Q: Greg, I just found your article on the internet about the Rambler Rebel and AMC muscle cars that you wrote back in 2012.
It really brought back many great memories of AMC, and how fast some of them really were.
I remember that 1957 Rebel you mentioned, and also the great Javelins and other fast AMC cars of the 1960s.
The Ramblers and AMC cars were not considered fast cars, but they were. They had some serious muscle cars, including the red, white and blue Hurst (Scrambler) American with the 390-V8.
Most people still think Rambler and AMC cars were just for the family, but they put together many a fast muscle car.
My question is, do you remember those AMC Funny Cars? Who had the first one?
Charlie S., New Jersey.
A: Charlie, I sure do remember those AMC Funny Cars, and for originality the very first Rambler Funny Car was a 1965 Marlin owned by Bill Kraft. It was driven by Preston Honea and dragster standout Lefty Murdersbach.
It began life as a 327 Rambler V8 on alky and some nitro but the team switched over to a Hemi later for reliability.
This wheel-standing car ran in the 9-second range at 138-mph, which was fast back then. Murdersbach, by the way, was killed in a dragster accident in 1966 after a stellar career as a top flight drag racing pilot.
The second and most famous Rambler Funny Car to appear was Hayden Proffitt’s wild full size Grant Piston Rings sponsored Rebel SST in 1967. It was powered by an AMC engine bored and stroked to 438 inches on nitro.
The car ran 8.1 second quarter miles back then, and the crew switched to a Hemi engine as the AMC engine just couldn’t cut the mustard.
Later came the famous Javelin Funny Cars, notably that of header manufacturer Doug Thorley.
Thorley’s Javelin was a rear engine design and used an AMC engine. The car was totaled by Norm Weekly at Irwindale Dragway in California, and never rebuilt as rear engine funny cars to this day have never been successful. The best it ever went was 8.0 in the quarter-mile.
Another Javelin, and a real fast one, was that of west coast match racer Clyde Morgan, who ran regularly in the 7-second range over 200-mph with a big block Chevy for power.
Personally, this Fletcher Chassis ended up in my garage as I purchased a Vega Panel Wagon funny car in 1979 and it turned out to be Morgan’s Fletcher chassis. (It worked great even after all those years).
Other fast AMC Javelin Funny Cars were run by Dick Bourgeois, with Chevy power; Bob Pickett (Hemi); Rusty Dellings (Hemi); Gary Crane and Dale Armstrong, who shared a Javelin/AMX (Hemi), and Tom Ferarro’s AMX/Javelin (Hemi).
There were also a few Gremlin Funny Cars, but none were fast. All of the front engine Javelins, however, were regular 7-second performers in the years 1968 to 1970.
Thanks for the question and hope this all helps.