fit the Rambler, any shop could do it, or anyone with a little welding skills. You'll need a custom driveshaft also, but that's easy and under $200 in most areas.

The G-body axle would probably fit, but it has a different wheel bolt pattern than the Rambler. I'd get a late 90s Ford Explorer axle with disc brakes, killing two birds with one stone. It has the same wheel bolt pattern as the Rambler. Just remove the spring seats off the Rambler axle and put them on the donor axle. All that takes is drilling and tapping two 3/8" fine thread holes in the right places.

www.scarebird.com has an AMC front disc brake kit. I think they have it listed for 68-70 Javelin, but it fits all AMCs. The kit is just a bracket and seal spacer, plus a parts list of common parts you need (GM calipers, Ford Ranger rotors) to pick up from local parts stores. Total cost to convert to disc using new parts is right at $400, including the Scarebird kit.

In this car it takes as much work to put a late model AMC engine in as it does anything else. The only easy bolt-in would be a 63-66 AMC V-8, either the old 287 or 327. Those are hard to come by, and you'd need the entire drivetrain (engine/trans/torque tube/axle) as well as the mounting parts. Not a bad engine, but no speed parts. You'd have to locate a donor car for all the parts then likely rebuild the engine and trans. It can be hard to find someone who know enough about the old Borg Warner auto trans to rebuild it correctly. Of course the stick shift is easy enough to work with, but do you want a three speed stick? Four speeds were available only in 66, and they are rare!

So stick what you can find and are comfortable with in it. Mounting won't be hard. I'd stick a modern EFI V-8 in it, leaving it stock. An LT-1 or Ford 351 from a truck would be nice. Better yet, use a Chrysler/Jeep 4.7L V-8 from a Grand Cherokee or Dodge truck. That engine is a development of the last AMC V-8 along with a bit of Chrysler influence. There are some aspects of both in it, but except for the OHC heads it resembles the AMC V-8 most. Not only that, 4.7L is 287 cubic inches, same as the old Rambler Classic V-8 made from late 63-66. Get some original Rambler 287 badges for it! Not a lot of call for those engines, should be reasonably priced in salvage yards.
 
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