Sleeper awake: granny Rambler hides a high-powered secret

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Rambler
This Rambler American has the muscle of a Corvette

A powder-blue Rambler American might seem like a typical granny car, but here’s one that has been turned into an unconventional sleeper that’s full of surprises.

The Pick of the Day is a 1965 Rambler American 440 2-door hardtop that could have been called a resto-mod, except that it has never been restored. The paint, chrome and glass are all original, according to the DeWitt, Iowa, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.

Rambler
The sedan has its original paint, chrome and glass

But surprise, under the hood lies a fresh Chevy LS1 V8 linked with an automatic transmission, the dealer says, which gives this little grocery getter far more performance that anyone might expect. The Rambler also rides on an updated suspension with four-wheel disc brakes.

No word in the ad about how this sleeper came to be, except that it was built to take part in the 2018 edition of the Hot Rod Network’s Power Tour, a seven-day, seven-city road trip that encompassed 1,400 miles. Last year’s tour went from Bowling Green, Kentucky (home of the Corvette) in a circuitous back-roads route to zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

The little Rambler rumbled along nicely with the rest of the high-performance street rods and customs taking part, the seller notes, even though it might have looked like granny took a wrong turn and got stuck in the pack. But this is a no-nonsense build, the dealer says, with loads of performance to belie its placid appearance.

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Rambler
The Chevy V8 looks like it was born there

The photos show a respectable-looking stock American, with all its upgrade 440 trim intact and an interior that looks like it could be original, also in nice shape. The odometer shows 58,000 miles, which presumably is accurate.

The car overall looks quite presentable in its survivor condition, although the dealer notes, “It has just the right amount of patina to really give it that ‘sleeper’ look.”

A set of plain hubcaps and black steel wheels complete the look. The tires are brand new, the seller adds.

Rambler
The 440 interior looks like the upgraded original

There’s something totally appealing about the sleeper concept, which defines a regular-looking car that hides its performance potential. The LS1 is a small-block V8 that generates between 305 and 350 horsepower, depending on how it’s set up. The 5.7-liter engine was most-often used in Corvettes, Camaros and Pontiac Trans Ams.

The asking price of $24,997 would certainly be high for a normal ’65 Rambler American, no matter how nice its survivor condition. But this car has been transformed for speed and reliability, what the dealer calls “a classic that is capable of going coast-2-coast and cruising 70+ mph the whole way.”

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I love sleepers. Although my Bentleys were totally stock, most people had no idea of their performance potential.
    I’d pull up at a red next to a kid with an exhaust pipe big enough to put his head in, the light’d go green and I’d left by the time the little screamer found it’s power band.
    The car would arrive at the next light and I’d say "That thing makes a lot of noise for something that doesn’t go very fast, eh?"

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