Home » Daydreaming About Tow Rigs: 1968 Ford F250 vs 1965 Rambler Ambassador

Daydreaming About Tow Rigs: 1968 Ford F250 vs 1965 Rambler Ambassador

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Good morning and happy Friday to you all! Today as has become the custom, the price cap goes out the window, but the cars remain imperfect. As it’s the Friday before a holiday weekend here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a pair of vehicles suitable for towing a vintage trailer. My vintage trailer, in fact. But before we get there, we need to see how our winter beaters did:

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Well, not much gray area there. We’ve gone from our closest vote straight to our most lopsided. And yeah, that Nissan is an act of desperation, and it should cost about half what it does. The Grand Am sold before most people got to even see the ad, which speaks volumes.

Now then: You may not know it, but Mercedes isn’t the only vintage camper aficionado around here. My wife and I are the proud owners of this little number, a 1966 Aristocrat Land Commander:

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(Image credit: me)

We’ve had it two or three years now, and taken probably 10 trips with it. It’s watertight, and we’ve fixed it up mechanically, and I just did a major electrical upgrade to it including solar panels, but cosmetically it’s still very close to original. It has good patina, as they say. And I love that about it. Gives it a little character.

We pull this beauty with a very nice and competent Infiniti QX4, but ever since we got it I’ve daydreamed about rolling into the campground in some period-correct tow vehicle, preferably color-coordinated, especially when we take it to the Goin’ With The Flo Vintage Trailer Rally in October every year. We can’t afford another tow vehicle right now, but that doesn’t stop me from looking. Window shopping is free, right?

1968 Ford F250 Camper Special – $8,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 360 cubic inch V8, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 80,000 miles

Runs/drives? Like a top

In the ’60s, slide-in truck campers were all the rage, and automakers responded to the trend with “Camper Special” editions of three-quarter-ton pickups. These trucks were equipped with tie-downs for campers, uprated electrical systems, and heavy-duty cooling systems straight off the showroom floor. They were usually a little nicer and better equipped for comfort and convenience than typical trucks, which at the time were still primarily work vehicles. This Ford F250 is the top-of-the-line “Ranger” trim level, with a downright plush interior for a truck in 1968. I mean, it has carpet and everything!

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Even though it was intended for use with a slide-in camper, this truck would do a fine job of pulling our little Aristocrat. It has a 360 cubic inch “FE” V8, backed by a C6 automatic transmission. Properly cared for, this combination should last indefinitely, but it won’t be kind to you at the fuel pump.

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It’s also equipped with power steering and power brakes, so the driving experience should be less primitive than other trucks of the era. One thing I don’t see, however, is air conditioning; we would have to remedy that.

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Cosmetically, it would fit right in with our camper. Nice overall, but not without its flaws. I do wonder about the locations of some of the bad paint spots; right in the middle of the hood, for instance. How does that happen? The discoloration and fading below tha gas cap I understand; 54 years of carelessness can take its toll. Overall, though, this is a damn nice looking truck for its age, and price.

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But it is still a truck, with all the noise and rough ride that that entails. With an open pickup bed, you have fewer secure and dry places to haul gear, too. And it’s hilariously overkill for our little 16-foot trailer. But it would look cool in front of it.

1965 Rambler Ambassador 990 Hardtop – $9,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 327 cubic inch V8, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Bend, OR

Odometer reading: 101,000 miles

Runs/drives? Beautifully, it sounds like

Back when our trailer was made, most buyers wouldn’t be pulling it with a truck. The Land Commander is the “big” Aristocrat trailer, and even it only tips the scales at around 2100 pounds empty. “Tin can” travel trailers like this were meant to be pulled with the family car, and in the days when most cars had V8s and were rear-wheel-drive, almost any car would do. For instance, this ’65 Ambassador.

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The Ambassador was the top of AMC’s Rambler range, completely redesigned for 1965 and finally considered a full-size car. It’s a handsome machine, with stacked headlights set in angled bezels and a vaguely Lincoln-like rear end treatment. It was available in 2 and 4 door sedan bodystyles, as well as a convertible, a wagon, and the 2 door pillarless hardtop shown here. It’s powered by a 327 cubic inch version of AMC’s V8 engine, backed by a floor-shifted automatic.

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This Ambassador has had a lot of work done to it, including new paint (over some previous badly-done body damage), new upholstery and carpets, and a complete mechanical freshening. It’s a handsome car, and as one of only around 5000 ’65 Ambassador hardtops built, it’s certainly a rarity.

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The advantage I can see to something like this is that it would be a whole lot more fun to drive around when you weren’t pulling a trailer with it. This is a really cool mid-Sixties coupe that you don’t see very often, that would just happen to have a receiver hitch on the back. I like the angles on the front end; they correspond nicely to the angles on the trailer. And not that you’d ever see the two side by side, but this car’s upholstery is a near-perfect match to the upholstery in the trailer.

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The biggest trouble I can see with this particular car is that it might be too nice, and make the trailer look shabby by comparison. But I guess that would just be incentive to refresh the trailer.

As I said, we’re not in any position to do anything about it now. But it is really cool to see some of the possibilities that are out there. I’d have a hard time choosing between these two if we were shopping, so it’s nice that I have the ability to put it to a vote. Which one would you choose?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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59 Responses

  1. I’m picking the F250 because I love old trucks, but the Rambler is a better choice for most people. I own a ’77 F250 and it rides like a brick, handles terribly, gets 7 miles per gallon, and has none of the modern elements that make long drives tolerable (i.e. air conditioning, a radio, adjustable seats, etc.). Old trucks are very basic vehicles. The camper special might be slightly more civilized than a typical ’60s truck, but it still lacks all amenities, unless you consider carpet an amenity. Unless you are a truck fan who likes (or can at least tolerate) basic vehicles, you probably won’t enjoy driving it.

  2. For your use case, the truck and a trip to the vintage air website is the answer. Since I don’t have to pull a vintage trailer, the Rambler is the one for me.

  3. It turns out I like old Ford trucks. Along with looking more the part, especially in that color scheme, it will also most likely be more reliable and will certainly be both easier to source parts for and repair. The Ambassador is the better show vehicle, but the Ford is the better tow vehicle.

  4. My vote goes to the Rambler because I know that old trucks suck to drive much more than their car counterparts. And I also like the look of the Rambler better.

  5. No question to me – I’ve never even *seen* an Ambassador coupe before. What a beautiful car, in great shape, for a steal…use your trailer’s lightness to your advantage and get the Rambler!

  6. Oh man, I voted for the Ambassador before I even read the article. Ramblers are just before my time, and growing up in a largely GM family (branching out to other marques later), Rambler was sort of a punchline — shorthand for “uncool”.

    Well, I learned a lot more about them in the past few years, and gained a great admiration for the brand. They were not ostentatious, they were innovative in many ways, and you could actually fit one into a parking spot in an era when a lot of other cars could not. So of course, any car that was so sensible and practical was dismissed as “nerdy”. Well I’M a practical person, and I could very well see myself driving a Rambler if I were of age in that era. And an Ambassador coupe? Hell yeah.

    For those who are interested, here are the brochures for the 1965 Rambler lineup. (As the article indicated, this was a major redesign year for the brand.) http://oldcarbrochures.org/United%20States/AMC/1965_AMC/index.html

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  7. Ambassador for me, more stylish, much more comfortable, love the colour and that wonderful design and it comes with enough grunt to pull. I wouldn’t care about the paint since it’s said to be a respray. So no original paint to preserve, ready to serve as an useful.classic car. My never restored oldies are staying inside when it rains but my restored bus I drive through anything, figuring a re-respray after 15 years ! It’s about the stories after all.

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  8. The AMC is GORGEOUS, and I freaking love it. It would certainly do a fine job of pulling your camper too. That said, I chose the Ferd, because I’d be nervous towing something on trips using a tow rig that’s hard to get even the most basic mechanical spare parts for.

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