1964 Rambler American Is a Nasty Wagon With Drag-Racing Skills

When talking about classic drag-racing machines, we usually think about quarter-mile rigs based on iconic muscle cars. And that's because all famous nameplates spawned at least one factory drag racer at some point. But the drag racing scene also created all sorts of monsters based on vehicles you don't expect to find at the strip.
1964 Rambler American wagon dragster 10 photos
1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster1964 Rambler American wagon dragster
The gasser craze of the 1960s, for instance, is responsible for many outlandish transformations. We have this class to thank for mundane vehicles like the Willys Americar and Ford Anglia becoming drag-ready beasts. The list also includes Chevrolet Tri-Fives, the Kaiser Henry J, and the first-generation Volkswagen Beetle.

Come 2023 and drag racing is way too regulated to include such vehicles, but this isn't stopping people from building nostalgia gassers. Fortunately, many drag strips still run open events that allow gearheads to race anything as long as it has four wheels. The 1964 Rambler American you see here is one of those builds.

Granted, the short-lived compact built by American Motors Corporation (AMC) is no stranger to drag racing. In 1969, AMC teamed up with Hurst and created the SC/Rambler, a drag-ready production model aimed at the F/Stock class. But the Rambler you see here is not a beefed-up coupe. This gasser-style rig that rides as high as an off-roader is based on a station wagon.

Yup, some people love grocery-getters so much that they turn them into quarter-mile racers. Mike Duffy did just that with his 1964 hauler. Previously a C/Gas category runner called "Southern Fried," the Rambler is now a more street-friendly machine. But thanks to a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8 bored .60 over and mated to a modified Turbo 350 gearbox, it runs much quicker than the average AMC compact.

Speaking of which, this American 330 is part of the third and final generation of the compact, which was built from 1964 to 1969. The "330" badge indicated a mid-range model that slotted between the entry-level 220 and the top-of-the-line 440 versions.

Redesigned for the 1964 model year, the third-gen American was marketed as a fuel-efficient family car. It came with a 90-horsepower, 196-cubic-inch (3.2-liter) six-cylinder as standard, but AMC also offered 125- and 138-horsepower versions of the mill. The Rambler didn't get a V8 until 1966, when carmakers began moving away from economy toward performance. And needless to say, the 1964 American wagon wasn't impressively powerful or fast.

But how potent is this drag-ready grocery-getter, you ask? Well, we don't get specific numbers, but the footage below shows the Rambler completing two quarter-mile runs. The wagon completes the first sprint in 16.06 seconds at 84 mph (135 kph) and then returns for a second run of 15.99 seconds at almost 85 mph (137 kph). Not exactly mind-blowing, but still about four seconds quicker than a stock 1964 Rambler. Not to mention that the driver didn't seem interested in running at full blast.

But even though it's not the quickest AMC out there, this Rambler is proof that you can race just about anything with the right parts. And I don't know about you, but I also think this wagon looks the part. Check it out in the video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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