SEMA Seen: 1963 AMC Rambler American 440 station wagon

5
1318
1963 amc rambler sema 2017
Suzy Bauter's 'Sugar' has become the 'Flare Witch Project' | Larry Edsall photos

Suzy Bauter and her husband were sharing a tricked-out 1968 Chevrolet Camaro in autocross events, but she decided she wanted a car of her own. Oh, and she wanted something that wasn’t too large, but it had to be a station wagon.

A what? A station wagon. Bauter’s family had a Ford Falcon wagon when she was growing up and she thought it would be fun to find another and to make it her autoX racer. So she started searching the internet, only to find that those who owned Falcon wagons thought they were more valuable than did Bauter.

Next, she considered Chevrolet Corvair wagons, but decided it would take too much work to turn one into a viable cone competitor.

And then she found her car, hidden beneath a tarp in a trailer park, with its engine sitting not beneath the hood but on the back seat.

1963 amc rambler

The car was a 1963 AMC Rambler American. The engine was a 75-horsepower flathead 6 and the car had a three-on-the-tree manual transmission.

But it met her criteria: It was small and light and it was, indeed, a station wagon.

However, even with a lot of effort, it wouldn’t be very competitive in racing ‘round the cones, so the work began. Her husband did the mechanical bits and suspension and most of the fabrication work, and she did the electrical and interior work. At first, the only work they contracted out was paint.

RELATED:  Arizona expands collector car auction footprint with new sales, major changes

Since the flathead lacked power, Bauter opted for an engine transplant — a Chevrolet 5.3-liter LS crate engine with an Edelbrock carburetor conversion setup. The engine was linked to a GM 700R4 transmission and a Gen-5 Chevrolet Camaro rear end.

1963 amc rambler

At first, the wagon was nicknamed “Sugar” because it was painted white when found in the trailer park. But before long, the color and the nickname changed. Sugar has become the “Flare Witch Project.”

With the LS V8 beneath the hood, Bauter and her husband figured they needed a lot more tire to put the power on the pavement. So they took the wheels and tires off his car and tried them on the Rambler. The conversion could work, they figured, but they’d need significant wheel flares to cover the larger and wider wheels.

A friend who does that sort of work did the four flares and they were mounted on the car, which rides on Gen-5 Camaro suspension (with adjustable coilovers). The wheels are 18 inchers and cover not only the big BFGoodrich tires, but 14-inch Baer Brakes with 6-piston calipers.

Bauter’s car has drawn a lot of attention at the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

1963 amc rambler

“I felt like I was bringing a knife to a gun show,” she said of putting her little flared wagon into the Las Vegas Convention Center among all the big-buck, high-horsepower custom machines.

RELATED:  Holiday movie alternatives: ‘The Great Escape’

But judged by the number of people stopping by the Spectre Performance stand to see her car and ask her about it, Bauter’s little Rambler has been a big hit.

1963 amc rambler

Advertisement
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

5 COMMENTS

    • @Jim
      Ugly, hah! That is character; the last year, incidentally, that the Rambler line possessed same.
      63&1/2—64 they joined the rest of the Detroit; with its "safe" nondescript offerings—one was obliged to look to WWII’s losers or neutrals (Europe’s) to find anything in the least interesting aesthetically. Nice that you find virtue in me-too-ism-no doubt you rocked that grey flannel number.

  1. the Journal. I like all the of the sites that are on Classics cars, dig the info especially since I cannot get to SEMA this year. Looks like no worries as they are posting a lot of info, thank you!! Kepp doing it thank you!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here