(Quick link to chassis setup.)
Looking for something more interesting to do with a car than driving to work, I somehow stumbled on the SoCal TT rally. The car is pretty reliable now so I thought I'd tag along at the rear of the pack and have a nice drive.
No one was more surprised than I to find that this car actually handle well. Predictably slow of course, but when tossed into corners it behaved.
It suuuure don't look like no sports car -- no sway bars (anti-roll bar). Soft springs. At the time of the 2009 rally, the chassis was dead stock other than the drilled drum brakes, new 6" steel wheels and decent 215-65/R15 tires. The front suspension is immaculate, like-new condition though. The rear shocks are ancient Sears economy shocks or something that came with the car (I'm embarrassed to say), though they ride fine and pass the corner-bounce test. Electronic ignition, a lot of spark advance and that's it. New Monroe OEM replacement front shocks.
However, the front suspension is a classic unequal-length A-arm (double wishbone) system, and camber goes negative in hard cornering -- exactly the right thing for decent performance, and utterly unlike later AMCs. It's extremely light -- around 2500 pounds. It's a full, real unibody chassis. Compare its front suspension to those in this Wikipedia page -- Nash/AMC did it one notch better -- the spring is directly over the steering knuckle, when the car is in a roll due to cornering, the effective leverage of the spring vs. wheel does not decrease as it does in some spring-on-lower-arm designs. (Nash/Rambler/AMC cars are very tall because of this spring-over design).
I'm not saying it's a sports car, but it is respectable.
Up hills it was slow as expected, but downhill where power wasn't an issue it really shined -- basically the car is faster than I am. It understeers of course, but just under neutral; faint throttle oversteer, very predictable and even a few times in nasty turns with wheel hop nothing bad happened.
Clearly this car just found a new Calling, a new reason for being.
I wasn't the only one surprised, I was honored with People's Choice award at the post-rally dinner!
The SoCal TT crowd of people were amazingly great. From casual to spirited hard driving, everyone was friendly, open to all sorts of cars, helpful to anyone with troubles, and just great to be around. There's a larger vintage rally population and you can believe this is not my, or this car's, last event.
Here are some in-car videos, all mercifully short, 90 seconds each, except for two that are two minutes. All are on Youtube.