Q: Hi Greg! You mention in your column that in the 1950s and early 1960s, there were many six to nine-passenger cars and wagons, respectively, available to the public. Well, our family’s first-ever new car from a dealer was a 1965 Rambler Cross Country Station Wagon, which we all loved.
Our Cross Country had what my children referred to as the “way back seat,” where the flat “play” floor opened up to an extra third seat that was facing the back. Also, the door at the back opened with hinges on the driver’s side so you could access the space from the back.
I enjoy your columns as they sure bring back so many good memories. Joyce M. Risden, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
A: Joyce, thanks very much for your letter and kind words. I always loved the Rambler Wagons, and the 1956 Cross Country was always one of my favorites for several reasons.
The first reason 1956 Ramblers are noteworthy is because the new company CEO, George Romney, didn’t try to copy the other manufacturers with “similar cars.” The late Romney, who is the father of Mitt Romney, took over American Motors Company (AMC) in 1955 when George Mason, its original founder who led the Nash-Kelvinator-Hudson merger to form AMC, passed away in 1954. Romney thus introduced several novel and very successful models while he was the CEO, although he later resigned in 1962 to run for Governor of Michigan, which he won.
The 1956 Cross Country, meanwhile, was all-new and featured an industry first station wagon hardtop, which meant it had no pillar between the front and rear windows (called a “B” pillar). Additionally, the wood grain trim models were unique as the trim went clear to the back and then up and along the edges of the top (see photos). The lesser priced Cross Country models did have a ”B” pillar, and both the hardtop and “B” pillar models today are rare and in demand by collectors.
Consumers responded favorably in 1956, as advertising touted "Drive the Rambler - You'll Make the Smart Switch for 1956." Sales were good at near 63,000 units sold, with a move to 91,000 in 1957. In 1958, AMC sold over 162,000 cars and wagons, returning the company to profitability. In 1959, Rambler would sell 374,000 units, and gradually increase to a high of 464,000 units in 1963.
Personally, I had a chance to buy a 1960 Cross Country that was in pretty good shape for less than $1,000 about seven years ago. I still kick myself that I didn’t buy it as when I finally made up my mind to buy, it was gone.
Thanks for your letter Joyce.