1970 AMC Rebel Machine on film

AMC's Rebel Machine is one of the most outrageous muscle cars from the classic muscle car era of the 1960s/70s.

They were rarely ever spotted on the street, because AMC only made 2,326 of them. And only 1,000 of those were finished in the iconic red/white/blue paint scheme.

And, except for a vintage salesman training filmstrip, no one ever saw AMC point a camera at this beast. Until now.

In this short segment that I’ve uploaded to YouTube, you’ll see 49 seconds of Rebel Machine footage shot by AMC.

It’s a small part of the 1970 AMC product introduction film. AMC produced a new one every year to promote the company’s lineup of cars to its dealers. (I have these films in whole or in part from 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, and 1977. They’re so rare that I only have fragments of some of them, and I’m grateful for those celluloid shards.)

The 1970 film is a 35mm print that I bought off of eBay several years ago. Unfortunately, I only have the video portion of the film.

Back in the day, these films were often created as separate elements. There would be a video film print and another film print that would contain just the soundtrack. The duplicators would join them together to create 16mm copies for wider distribution. Perhaps somewhere out there (probably in a land fill) is the soundtrack that accompanies this film. Given a choice, I’m glad to have the video.

So what does this film tell us about AMC? I think it says that AMC was caught off guard by the tremendous success of the 1969 S/C Rambler. The company had planned for 1969 to be the Rambler’s swan song, and they wanted to go out with a ka-bang. They went out with 315 of them when they stuffed the AMX’s 390 V-8 into a Rambler Rogue and netted 315 hp.

They only planned to build 1,000 or so Scramblers, but demand was so great that they added another 500 to the production run (with a more restrained paint scheme). AMC had just produced one of the most in-your-face muscle cars of all time.

So if it works once, why not do it again? AMC probably didn’t want to make a special Hornet just yet. After all, they were introducing it as a bread-and-butter family car. Plus, they were going to introduce the Gremlin subcompact, so it’s likely they didn’t want to bog down the media with too many headlines. So they looked to the Rebel, their intermediate offering. (Nothing special going on with that car.)

Once again, they went off their meds and created another unmistakable red/white/blue exterior design. But this time, they were more intentional about promoting it. There was a print ad (like the Scrambler), a training filmstrip, and this segment from the product introduction film. That’s at least 66% more marketing than whatever they did for the Scrambler.

And let’s not even talk about what’s happening in this footage. I’m sure Homeland Security would have reserved a “suite” for this driver at the Guantanamo Hilton if they had been around back in 1970. You’ll see.

After all, what’s more American than doing donuts on a live airstrip with American Airlines planes taking off all around you while power shifting your red, white, and blue gas guzzler? Now THAT’S American Motors Country.
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