1962 In an industry dominated by the Big Three — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — a fourth Detroit automaker once waged a valiant battle. The plucky American Motors Corp. (AMC) had to try harder — much harder. Perhaps that explains why this publicity shot for the 1962 Rambler American is so engagingly over the top, set at an undisclosed location with a swimming pool, sunbathers, and beach umbrellas as well as a woman in a bobbing device in the pool who’s reaching down to a man in a ragtop Rambler.
The clear message was that a convertible Rambler American was the very definition of summertime fun. The automaker was also a leader in presenting compact cars to the American consumer at a time when most autos offered by the Big Three resembled small boats. AMC was formed in 1954 with the merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corp. and the Hudson Motor Car Co., but eventually those marques were retired and all cars coming off the assembly line were Ramblers or Metropolitans, with a fleet of other AMC models soon to follow.
The company’s headquarters was on Plymouth Road on Detroit’s west side before moving to Southfield in 1975. AMC did well enough for a number of years, but it had to be constantly inventive to remain competitive. In 1970, it acquired Kaiser Jeep. By the ’80s, the company was struggling to stay afloat, desperate for capital. French automaker Renault acquired a big chunk of AMC stock in 1979, and AMC was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987, leading AMC to go belly-up.
In his 2009 book Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson, and American Motors, author Charles K. Hyde put a positive spin on the dissolution, preferring to focus on the doughty company’s nerve to challenge the Big Three for as long as it had. “It was not surprising that American Motors went out of business in 1987,” Hyde writes. “The company’s survival for a third of a century was more remarkable.”