By Jay Hirsch
Most people may be familiar with the 1970 AMC Rebel Machine. It was painted white, with a blue hood and red trim. The Machine had a big 390-cid V-8 in a light Rambler body. This was not the first time Rambler had used the name Rebel.
In 1957 AMC took their 327-cid OHV V-8/5.4 liter engine that was in the full-sized Nash Ambassador and placed it under the hood of the small and much lighter 3,353-lbs. Rebel. producing the “first muscle car,” before the term “muscle car” was used (muscle car: big engine in a smaller, lighter car.) The 327 V-8 in the Rebel had solid valve lifters.
It was in 1950 that Nash revitalized the Rambler name in the form of a smaller car for the American car market.
The 1957 Nash Rebel came in only one color: silver with a copper side molding. The interior was black and silver. The front seat was black nylon and silver and was an air-liner recliner type seat being fully reclining. With both seat backs down you had a bed for overnight trips.
Among the many options available on the Rebel were seat belts (first introduced by Nash in 1950), power steering, power brakes, continental spare tire, directional signals, back-up lights, automatic transmission, or three-speed manual with overdrive, whitewall tires, electric clock, child guard door locks, padded instrument panel.
The 1957 Rebel is 191.14 inches long (198.14 inches with the continental tire), 71 inches wide, 58 inches tall, and rides on 6.40 x 15-inch tires. The base was $2,786.
As for the body of the Rambler Rebel it is a single unit-body welded body — Single Unit Construction.
“No other car in the Rambler price field offers such protection for your loved ones,” said the 1957 sales brochure.
Wade Jacobs, the owner of the Rebel belongs to the Nash Owners Club and bought the car from a member in 2016. The previous owner had purchased the car from the family of the original owner. At that time, in 2002, the car had about 88,000 miles, but the paint was faded, the front seat worn, and the motor “seemed to be used to its fullest on Saturday night street cruising, by the original owners teenage son.” The car was repainted, front seat material was replaced in the original material, new carpet front and back was installed, and the engine was rebuilt.
Wade had seen the car at Nash club shows, and when he saw the ad for the car, he called the owner, a price was agreed upon, and three weeks later the car was in Wade’s driveway. Wade has always liked “cars,” and with a particular interest in the “odd ball car” or the car with a unique character. Wade also owns a 1951 Nash Rambler convertible. The “Lois Lane Car” from the 1950s TV series “Superman.”
When Wade has the Rebel at car events, most people do not know what to make of it. The car is not big, like most of the 1950s – 1970s cars, and in fact is very close in size to today’s passenger car. But it does have all that chrome, especially those big chrome bumpers along with the two-tone paint and continental tire. For people who remember the “Rebel Machine” it is equally confusing.
Wade patiently explains to everyone the nuances of his rare, one-year-only car model.
As for the ride of the Rebel, even with its bias ply tires, it handles quite reasonable on today’s modern highways. This is due in part to the small size of the car. Bias tires on a car with little overhang front and rear is not as prone to the sudden shifting of the car when changing lanes on a highway where 18 wheelers ride. This is more prevalent in the larger cars of the 1950s that are over 200 inches and more and do not have radial tires.
The power of the Rebel was proven in 1957 when the only car quicker than the Rebel in 0 to 60 mph was the fuel-injected 1957 Corvette. Rebel 0 to 60 mph 7.5 seconds, which is quite good for many new cars.
At the other end of the 1957 engine market a 1957 Rambler with the 195-cid inline 6-cylinder engine averaged 32.09 mile per gallon from Los Angeles to New York City, 2,961 miles.
Nash had merged with Hudson in 1954. The head of Nash was George Romney who became the President of the newly-formed American Motors. Under Romney AMC concentrated on the smaller, compact Rambler, and by 1958 there was no longer the big Nash or Hudson.
There were 1,500 Rambler Rebels produced in 1957 •