How Durable Is A 195.6 Inch Rambler American Six Cylinder Flathead?

Greg Zyla
Q: Hi Greg, I really enjoyed your article about the little 195.6-inch Rambler American six-cylinder flathead that I also have in my car, a 1959 Rambler American. It runs so quiet and smooth. I read all of your columns in Auto Round-Up.
You rightly explained that this Nash developed flathead engine had been around for decades, and it was also used in the Lafayette cars, which were knock-off Nash vehicles.
This engine also powered the Nash 600 which got its name by being able to go 600 miles on a tank of gas in flathead-six 172.6-inch form. But all of those Rambler Americans from 1950 to 1964 shared similar, quite tight engine bays with the flathead six.
After dropping the Rambler name in 1956 and 1957, they (American Motors) brought back by popular demand the new Rambler American in 1958 with many improvements. However, it still featured the same flathead six cylinder we had all come to love.
How durable is that little 195.6 flathead? Well, one day in 1970, my friend and I had an old ’60 American with the flathead six.
So, we put a brick on the gas pedal to hold it to the floor and see when it would blow up when we started it. That little flathead was screaming as it blew the muffler off and then the points in the distributor started to close up. It started missing, but it never blew up.
When it finally ran out of gas, we shut the key off and let it sit overnight. The next morning, we re-gapped the same points and put gas and oil in it.
Yes, the little flathead-six started right up and ran perfect! This is how good an engine the flathead Rambler six was and why AMC used it all those years.
Also, back then no one called Rambler an AMC following the formation of American Motors in 1954 with Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson. People said Rambler Custom, Rambler Super or Rambler Rebel, but never AMC. It wasn’t until 1970 that the official AMC-brand was promoted after eliminating totally the Rambler name.
I have included a photo of my 1959 Rambler American that cost $1,795 back then and gets 36-MPG highway. As for options, my ‘59 includes overdrive, clock, continental kit, spare tire cover, deluxe horn ring, radio, the big radiator and…an oil filter!
Yes, an oil filter did not come on the lower priced Americans as it was an option. Overall, I worked for Rambler for over 30 years on and off, including C.A. Cox Rambler-Nash-Metropolitan in Wollaston, Mass., just seven miles out from Boston.
Every flathead six that came into our garage, we made sure we added the oil filter if it didn’t have one.
By 1964-65, an all-new AMC overhead (OHV) valve six cylinder appeared in 199 inch size and then grew to 232 and 258 inches. Every Jeep through 2006 used a version of that 258 six, so it is one tough engine.
In addition to my current five Ramblers, I have six Dodge vans and a recent purchase, 1968 Cadillac Coupe Deville with 34,000 miles.
This Caddy sat in a greenhouse for 40 years and even features an “8-Track” tape player. I changed all the fluids and did a tune-up on the Caddy 472-V8 and it runs fine.
My other vehicles include a 1937 Dodge “Plow Truck” I designed myself and my latest project, a 1962 Rambler Classic two-door with a new 327 V8 Rambler (not Chevy) engine I already dropped in.
At one point, I personally had 20 Ramblers powered by the flathead engine, but that 327 will run real good as you mentioned in your other column about the 1957 Rambler Rebel V8 .
Currently, I work at the area railroad and am hoping to retire soon. I’m a big guy at 6’4, and fit in my little Rambler American even wearing my dad’s Stetson hat on my daily drives.
My wife has a 2006 Cadillac Escalade and a beautiful 1967 Plymouth Satellite convertible. I have a shed full of Rambler parts and engines, and some other engines, too.
I’m also going to put a 60-horsepower Ford Flathead V8 into a Nash Metropolitan when I retire.
Greg, I guess you know by now I have very little computer skills! I enjoy all your Auto Round-Up car articles very much and especially love those Rambler stories. Thanks for all the memories! Sincerely, Ross “In Ramblership” Sealund, Haverhill, MA.
A: Ross, I wish I had the space to run your entire 14-page handwritten letter as I enjoyed reading every sentence. So, I’m officially bestowing the title “Mr. Rambler” to you as your past work, knowledge and love of Ramblers has few peers.
Thanks much for the kind words, and of note is that I just added a 1980 AMC Concord two-door, 258 six, to my collection!

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