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Story and photos by Brian Earnest
If Fred Neubauer winds up with more than his fair share of the 1967 AMC Ambassador convertibles remaining in the world, then a little bit of collector car justice has probably been served.
It would be hard to find a guy more attached to the stylish orphan ragtops than Neubauer, a resident of Wisconsin Dells, Wis. He worked on Ambassadors and other AMC products for most of his adult life. He’s had a special affinity for the droptops since before he can even remember. He still owns the blue 1967 convertible he bought when the cars first came out, and it still looks great. And it’s evident from talking with him that he’d prefer his convertibles over almost any other choice you gave him.
“This is the kind of car I was looking for because I worked at American Motors for 29 years, in Kenosha [Wis.], and when these came through the line, I worked on them. That’s the car I wanted to get,” he said. “My first one I bought in 1967 when I worked on the line. When that Barbados Blue came out, that was the color I wanted. But this white one, I really liked it. And everybody else likes it, too. It really stands out.”
Neubauer admits he wasn’t hunting for another Ambassador when he came across the white convertible three years ago in Kenosha. “When did I know I wanted it? When I saw a ‘for sale’ sign on it!” Neubauer laughed. “I always told my wife [Carey], ‘I don’t know if I’m going to [restore] any more cars. I’m getting up there in age.’ But when this one came along I had to have it.”
Both of Neubauer’s finished Ambassadors are in fabulous shape, and he is restoring a third car that will eventually join the others. “I’ve got three children, and I’ve got three convertibles,” he said. “Hopefully they each wind up with one of them.”
Whichever kid gets the white car definitely won’t be getting the short end of the stick. Neubauer gave the car a complete frame-off rebuild, repainting it and giving it a new black interior and new convertible top. The car wasn’t in perfect shape when he got it, but it was more than respectable, and Neubauer knew that he wasn’t likely to come across many better restoration candidates. Only 1,260 1967 Ambassador DPLs were built. The 1967 model year was also the last time the Ambassador was offered in a droptop, and Neubauer wasn’t passing up the chance to grab another one.
“You don’t [see them]. It’s very rare. I don’t know of anybody that’s got one, right off hand,” he said. “This one was in pretty good shape. It had a couple rust holes on each side, in the quarter panels. And a couple little dents, but nothing major. It was very solid underneath. It had been Zie-Bart-ed when it was new … [The top and interior] was pretty good, but I replaced it all. I replaced the top, had the upholstery re-done. The dash is the same. The door panels are original, and everything else has been re-done.
“I pulled the motor and painted the motor and pulled everything out to a bare shell. And I put it all back together, of course.”
The Ambassador was a member of the AMC menu from 1958 until 1974, occupying the top spot in the company lineup. Early in its life it had been both a Nash and Rambler offering.
For 1967, the Ambassador got a significant restyling, with a more rounded appearance, more of a “Coke bottle” profile, and more room inside. The redesigned cars featured the long hood-short deck lid look that was becoming so popular at the time and was used in the designs of the Ambassador’s main competitors — the Ford Galaxie and Chevrolet Impala.
The DPL was the fanciest version of the Ambassador and came only as a two-door hardtop or convertible on a 118-inch wheelbase. The cars had a horizontal divider in the grille, integrated “Rally” lights in front, a power top, reclining seats, sport steering wheel, wood-grain trim inside, full wheels covers and other goodies. The convertibles carried a factory price of $3,143, while the coupes, which were far more popular with 12,552 built, listed for $2,958.
The Ambassador family also included the base 880 models and the one-step-up 990 models, which proved to be the most popular with the buying public. The 880s came as two- or four-door sedans or as a wagon. The 990s had a four-door sedan, two-door hardtop and wagon. The DPL line was the only one of the bunch that offered a convertible.
A variety of six- and eight-cylinder engines were available for the Ambassadors, and the top-end DPLs were equipped with the best of the group — a 343-cid, 280-hp four-barrel V-8. The 287- and 327-cid offerings of the past were discontinued for the 1967 model year.
There were plenty of other changes, too. A half-dozen transmission choices were offered and the cars received a new trailing arm/coil spring suspension setup, bigger gas tanks and a redesigned interior that offered more room in almost every direction.
“Mine has the 343, of course, with the automatic — the Flash-O-Matic,” Neubauer said. “It’s got a few other things, but it’s pretty basic, really. In those years the cars were pretty well loaded up in the Ambassador line.”
Neubauer admits he never figured he’d own one ’67 Ambassador all these years. He never expected to add two more to the fleet, either. “Well, I had a ’59 convertible Chevy many years back,” he recalled. “So I’ve always liked the convertibles. They are so fun to drive. You put the top down and you are just free to go. You know, let the wind blow through your hair.
“ I worked for American Motors for 29 years, and these are my kind of cars. They are rare, you don’t see many around, and that’s what I love about them.”
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