NORTH DURHAM: Despite not manufacturing vehicles in more than 25 years, the American Motors Corporation - also known as Rambler - continues to have a strong local following amongst classic car enthusiasts.
For local mechanic Ken Edwards, his experience with the brand stretches back more than 40 years.
"I've had an AMX since 1972. One of my sister's boyfriends had one at the time, and I used to drive it when he was away working for weeks at a time with CN, so eventually I bought one for myself," Edwards recently told The Standard at his shop in Manchester. "Then, in 1980 I bought a 1970 AMX from a guy in Toronto and refurbished it, and it's still sitting in my garage today with 41,000 original miles on it."
For Mr. Edwards and fellow AMC enthusiast Don Campbell of Aldon Transmission in Port Perry, the relative ease of repairs is what they feel is so appealing about the long defunct automotive brand.
"What's appealing to me about AMC cars is that there's little cost of maintenance.
Both because I'm in the trade and there is actually not that much to maintain.
They're very low cost both in terms of restoration and repairs," said Mr. Campbell.
Both local mechanics noted that they receive regular business from other AMC collectors.
"I still do a fair bit of work on AMCs. In fact, I recently came into a 1970 AMX all the way from Cape Breton Island that came to my shop in pieces," added Mr. Edwards.
Compared to other classic cars on the road, very few AMC products were actually produced. An SC 360 Hornet owned by Mr. Edwards is one of only 852 produced, so finding parts for restoration projects can be challenging at times, but ultimately rewarding, as Mr. Edwards explained.
"The biggest challenge is finding original parts since so few were made," said Mr. Edwards. "Sometimes you have to improvise for replacement parts. AMC cars are the only ones you can't rebuild with a credit card. There has to be some innovation, and knowing what fits what."
For both men, the camaraderie of car culture is one of the great rewards of their hobby.
"The car is one thing, but the people you meet are a bigger thing. If you can go to a show and not meet new friends, you've been doing it wrong. I've met friends from all over North America because of these cars," said Mr. Edwards.
For years, the driving force behind the AMC/Rambler culture in North Durham was Jim Rae, the former president of the Northern Ramblers Car Club of Canada, who passed away in August of last year.
Mr. Rae was instrumental in bringing the club's annual Rambler-Rama to Haugen's Restaurant in Manchester, where it was recently held in June.
As well, Mr. Rae provided the spark that continues to fuel the interest of the Campbell family to this day.
"I met Jim in the mid-1990s, and bought a 1963 Ambassador when my oldest son Donald was 12 and he started working on it for himself," said Mr. Campbell.
Over the years, the Campbell family has seen their fleet of Ramblers grow to include a 1966 ragtop Ambassador "that is still on the road as long as the weather cooperates" according to Mr. Campbell, as well as a 1975 Matador wagon owned by his youngest son Steve and their current project, a 1958 Rambler Super Custom, which is being worked on as a father-son effort.
"Working on a classic car as a younger guy gives you a better appreciation for what a car should be," explained Steve Campbell. "Old cars are just built a lot more solid and you don't have to be a computer programmer to work on them."
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