Rebel with a cause: 1957 Rambler blazed a trail

With its 327-cid engine, the Rambler Rebel
 was AMC’s first true high-performance car.

For 1957, American Motors made a sensational high-performance car called the Rebel. Under its hood was an enlarged version of the V-8 introduced a year earlier. The 4.00 x 3.25-inch bore and stroke, 327-cube engine featured five main bearings, a forged-steel crankshaft and a 9.5:1 compression ratio. Large cast-iron exhaust manifolds were hooked to dual exhaust pipes with straight-through mufflers.

AMC had originally planned to use a Bendix “Electrojector” electronic fuel-injection system in the Rebel. The system proved problematic and it’s unlikely that any fuel-injected Rebels were ever turned out. A Carter WCFB four-barrel carburetor was used on 1,500 production units instead. Instead of 288 hp and fuel injection, the cars that left the assembly line had 255 carbureted horses.

Another thing in the original plan was limited production. AMC expected to manufacture Rebels on a made-to-order basis and to offer only two options: EFI and Hydra-Matic transmission. Extras added later included Solex tinted glass and 6.70 x 15 Goodyear Blue Streak racing tires.

The Rebel’s standard transmission was a three-speed manual gearbox, with overdrive, linked to a Borg & Beck 10-inch clutch. The extra-cost “Flashaway” Hydra-Matic transmission was essentially the same unit used by Oldsmobile and Pontiac. A 4.10:1 rear was used with stick-shift cars and a 3.15:1 axle was added with Hydra-Matic.

Among the items included in the Rebel’s price of $2,786 were reclining seats, power steering, power brakes, a “continental” tire carrier, windshield washers, a radio, back-up lights, full wheel discs, a padded instrument panel and sun visors.

The Rebel came only as a four-door hardtop and only in a solid silver-gray color scheme. Its special full-length body side trim featured a bronze-gold anodized aluminum insert with a “Rebel” nameplate on each front fender. A silver-and-black interior trim designed exclusively for the Rebel harmonized with the monotone body paint.

AMC promoted “amazing acceleration and speed” for the new car and road testers substantiated such claims. Motor Trend said that the only car capable of outrunning the Rebel from 0-to-60 was the fuel-injected Corvette.

A Rebel with overdrive and the 4:10 axle was made available for short acceleration runs at Daytona Beach in February 1957. Motor Trend’s Joe Wherry reported a best time of 7.5 seconds from 0-to-60. Hot Rod magazine obtained a 9.4-second 0-to-60 time in a Rebel with Hydra-Matic and reported that the stick-shift version with 4.10 gears could break 8 seconds flat. The car with Hydra-Matic did the quarter-mile in 17 seconds at 84 mph.

Viewed in retrospect, the first Rebel ranks as one of the finest muscle cars ever made. It was offered in this format for just the single season and is now a rarity that AMC enthusiasts covet for their collections.

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