The World's Greatest Car
By Vinny Minchello
When trying to single out the World's Greatest Car, you inevitably
become entangled in all sorts of definitions of what a Great Car should be.
Powerful, sleek, desirable, fast, dependable, able to handle the curves. In
any such conversation names like Duesenberg, Mercedes, Cadillac, Ferrari,
Lamborghini, Porsche, even Volkswagen, surface. It's high time we settle the
age old argument once and for all. Here, I have every intention of taking
all the prior measures of which great cars have been judged and throwing
them out the window, relying instead on more subjective feelings. I'll
concentrate on reliability, ease of operation, ability to come thru in a
pinch and just sheer personality. Based on this, I can narrow down the field
from "All Cars Ever Made" to just one: Rambler.
Tens of thousands of readers have just collapsed. Others are
threatening to cancel their subscriptions. The BMW Owners of America are
planning to hold their next Thanksgiving bonfire in my living room. Now,
just hold on a minute.
Let's think about this. Lots of important people have owned
Ramblers. Why, there's comedian Bill Murray who's restoring a Rambler,
and...well, me. It's just that people have not yet come to realize the true
value of the Rambler like those fine people who devote their lives to
rescuing Studebakers. This article is designed to change all that.
I am sure everyone is asking, "What's so great about Ramblers?" If
you don't know just ask someone. They may or may not have owned a Rambler,
but chances are they have a great Rambler story. I know. I collect them.
We bought a '65 Rambler American from a neighbor for $100. The
starter was bad but the air conditioner blew ice cubes. My brother George,
was pretty rough on the car, but it happily survived emergency brake spins,
hour long cruises at its 75 mph top speed, many a off roading adventure and
several occasions serving as a mobile grandstand. Soon after, my brother
fell in love with and bought a badly kept up Mustang (as high schoolers will
do) and the Rambler was relegated to guarding the street beside our home.
During this time the Rambler was not given preference for anything. It wasn't
the second car, it was the LAST car. But despite the extreme neglect, the
Rambler was always ready to go.
Then it happened. My father's car, a tempermental Corvette,
decided that its carbureator was not going to function while the temperature
remained below 50 degrres and that was it. After sitting dormant for weeks,
the Rambler instantly sparked to life. If only the lug nuts had been
tight... At 55 mph the right rear wheel de-Ramblered, sending dad and
Rambler sliding down the Dallas Central Expressway narrowly missing tractor
trailer trucks, guardrails and numerous other highway perils. Shaken up, but
none the worse for wear, dad gathered up the wheel, borrowed lug nuts from
each of the other wheels and re-Ramblered the renegade wheel. It never gave
us a bit of trouble again. The Rambler later donated its organs to the local
Rambler bank. A selfless gesture.
My cousin also owned a '65 Rambler American. His story begins like
many. The car was bought for $100 and performed without complaint until one
fateful day when the radiator sprung a leak. The solution was pure
Americana: use what's at hand and seal the leak with pink ceramic tile
grout. It held for a few days but, alas, the radiator was too far gone for
mere tile grout, pink or otherwise. It would have to be replaced. But, he
needed the car, and besides, it was only a half mile to school. So, let's
fill the engine block with water and connect the radiator hoses! The Rambler
survived five tough days without a radiator. And, after five days received a
radiator from a non-Rambler source. It worked though. Oddly enough, this
Rambler's demise did not come at the hand of mechanical trouble. Somehow the
windshield got smashed. The cost of the new glass exceeded the original cost
of the car, so the Rambler was retired, with honors. It now dries clothes in
a suburb of Philadelphia.
The last story is a story of heroism, of courage, of Rambler. It
involves a Pennsylvanian family whose green Rambler wagon was forced off a
mountain road. The car, carrying mom and children, was launched from a 15
foot high dirt embankment, sailed thru a wooded area, narrowly missing
several trees, and bounced along the rocky ground, finally coming to rest
with the front half of the Rambler in a stream. After checking on everyone
(the ten year old in the back seat somehow ended up on the roof unharmed)
mom fired up the faithful six cylinder, backed the car out of the stream and
managed to get the sputtering and severely bent Rambler back home with her
family safe and sound. The gallant Rambler was replaced by a considerably
less courageous Oldsmobile with simulated wood paneling.
There is a terrible irony in the story of Rambler. Connected to
one of the most indestructible automobiles in history were whiny little
engines with no torque and less horsepower. You could always count on them
to start, but they did so providing a moment of anticipation, wondering if
there would be enough compression to get the car rolling. One Rambler from
the Minshillo family history books, a pink '57 sedan, was returned amidst a
flurry of violence because the car lacked the power to scale the hill
leading away from the used car lot. Dad has mellowed in recent years and
doesn't hurl Rambler jacks through showroom windows anymore.
O glorious Rambler. You were ahead of your time. You got good gas
mileage. You had reclining seats. You were cheap. And you were forsaken.
Ladies and gentlemen of the motoring public, we must rally around our fallen
comrade. Urge your congressman to preserve a fine example of the Rambler in
our nation's museum. Or, even better, let's make the Rambler the first car
on the endangered species list. I'm told that in 1957 a "New" Rambler was
buried in a time capsule, scheduled for opening in 2157. I'm going to find
out where that is and make sure my kids' kids' go there to watch. Because I'll
guarantee that when they roll that old Rambler out and hit the key, it'll
start right up and run like a charm. Probably until 2357...
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