1965 Rambler Marlin

Vintage cars can be such an expression of one’s personality with so many different cars to choose from. You can express almost any personality with a vintage car and, if history doesn’t provide something you like, it certainly has provided a multitude of blank canvases for creative customizers. Today’s form of expression is a 1965 Rambler Marlin that is the gem of Neil and Jean Dolce’s garage.

“When it came out originally I thought it was the ugliest car ever made,” said Neil, “I said I would never own a Marlin.” So what changed in 50 years? Time, and today he likes the car because it really stands out. “I bought it because I thought it was unique.” 

Like so many of us, Neil was just innocently looking around on eBay and came across the car. “I had to have it.” But when he told his wife, Jean, about the car “Jean almost shit!” At the time he also had a ’64 Valiant convertible and there really wasn’t much space for another vintage ride. That hasn’t stopped so many of us, has it?

Since then she’s come aboard as a fan of the ’65 Marlin, particularly this one. Jean and Neil spend a lot of road time in the car and it’s been a reliable driver that also looks really good. 

The two-tone red and white paint are the original color of the car as is the two-tone vinyl interior which happens to be the bucket seat interior with full center console. Under the hood is the original 327 AMC engine which Neil rebuilt last year. 

“It’s fun to take to car shows,” said Neil, “People have never even heard of these. A lot of people think it’s a Charger or a Malibu. People are in awe when they see it. They were more prominent on the East Coast (where Neil comes from) because of the game fishing there.” 

The car has proven to be a reliable and enjoyable machine with the Dolces driving to car shows quite frequently, many of those shows being quite a distance away. 

Owning a unique piece of history has distinct rewards including the fact that you may be the only one even in a larger car club with such a car. While there are challenges to owning a car like this, including availability of some parts like body trim pieces, finding a solid version like this one means you’re pretty much set. The running gear is standard for this vintage of Rambler so the parts that regularly need replacing (filters, etc.) are readily available. 

As with most vintage cars, there is an active Marlin Club which is another great source of parts and information.

1965 Rambler Marlin History

In the early 1960s there was suddenly a big rush to create fastback smaller cars by the manufacturers. Not to be outdone, little AMC had to do what everyone else was doing and also set about to create a new fastback sporty coupe. 

This was particularly of interest to the company brass as the brand, then Rambler, appealed to an older set and they wanted to create something that would have an impact with a more youthful buyer. 

Stylist Dick Teague created a fastback design on the compact Rambler American platform which would have been a bit smaller than the wildly-popular Ford Mustang. The car, then called the Tarpon, was shown as a concept at a variety of auto shows and tested very well, but the smaller platform meant that AMC didn’t have a V8 that would fit into it. The decision was made to go to the mid-size Rambler Classic chassis which would mean that the company’s V8 engines would fit nicely and this car would be different than what the rest of the industry was going to do. 

The predictions were correct and Plymouth dropped the Barracuda in April of 1964. Later that year Ford’s Mustang came out in a fastback style. And AMC was ready with the car that would now be called the Marlin. 

The history of the automobile is full of great ideas that are just turned badly thanks to mismanagement by upper management and the Marlin was no exception. While Dick Teague is highly regarded as a brilliant stylist (he also is credited with the AMC Pacer!), upper management couldn’t stay away from meddling with the car. 

AMC’s new boss Roy Abernathy had to stir the pot so he decided that the car had to be a six-seater, just what youthful buyers did not want. Then, when Dick Teague was in Europe, Abernathy demanded that the car’s roof be raised by an inch so he could fit his 6’3” frame comfortably in the back seat. Again, something youthful buyers of the time had no interest in (the back seat was of interest but for a more sporting purpose). So the car’s styling suffered greatly because of this.

First-year sales were a paltry 14,874 units compared to the Mustang selling almost half a million copies. 

In retrospect, Vincent Geraci who stayed with AMC through the Chrysler buyout said that the Marlin was an exciting project but Abernathy’s meddling with the design really hurt the program which might be why Neil, as a young lad, didn’t like the car originally. 

On the positive side the Marlin helped usher in the era of mid-size “personal luxury” cars that would come later such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. 

Up front there were optional dual reclining seats and front and rear arm rests when buckets were fitted to the car, an option that was fitted to the Dolce’s car. Overall the interior is quite lavish for the time. 

To the car’s credit, also, were the standard dual braking system with front disc brakes, not at all a common feature for American cars at the time. 

There would be two more production years for the Marlin with the corporate brand changing from Rambler to AMC in 1966 following Abernathy’s quest to move the whole company up market. Finding a good vintage Marlin can be a challenge but it’s a reliable car that stands out as much today as it did when it originally sat in the showroom.

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