'70 Hornet 2D Sedan - My daily driver
A few years back, around 2000, by a coincidence I saw an add in a Finnish for-sale paper. It simply said: RAMBLER AMERICAN '70 233, ei rek, ei kats, ei ajokunnossa, (Mikkeli). This stands for: RAMBLER AMERICAN '70 233(??); not registered, not inspected, not drivable. Sounded interesting, and since I was still looking for a few parts for my V8 Hornet (it was still a project at the time), I thought I'd check it out.
I wasn't looking for much, certainly not another drivable car, I called the seller and he told me that the car was basically intact and it should be in running condition. I told him I might be interested, and asked what if the car wasn't quite as good as he said, well he remarked that in that case, he'd gladly drop the price a bit. Wow, I was short on cash as usual, but I thought that I could make an easy buck, fix the car up, or part it out and sell it off. The only negative thing about the whole deal was that the car was (again, as usual) located on the other side of Finland, but this time, I had a trailer I could tow, so that issue was settled quite easily.
One issue rose though, I had no car that was heavy enough to tow the trailer and the Hornet on top of it. In Finland in addition to other regulations, the towing car has to be heavier than the towed car. So this ruled out my (crappy) euro-daily driver and bunch of other cars that were cheap to drive and in addition the long distance ruled out a few cars that might not make the trip. After long consideration, I decided to risk it and borrowed a car from my folks that was "almost legal" according to the weight regulations (Ford Focus STW '00 diesel). There was still the fact that I couldn't drive the car, because with the Hornet & the trailer, it got too heavy for my driver's license (max weight 2500kg). So, I took along a friend to drive, my better half and our dog wanted to come as well. So we took off.
Well, the trip went fine, after all, we had a new car under us and the trailer was almost new as well. When we finally found the place and the car, it got quite interesting. The old man that was selling it, revealed that he had bought it a while back (back in '95), but never drove it becouse he never got around to fixing the automatic transmission which didn't work well, and recently didn't work forwards at all. The seller was according to the registration papers the second owner of the car, so that cleared that out right away.
The car had stood under a pinetree for 2 years, since there was no room in the garage for it. The paint had turned green with moss and crome had faded away quite badly, but the car had every single emblem on it, on the outside and inside. All original parts were there, 'front headlight doors' were good as new (if faded) no real rust was visible, and after closer inspection (I learned from my first mistake) the floors were quite solid with just a few spots of rust here and there, no holes. Even better, the seller knew the entire story of the car, even if he had no real evidence, except ownership papers to prove it, the story had a ring of truth to it.
The first owner had driven the car on weekends from '70 when she bought it until '88 when another car had bumped the left front fender. The damage wasn't bad, and it was fixed right away in a good metal/paint shop (the fixup is still nice, and original colors were used), but the granny (was turning 80 years old) got a bit taken back and he got too careful, and stopped driving the car. The car stood in a warm garage for 7 years, engine was in good condition so she or someone else must have started it up every now and then. In the fall of '95 she passed away, and the second owner bought the car off an estate sale for fairly cheap (8000mk). When I saw the car, it had seen a total of 89k kilometers. That's it! Just 89K kilometers and the engine was still in original AMC blue!
So after relating the story I had already decided to buy the car, but the seller insisted on me hearing the engine run, or he "wanted to hear it run one last time". We filled the tires, got a battery, checked oil, added gas & water and I went in the car and turned the key one click and was got jumped bad. A warning buzzer awoke from years of slumber and scared me witless. My other Hornet never had any buzzers working so I didn't know what the problem was. I asked, and the dumbfounded answer was, "just close the door". Okey, so I did, and it was quiet again.
I turned the key a while without giving it gas first to get the oil flowing, and then kept a small pause. The starter wasn't noisy, it sounded almost like new, quite a suprise to me after hearing lots and lots of Rambler starters before. So I turned the key again, gave it some gas, and kept it cranking for a few seconds and it started up. The engine of course didn't run long, since it had stood for so long, but it didn't hesitate to start the next time. Next time I tried to keep it running a bit longer without revving it too much. I found an idle and got out to hear it. The exhaust pipe was leaking quite badly, so the engine stalled almost right away after I got out. I asked the seller to start the car up and keep it running so I could hear it run, just to see if it had any extra noises that shouldn't be there (in addition to the exhaust noise).
Well the seller got in started it and slammed the pedal to the floor, I jumped bad, fearing he might brake the engine by over-revving it cold. When I told him to settle down, he just said that he "was just giving it something to eat"... Okey, so the seller wasn't too bright, but he did find a very nice idle after revving the engine up. Yeah, that's right, a VERY nice idle. Okey, I had decided to buy the car before, but after hearing the engine run, I decided that I wouldn't sell this car, whatever the smart thing to do in my situation was.
I tried not to rub my adrenalized state of bliss, and walked around the car and pointed out everything that I could find was wrong with it. It was kinda hard to do, when I was totally sure that I'd get the car whatever was wrong. As mentioned before, I was really short on cash, but I was still happy with the low-low price the seller had posted in the paper. Just to be sure that the price was what was advertised and not twice that (which would have been at least about what the car was worth) I asked "what the agreed price was again". Well, the seller thought a bit, and then said that well, I guess we could agree to drop it by a couple hundred marks, since the car seems to be going into a good home. At this time my friend's mouth dropped wide open.
I gave him the cash, signed the papers, and we towed the car behind the trailer with a tractor and pushed it up (quite a job it was as well), in the meantime the seller accounted us about his past and the fact that he had owned a couple other Ramblers as well in the sixties (2 Classics and at least one Ambassador and a few Americans). We tied up the car to the trailer and took off and by some miracle managed to get out of the narrow and winding roads where the car was situated. (including a VERY narrow and long uphill). Well got the car home 8 hours later, and been working on it ever since to be my daily driver.
THE PROJECT ITSELF
|When Bought||When it actually was||What happened to it|
|Engine||232cid, low milage (89tkm)||Just what I thought, actually better, no work had been done to the engine, original paint, everything was cool. Carb was a bit wasted and the exhaust manifold was leaking though..||I took out the exhaust manifold and along with cleaning it and painting it with zinc paint, I changed all the gaskets for intake as well. The carb wasn't working as it should, so I basically just took it apart, cleaned everything and put it back together.|
|Transmission||Borg-Warner M-43 Automatic, supposibly just dried out, should work...||Would only work on reverse, no front gears engaged how ever much it was jiggled and worked at...||Got tired of looking for a reasonably priced automatic-tranny repair-mechanic and replaced the old tranny with a matching one bought from Tero Kinnunen for a good price, the original tranny went to Joensuu to be used for spare parts.|
|Brakes||Power drum brakes||Was just that, only all the brake cylinders were useless, all corroded badly and all except left rear cylinder were jammed up.||Well, I thought there was 2 ways of doing the brakes, cheaply meaning get used ones and install them, or buy new. New shoes, cylinders, springs, tubes, lines, everything was replaced since I wanted to stop with the car when I pressed the pedal. It was expensive(3000FiM) but worth it. Afterall, I was going to use the car for a daily driver. I bought everything new, except the drums which I had machined to the new shoes. The booster also had some issues, I replaced it along with the remanufactured master cylinder.|
|Interior||All messed up, seemed original||Original interior, only just one small rip in the driver's seat.||After 4 hours of cleaning I finally got the interior rid of all the mildew and moss that had grown there. The seats actually are in better shape than my V8 Hornet ones, structurally, and this confirms that the car is a very low milage one. I also repaired the rubber-carpet, which had tears in several places with fishing line, so it look better now. I might still replace it with a new carpet made of red cloth.. we'll see... Also the arm-rests were trashed so I replaced them with '71 kind, which not only look better but work better as well. Looks decent now.|
|Paint||Brown, green, and everything in between, hadn't been washed for decades.||After many hours of scrubbing and washing the outside, the paint turned out to be metallic brown (Moroccan Brown Metallic) and the moss that had gathered on top of the car gave up and I even found out that the paintjob was still decent. Though I'd guess the car has originally been white... it shows in couple hideaway places.||The had been collided with something in the past and it wasn't fixed right, original paint was used, but still, the underwork was bad. I had to open up the passangerside fender to fix it. Also the hood was cracked in the front, (as was the bumper) so I repainted that with black as well. The trunklid is also black, coz the old parts was too rusted to be used anymore... Too bad, since the car would have been quite good looking otherwise. I'll propably paint the car Big Bad Green... we'll see...|
|Rust||Surface rust was visible here and there, nothing serious though.||Other than the rustholes in the rear valance and trunklid, the car was pretty solid. Only 2 small holes in the floor.||
Decided to fix the rustspots I could find with new metal, and even replaced the rear valance with new metal (instead of fixing it). Trunklid was replaced, and a few rustspots here and there were sanded off and painted black. Not a lot of work there, and I was quite satisfied at it.
|Underbody||Car steered alright, rode straight, seemed ok.||Other than the fact that the driver's side rear leafspring was cut in several places everything was fine.||Replaced the rear springs with corresponding V8 springs, also removed the rear, painted the rear/shocks (almost new shocks btw) bright red. All rubbers were ok, so not a lot of useless stuff to do there either.|
|Tires&Wheels||Original wheels with hubcaps, tiresize was 185/80-14 all-around||Original hubcaps were quite worn and one was dented in several places (propably flewn off). But the big suprise was in the trunk, another set of 4, and which were basically un-used. very cool.||
The hubcaps were nice sure, but not quite the look I was driving for, so I sold them off (still have a set left though) and put crome wheels (size 14x6) under it and realized it looked VERY COOL indeed. The wheels are crome Mangels, but they're not the typical kind, but look more like cromed American Racing's Torq Thrust II's. The tires are currently studded 185/70/14 winter-tires.
|Steering||Manual steering, automatic column, all ok||All ok||Not much to do here, everything works fine.. Though I'm considering power steering... We'll see...|
|Electrics||All ok, lights didn't work though.||All ok, problems with the lights solenoid.||I looked around for the problem with the lights for about an hour (I thought it was a wire problem) and finally set myself into taking out the rusted (un-original) headlight-relay box. Thankfully it was possible to open it up and clean it up, (some of these boxes aren't fixable at all), and soon after, the high-beams decided to start working as well. Replaced a few worn wires here and there but nothing big.|
|Others||Front grille was bent out of shape by a previous accident.||Was just that.||First I straightened it out, and kept it like that for a couple months. After this the bends and the fact that it wasn't good looking made me check my spare-parts store for a replacement, and there it was. I cleaned it out and spent hours scrubbing it to make it shine. Well, now it does, but I wouldn't do it again.. =)|
|Bumpers were shot||Front bumper in a 90degree angle, and rear one was totally rusted out.||The front bumper was still in suprisingly good crome, so with a little help from a friend of mine it was straightened out and it looks great. The rear bumper thought was a lost cause, and I bought a new front-bumper from another friend and modified it slightly to make it fit in the rear. It's amazing what good bumpers add to the car!|
Here are some pictures of the car during various phases of the project.
|Pictures of the Car|
Ok, since the springs are now fixed and the car is ready for inspection, as usual, I've run out of money. I've got some problems with the garage I'm working in right now (it's been sold to another land-lord etc) and it seems like in the worst case-scenario I'll be forced to sell the car. I could sure use the money, but... It would be a pain to get rid of the car when it's finally coming together. Last thing I've worked on is the trunk, fixed a few rust holes and added some carpets that fit the interior. see below for the picture. New updates coming soon of the work I did on the rear of the car... stay tuned...
last update. 25.2.2002 at 15:00