The Ambassador was the top-line automobile produced by the American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1958 until 1974. The vehicle was known as the AMC Ambassador, Ambassador V-8 by Rambler, and Rambler Ambassador at various times during its tenure in production. Previously, the name Ambassador had applied to Nash's "senior" full-size cars. The Ambassador nameplate was used continuously from 1927 until 1974 (the name being a top-level trim line from 1927-31); at the time it was discontinued, Ambassador was the longest continuously used nameplate in automotive history. All Ambassador models were built in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Following George W. Mason's unexpected death in the fall of 1954, George Romney (whom Mason had been grooming as his eventual successor), succeeded him as President and CEO of the newly-formed American Motors. Romney recognized that to be successful in the postwar marketplace, an automobile manufacturer would have to be able to produce and sell cars in sufficient volume to amortize the high cost of tooling. Toward that end, he set out to increase AMC's market share with its Rambler models that were selling in market segment in which the Big Three (General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler) did not yet compete. While development of a redesigned 1958 Nash Ambassador, based on a stretched and reskinned 1956 Rambler body, was almost complete, AMC's designers were also working on a retrimmed Hudson equivalent, called Rebel, to offer Hudson dealers.
However, as sales of the large-sized Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models slowed, it became clear to Romney that consumer confidence in the historic Nash and Hudson nameplates had collapsed. Reluctantly, he decided that 1957 would be the end of both nameplates, and the company would concentrate on the new Rambler line, which was registered as a separate marque for 1957.
American Motors planned to produce a stretched a wheelbase version of the Rambler platform for Nash dealers to be the new Nash Ambassador, and another for Hudson dealers. Shortly before committing to production of the new long wheelbase versions of the Hudson and the Nash, CEO Romney decided to abandon the Nash and Hudson brands.
Despite the fact that the Nash and Hudson names were canceled, work on the car itself continued, and American Motors introduced debuted in the fall of 1957, the "Ambassador V-8 by Rambler" on a wheelbase. This was first mid-sized luxury performance offering from an American manufacturer. Its features included a V8 (equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts and rated at and of torque) mated to a BorgWarner supplied 3-speed automatic transmission with push button gear selection. The Ambassador was available in a body style exclusive to its line, a pillarless hardtop “Cross Country” station wagon. The 1958 Ambassador was offered in a single high level trim level and came equipped with such luxury items as electric clock, twin front and twin rear ashtrays, "long travel" coil spring suspension in front and rear, split back reclining front seats, as well as upscale fabrics for the interior.
Management had found that the public associated the Rambler name with small economy cars, and did not want the upscale nature of the new Ambassador to be as closely associated with Rambler's favorable, but economical image. Therefore, a decision was made that the larger Ambassador would be marketed as the Ambassador V-8 by Rambler in order to identify it with the Rambler name's burgeoning success, but to indicate an air of exclusivity by showing it to be a different kind of vehicle. However, the car wore "Rambler Ambassador" badges on its front fenders.
The 1958 Ambassador is a substantially longer car than the wheelbase Rambler Six and Rebel V8, although both lines shared the same basic body, styling, and visual cues. However, all of the Ambassador's extra nine inches (229 mm) of wheelbase (and, therefore, overall length) were added ahead of the cowl, meaning that the passenger compartment had the same volume as the smaller Ramblers. The Ambassadors came with plusher interior and exterior trims while the front end incorporated the Rebel "V-Line" grille from the prototype Hudson model. Through effective market segmentation, the Ambassador was positioned to compete with the larger models offered by other automakers.
Model identification was located on the car's front fenders and deck lid. Super trim level Ambassadors featured painted side trim in a color that complemented the body color; Custom models featured a silver anodized aluminum panel on sedans and vinyl woodgrain decals on station wagons. Ambassador body styles included a four-door sedan and a hardtop sedan, a four-door pillared station wagon, and the aforementioned hardtop station wagon, a bodystyle that first saw duty as an industry first in the 1956 Nash and Hudson Rambler line, on which all of the 1958 Ramblers were based.
The Ambassador had an excellent power to weight ratio for its time and provided spirited performance with 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) times of just under 10 seconds and low 17 second times through a quarter-mile (402 m) dragstrip. It could be equipped with a limited slip differential, as well as power brakes, power steering, power windows, and air conditioning. Numerous safety features came standard and lap seat belts were optional.
For 1959, the Ambassador received a revised grille, side trim, redesigned rear door skins and tailfins, as well as a stainless steel covered “C” pillar sporting the Ambassador emblem of an eagle’s head over an American Flag shield.
1960 saw the Ambassador lineup totally reskinned, wearing new fenders, hood, deck lid, door skins, roofline, grille, taillights, bumpers, windshield, and backlight. Significant were the lower hood line, lower windshield cowl, simplified side trim, egg crate grill, while the tailfins were reduced in height and were canted to either side making for a modern and integrated appearance. The overall effect was rather fresh, as the new roof had a lower, lighter look, to complement the lower fins and grille.
All Ambassadors came equipped with the American Motors V8, but for the first time it was available in two versions. First was the original , of torque, performance version equipped with the 4-barrel carburetor and a 9.7:1 compression ratio, which required premium fuel, and a second economy version running on regular gasoline making , of torque, equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor and an 8.7:1 compression ratio.
Ambassadors now came with a unique compound wrap around windshield that cut into the roof, and abandoned the “dog leg” protrusion. This improved visibility, did away with the “knee knocker” dog leg, and resulted in an even stiffer unitized structure. The 1960 Ambassador had a low cowl and could be had in either Custom or Super trim levels. All 1960 Ambassadors came with a new instrument cluster under a padded cowl, as well as illuminated controls for lights, wipers, fan, and defrost functions. The 1960 Ambassadors continued with an enclosed drive shaft (torque tube) and coil springs at all four corners, although the suspension was revised resulting in even better handling. The top of the line Ambassadors came equipped with individual “airliner” front seats that now sported even more luxurious fabrics than in previous years.
As a luxurious mid-size car, the 1960 Ambassador came in 4-door sedan, 4-door pillarless hardtop, 4-door station wagon, and a 4-door pillarless (hardtop) station wagon. Equipped with the 270 horsepower 327 cu in V8 could reach in just over 9 seconds and pass the quarter mile in 17 seconds.
In 1961, however, the Ambassador received an unusual new front-end styling that was overseen by AMC's in-house design department headed by Edmund Anderson. The new face consisted of a trapezoidal grille and headlights that floated in a body-colored panel, while the front fenders arched downward and forward of the leading edge of the hood. Different from anything else on the market, AMC's marketing department promoted the look as "European." While the new look was meant to distinguish the Ambassador from the lower-priced Ramblers, it was neither a consumer success nor well received in the automotive press. Overall sales fell as the entire industry was experiencing a recession. The hardtop sedan and wagon models did not return for 1961.
By 1962, the Ambassador's body shell was in its seventh season on the market. And while Rambler sales had been good enough for third place in industry sales (behind Chevrolet and Ford), AMC's management was working on a revolutionary and somewhat costly design set to debut for the 1963 model year. In the meantime, American Motors needed to save money, and since the Ambassador's sales had fallen in 1961, it was decided that the car would be downsized for 1962 to share its body, windshield and wheelbase with its Classic line mate. Accordingly, the car was marketed as a Rambler Ambassador.
The 1962 Ambassador received a new front end, which was very similar to the 1961-62 Classic's, but with a crosshatch grille, recessed center section, and Ambassador lettering. New, rectangular taillights were seen at the ends of restyled rear fenders, which lost their fins entirely. Exterior trim was reshuffled, and a new 2-door pillared sedan debuted. A new '400' trim line was added at the top of the line, with Super and Custom models remaining. The Ambassador offered even more luxurious interiors, perhaps to make up for the fact that it now shared its wheelbase with the Rambler Classic. The 400 could be had with vinyl bucket seats, headrests, and color coordinated shag carpets.
The only available engine was AMC's OHV V8, in either the regular fuel, 2-barrel carburetor and 8.7:1 compression ratio, version or the premium gasoline, 4-barrel version with 9.7:1 compression ratio, version. The 1962 Ambassador came with a dual chamber master brake cylinder that separated the front and rear brakes so that in the event of the failure of one chamber some braking function would remain. The 1962 also came equipped with Walker (brand made by Tenneco) flow-through mufflers. The wheelbase 1962 Ambassador was lighter than its wheelbase predecessors and when equipped with the 270 horsepower 327 CID V8, it was a spirited performer.
Romney left AMC in 1962 to join the Michigan gubernatorial race, which he went on to win. Meanwhile, a completely redesigned Rambler lineup appeared, following Romney's philosophy that Rambler's best chance for survival lay in smaller cars that had a high degree of interchangeability in parts to keep tooling costs and production complexity to a minimum. The completely redesigned Ambassador lineup was introduced with this philosophy in mind for the 1963 model year.
Designed by Edmund Anderson and Richard Teague, the 1963 Ambassador's shape was much tighter, cleaner, and smoother, with almost all of its parts interchangeable between it and the new Classic. Wheelbase was increased to , while overall length remained similar. The new car was rather innovative, as the company engineered a revolutionary new way to stamp bodies, which would allow for door openings to be made of two stampings, instead of multiple smaller pieces which would be welded together, as had been industry practice. The new door stamping design greatly reduced production complexity, ensured higher quality fit and finish, and that bodies would be less beholden to rattles and leaks over time.
Curved side glass and push-button door handles were new and costly upgrades, but contributed to the new Rambler's handsome, elegant, and modern Mercedes-like styling, by adding greater elegance in detail. The front end drew slight controversy, due to its forward-thrusting upper and lower ends and vertical bar "electric shaver" chrome grille insert. The Ambassador's grille was differentiated from the Classic's grille by its use of the Ambassador name in script in the small vertical area between the upper and lower grille sections. Round quad headlights were slightly recessed in chrome bezels mounted side-by-side within the grille at its outermost edges.
Ambassadors once again came in 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and 4-door wagon body styles, but new trim lines debuted. 880 was the Ambassador's base trim line, replacing the previous year's Super, while uplevel 990 trim replaced the Custom and 400.
When it debuted, the Ambassador retained V8 engines exclusively, until AMC's new CEO, Roy Abernethy, ordered that the smaller V8 engine be installed in Classics at midyear, so that AMC's standard intermediate-sized car could more directly compete with its GM and Ford rivals, all of which had been available with V8 engines since 1961 and 1962, respectively.
The 1964 model year introduced minor trim changes and new options. The "electric-shaver" grille on the 1963 model was replaced with a flush-mounted design, and the engine and transmission options were widened. A two-door hardtop body style called 990-H was added for the first time since 1957. Base 880 models were dropped from the line, and the Ambassador took on the trusty V8 as its standard engine again.
No matter how much success the new Ramblers achieved in the marketplace, Roy Abernethy was not completely satisfied. Using the experience he gained as an outstanding salesman as a guide, Abernethy closely looked at the direction that American Motors' competition was going and decided that the company would be much more successful if its products competed more directly with the Big Three. He would achieve this by pushing all AMC vehicles further upmarket among the various market segments, shaking off the company's economy car image, and offering vehicles once again in all three major American car size classes: compact, intermediate, and full-size. The American and Classic were strong competitors in the former two segments, so for the 1965 model year, he set his sights on turning the Ambassador into a proper full-size car by stretching the Classic's body and wheelbase and giving it much different styling. The general sizes of automobiles at that time were based on industry standard wheelbase lengths, rather than on the vehicle's interior and cargo space. The 1965 Ambassador represented a fundamental shift in corporate ideology, a shift away from primarily fuel-efficient vehicles, to bigger, faster, and potentially more profitable cars.
Despite the fact that the Ambassador rode the same platform as its 1963-64 forebears, the 1965 models looked all-new. American Motors' designer Richard A. Teague styled the 1965 Ambassador with panache and gave the car an overall integrated look. Motor Trend magazine agreed, calling it a "strikingly handsome automobile. Built on a wheelbase, four inches (102 mm) longer than the Classic, Teague extended the beltline level from the stacked quad headlights to the vertical taillights. The new Ambassadors were as attractive as anything built by AMC's Detroit-based competitors, and with a list price of around $3,000, few could quibble about the cost of ownership.
The Ambassador received longer, squared-off rear fenders with vertical wrap-around taillights, taller decklid, squared off rear bumper mounted low, and squarer rear wheel arches. At the front, the Ambassador again sparked minor controversy with its new vertically stacked quad headlights, which were slightly recessed in their bezels, as they flanked an all-new horizontal bar grille. This new wall-to-wall grille projected forward, horizontally, in the center, to create an effect somewhat opposite to 1963's grille treatment. The front end design provided a bold, rugged appearance.
Once again, the Ambassador’s entire extra wheelbase was ahead of the cowl, meaning that interior volume was the same as the intermediate sized Classic. Another new body style debuted in the Ambassador lineup for 1965: an attractive new convertible offered as part of the 990 series. This was the first time a convertible was offered in the Ambassador line since 1948.
Ambassadors also saw an expanded list of trim lines, convenience options, and engine choices. The 990 and 990-H models were back, while 880 models were the new economy leaders in the 1965 Ambassador line, but even the $2512 price for the two-door sedan was not attractive compared to the models with better trim, buckets seats, and special interiors. Ambassadors came standard with AMC's new Inline-6 engine, which was the first time since 1956 that an Ambassador was available with six cylinders. Far more popular in the Ambassador, however, were the two time-tested and AMC V8 engines.
American Motors' management decided that the Ambassador could once again accept a standard six-cylinder engine, since its full-size competitors (e.g. Bel Air and Impala, Ford Custom 500 and Galaxie, as well as Plymouth Fury) came with six-cylinder engines as standard equipment. They therefore appealed to a wider range of customers than the Ambassador was getting. Also, since the Classic was now smaller and styled differently, the Ambassador six-cylinder would not threaten to cannibalize Classic 6 sales, which were the company's sales volume leaders. The changes were on target as sales of the repositioned Ambassador more than tripled.
Motor Trend magazine tested an Ambassador convertible with a Twin-Stick overdrive transmission and found it commendably economical, averaging over run, and noting that ... "Traveling comfort was the Ambassador's biggest selling point, along with its exceptionally powerful Bendix duo-servo drum brakes ...With the thin bucket seats that recline, driver and passengers can enjoy a high degree of riding comfort... Many passers-by commented on the car's good looks... Our summary: a nice, comfortable, quiet, well built family automobile that rather neglects the performance market."
For 1966, minor changes greeted the Ambassador range, but they were meaningful. The V-shaped horizontal louver spanned unbroken between the headlamps and the effect was continued with twin rectangular trim pieces attached to the side of the front fenders at their leading edges by the headlamps. The effect was repeated in the new vertical wraparound taillamps with the top-line models receiving a twin set of horizontal ribbed moldings across the back of the trunk lid that simulated the look of the front grille. Hardtop coupes received a redesigned roofline that was angular in appearance with an angle cut rear side windows and rectangular rear window. The backlight no longer curved and wrapped slightly around the C pillars. The changes made for a more "formal" look that was popular at the time. The station wagons also received a new roof (that did not have as pronounced dip over the rear cargo area) as well as a redesigned tailgate. A band of simulated wood trim of the sides was optional on the wagons.
The 880 served as the base model with the two-door sedan at $2,404 was the price leader and the poorest seller. The more popular and better trimmed 990 models were available in sedan, wagon, hardtop, and convertible versions. A new luxury DPL (short for "Diplomat") hardtop coupe debuted at the top of the range. The DPL came standard with reclining bucket seats and was available with luxury features like a vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, as well as a special interior trim and houndstooth fabric that included throw pillows to give the Ambassador a more luxurious air so that it might compete with the new Plymouth VIP, Ford LTD, and Chevrolet Caprice. The I6, as well as the and V8s remained in the line, but transmission selections now included a new console mounted four-speed manual. Most Ambassadors continued to be ordered with automatic transmissions.
Motor Trend magazine tested a 1966 DPL equipped with a 327 engine that "definitely has snap we hadn't felt before" and even with an automatic transmission experienced "healthy wheelspin from both rear wheels [because of the Twin-Grip limited slip differential]... Subtle changes in this year's suspension, which include longer shocks and different springs, have a pronounced effect on the way the car feels and handles. Most welcome is the improved steering response. The car has a new feet-on-the-ground feeling, and body lean seems to have been reduced. The ride remains very good... As before, the interior's the outstanding feature of the Ambassador. Its quality is such that other luxury cars, even higher priced ones, could well imitate it..."
Perhaps the biggest change, however, was that the Ambassador lost its historic Rambler nameplate, as the car was now marketed as the "American Motors Ambassador". Abernethy was again responsible for this marketing move, as he attempted to move the stylish new Ambassador even further upmarket. To him, that meant that the Rambler name, and its economy car image would be eschewed to give the car a clean slate in a market that was turning away from economy and toward V8 performance. The evidence suggests that Abernethy was on the right track with moving the Ambassador upscale to compete with other manufacturers' luxury models as sales of the AMC's flagship jumped from 18,647 in 1964 to over 64,000 in 1965, and then in 1966 they went to more than 71,000. Although the Ambassador may have accounted for a mere fraction of total passenger car sales in the U.S., but it was an important first step in trying to bring the AMC's products in tune with what the consumer of the day really wanted.
In 1967, AMC introduced a completely restyled Ambassador, now on a wheelbase. Once again, it was four inches (102 mm) longer than the new Rambler Rebel's wheelbase. The Ambassador was positioned as a "luxury intermediate", but had as much interior space as other full-size cars from Ford or GM. The convertible was offered again - this time in DPL trim - for 1967; but it would be the final year with only 1,260 built. It was unique with a new "split stack" folding mechanism that did not intrude into the backseat area. Also in 1967, AMC shifted its fastback Rambler Marlin (rechristened, like the Ambassador, as the American Motors Marlin in 1966) to the longer Ambassador chassis and gave it the Ambassador's front end to harmonize with its longer restyled body.
The car once again looked completely new, with a more rounded appearance that sported sweeping rooflines, "coke-bottle" fenders, greater glass area, and a recessed grille that bowed forward less than that of the 1965-66 models. Taillights were wider, rectangular, and divided by one central vertical bar. The 880 two-door sedans sported the identical roofline as the hardtops, but had slim B-pillars that gave them a more open-air coupe appearance.
AMC's long-lived 327 CID V8 was finally replaced by an all-new , which was based on the V8 that debuted for 1966 in the Rambler American. With a 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, the 343 V8 produced .
Unfortunately, sales of the redesigned models were disappointing, due to customer confusion caused by the entire company's abrupt upmarket push, which seemed uncomfortably "me too" to the traditional Big Three customers and they also alienated American Motors' loyal buyer base. Abernethy's ideas weren't working, and instead resulted in a new round of financial problems for American Motors. As a result, Abernathy was released from AMC by its Board of Directors later that year, and was replaced by William V. Luneberg and Roy D. Chapin, Jr.
For 1968, a new SST trim line was placed above the now mid-line DPL trim for the Ambassador. AMC, which had been a pioneer in the field of air conditioning through its Kelvinator refrigerator division, decided with the advice of marketing executive Mary Wells Lawrence to add greater market distinction to the Ambassador line by making air conditioning standard equipment. This was the first time any volume car manufacturer had done so, something that even Cadillac and Lincoln had not offered on their luxury cars - some costing more than twice as much as Ambassador. While all Ambassadors came with air conditioning as standard, consumers could order the car without air as a "delete option" and to decrease the base price if they so desired. As AMC pointed out in their advertising campaign for the Ambassador, the only other cars that offered air conditioning as standard equipment in 1968 were Rolls-Royce and various sports car manufacturers.
Due to slow sales, both the convertible and pillared coupe models were dropped from the line, leaving the 990 hardtop coupe and sedan, DPL hardtop coupe, sedan, and wagon, and new SST hardtop coupe and sedan in the line to soldier on. Marlins were also discontinued to make way for the new AMC Javelin pony car.
Styling changes were minor. Taillights were now recessed in body-color bezels that were divided by a single central horizontal bar. Front headlight bezels were similarly body colored. The grille was dominated by a strong horizontal bar, while its outline had squared off edges, which wrapped forward into the inner headlight extensions. Fender-mounted marker lights were added at the front and rear as standard equipment, as the federal government had mandated their application (along with seat belts beginning 1 January 1968) to all passenger cars sold in America for 1968. However, AMC's most enduring styling feature also debuted on the Ambassador for 1968, as flush-mounted paddle-style door handles replaced the former push-button units on all American Motors cars, save the Rambler American. At midyear, AMC's new top mill, the AMX (315/325 hp) V8 became an option in the Ambassador line, bringing the total of engine options up to four.
American Motors started a new advertising campaign created by Wells, Rich, and Greene, Inc., that stressed each cars' value for the money and attempted to bring AMC back to their practical-car roots in customers' minds. It worked, and sales improved for AMC's flagship.
In 1969, the Ambassador received a major restyling, with a longer wheelbase, the longest ever produced by AMC. The front end appearance was revised with new quad headlight clusters mounted horizontally in a new molded plastic grille. The grille itself is a blackout affair with a chrome horizontal bar that connected the headlight clusters. The hood was redesigned to accommodate the grille's raised center portion, and it faintly recalled Packard's classic grille/hood combination. Richard A. Teague, AMC's Vice President of Styling, had worked at the luxury car manufacturer before joining AMC. Parking lights were rectangular and mounted horizontally in recessed wells in the front bumper, just beneath each set of headlights. The entire front fascia leaned forward slightly to lend an air of forward motion to the car's appearance.
At the rear, ribbed rectangular taillights were mounted inboard the Ambassadors rearward-thrusting rear fenders. Square ribbed marker lights of similar height were mounted at the trailing edge of each fender side. The deck lid had a slightly higher lift over. The base and DPL sedan and hardtop models had no decorative panel connecting the taillights while the top-line SST versions featured a panel painted red to match the taillights. Station wagons saw vertical wraparound taillights once again.
The interiors were upgraded and a new deeply hooded dashboard clustered instruments and controls in front of the driver.
The 1969 Ambassador stressed luxury, with the marketing tagline "It will remind you of the days when money really bought something." The combination of rich velour upholstery, individually adjustable reclining seats, standard air conditioning, and the longer wheelbase were highlighted in advertisements with Ambassador's posh "limousine" ride at an economical price. One aspect of this new advertising theme included many AMC dealers inviting prospective customers to call and request a "demonstration ride", in which a uniformed chauffeur would arrive at the prospect's home and drive them around in an Ambassador SST sedan. AMC's efforts worked, and Ambassador sales shot up again.
Not only did AMC promote the 1969 Ambassador as having a "limousine" ride and deluxe appointments, but Chicago auto leasing executive, Robert Estes, had the Armbruster/Stageway Company convert Ambassadors into real limousines. Known as the Royale Stretch Limo, one was owned by the State of Wisconsin as the official vehicle for Governor Warren Knowles. The conversions were unusual in that they did not keep the stock rear doors — as is typical in most limos. The back doors were welded shut and the Ambassadors were lengthened by inserting a section just behind the original B-pillar that had an entirely new central door in this center making a large opening for entry and egress.
For 1970, the rear half of hardtop coupes and sedans was treated to an overhaul to mirror its intermediate 1970 Rebel's tail. On hardtop coupes, this restyling resulted in a sloping roofline that saw upswept reverse-angle quarter windows. The belt line kicked up at the point the hardtop's rear windows swept upward, and tapered back to the fender end, meeting a new loop-type rear bumper.
On sedans, the roof line showed a slimmer C pillar, squared-off rear door windows, and met a belt line that kicked up beneath the trailing edge of each rear door window. The belt line tapered back to the same rear fascia as the hardtop coupe's. This rear fascia contained a new ribbed taillight lens that stretched wall-to-wall and included twin square white reverse light lenses in its center.
Station wagons received no change to their rooflines, doors, and rear fascias. However, all Ambassadors received a new grille insert at the front, showing several widely-spaced bright horizontal bars with one wide, body colored horizontal grille bar extending to each headlight cluster. The V8 was replaced for 1970 by a new V8. The V8 was also supplanted by a V8.
Following the previous year's redesign, the 1971 Ambassadors received only minor changes and improvements. The marketing tag line for the year was the underdog asking "if you had to compete with GM, Ford and Chrysler, what would you do?" — that was answered by AMC including more features, advantages, and benefits for buyers of its cars compared to the models from its much larger competitors. This was reflected by shuffling the Ambassador models for 1971 and by including more equipment in the standard feature list. The previously nameless base models were dropped, as the sedan-only DPL trim line was relegated to base model status, and a new top-line Brougham trim line was added above mid-line SST models. Both SST and Brougham models came as hardtop coupes, sedans, and wagons.
The DPL came with AMC's new Inline-6 with seven main bearings. All the SSTs and Broughams featured the V8 with as standard. The "Shift-Command" automatic transmissions was standard equipment across the line. Two of AMC's were optional; a 8.5:1 compression version with a two-barrel carburetor or a high-compression four-barrel V8 that required premium-fuel. The previous "AMX 390" V8 gave way to a new V8 as the top engine option.
Styling changes consisted of a new fascia up front. It featured headlights contained in their own chrome pods separate from, but flanking the new grille with a bright rectangular surround, with rounded edges. The "natural" cast pot metal grille insert was recessed and featured a bright vertical bar pattern. A second set of parking lights was added outboard of the headlight clusters, and they were integrated into the fender extension to eliminate the need for separate front marker lights.
Taillights on hardtop coupes and sedans still ran wall-to-wall, but the twin backup lights were moved from the center to further outboard — approximately eight inches in from either fender side. Once again, the wagon received few changes at the rear, but added a new design for its optional woodgrain side trim, which filled in its upper bodysides. Its lower edge flowed downward aft of its peak at the leading edge above each front wheelhouse, in similar fashion to the Buick Skylark's side "sweepspear" styling cue.
Ambassador base models were offered to fleet buyers with various police, taxicab, and other heavy-duty packages. Governments and police departments in the U.S. historically used standard-size, low-price line four-door sedans. Equipped with the 360 or 401 engines, the base Ambassadors saw use as police cruisers or support vehicles.
Minor changes greeted 1972 Ambassadors, as AMC's biggest news for the year was the addition of the AMC Buyer Protection Plan warranty, which included the industry's first 12 month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty as standard equipment on every model in the range. Mechanical features were upgraded in each model to increase durability and quality, the most notable of which was the standardization of electric windshield wipers, replacing AMC's ancient vacuum-powered units.
The base DPL was canceled, as well as six-cylinder engine availability. The Ambassador became a V8-only car for the first time since 1964. This made the Ambassador the only volume-produced American car with air conditioning, an automatic transmission, a V8 engine, and a factory warranty all as standard equipment, all while being priced less than the Big Three's similarly-sized cars. Ambassadors were now available in SST and Brougham trim only. Styling changes were limited to a new crosshatch grille at the front.
The SST models were dropped from the line, as all Ambassadors now came in one high-level Brougham trim. An AM radio and tinted glass were added to the extensive standard equipment list. Heftier front and rear bumpers were included to comply with new government regulations that required all passenger cars to withstand a front and a rear impact without damage to the engine, lights, and safety equipment.
Ambassadors complied with the regulation by incorporating a front bumper equipped with shock-absorbers. It jutted slightly forward from the front fascia and incorporated flexible trim matching the body paint. This bumper also featured a more prominent horizontal rubber guard at its upper portion near the grille, thus eliminating the need for a pair of vertical chrome bumper guards that was optional before. The rear bumper gained vertical black rubber bumper guards that also replaced a pair of similar and previously optional chrome bumper guards. The grille gained heavier horizontal bars and headlight bezels took on blackout trim in their recessed portions.
Ambassador sales had remained steady since 1970, despite the lack of major changes to the vehicle. However, the 1974 model year would bring out the biggest Ambassador — just as the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo sparked gasoline rationing across the nation. The Ambassador sedan was stretched seven inches (178 mm) compared with the 1973 versions. This additional length was due to a new front end design and energy absorbing bumpers.
The 1974 Ambassador Brougham was no longer available as a 2-door hardtop, leaving just the sedan and wagon in the line. The hardtop's cancellation was due in part to low sales volume, as well as the introduction of a sleek, sporty new Matador coupe. It was probably not seen as suitable for AMC to build a formal-styled Ambassador version from the same platform.
Styling changes for the sedan and wagon included new front fenders and hood, grille, bumpers, rear fascia, instrument panel, interior trim, hood ornament, and a new font for the Ambassador nameplate. The grille showed off a new squared-off loop-type design surrounding the circular recessed quad headlights, and featured a forward-protruding center. The insert held a crosshatch pattern dominated by two thick horizontal bars that connected the headlight bezels and contained new parking lights between them. These parking lights had amber lenses, followed the grille protrusion forward, and were overlaid by the grille's crosshatch trim. Headlamp bezels were once again blacked out in their recessed areas. The new hood and front bumper followed the grille's central protrusion forward, giving the car a slight "coffin nose" look. The contemporary Matador saw a similar frontal treatment, but with a much more pronounced effect and with different single headlamp clusters, hood, and grille insert.
At the rear, the new bumper was much larger and backed by shock absorbers, as it was beefed up to comply with new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations for standardized front and rear bumpers on passenger cars that could sustain a impact with no damage. Fiberglass end caps were added to the ends of each rear fender on sedans. They wrapped inward to create a recessed space that met a carryover decklid. In this space was mounted the new rectangular taillight housings, which featured taller white backup lights mounted inboard of the new taillights. The license plate moved from the rear bumper to the area between the new taillight assemblies, and the whole taillight and license plate system on the sedans was surrounded its own loop of chrome trim.
The cargo area and the rear design of station wagons remained similar to previous Ambassadors, save for a massive new bumper and revised taillamps. The wagon was available with two-row bench seats for six passengers or with a rear-facing third row for a total eight seat-belted passengers. All came with numerous practical, appearance, and comfort items as standard. These included a two-way opening tail gate: (1) hinged at the bottom for convenient loading or hauling long cargo and (2) hinged at the side to open as door for ease of entry and exit for passengers or cargo; wood grained semi-transparent vinyl side and rear trim, a full-length roof rack; as well as a chrome and wood grain roof air deflector to help keep the tailgate window clean.
Powertrain selections remained the same with only V8 engines mated to automatic transmissions. Other increases for 1974 included a larger capacity fuel tank (24.9 U.S. gallons or 94.2 L) and an alternator producing 62 amps. New sound insulation made the Ambassador even quieter. All came with a very lengthy list of standard equipment that was typically optional on competing makes. These included comfort items such as air conditioning and vanity mirror to appearance enhancements such as pin striping and whitewall tires.
Sales of all full-size vehicles, regardless of the automaker, fell significantly in 1974 as America's focus shifted to smaller cars. Ambassador sales were no different, and in June 1974, the final AMC Ambassador rolled off the Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly line, ending a nameplate that had been in continuous production in some form for 48 years.
Because AMC was focusing its attentions on their newly acquired Jeep line, the redesigned Matador coupe, and the AMC Pacer, which would debut in 1975, the company would not put forth the money to give the full-size Ambassador, and its Matador sedan and wagon counterparts, a new lease on life after 1974. Much of the car's tooling had been around since the 1967 model year, and rather than invest in what appeared to be a declining market, AMC decided to spend its money on smaller cars and sport-utility vehicles.
However, the Ambassador lived on in spirit as that similarly sized and styled Matador became available in uplevel "Brougham" trim from 1975-76, and unique Barcelona trim in its final year, 1978.