I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

My Rambler surprised me

My family is driving two used cars.  One is a ten-year-old “Grandpa Car” that was purchased because it is reported to be the safest vehicle for teenage drivers.  You will never see a picture of it in this blog, as the mere sight of it depresses me.

The other, the ’64 Rambler, is my daily driver.  It is very cool, but it can be disconcerting to drive.  When I am behind the wheel, strangers on the street frequently wave, point, and gesture–enthusiastically.  Since I am always thinking about something other than my car, I am usually startled by the cheerful public response.

The Rambler has two features I adore.  First, it has these tough little antennae that scrape loudly and “boing” when you are grazing too close to a hard surface, like a curb.  It’s a refreshingly low-tech and durable solution to an enduring problem.

Second, I am charmed by the “Vibratone” rear speaker system.  When you turn it on, your radio sounds are projected through two back seat speakers that are literally vibrating.  The echo-ey sound is supposed to make you feel like you are in a live concert venue.  Not exactly.  It just makes me laugh.

But I found a new aspect of the car that charmed me yesterday.  Under the dash is a swiveling chrome tissue box.  I call it my “windshield defrost system” because it works better than the blower.

But what surprised me this weekend?  Well, I have to admit that I have never looked inside the tissue box myself…but I was watching my husband fill it yesterday.  And was so delighted to see that the tissues get placed inside this hand-crafted wooden box whose lining is an exact match to the seat upholstery!

Now those were the days…when a car was a car and someone fussed over the hidden rectangle of fabric in my tissue box.  And to think the Rambler was a real budget car, in its heyday.  (It still is inexpensive today…they call it the “orphan car” because so few people collect them.  You can get one for a song.)

If you are really into this, you can see me driving my car in this video.

24 Responses to “My Rambler surprised me”

  1. Mark Sprague

    Wow, what a blast. When I was a teenager my family owned a black 64 Rambler – we called it the Black Beauty. It had push-button gear shifting.

    Mark Sprague

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Black Beauty! I love it. I hear that the Rambler was considered a fairly compact car…it was the first “mom’s second car” on the market. It isn’t gigantic but i would hardly call it compact these days.

      I don’t have the pushbutton transmission….we were one year off of that feature.

      Reply
  2. Anne

    Hey, the grandpa car is just as cool as the Rambler.

    Ok. Almost as cool.

    Reply
  3. Jeff

    Growing up we had a yellow Rambler with black roof. It was a bumble bee car…then the Big Bad Bruins car. I have fond memories sitting in the front seat as a kid…no seat belts…lots of room. :-))) It was a different day and age. I do not recall the box of tissues though…that was cool to learn about.

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Jeff, I assume your mom’s arm was the only seatbelt. Oddly, we have seatbelts, along with the original bill of sale. They were a very expensive $40 option.

      Reply
      • Jeff

        My Mom had a very strong right arm…still does. A big turn…the arm. Quick stop…the arm. Loved that car though.

  4. Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius - The Operations Guy

    Jules,
    This kind of craftsmanship and attention to detail still exists… but only in certain German brands.
    Beancounters are not the only ones to blame for the demise of cars built designed and built with passion.

    Re. curb-feelers – you can say you have an early version of park-assist 🙂

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Apollo….alas I come from Detroit and we are a Ford family so I would not be jumping over to German cars so easily.

      I will say the only car I’ve ever truly loved, though, was an Audi A4. The Rambler I LIKE, but not love. That Audi in snow….so powerful and safe. And the satisfying sound of closing the Audi door made me feel like all was well with the world. I do remember I commuted in it (from Boston to Hasbro, in RI) at a time when my little three boys were wild and crazy and that clean car interior became my personal sanctuary from the chaos. Maybe THAT is the real reason I loved it, huh?

      Reply
      • Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius - The Operations Guy

        That is definitely long conversation we can have over where US automakers went wrong (some EU brands went down the same path).
        Ford themselves only woke up recently and realized there is already great product they are making in Europe… just bring it here! Not everyone want/needs to be in a F150 or Expedition.
        Cars used to be made to tap into emotions of the driver. Now we make same car for as wide of the buyer demo as possible.
        True automotive engineering and captivating driving experience is now relegated to “aura” cars.

        That all said, I love your Rambler and admire it every time I stop by your office.

  5. Karl Eberhardt

    Man, they don’t make em like that anymore. I do miss the curb feelers…going “boinnng” as a kid, we used to sit on the curb and just flip them just to hear the funny noise! Endless hours of entertainment…didn’t even need batteries or a wi fi connection!

    Reply
    • julespieri

      Thanks for sharing that story Karl. I can picture that so well. I think my parallel was turning my bike upside down and “making ice cream” by spinning the wheel and running a popsicle stick along the spokes.

      Reply
      • Karl Eberhardt

        OMG thats awesome. OK I’m all over technology …however there is a special magic when you are young and create entertainment with your imagination, no matter how simple. I believe imagination and creation is what you are really exposing at The Daily Grommet. Maybe not so “simple” ideas or products for pure”entertainment” but imagination and creation none the less. Two qualities I appreciate above all. I have always been a inventor/creator…I suspect you have the “twisted” gene too.
        Cheers to The Daily Grommet!

        P.S. How do I upload an avitar so I’m no longer a geometric shape!

      • julespieri

        Karl, Thanks for the cool insights about Daily Grommet. Yes, I am also similarly “twisted” having been an industrial designer turned entrepreneur. Re. the avatar, can you log in to WordPress and access your profile…they let you upload a photo there.

  6. David Wasser

    My dad had a lime green ’66 Rambler American in which I learned to drive. I have very fond memories of that car. It was indestructible.

    And for your friend who was suggesting appropriate songs, how about “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Bros.?

    Reply
    • julespieri

      David, If I had a lime green one I would probably actually love this car. I just really, really dislike maroon and the whole car interior is that color too.

      And…the Allman Bros. song is perfect! I did make a custom piece of art for Des with a Lichtenstein image of him in the Rambler with a speech bubble “We’re gonna party like it’s 1964.”

      Reply
      • David Wasser

        I’m curious…does the PA on your license plate stand for anything in particular? I’m from Pennsylvania, so I immediately thought of that, but I imagine that’s not it. The 64 is obviously the year of the car.

      • julespieri

        I believe he plate says RA, not PA (for Rambler Ambassador). I don’t have it with me right now so can’t confirm. However it did come from Scranton!

  7. barbara wedan

    We had ramblers and nashes when I was growing up. It gives me the warm fuzzys. Right now i’m looking for an older model staton wagon for a family car, thats how i stumbled on your site. I think your rambler is beautiful.

    Reply

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