Thanks to builds such as the 1968 Dodge Charger “Hellacious” hero car of Fast and Furious 9, people have become accustomed to the idea of mid-engined muscle cars, which has actually been around since the 1960s (examples include Ford Mustang prototypes of third-party-built Hemi Under Glass Mopars). However, the 1969 AMC Rebel coming on our radar today is unlike any of those cars, since it basically keeps the engine in the driver’s lap and that’s just the appetizer.
Ironically, while the American Motors Corporation was born in 1954 following what was the greatest corporate merger the US had seen up until that time, it eventually went out of business via the dreaded corporate merger absorption some three decades later.
However, during those thirty-something years, the Kenosha, Wisconsin-based carmaker gave the world quite a few appealing machines, fighting Detroit’s Big Three by injecting plenty of might into the vehicles and bringing them to the market in innovative ways.
And the Rebel, built in the late 1960s when American automobiles were sexier than ever and with matching firepower, got its fair share of cool, especially thanks to the two-door hardtop we have here.
However, this ’69 has long left its factory form behind, being chopped into front-mid-engined form—it’s not the configuration, which sees the front seats being relocated to the back, with the driver having to squeeze his/her legs on the left side, that’s troublesome, but rather the hacksaw-and-not-much-else nature of the conversion.
This muscle car is like an improv show you decided to do with your friends after you’ve had one too many, so it’s no wonder that it’s only racked up 59 miles (95 km).
Why not drive the thing for 800 miles?
Nevertheless, to Derek Bieri of the Vice Grip Garage YouTube channel, this all sounded like the perfect recipe, since he’s the kind of man who loves to care for beat-up examples of classic machines.
A self-educated mechanic, Derek recently went to collect the midship Rebel from Florida, with the vehicle previously being in the hands of YouTuber Cleetus McFarland.
The result is shown in the one-hour video below and while the clip might be longer than the usual piece of YT car content, that’s because the enthusiast set a high goal for himself: driving the contraption 800 miles (1,300 km) from Florida to his home in Tennessee.
It all kicks off with a brief inspection (4:48 timestamp), and while the matte grey exterior appears in top condition, the cabin and the tech side, which have now merged, do appear to have one or two issues.
You know, minor stuff such as the driver sitting just inches away from a 327 V8 that’s leaking oil and exhaust fumes, with a now-redundant fan ensuring that the lubricant is nicely spread throughout the cabin.
Following the mandatory refresh—the ignition coil, oil, and a few others were replaced (17:40 timestamp)—and a test for the M10 three-speed auto (Derek believes the powertrain came out of a Jeep Grand Wagoneer), the no-title vehicle was ready for a little test.
The first drive was performed on the former DeSoto Speedway—the abandoned racetrack was acquired by Cleetus McFarland and turned into the Freedom Factory, his private playground.
When a carbon monoxide detector is required, you know it’s bad
The lack of power steering is an asset, since handling the wheel means you get to test yourself for nausea. Given all the pollutants in the cabin, Derek did install a carbon monoxide in there once he decided to embark on the said trip, which kicks off at the 40:30 point of the clip.
“This is the most miserable, unsafe, fantastic vehicle I have ever operated in my life!” he explains (and this comes from a man who knows his hoopties.
The aficionado started fixing the vehicle as he drove it across America, with nighttime and rain “sweetening up” the whole trip.
Derek soldiered on for 522 miles (840 km) before deciding to pull the plug on the operation over in Georgia. And, given the infinite hazards the 1969 AMC Rebel threw at him, we’re glad he made the decision (1:08:00 timestamp). Speaking of which, please don’t attempt to replicate such adventures.
However, his promise to return and have the midship muscle car brought to his garage for Episode 2 of this stunt (not under its own power) is what gets us even more excited. Who knows? Perhaps he’ll throw a new engine and tranny in there while properly separating these from the driver or maybe he’ll revert the muscle car to its factory front-engined spec.