American Motors Corp.’s well-equipped Marlin was basically a modified two-door ClassicLast weekend I was in…
You don’t love the AMC SC/Rambler as much as Kevin Shope does
It wasn’t only Camaros and ’Cudas that terrorized the stop-light racing scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The big three automotive manufacturers had other company; and one car that can’t hide is the AMC SC/Rambler, a muscle car as all-American as they come.
The story of this particular SC/Rambler is fairly simple, though with a slightly goofy starting point. Though Kevin Shope restored this car over nearly three decades, his love of AMCs was really an accident.
“I wanted a Mustang for my first car, but I couldn’t find one that was salvageable,” Shope says. “Even with my father and I being pretty experienced at doing metal work, we just couldn’t find a car worth the time. Meanwhile, my grandmother was trying to get me to take her six-cylinder, four-door Rambler.
“I mean, who wants a four-door Rambler as their first car?”
It may not have been love at the very first sight, but Shope quickly changed his tune. He and his father spent 11 months going through the car and got it ready in time for Shope’s senior year of high school in 1983. He was excited to drive it daily—right up until he took the four-door to an Antique Automobile Club of America meet, and other participants claimed the car was too nice for the event.
By the early 1990s, Shope not only had a separate daily driver car, but had also shown the car all the way to an AACA senior award. And yet, his love for AMC vehicles was not firmly established.
“I was looking for another car around that same time, and came across an ad for the Rambler/SC as I was leaving a grocery store,” Shope says. “I wanted to do a restoration… but then this car got a little out of hand.”
That’s probably the right term for an on-again, off-again restoration that spanned from the early ’90s to 2018. While no small number of cars have demanded that amount of restoration time, few enjoy the attention to detail that Shope put into this SC/Rambler.
“I gathered roughly 340 new-old-stock parts, and maybe used about 300 of them in the restoration. Some that I didn’t use were used to create exacting replica parts for my project and others restoring their own SC/Ramblers.”
After amassing so many NOS parts, Shope felt he owed it to the hobby to restore this Rambler to the highest level he could, proving that the SC/Rambler could hold its own among highly restored Big Three cars. It would be a reminder to all of what AMC was in the late ’60s—loud, proud, and a car to be reckoned with on the dragstrip.
The engine in SC/Ramblers is a 390-cid V-8 rated at 315 horsepower and backed by a four-speed manual transmission. However, just like the majority of that era’s sports cars, that horsepower number is likely artificially low. Just a glance under the hood says it’s making more than 315 ponies and Shope’s car is a benchmark for restorers when it comes to under-hood presentation.
“They assembled the engines and they painted them on the assembly line, and they had these fairly crude covers for the chrome valve covers—which is why there is a lot of overspray on them,” Shope explains. “The undercarriage is the same way. It looks like a dalmatian, but that’s how it should be.”
Shope wrote the book on how to properly restore an SC/Rambler. Well, you can’t pick up a bound copy at Barnes & Noble, but his thread on TheAMCforum.com has over 94 pages documenting his work and answering questions from fellow S/C Rambler restorers. Shope has done the research and feels the importance of sharing all that information with the restoration community.
“I was referencing my car with other known untouched factory cars and all of us were working to figure out what was correct,” Shope says. “If I was going to reproduce a part from one of my NOS stash, I would put the call out for others to join in so they could get the correct parts. I was never in it for the money—anything I made I would take to the next swap meet and buy more parts.”
The result is a stunning car that debuted at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in 2018 and sat as a benchmark for a group of AMC muscle. From there, Shope was invited to the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan, where the S/C Rambler stopped me in my tracks as I walked the show field.
When I asked what’s next, and whether he was going to restore another car, Shope laughed a bit. “No, I don’t have plans to restore another. I am really hoping to give back and help all the friends that have helped me throughout this restoration finish their cars. I might show this car a bit, but I won’t have it judged. I’m not about the trophies and whatnot. I just want people to see the best example of this great car, and remind them that AMC did some cool stuff.”
Cool stuff, indeed. Shope’s story is just one more reminder that, while a car may stop you in your tracks, the person and the story behind it is even better. If you see a great SC/Rambler in your neck of the woods, you likely have Kevin Shope to thank for it—and that is awesome.