Q: I enjoy the nostalgia articles in my hometown newspaper The Gainesville Sun. The recent Cars We Remember section was really fun to read, and I enjoyed the AMC history of high performance. One AMC car you didn’t mention was the 1970 Rebel Machine, and I’m wondering your thoughts on the Rebel Machine by AMC? How many were ever made and is it a worthy collector car? Shawn S., Gainesville, Florida.
A: Shawn, I’m happy to tell you about the 1970 Rebel Machine and also a very rare 1971 AMC muscle car, too.
As I mentioned in the Cars We Remember special edition, by the time AMC released its pony and muscle car lineup during the latter part of the 1960s the company was way behind the performance youth movement that began in earnest with the 1964 GTO. And even though Chevy, Ford and Chrysler produced some really hot full-size muscle cars in 1961-1963 like the Chevy 409, Ford 390-406-427 and the MOPAR 413-426, American Motors was not in the performance ballgame at all.
To make things worse when it came to AMC completely missing this very profitable muscle car boom, the stuffed shirts at the board meetings decided to release newspaper advertisements that emphasized the only “race” AMC was interested in was the “human race.” So, even though the baby boomer generation was clearly into excitement and muscle cars in a big way, AMC was not.
After finally relenting, AMCs mid-size performance started in 1967, when the good-looking Rebel SST hit the showroom floors. As a precursor to the Rebel Machine, the SST featured a 343-inch V8 with 280 horsepower and some interesting high-performance options like Carter 4-barrel carb, bigger camshaft, and even an optional 4:44 rear end gear. Still, a 343-V8 with just 280 horsepower was no match against the competition, like an Olds 442, Chevelle SS396 or a Ford Fairlane GT. It just didn’t cut it.
But to answer your Rebel Machine question, immediately following AMC’s compact size SC/Rambler American in 1969, which happened to be the hottest AMC ever to hit the roads and just 1,512 were ever built, AMC then decided to release the Rebel Machine in 1970. The Rebel Machine rode on a 114-inch wheelbase and was more in line with the Plymouth Roadrunner size of muscle car than the compact style SC/Rambler. The first 1,000 were painted red, white and blue, while the others could be ordered in any solid color.
Under the hood sat a 390-inch, 340-horse engine mated to the great shifting Borg Warner T-10 four-speed with a factory Hurst shifter. The suspension was beefed up with stiffer AMC station wagon springs in the rear, resulting in a nice “funny car style” rake. However, the raised rear resulted in some wheel hop under full acceleration with street tires at the drags. The car would run in the 14 second range at 90-mph, which was good back then for a street muscle car.
Other “The Machine” notables were a ram air type hood operated by vacuum with an integrated 8,000 RPM tachometer. In my opinion, the Rebel SST and the Rebel Machine were the best-looking AMC’s of all, hands down.
As for longevity, the Rebel Machine was produced only one year, 1970, at a base price of $3,450. Thus, it is a very rare collector car and only 2,326 were ever built. Concerning pricing, a 390 Rebel Machine in excellent original or fully restored condition today will fetch an easy $50,000 and up according to NADA pricing. Even an average condition Machine needing some TLC should go in the $20,000 range, making it a desirable collector car.
Now for that other AMC performance car I mention above, which may well be the rarest AMC muscle car ever built.
Following AMC dropping the Rebel Machine from its lineup, a real sleeper popped up for just a bit of time in 1971 when less than 60 1971 AMC Matador two-door hardtops were delivered with AMC’s “The Machine Go Package” option. The Go Package added either a 360-V8 at 290 horses or the preferred 401-inch V8 with 330-horsepower. The Borg Warner T-10 was again part of the package, along with dual exhaust, heavy duty suspension, 15-inch Goodyear Polyglas raised letter tires and a 3.90 rear end gear. As rare as this Rambler is, I’ve never seen one in person but it may well be the best of the mid-size muscle cars from AMC. By mid-1971, the option disappeared.
If you ever see a 1971 Matador with the 401 The Machine Go Package (valued at a top price of near $50K) you are in the minority as very few survived the crusher. Thanks for your question.