Re-Visit: A Look Into The Rambler Rebel Engine Defect And Oil Consumption Issue

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, I remember an article you wrote about an engine flaw on the early Rambler cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and am wondering if you could please re-run that article as it was filled with good information for us Rambler enthusiasts and collectors. I remember reading it and saving it, but I misplaced it and a friend is having trouble with oil consumption in his Rambler that I know you touched on in your article. Thanks much for your car columns. Sincerely, Edward L., Gainesville, Fl.
A: Edward, I’m happy to oblige and let you know that that article appeared many years ago and generated lots of mail into my inbox and snail mailbox. One was from musician Joe Seddon, a well-known early-era rock and roller who is still at it and living near Danville, Pa. His Rambler blew up and he never knew why until the following letter was printed. He finally was able to understand why it blew up!
Actually, I have to take second fiddle as to the research done on this oil consumption situation with the early Ramblers and Rebels. A gentleman by the name of Peter Fenstermacher (no address given at his request) receives credit as his inquiry and research went like this:“Greg, I learned to drive on a 1967 Rambler Rebel I bought from my mom in 1978. It had a 232-inch inline six cylinder. I also learned to always wear a seatbelt after sliding across the bench seat during a particularly sharp cornering maneuver. The Rebel was gold and looked remarkably like the Plymouths that the local Police Department drove. My license plate was ‘REBEL 1.’
I finally had to part with it after I got married and parts became hard to find. I planned to drive my Rebel across country as a teenager but foolishly spent all my savings rebuilding the engine only to discover halfway through the build that my extreme oil use was caused by a perforation of the diaphragm in the vacuum booster pump that ran the windshield wipers. Located below the fuel pump, this provided a path for oil slinging off the cam lobe to be pumped directly into the intake manifold via a vacuum tube. Many otherwise mechanically sound Ramblers met their demise because of this foolish design flaw.
Also, my best friend’s brother had a 1960 Rambler Super (the only one I have ever seen) that suffered from this same design flaw on its 196-inch flathead six. One day he decided enough was enough and he wasn't going to spend any more money on oil. He drove it until the oil pressure light came, then kept going and finally abandoned the car when the engine overheated and died.
He gave the car to his brother, so we filled it with oil and water and drove it (clunking) all the way home. When we pulled it apart, the only damage we found was the number six rod bearing had spun. My friend then gave me the car as it was old (and broken).
Then, I finally “mic” checked the engine and every measurement was within factory specs except that number six rod bearing. So, in ending, this was really my very first car, and it even had the front seats that folded down into a bed! (Teenage dream!). When I joined the Air Force I sold it for scrap to get it out of my mom's backyard.
I’ve seen plenty of Rambler Americans, Classics and other Ramblers over the years, but never another Rambler Super, and I've been in junkyards all over the country. I could also tell you about my 57 Chevy – it’s a literal basket case and is still my daily driver. Thanks for your columns, Peter Fenstermacher.”
So, there you have it Edward. Peter sure did some great research and uncovered the fact that although the Rambler American Supers were readily available in 1960, not many exist today. After first appearing in 1950 as a Nash Rambler “zip top” convertible, the very first Rambler American appeared in 1958 and sold throughout 1969 as the successor to the Nash Rambler. All through the noted decades following the merger of Hudson and Nash to form AMC in 1954, the little Americans in all varieties were very popular and sold quite well.
The 1967 Rebel, by the way, was indeed a good looker, especially when compared to the Plymouth Belvedere models of 1968-1969. They were available in performance trim, too, and still look very good in any state of dress, including Hayden Proffitt’s 1967 Rebel SST Grant Piston Rings Funny Car (that I saw run in-person back then).
Thanks again to Peter, Joe and Edward for helping explain the Rambler engine oil consumption flaw on those otherwise trusty Rambler engines and recalling many popular Rambler cars.

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