Ramblin’ Man: Jack Kaylor’s Rambler American Gasser

Discovered years ago at a small car show in the Ozarks of Missouri, Jack Kaylor dropped 250-bucks and brought home a flathead six-cylinder powered ‘62 Rambler American with the intent of a simple street rod build.

Following the installation of a Chevy V6 and late-model drivetrain, Jack traveled to some of the Gasser events in the Midwest and ultimately caught the Gasser bug after attending the famed Meltdown Drags at Byron Dragway.

The Gasser interest for Jack wasn’t exactly an impulse, as his father, Jack Sr., competed years ago at surrounding St. Louis tracks with a nailhead-powered ’51 Chevy sedan. The project rebuild was a little slow- going at first. Jack lost his father while the project got underway and then he also had to undergo knee surgery early in the process.

My father quit drag racing and was into restoring cars like this. When he found out I was taking a rust-free Rambler and cutting it up for a Gasser build, he was not pleased.

“I have two key friends taking part in the build, who were a big help in moving the Rambler forward,” Jack says. “Herb Hicks, who races a ’55 Chevy locally, was instrumental in helping me round up many components for the race version of the Rambler, including the 414 cubic-inch small-block Chevy that is currently sitting in the framerails. My best friend, Larry Jordan was also a huge supporter when I was struggling in the shop after my knee surgery. He was a big help in general assembly and prepping the car for paint which we did ourselves with Summit Racing Coastal Blue enamel along with striping by D&D Graphics.”

Kaylor constructed the chassis from 2x3-inch tubing along with the 1 1/2-inch mild steel roll cage. He also built the all-aluminum interior panels.

The body is original American Motors steel other than the fiberglass hood and Lexan windows. Other hardware on the inside of the Gasser includes Autometer gauges and a B&M Racing Quarter Stick shifter.

The Rambler rolls with Mickey Thompson 33×10.5 slicks on Halibrand wheels on the rear, and Rocket Racing spoke wheels out front. Unique to the Gasser is a Mustang II front suspension layout using custom A-arms and 11-inch springs to give the Rambler the “high-up” front stance.

The 414-cube small-block Chevy sports about 800 horsepower in Kaylor’s estimate. He used a 3.875 Eagle Specialty Products stroker crankshaft, 6-inch H-beam Eagle rods, Dart Machinery PRO1 cylinder heads, and Hilborn mechanical fuel injection. A Powerglide transmission built by Jack pairs with a 9-inch torque converter and an SFI transmission shield.

In the rear, a 9-inch Ford rear-end sports a ladder-bar suspension, Moser Engineering aftermarket spool and axles, and a 5:00 ratio ring and pinion. Braking hardware is OEM-style Ford disc brake hardware on both front and rear.

The best performance for the AMC Gasser to date is 10.04 seconds at 128 mph on the Gateway Motorsports Park quarter-mile during a 2017 Nostalgia Gassers Racing Association (NGRA) event. His friendship with the NGRA blossomed as did the growth of the group’s membership.

“When I began to rebuild the car for racing, Bryan Huffman from the NGRA called me, and we became immediate friends,” Kaylor described. “He told me he had seen pictures of the Rambler online and he constantly kept in touch during the build. He helped me along the way with advice and gathering needed parts. I knew I was going to have a great time racing with the group just by the way Bryan became my friend. They had around 16 cars when I joined. Now our number is about 38 competitors, and we are having a blast.”

He’s having so much fun that he is updating the Rambler to a more era-correct Gasser straight axle front suspension and is repainting the car using a heavy metallic paint style made popular during the retro era. He also purchased a 1960 Rambler Super that will be even more period-correct with a manual transmission and a handmade long ladder-suspension in the rear.

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About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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