Restored Rogue Scrambler a rare gem

Muscle cars were all in vogue by the late 1960s and nearly all manufacturers had a model to lure buyers into their showrooms — except for the American Motors Corporation (AMC).

While they did have the successful two-seat AMX and four-place Javelin, they fell more within the pony-car class and the automaker needed an intermediate to fill the sales void. Smaller than the Big 3 auto giants, AMC always was deft at finding a market segment the others may have overlooked — and it put its money on the Rogue as a performance offering.

Manufactured between 1966 and ’69, the Rambler Rogue was chosen as the platform for the Scrambler. Noticing that buyers always added aftermarket parts to personalize their performance purchases, AMC partnered on the venture with Hurst Performance to produce 500 to 1,000 special-edition Rogue Scrambler models. AMC basically shoehorned a 315-horsepower, 390-cubic-inch V-8 and a close-ratio four-speed manual transmission into it, with a Hurst floor shifter. The car came factory-equipped with mag wheels, red-line E70 Goodyear Polyglas tires, cold air induction, hood pins, Sun tachometer, 3.54:1 geared “twin-grip” differential, power front disc brakes and special rear axle torque links borrowed from the AMX for added traction. All this performance in a package that weighed 3,160-pounds, for $2,998, was a total bargain.

Strictly a performance offering, the only other option you could order which was not already included was an AM radio installed at the dealer — or you could also order it with other group 19 performance parts. Group 19 was really the VIP entry into the speed shop, where buyers could add everything from special-performance camshaft, intake manifold systems, exhaust and lower ratio gear sets.

Richard and Joanne Gregoire of Winnipeg found their 1969 Scrambler in California in August 2014, thanks to an online ad.

“Since my brother lives in Los Angeles, we flew down to look at the car. It was in decent shape with a small dent on one side and a very dirty engine compartment. The car had racing seats, MSD ignition, huge aluminum shroud, newer heads and electrically controlled exhaust cut-outs. I planned on cleaning up the engine compartment, fixing the dent and driving it as is,” Richard Gregoire says. It was always a California car, so Gregoire could trace it back to an early owner in Tulare, Calif., and is still trying to find what dealer it was originally delivered to.

Gregoire shipped the car back to Winnipeg and after a few months of driving it, then removed the engine to clean up the engine compartment. Wife Joanne suggested he might also do a clean-up on the trunk. One thing led to another and, after 1,660 hours, the Scrambler had undergone a 10-month full rotisserie restoration.

Basically a straight rust-free car, the Scrambler was stripped to bare metal from top to bottom and readied for paint by Gregoire, with the help of Maurice Gauthier. Painted in the original A type paint scheme of Frost White, Matador Red and Regatta Blue by McBride Auto, the Scrambler body was restored to factory condition. For the engine, Gregoire and his brother Dave took it through a full rebuild along with the transmission. Gregoire continued the restoration with the addition of new suspension, braking and steering components.

“I added power steering,” Gregoire says, “but kept the quick ratio manual steering box, as it is somewhat rare.”

With only seven weeks to go until the Scrambler’s entry into the 2016 Piston Ring World of Wheels auto show, Gregoire called upon experienced upholsterer Ron Lechman to help with the installation of a new headliner, carpet and full upholstery kit from Legendary Auto Interiors.

A total of only 1,512 of these cars were built, so finding the Scrambler specific ram-air snorkel, air cleaner and radiator were a challenge — and required Gregoire to do some extensive research to find other Rogue models and AMC parts required for the build.

Since its completion, the Scrambler has done very well with collecting awards, receiving a Gold Junior award at the 2016 American Motors Owner (AMO) annual convention in Rockford, Ill., and a Gold Senior award along with the Hurst Cup at Gettysburg, Pa., in 2017. The Gregiores are planning to attend the 2018 AMO Convention in Auburn, Ind., in competition for the coveted top award, the American Cup.

Also produced with a more subdued Type B paint scheme, the Scrambler could be had in Frost white with red and blue stripes on the rocker panels. The big and bold A-scheme SC/Ramblers featured the distinctive arrow pointing to the gaping hood scoop, intersected by a graphic calling out the displacement of the engine, and a corresponding blue stripe on the trunk lid. The forward-facing functioning box-type hood scoop with “390 CU. IN.” and “AIR” in large letters on both sides of it is a bit of a misnomer. While most thought this simply meant the “AIR” we breathe, it’s actually an acronym that refers to American International Racing.

With room for the family and a full trunk, the Scrambler was a reasonable buy — but its standing start quarter-mile elapsed time of 14.4 seconds at 104 miles an hour proved the Scrambler could do its job both on the track and on the street. Today, the Hurst SC/Rambler registry lists show there are only 379 of the 1,512 that were built are accounted for. This includes those currently being used for parts or known to be wrecked or destroyed.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg free pressRichard and Joanne Gregoire are in love with their 1969 Scrambler, which they picked up in California three years ago and have been restoring since.

Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg free press

Richard and Joanne Gregoire are in love with their 1969 Scrambler, which they picked up in California three years ago and have been restoring since.

Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Photos by Larry D'Argis / Winnipeg Free Press