Get Outta Town – The Extremely Mild Custom


Gillam Drive 2014 268

I was always bemused by the American Motors cars as a child. Few of our family friends had them and the ones I did see – the Metropolitan or Rambler models – were never treated with much respect. This seemed odd to me at the time.

We’re talking mid-fifties to mid-sixties in western Canada and Washington state. Lots of cars of lots of makes but the only AMC cars were being driven by schoolteachers and retired couples on a fixed income. The suburban Mum who had a Rambler station wagon treated it in just about the same way she would treat a Mazda 323 these days – she ran it into the ground unwashed and unloved. You got the impression that the only people who bought Ramblers did so to escape unseen in the dead of night from unsuccessful business ventures…

How sad. The cars were compact, well-built, and highly economical. They pre-dated the compact craze of the early sixties and were restyled three times in their history – and here is an example in Australia of one of the last marques – somewhere between 1964-1969.

Gillam Drive 2014 271

Here in Oz we had no such prejudices about the brand. It was a yank tank that did not have all the flash chrome and oversized boot and bonnet – it fitted much better with our local view of the size cars should be. Indeed at the same time GM, Chrysler, and Ford were also producing their similar-sized compact car offerings as full-size vehicles and everyone was happy. The Collins Street cockies and Nedlands nobs could still buy bigger tanks and continental luxury cars to impress themselves with but the rest of the population did very well on smaller roller skates. And the Rambler American fit in very well.



Here is an extremely mild custom from the 2015 Gillam Drive show that just barely tips over past the restored line. Please observe the frenched aerial, the lack of driver’s side mirror, the red rims, and the striping. Also the flake and pearl top. I apologise for the interior shot – if the window is up on a car and the external scene is busy and bright it can be nearly impossible to get a clean inside shot.

Gillam Drive 2014 266

Technical note: One of the rules I have set for myself in photographing cars is not to intrude myself upon the vehicle or the owner. No touchee. If the window is up I must make the best of it and I try any number of external tricks with flash lighting and exposure settings to overcome the barrier. This year at Gillam I am going to try an experiment with a black cloth sunshade – it will look silly but might be just the solution. Of course the real solution is to leave the window down or the door open, but I can understand owner’s protectiveness on some of the nicer interiors. And in the case of some of the rat rods or ratty old vintage cars, closing them up keeps the smell in…

Back to the American. Note the Australian venetian blinds in the rear window. Texans will understand this when they are travelling away from the sun and sitting in the back seat – we do too. Europeans may refer to a textbook on astronomy to learn the definition of Sun. It was an automotive affectation of the 1960’s and early 1070’s that actually had a real purpose.

One point for North American readers – you can now be officially jealous of Western Australian Rambler drivers – and everyone else as well. We have no snow or ice on our roads and a hot, dry climate. Very dry some years. As a result there is never any need to put salt on the roads or splash slush up into chassis and onto body panels. We do get rust, but not anywhere near the same extent that you do. If there is an older Yank tank that has lived its life here it is likely to have real original panels ready for fresh paint.




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