Up with the Rebel Machine!” This is the catchy slogan originated by American Motors’ ad agency. The ad agency, Wells, Rich, and Greene, started this catchy slogan to capture the audience for the AMC’s new youth-oriented high-performance intermediate. The Rebel Machine was another joint venture between Hurst Performance Research led by V.P David L. Landrith and American Motors V.P. of Marketing R. W. Bill McNeeley. They were the same team behind the successful phenomenon Hurst SC/Rambler released only less than a year ago.
The machine made it as a bona fide street machine with a 340hp 390 V-8 engine in its twin snorkel hood. However, could lightning now strike once more?
If the Rebel Machine had only been unleashed in the road during the Golden Age of Muscle Cars, it was believed to have been more iconic than the rest of its kind, among the likes of SS396 Chevelle, 389ci Pontiac GTO, 350ci Oldsmobile, 390 Fairlane GT and GTA, 390 Comet Cyclone, and Mopar 383 cars. Especially that history tells that there already existed in AMC: a 343-inch, four-speed Rebel Machine test mule long way back in 1967. The car was even brought up-to-date as 1968-1969 trim complete with a 390 and four-on-the-floor. It even ran a track-test at Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin, but had been never for sale. There even had a disseminated June 1968 archival photo of a satin black stealth version of the Rebel Machine in the studio, but even this was never seen in actual by the public.
These were the downtimes of AMC. Unending UAW labor controversies, issues over quality control, and a vote of no confidence resulted to an extensive reorganization of AMC’s upper management. This also meant that basically, each of AMC’s program went through scrutiny in trying to attain instant profitability but instead, they just ended up at the bottom line. Obviously, one of these programs which got affected in one way or another was the Rebel Machine.
Good thing is both Roy Chapin, the new executive vice president and general manager, and the newly appointed chief of styling, Richard Teague, then learned to appreciate the value of image cars such as the 1969 SS/AMX and the SC/Rambler. Finally on October 16, 1969, Bill McNeeley announced the new Rebel Machine on a press release. This is because he got extremely inspired regarding the initial figures of the sales for the SC/Rambler.
AMC expressed their sincere apologies for the performance of the Rebel Machine, in which according to them is 14.49 at 93.00 mph described as “not as fast on the getaway as a 427 Corvette or a Hemi, but it is faster on the getaway than a Volkswagen, a slow freight train, and your old man’s Cadillac!”
The Rebel Machine’s first ever public appearance before the automotive press was on October 25, 1969 during the NHRA World Finals at Dallas International Motor Speedway. There were 10 cars featured in the said event. Three among these cars were rode by NHRA officials in partticipating during the race. The other three were with Linda “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter” Vaughn and her court during the parade and also in taking part in the activities. The remaining four weres laid in the showrooms of AMC dealerships around the Dallas–Fort Worth area.
Could lightning strike twice?
Obviously, the buff books would be out to test the performance of this hot car item; Car Craft, Road Test, and Hot Rod magazines, to name a few. The results were at 14.50/98.37 from Car Craft, best of 14.57/92.77 according to Road Test, and lastly, 14.49/93.00 from the probably most objective Hot Rod magazine’s test.
Even though AMC never intended to fund for factory-backed Machine for drag racing, the Machine was said to be “With a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 10.74:1, this qualifies the car for a very competitive position in the NHRA-sanctioned F/Stock class.” To emphasize this even more, AMC came up with a pocketsized book which had only 4 pages entitled “Go and Show.” This book featured difficult bolt-on components from AMC’s Group 19 parts catalog, where every component was a right fit with the new Machine.
After selling 2,326 units during a creditable sales year, the Rebel was gone out. Thus, the name Machine was taken over to the new Matador line. The 1971 “Machine Go Package” car was armed with a tall deck AMC 401 which gratefully had a bit resemblance to its distinguished predecessor, which just lost its way to dimness.
Rebel Machine Specifications
Engine: 390ci V-8, 340 hp @ 5,100 rpm, 430 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Drivetrain: BorgWarner M22 manual 4-speed transmission with Hurst linkage, Borg & Beck 10 1/2-inch-diameter clutch, Dana 22 live axle with 3.91 gears and Twin Grip
Brakes: Bendix front disc/rear drum
Wheels: 15×7 steel two-piece
Tires: E60-15 Goodyear fiberglass-belted bias-ply
Suspension: Unequal-length A-arms, Rebel station wagon heavy-duty coil springs and shocks, 0.94-inch stabilizer bar (front); 4-link control arm with coil springs, 0.95-inch stabilizer bar (rear)
Wheelbase: 114 in
Overall length: 199 in
Overall width: 77.2 in
Overall height: 54.4 in
Shipping weight: 3,650 lb
This model was actually the 1969 343ci Rambler Rebel utilized in manufacturing the first ever Rebel Machine prototype. We can even distinguish this to be an early factory image since it still bore the soon-to-be-obsolete cartoon sticker “Up with the Rebel Machine” in it.
The Rebel Machine’s ealy design sketch was known to be by Hurst’s Gene Baker. He was also responsible for the design of Hurst SC/Ramblers.
The artist Johnny “B.C.” Hart designed this Rebel Machine cartoon sticker for the use of AMC. Though not anymore displayed in production models, this could still be purchased through AMC, available for twenty-five cents, postage paid.
The press finally got to know the Rebel Machine during the 1969 NHRA World Finals in Dallas. Some “Hurst-ettes,” like Miss Golden Shifter herself, Linda Vaughn, were hands-on for the festivities. “I loved every minute of that week in Dallas,” Linda exclaimed.
While AMC never intended the Rebel Machine for racing or even for sponsoring teams, their salesmen were very well-oriented when it comes to the knowledge in marketing the Machine to the high-performance crowd. They even had a limited edition 50-page salesman’s book made available by AMC Historian Larry Daum. Contained therein was the how-to’s for every salesman in selling cars. Of course, it also include some effective sales techniques.
AMC Rebel Machine Registry
In total, there were 2,326 cars, according to Mickey Ziomkowsky from Ray, Michigan. He is already a retired employee of GM and worked for them up till 30 years. He was also in-charged of the AMC Rebel Machine Registry for 22 years. The nature of his job, according to him is “basically to document all the cars that are still out there.”
The first thousand of the manufactured Rebel Machines were in red, white and blue. However, the next orders of car in these colors had to cost an extra $75. The car was also available in other 14 distinct OE colors.
Not only was Mickey’s job to log the cars, he also had to document every option and color available for it. Except the 343 prototype, the rest of the 1970 AMC Rebel Machine were comprised with the 340hp 390. Furthermore, the car could be available with either an automatic or manual transmission. The standard equipment was with manual transmission comprised with 3.54 gears but could also be ordered in the optional 3.91. Those with automatic transmission, on the other hand, were with 3.15 gears.
To distinguish the authenticity between these cars and the options for each could be a “particularly difficult” job for one, even Mickey actually said so. This is because AMC did not habit to document on their cars. AMC were also not matching number cars. “There’s no way to state with certainty that that particular engine belongs in that particular car,” Mickey concluded.
Fortunately, through an out-of-the-way VIN on the framerail, a Rebel’s machine could still be distinguished.
In the Registry’s research, issues pertaining to the Machine’s history were finally clarified. Even after AMC’s statement of not manufacturing Rebel Machine units in Big Bad colors when it first became available in public, there were still found rare cases in which the cars came in Big Bad Blue, Big Bad Orange, and Big Bad Green. They were now already documented to date.
When it comes to the value of these cars today, we would be lucky enough if we found a kind of this, decent and restorable for just less than $10,000.
AMC did not keep documentation on these cars
AMC’s statement regarding the 390 V8 for 1970 was at 325hp. However, the cold-air system equipped in the Rebel Machine, actually generated an extra 15hp.
The Rebel Machine had the hood-mounted tachometers as well, which are found mounted on the back of the hoodscoop. These kind of tachometers were said to be a hit among muscle cars way back ’60s.
The “Machine Wheels,” in 15×7 were built by Kelsey-Hayes, named such because it first officially exhibited in public on the 1970 Rebel Machine. AMC also made these wheels available for Javelin and AMX.