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64 rambler won't start

I inherited my brother’s 1964 AMC Rambler American 220. It’s been sitting for a number of years on the property. I only recently decided I should see about bringing it back to life. For the longest time it only needed new tires and a new battery. I just replaced the battery. It has gas, oil is pretty old. Coolant levels are new. HOWEVER, when I go to start it, the ignition light comes on, it makes a sound like it’s getting ready to come to life, but won’t actual get there. Are we looking at a new spark plug?

Tough to diagnose a 39 yr old vehicle sight unseen. I think you need a mechanic, preferably one nearing retirement age, to check it out. If you’re lucky it needs plugs and new points. But it could be a host of issues.

Chances are very good that the entire fuel system needs to be cleaned out, including the old gas, and new gas added…perhaps with an additive designed for the use of unleaded fuels in leaded fuel engines. Start by draining the fuel system and checking the carburator. I’ll bet the float bowl is filled with cobwebs.

Yeah, new sparkplugs and ignition parts (wires, rotor, distributor cap, comndensor, plugs, and maybe even a coil) will be necessary. But I’d hold on that until you go through the fuel system.

You have some work ahead of you if you plan to get this back on the road. In addition to getting the engine running, you need to take a good thorough look at the brake system. 1964 brake systems weren’t great anyway, and yours is probably a collection of long-crumbled seals, stuck pistons, and rusty drums.

This has points in it and if it has been sitting around for a long time, the points are probably not conducting. A little file or emory board across the face of the points may get it to start, but it is going to take a LOT of work to make it road worthy.

See if a shot of starting fluid gives it a kick, then at least you will know if it is electrical or fuel related.

You need to see if the engine can even turn over.

On the front of the crankshaft is a bolt. Take the proper size socket and breaker bar and try turning the engine over by hand. If the engine is hard to turn over by hand, there’s a problem with the engine internally from sitting too long.


Quoting @ElmoreR91 " it makes a sound like it’s getting ready to come to life, but won’t actual get there. "

Are you saying that the engine cranks, goes 'round and 'round, AKA turns over, but will not start?
Do you know how to check to see if you have spark at the ignition points inside the distributor? If you don’t know how to do that, can you pull one spark plug, lay the metal base against something solid, like the cylinder head, and have someone crank the engine (if it does crank) to see if you have spark across the contacts of the spark plug?

I agree that the FIRST thing you should have done is clean out the fuel system. Just how long has this car been sitting? The gas is old if it’s more than a year, although it would run on two or three year old gas. Ten year old gas, probably not. Does it smell like gas, or some other compound like varnish? Your car won’t run well, if at all, on varnish.

One of the cars my folks had when I started driving was a '62 Rambler American 220 Station wagon. I took my driving test in its garage mate, a '62 Rambler Ambassador.

The first thing I would do now, is clean everything the best you can. Like other have said I would have cleaned the fuel system, but it appears you’ve added new gas. So here’s what I would do.

  1. Change the oil.
  2. Make sure you have spark.
  3. Make sure you’re getting fuel
  4. check the timing.

Basically you’re trouble shooting, start with the easy stuff, spark on an old car is easy to check (especially if you have a gullible little brother, sorry did that once it was funny though). If you don’t have spark then fix that system, points, condenser, plugs

Then check to make sure you’re getting fuel to the carb, crack open a line and crank the engine with the coil disconnected (you really don’t want a fire). If you’re not getting fuel, then fuel pump, and filters, and if you have to do that clean the system while you’re at it.

Once you know you’re getting fuel to the carb. then check and see if you’re getting fuel out of the carb, work the throttle, you should see or smell the fuel. If not then rebuild the carb.

With a car sitting that long you could be looking at points and plugs a fuel pump and fuel filter. None of which are that expensive so you could just spend a few $$ and replace them all. I pulled an old dodge out of a field and it cost less then $100 to replace all of that. Drove it for over a year, (long story made short had a bunch of medical bills and had to sell my truck and a relative told me I could have it for free if I could get it running) and yes a $100 was a LOT of money for me at the time. Still have the truck and me and my son are rebuilding it.

Hope it helps