Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars

Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny CarsThe 1966 and 1967 AMC/Rambler Rebels were some of the best-looking cars produced by the Kenosha, Wis. based company. (Former AMC)

By Greg Zyla —

Q: Hi Greg, I had a 1966 Rambler Rebel, two-door hardtop that I sold back in 2006. I read that AMC only made 1,975 of them and that they are today quite rare. How about a little history and what are they worth today? Also, how about the Rambler Rebel funny car that came out back in 1967? It looked like my car. Thank you! Richard Peters, Lincoln, Nebraska.

A: Richard, let’s start with some Rambler Rebel history and then we’ll get into the funny cars, and the 1966 Rebel.

The Rambler Rebels were manufactured both in Canada and the Kenosha, Wisconsin plants from 1957 through 1960, and then again in 1966 and 1967. The original 1957 Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8s were assembled at the former Nash Motors factory in Toronto, Canada until July 1957, when the Toronto plant closed. Any further Canadian-sold Ramblers were then imported from its factory in Kenosha until AMC opened its new assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario in December 1960.  

Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars

AMC jumped on board of the popular funny car drag racing scene with this great looking Rambler Rebel SST in a co-op with Grant Piston Rings Company. (AMC/Grant)

Most consumers who purchased the 1957 Rambler Rebel, arriving with its new, bigger, and standard fare 327 V8, didn’t realize they were driving one of the hottest cars on the highway. The 327-inch, 255 horse V8 featured a four-barrel carburetor, although it was supposed to come standard from the factory with a 288-horsepower fuel injection unit. This all-new design intermediate size Rambler had a wheelbase of 108-inches and still looked like a Rambler should – until you hit the gas pedal.  

Motor Trend Magazine evaluated a fuel injected Rebel given to them by AMC and realized it was quicker on the dragstrip than a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette. In a move to protect its family and economy car image, AMC quickly announced that the fuel injection option would not be available, and all the production Rebels would arrive at the dealerships with the four-barrel carburetor. 

The fuel injected version utilized an electronic fuel injection unit by Bendix called the Electrojector; and in addition to the “uproar” of AMC having the fastest car on the highway, reliability issues with the electronic control unit also contributed to the non-production decision. Thanks to a rear end gear ratio of 4:10 if buyers opted for the manual transmission, even the carburetor equipped Rebels ran just as quick as the Corvette, which featured its new 283-V8 and 283-horsepower. The 1957 Rebel with the 327 V8 found only 1,500 buyers, as most of those early Rambler consumers were of the “I love those 6-cylinder engines” variety.

The 1966 Rebel you owned was the year the Rebel name was resurrected on what was basically a Rambler Classic two-door hardtop. The Rebel model arrived at showrooms with numerous upgrades, including a new for 1966 Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission, dash-mounted tach, as well as a $65.00 option for the 327 cubic inch V8, which was now producing 270-horses. 

Still, AMC was way behind the “Big 3” when it came to muscle cars, as all of the competitors were motivated by engines developing 325 horsepower all the way up to 425. What AMC had going for itself, however, was in the looks and price department, as many enthusiasts feel some of the best-looking Ramblers were built in 1966 and 1967.

Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars

AMC dealer Bill Kraft built the first Rambler funny car back in 1965 utilizing the new fastback Marlin for starters. Although there was yet to be a funny car classification, the car ran in the C/Fuel Dragster class with a Hemi under the hood after several unsuccessful attempts running an AMC engine. (Bill Kraft Collection)

Included in these new Rebel upgrades were specific interior enhancements and a revised roofline that fit the popular styles of the day. For 1967, all of AMC’s intermediates, except for the Marlin, took the Rambler Rebel name. A year later the Rambler name was dropped, and the car simply became the AMC Rebel. On the plus side, however, AMC finally figured out that muscle cars sold well and they decided to do something about it. 

AMC finally moved the needle forward in a big way in 1967. Since drag racing was booming coast to coast, due to the popularity of the new funny car class, AMC developed a serious racing effort thanks to a 1967 partnership with legendary automotive aftermarket performance parts company Grant Industries.

Known for some of the best piston rings of the day, Grant and AMC built the famous Grant Rambler Rebel SST, a true, fiberglass flip top body funny car to compete in the hundreds of match races taking place weekly coast-to-coast. Although the NHRA was still running these new creations in experimental classes, the nitro powered funny cars garnered excellent exposure for the car brands involved, including this new Rambler Rebel.

Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars

Drag racing boomed in the 1960 decade, as even a record dubbed “The Big Sounds of the Drags” was a success for Capitol Records back in 1963. (Capitol Records)

The racing Rebel funny car had a wheelbase of 122-inches and was built with a round tube chrome-moly chassis. Originally powered by a bored out 438-inch AMC V8, the team switched to the 426-Hemi-style engine (still used today) and popular drag racing star Hayden Proffitt drove the Grant Rebel to a best of 8.11 at 180.85 mph.

The very first Rambler funny car, however, was an independent effort featuring the all-new fastback, the 1965 Marlin. AMC dealer Bill Kraft was the money man, while drivers included Preston Honea and dragster standout Lefty Murdersbach. The Marlin began life with the 327 Rambler V-8, but the team switched over to a Hemi for more power and better reliability. The wheel-standing Marlin ran in the 9-second range at 138 mph, which was fast back then.

Murdersbach was sadly killed in a dragster accident in 1966 after a stellar career as a topflight drag racing pilot. Lefty was featured on the drag racing record album that I bought back in 1963 called “The Big Sounds of the Drags,” which I still have in my collection. It was produced by Capitol Records and later offered as an 8-track tape for the booming in-car tape system market. Back in the 1965 to 1970 muscle car era, if you didn’t have an 8-track stereo onboard you were in the minority.

I’m going to go a little “off-script” here (I know, I do it all the time) and mention the famous AMC Javelin funny cars, of which there were many. Most notable on the list is that of exhaust header manufacturer Doug Thorley, as his Javelin was a rear engine design and used an AMC engine. The car was totaled by driver Norm Weekly at Irwindale Dragway in California and never rebuilt, as rear engine funny cars to this day have never been successful. The best Thorley’s Javelin ever went was 8.0 in the quarter mile.

Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars

The 1957 Rambler Rebel started the company on its way to being one of the fastest cars produced that year. A fuel-injected version was turned down when the company realized it was just as fast as the 1957 Corvette. (Rambler)

Another Javelin, and a real fast one at that, was the west coast match racer Clyde Morgan, who ran regularly in the 7-second range at over 200 mph with a big-block Chevy for power.

Personally, Morgan’s funny car, featuring a Fletcher Chassis, ended up in my garage with a flip-top Vega Panel Wagon body that I purchased in mid-1979. After much research, my race car turned out to indeed be the well-respected Dick Fletcher built chassis that Morgan originally owned and raced. When I bought the car in 1979 it still worked great and helped propel me to many wins. Today, that same funny car has been completely restored by William Sell, from the York, Pa. area, including a new Javelin body.  

Finally, as for the value of the 1966 Rebel, according to several price guides and actual sales research, I found a 1966 Rebel that sold for a high price of $34,000 (pristine shape) to a low of $2,450 in poor condition. The average price guide number for a Rebel like yours in average condition came up to $8,700.

Overall, 8,336 Classic hardtops were produced in 1966, of which only 1,750 were Rebel trim models. This low production number relates to the higher prices paid in the year 2023 for these rare Rambler Rebels.  

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader input and questions at 

Be the first to comment on "Collector Car Corner; Rarest of Ramblers: Rebels, Marlins and even Nitro Funny Cars"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.