Street & Strip Motorsports Magazine, March/April, 1998

Remember that Aretha Franklin song that came out in 1967? "R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Find out what it meants to me..."

Well, here is one woman who has certainly earned her r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Joanne Allain is definitely not your average girl and her '69 Hurst S/C Rambler is not your average car. No, this isn't her boyfriend's car. No, Daddy didn't buy it for her. And, no it's not exactly as it rolled off theassembly line. But it is built by Joanne to be uniquely hers. Beacasue of this, some people don't quite know how to react, especially when they find out that this girl really knows her stuff. Rolf Norberg visisted Joanne and her car and came away with hurstory. - Jil Walter.

Story & Photos by Rolf Norberg

Some people make the mistake of thinking that only General Motors, Ford and Chrysler made muscle cars. Joanne Allain would be happy to show them otherwise.

Being the proud owner of a most untraditional authentic performance car, she has run into many disbelieving skeptics who are of the opinion that because it's a Rambler,it can't be considered desirable.

Perhaps because AMC was the last of the Big Four to try and capture the performance-crazed North American market of the sixties, they weren't taken seriously by a large percentage of the muscle car masses. AMC's rather basic, sedate appearance didn't help win these people over. A popularity poll taken at any muscle car event would likely conclude that Ramblers are looked upon in a decidedly unfavorable light.

Towards the end of the sixties, the corporation witnessed a brief period of change that gave life to what was definitely its most exciting releases. Among the Javelins, AMX's and Rebel Machines was a car coproduced by Rambler and the Hurst Performance company.

Labeled the Hurst S/C Rambler (S/c stands for super car), it was commonly called the Rambler Scramber. Based on the compact Rogue body, this little Chevy II look-a-like would be pumped full of AMC's 390 cubic inch engine and mated to a T-10 four speed at the factory.

When nearly completed, they would be taken from the Rambler assembly line to Hurst, where the transformation from modest to monstrous would be completed. A total of 1,512 were produced in the latter half of 1969, and although they regularly saw action on drag strips since they were sold as an NHRA-legal F/Stock factory race car, a few did see competition in the Baja 500 off-road race.

One of the first ones to be completed by Hurst eventually ended up in the caring hands of a Langley car enthusiast by the name of Joanne Allain. Once known as the goat herder because of the number of GTO's (nicknamed goats) in her collection (as many as eight at one time), this Pontiac magnate was slowly being converted from a GM follower to an AMC fan.

Seems her boyfriend at the time was big on American Motors since his Hornet S/C 360 had pulverized many opponents in stoplight confrontations. Trying similar escapades in her GTO, Joanne found herself constantly having to repair and maintain its powertrain, while her boyfriend's basically stock Hornet remained intact. Since the GTO's were much heavier, parts longevity was severely reduced. Joanne finally decided to start her search for an AMC of her own, and a Rambler Scrambler was number one on her list.

Six years later, through a series of lucky occurrences, Joanne would locate her desired wonder car. While talking with a friend in Olympia, Washington in 1988, he commented on how he had spotted an ad for a "First Rambler" and suddenly wondered if it was meant to read "Hurst Rambler."

After locating the newspaper ad days later, it was discovered through a phone call that a misprint had been made. It turned out the owner of a Hurst Rambler had recently left the Seattle area for his home in Idaho after spendinig a two-week vacation with friends on the coast while trying to sell the car.

When Joanne finally reached him by phone, a long conversation revealed the owner, Russell, was adamant about selling it out of town so he wouldn't have to see it again. He told of how he had babied the car since buying it in 1970, having to sell it in 1980 due to divorce, seeing the car nearly destroyed by the new "punk kid" owner, and rebuilding the car after it was bought back. Ironically, he stated that he was reattached with his wife. Then, because of a large medical debt, he was forced to sell it once again, but this time it would have to be sold out of town so he wouldn't have to endure watching his car being mistreated again. When Russell heard that Joanne was from Canada, he was elated.

Days later, Joanne would meet her new car of choice. She and Russell arranged to meet halfway between Grangeville, Idaho and Vancouver, which worked out to be Spokane, Washington. As soon as she laid eyes on it, it was as good as hers. The pursuant inspection would confirm her suspicions; it was just what whe was looking for - an original, rust-free Hurst S/C Rambler, in good driveable and restorable condition, complete with the original 390 engine and drivetrain. Further inspection, in the driver's seat, would clinch the deal.

A week would pass as Joanne liquidated some of her assets to finance the Rambler, and made arrangements to pick up her car. Rolling into Grangeville on a Saturday afternoon, Joanne and her friends were greeted with a loud fireworks display. Seems that they had arrived to buy this red, white and blue piece of Americana on the Fourth of July.

The following day dawned with Joanne and her crew heading out in the rain after staying the night at Russell's farm. They were surprised to run into him again on the other end of town as they gassed up. Goodbyes were exchanged and again, off they drove. Joanne was finally on her way home, driving her precious new find, happy as can be, when she caught sight of something familiar in her rear view mirror. Back behind her friend's car, following several hundred feet back, was an old Dodge pickup, just like the one Russell drove. Was it him tailing her just far back enough so it wasn't obvious, heart broken over seeing his former pride and joy that he never drove in the rain rolling out of his life in a downpour? It wouldn't be until they reached the border fifty miles later that the pickup finally dropped from sight.

Joanne's garage held a beautiful '69 GTO Judge, right up until the minute she arrived home with its replacement. The Princess of Pontiacs had now become the Rambler Scrambler Ma'am. It didn't take long before her friends would hear of the new arrival and although their reaction varied from one extreme to the other, soon they all would see the wisdon in her decision.

Her car became a common sight on the streets of Langley as it logged many miles as a daily driver. Perhaps portrayed as a performance underdog by some unknowing drivers that figured her car was all bark and no bite, they were often the ones getting nipped.

This thirty-something AMC expert has used her skills as a machinist to rebuild almost every part of her rare Rambler. And when she decided to save the original 390 engine by shelving it, work began on a 360-cube AMC engine to replace it.

Since not many parts are available for these early engines, Joanne used hotrod ingenuity to carefully select the right combination of AMC, Ford and Chevy parts to arrive at a precise valve train geometry and compression ratio. Her cleverly-engineered powerplant has performed as well as, if not better than, the 390, but since she has never run her car at the track, it's difficult to determine its true capabliity. Suffice it to say, the motor's no slouch, with an ability to reach 8,500 rpm.

Much of the insight Joanne has received regarding hard-to-find AMC information has come from a friend who worked at the Kenosha, Wisconsin AMC assembly plant in 1969 where he helped assemble Scramblers, including the one he owns today.

He described how the 390-equipped bodies would be transferred to Hurst where they outfitted with their unique fiberglass hood scoop and funtional flap, hood pins, staggered shocks, subframe connectors, torque link bars, Hurst shifter, tachometer, English racing mirrors, emblems, and stripes to finish it off. The only factory option ever offered in the combination was an AM radio. But once the dealers received them they were often dressed up with AMC's performance parts that included cross rams, headers and hi-po ignitions.

Though these cars were factory rated on only 315 horsepower, they were far from sedate. Soaking wet, these cars weighed in at barely 3,000 pounds, which made for a favorable power-to-weight ratio. Quarter mile times achieved by the Hurst Rambler back in '69 were the same as those of another muscle car, an LS6 454-equipped '70 Chevelle according to Motor Trend magazine test articles.

Joanne's car is not yet accurate, as she has yet to complete it by reattaching the fender emblems, adding the correct wheels (which she dislikes for their color combo), changing the interior back to stock (finding it drab) and reinstalling the 390.

"I'm a firm believer that the vehicle you drive should be an extension of your personality," she says. "It may be a rare car, but for now I'm going to build it the way I want it to be."

Many people find it hard to believe she built it by herself, and some men feel intimidated by her thorough knowledge and ability in a field dominated by men. To these guys, Joanne would like to say, "They should treat me as they would any fellow hot rodder because thats what I feel I am."

Some of the people that did offer her valuable info, supported her decisions and had faith in her ability are Bud Child at High Performance Engines, Vincent Lowe at Diamond Engines, friends Larry and Pauline Temperton.

Through her on-going efforts to raise the status level of AMC's performance image, Joanne has managed to elevate the degree of respect her peers pay her. This recently became evident as she was awarded the "Best Factory Muscle Car" trophy at this past year's Muscle Car Cuise-In.

It would be safe to say that this vivacious, profound and talented individual, together with her bonafide, pure-bred, nearly extinct muscle car, will some day be destined to be part of our hot rod history. Or is that Hurstory?

Street & Strip Motorsports Magazine, March/April, 1998