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Quick and capable compact: 1967 343-powered Rambler American Rogue

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1967 Rambler Rogue advertisement, courtesy of the Automotive History Preservation Society.

American Motors’ print ad leaves little to the imagination with its depiction of young adults reinstalling the carburetor and swapping wider rear wheels and tires onto a 343-powered Rogue. It’s being prepped for drag racing or, at the very least, for more sizzle on the street. (We can’t tell from the photo if the upgraded tire shown is a drag slick.)

Nevertheless, with statements like, “So you see, we don’t build them like we used to. That’s our message,” even the ad copy indicated that American Motors was beginning to shake off its somewhat stodgy image — at least in this instance — with the testosterone-infused Rogue.

The 280-hp, 365 lb-ft of torque, four-barrel, Typhoon V-8 option debuted during the 1967 model year for the Rambler American series’ top-of-the-line Rogue, mid-level 440, and entry-level 220.

It had already been available in the larger 1967 AMC models along with a two-barrel version, but only the four-barrel was offered for the American. When nestled in its engine bay, the 106-inch wheelbase, lightweight, unitized body/chassis compact previously known primarily for its economy could now compete performance-wise with the hot small-displacement V-8 Darts, Chevy IIs, and Novas, as well as the sporty pony cars.

The new 343 engine was a 4.08-inch-bore version (a “larger inner casting core” was used for the block) of the Typhoon 290 (3.75-inch bore) two-barrel and four-barrel V-8s that were introduced partway through the previous model year. All were of a modern, compact, and lightweight yet durable design that incorporated “slimwall” casting techniques and conveniently grouped engine accessories at the front of the block in an aluminum housing for easy servicing. These engines employed a cast malleable-iron crankshaft (3.28-inch stroke) and connecting rods, and had their own design of cast-aluminum pistons.

The heads featured liberally sized intake and exhaust ports, 2.00/1.625 valves (smaller valves in the 290), and wedge-shaped combustion chambers. The compression ratio was 10.2:1 for the 343 and lower in the 290s.

A 266-degrees advertised duration hydraulic camshaft and stud-mounted 1.6:1 ratio stamped-steel rocker arms were used, and a Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor bolted to a cast-iron intake manifold comprised the induction system. Surprisingly, despite all the built-in performance, the engines still exhaled through a single exhaust system.

The 10.5-inch diameter clutch transferred the 343’s torque to the T-10 four-speed, and at the opposite end of the driveshaft the hypoid rear-end with semi-floating axles was fitted with a 3.15:1 or a no-extra-cost 3.54:1 gear ratio. Twin-Grip (limited-slip) was optional.

Front coil springs, rear leaf springs, and the shocks were matched to the V-8, and a front anti-sway bar was added. Power steering was optional, and the tighter ratio it allowed reduced turns-to-lock to 4.4 from 6 with the manual steering box. The V-8’s 10-inch drum brakes with a new dual-circuit master cylinder could be fitted with power assist at extra-cost, and power front disc brakes were also optional.

Standard features of the Rogue included upscale exterior and interior trim, reclining bucket seats with center cushion and fold-down armrest (in the hardtop), and “mag-style” wheel covers, etc. Two-tone paint was also available. The 440 was less visually extravagant and the 220 was even more basic and economical by comparison. Both also had different upholstery patterns and standard front seat configurations. Hubcaps were included instead of wheel covers and the 220 had a rubber floor mat in place of a carpet unless it was equipped with a four-speed.

A multitude of options were available to further enhance each model, a few of which are listed in the ad. The new “sports-style instrument cluster” with five round dials was standard, however.

Though very few 343-powered Americans were built (production numbers are still debated), some saw success on the nation’s dragstrips and had dealer sponsorships.

Unfortunately, for 1968 the 343 engine was dropped from the American line, yet it was still offered for other existing series, as well as in the new sporty Javelin and mid-model-year AMX. The performance swansong for the compact Rambler would be the quick, collectible, and boldly painted 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler with a 315-hp 390 stuffed under the hood. Its story deserves an article of its own, however, so we won’t delve into it here.

Do you recall the 343-powered 1967 Americans, or do you have fond memories of other American Motors cars you’ve known or owned? Tell us about them.