Old Cars Weekly archive – May 8, 2008 issue
Colorful SC/Rambler a rare prize today
Story by Brian Earnest
Frank Indriso knows there is a more than a little irony involved when it comes to his little 1969 SC/Rambler. The Hurst SC/Rambler was AMC’s best attempt at rolling out a low-budget, low-frills, affordable muscle car that could take whatever any pedal masher wanted to dish out on the track or on the street. At around $2,900 new, it was an ornery little beast that almost any horsepower fan could afford to own and punish on a regular basis.
Now, nearly four decades later, Indriso owns one of the best ’69 SC/Ramblers in the country. The problem is, the little orphan AMCs are so rare, parts so scarce and nice examples so few and far between that his car rarely makes an appearance on the street. Indriso just can’t bring himself to chance breaking a part that can’t be replaced or in any way screw up a restoration that he says is still spectacular more than a dozen years after it was performed.
“If I’ve driven it 50 miles in the last 10 years, that’s a lot,” said Indriso. “Everything is just so fragile under the hood … and the Thrush mufflers underneath. Everything underneath the car is perfect, I just hate to (wreck anything). I know I’m not doing the car justice by not showing it more. Whenever I take it out I usually get crowds around it.”
Indriso, a Sicklerville, N.J. resident, is a self-described MoPar man who still has his first car — a 1973 Dodge Dart. He also owns a ’72 Plymouth Valiant Scamp and ’94 Dodge Viper, along with a 1968 M715 Jeep Kaiser from Vietnam. The AMC is the oddball in his garage, and, like a lot of car buying stores, came to him a bit unexpectedly.
“When I was a kid, my father bought me a muscle car book, and there was a picture in there of a Hurst ‘A’ scheme SC/Rambler,” Indriso recalls. “I remember reading about the car and I just loved the car. I’m a Mopar guy. My father had AMCs as well, but pretty much all the other antique vehicles I’ve had have been Mopars.
“In 1998 I was looking to buy a restored car, and at the time with an AMC, I could get twice what I could get with a Mopar. At the time I realized that if I spent $12,000 on a Mopar, it was going to need a lot of work.”
But when Indriso decided to make the drive to New Hampshire to check out a rare SC/Rambler that he discovered was for sale, he found a car that didn’t need any work at all. The car once belonged to Major League hall of famer Reggie Jackson, a well-known muscle car fanatic and collector, and somewhere during its lifetime had undergone a splendid body-off restoration. It was exactly what Indriso was looking for, at a price he could afford.
“The gentleman that I bought it from told me about the car, and I told him that, hey, New Hampshire was like a 10-11 hour ride for me, I didn’t want to drive all that way if it was going to be a waste of time. But he said, ‘Trust me, you’ll like this car,’” Indriso said. “When I saw the car I knew immediately this was the car.”
If nothing else, the feisty little SC/Ramblers would have to take the prize as the most patriotic-looking muscle cars ever produced during Detroit’s golden age of muscle. The cars came in “A” and “B” paint schemes. The first 500 cars that rolled off the assembly line wore the “A” scheme with red center body side panels and thick blue horizontal racing stripes across the hood. A blue arrow pointed toward the scoop, which had large letters spelling the word “AIR” and calling out the engine displacement.
A second run of cars sported the “B” scheme with narrow red and blue stripes running the length of car — blue on the bottom with white and then red just above. Some experts believe the third batch of cars went back to the “A” trim, and of the 1,512 SC/Ramblers produced, only 500 came with the “B” scheme, making Indriso’s version the rarer of the two.
The car was offered for one year only when Hurst and AMC teamed up to try to breathe some fire into the Rogue hardtop coupe. Stuffed under the hood below the serious-looking hood scoop was a 390-cid, 315-hp V-8 mated to a Borg Warner four-speed with a Hurst shifter. The 3.54:1 rear end and Twin-Grip differential was standard. Other standard fare included fat dual exhausts, column-mounted Suntach, Bendix front disc brakes, blue-finished five-spoke mag wheels and red, white and blue headrests on an otherwise gray interior. Some examples, like Indriso’s, were radio-delete cars with no radios or antennas.
Its curb weight of about 3,000 lbs. made the SC/Rambler a prime candidate for the drag strip, and its 10.03 lbs.-per-hp rating made it eligible for drag racing in the National Hot Rod Association’s F-stock class. A magazine test back in 1969 clocked the SC/Rambler at 14.4 seconds and 100.44 mph in the quarter mile. Many of the SC/Ramblers wound up living hard and fast, and dying young, on the track. Fenders were cut up to make room for fat racing slicks. Interiors were torn out. Bodies were stripped of everything that could be removed, including, in many cases, the patriotic paint.
That means precious few of the 1,512 original cars remain. “If there are 400 or 500 left, that would be a lot,” said Indriso. “And if there are a dozen of those that are in really, really nice shape, that would be a lot, too.”
Even when these cars do make it to concourses and show events, they are still somewhat of a curiosity. They were an obscure car when they were built, and they are even more of a mystery now. “A lot of people don’t know what it is when they see it,” said Indriso. “They think I painted it this way, or they think it is a shoebox Nova.”
Indriso said he has done some minor work on the steering wheel and the instrument gauge bezels. Beyond that, he has tried to keep it as pristine as possible, in large part because he fears how difficult it would be to fix anything.
“There are a few gentlemen out there producing [parts], but there was nothing 10 years ago when I bought it,” he said. “There are no body panels available for this car … You can’t get the seat upholstery. The headliners are special and only found in the SC/Rambler. Once it’s gone, forget about it … The smog pumps aren’t being produced …”
“With so many of these cars that you see, you might spend $15,000, $20,000, and they need so much work, and the parts are just impossible to find. You see these cars at shows and people have restored them and there are a lot of things wrong.”
Indriso, a school teacher, says he will never give up babying the car, but he does hope to get more time behind the wheel in the future. Driving gingerly in a high-strung little Hurst SC/Rambler as original as Indriso’s is not the easiest assignment, however.
“If I had more time, I would drive it more,” he said. “But the only thing is, with those bias-ply tires, it gets really squirrelly. When you dump the clutch at 2,000 rpms, it just incinerates the tires. I’ve only don’t that a couple of times because I don’t want to beat up the car.
“I have a 440 Dart that I thrash at the track. That’s my car to beat up. I want to preserve the restoration on this car. This car is pampered, because I don’t want anything to go wrong with it.”