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Right Hand American Classics

A bit of All Right Published: 20th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Right Hand American Classics

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Not all American cars are left-hand drive. Here's some 'proper' UK classics that are better suited to our roads

Think of American cars and you immediately associate them as all being left hookers. However, there were a good many manufactured in factories in Canada in RHD form for export to Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia (who changed from driving on the left to the right in the mid-1960’s) and the UK. From the mid-1950’s onwards there were a good many RHD Yanks cruising our roads, mainly saloons such as the Ford Fairlane, Plymouth Fury, Dodge Kingsway, Desoto Diplomat, AMC Ambassador, and numerous others. Some cars were converted from LHD to RHD in the UK in small numbers and Ruddspeed were well known for their Mustang conversions

AMC Ambassador

The American Motors Corporation was born out of the merger of Nash and Hudson Motors who produced cars from 1954 until 1987. The Rambler model was initially sold as both a Nash and a Hudson, but later become a make in its own right with the Rebel and Ambassador. Introduced in 1956 the Rambler was available as a sedan and station wagon powered by a 195.6ci straight-six or 250ci V8 that replaced previous V8 engines that were purchased from Packard. A top of the range model, the Ambassador during its production years has been referred to as the AMC Ambassador, the Rambler Ambassador and the Ambassador V8 by Rambler. All models were built at Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 1958 Ambassador received a make-over with styling by AMC’s Ed Anderson. The overall appearance was of a rather boxy looking car, nothing particularly exciting, and didn’t really appeal to young at heart buyers. There was now a full width front grille, quad headlights, lots of brightwork, canted tailfi ns, two-tone paintwork and a 327ci V8 engine rated at a most respectable 250/270bhp. This provided quite a lively performance with a 0-60mph time of under 10 seconds and very impressive for its time. Transmissions were the three-speed manual or three-speed automatic. The Ambassador featured monocoque construction, independent front suspension, coil springs all round and drum brakes. With a high roof line it could accommodate six passengers at a squeeze. It was however, arguably aesthetically better pleasing as a station wagon than a sedan.

Ford Galaxie 500

The Galaxie model arrived in 1959 and production continued up until 1974. It was Ford’s direct competitor to the Chevrolet Impala as a high production model. The fi rst generation Galaxies were ostensibly a larger reworking of the Fairlane, with the Skyliner retractable model featuring an impressive and complicated folding roof system that took up valuable boot space in the process. The second generation Galaxie 1960-1964 featured an all new body with boxy styling, declaring the excesses of the late 1950’s had gone for good. However, the Galaxie was still a large and powerful car with the largest engine options of 406ci and 427ci giving an early indication of what was to come with the impending muscle car wars still a few years away. Indeed, the Galaxie was to prove most successful on the race tracks and the third generation model (1965 1966) proved a winner on NASCAR circuits winning 48 out off 55 Grand National events in 1965. They were also raced in the UK by such notable drivers as ‘Gentleman’ Jack Sears and Sir Jack Brabham. With experience gleaned from stock car racing the Galaxie boasted a very sturdy frame, a completely new front suspension and the rear leaf springs were junked in favour of Ford’s fi rst ever coil spring rear suspension with a three-link system. The axle was located by twin control arms, a single lateral member and a Panhard rod. There were four body styles to choose from, including two and four door sedans, a four-door hardtop and a convertible. Interestingly the latter was the third best selling ragtop in the USA in 1966 with 27,454, only eclipsed by the Mustang and Chevrolet Impala. The Galaxie was a huge (17.5ft long) reasonably heavy (2 tons) fast, thanks to its large capacity engine options and comfortable car with a sporting interior. It was claimed that the $3300 Galaxie 500 LTD hardtop coupe was as quiet as a Rolls-Royce!

Cadillac STS

Cadillac fi rst offered a Seville model in the mid 1950’s which represented a top quality luxury coupe. The Seville disappeared after 1960, emerged again in the 1970’s as compact model and revamped again in the late 1980’s as a serious contender against BMW and Mercedes Benz. The STS model which stands for Seville Touring Sedan was an option package since the late 1980’s, but became a model in its own right from 1990. It broke new ground for technology in 1992 with the 4.6 litre V8 Northstar engine and featuring FWD. However, the Northstar name wasn’t specifi cally just an engine designation, it was a ‘system’ that incorporated the transmission and electronic (RSS) Road sensing suspension set-up which were all interactive via a network of electronic sensors positioned around the car. The chief of Cadillac’s exterior design department Richard Ruzzin said of the new 1992 STS and Eldorado models, “They were our best attempt to put Cadillac back on the same playing fi eld with the best automobile in the world.” Once again Cadillac stood proud by its heritage “Standard of the World”. The all-aluminium DOHC 32 valve Northstar V8 was initially rated at 200bhp, but quickly increased to 300bhp. The four-speed 4T80-E automatic GM’s renowned Turbo Hydramatic that offered effortless silky smooth gear changing. In 1993 Motor Trend Magazine reckoned the STS was the fi nest handling and quickest ever example of the model. Available as a luxury four-door sedan, the STS was equipped with just about every bell and whistle you can think of and a leather interior came as standard. It certainly made for an interesting alternative to the Japanese Lexus model. In addition to the Northstar running gear system, in 1998 Cadillac added Stabilitrak which enhanced cornering stability during adverse driving conditions. The STS was unquestionably an impressive advanced technology luxury car.

Ford Fairlane

The Fairlane model was introduced in 1955 and was produced right the way through until 1971. The model, which replaced the Crestline as Ford top of the range large sedan, was named after Henry Ford’s Fair Lane Mansion in Dearborn, Michigan. The Fairlane Crown Victoria was Ford’s answer to Chevrolet’s Bel-Air, but it never quite enjoyed the same following and was built in much smaller numbers. With its two-tone colour paintwork and lots of stainless steel brightwork, the Crown Victoria had plenty of style and glamour. Much of the styling input was by designer Frank Hershey’s protégé L. David Ash. The model had rakish lines, a wrap around front windscreen, a full width concave chrome grille, and a stainless steel roll over hoop that gave the impression that the roof could possibly slide back, but it didn’t. An unusual $70 option was to have a green Plexiglass top that fi tted on the front section of the roof. This gimmick wasn’t overly popular with buyers, but nowadays it’s the most collectable of Crown Victorias due to the rarity. There were only 1999 glass-top Victorias for 1955 and 603 for 1956.Ford’s chief engineer deemed it prudent for the Crown Victoria chassis to feature cross bracing to eliminate body fl exing and thus endowing the car with a taut solid feel. The running gear comprised of upper and lower A-arms and coil springs at the front, a live axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs and to the rear. Engine options ranged from a 223ci straight-six of 120/137bhp and Ford’s new Y-Block V8 introduced in 1954 that proved to be a great success and went on to a base for the hottest cars of the 1960’s. These were available in 272ci, 292ci and 312ci. Transmissions were either threespeed manual with overdrive or three-speed Ford-OMatic auto as an option. Crown Victorias for 1956 changed very little, and can easily be identifi ed over the previous year as they had additional front quarter bumpers above the main bumper, and the stainless steel Fairlane side body mouldings were of a marginally different shape. Ford’s ‘Lifeguard’ Design interior safety features included front seats belts, padded dashboard and visors, crash-proof door locks, breakaway rear view mirror and impact absorbing dished steering wheels.


The AMC Rambler is to all intents and purposes a fi ne car, but not very sought after or collectable andtherefore an Ambassador in excellent condition would be around £4000 tops. The Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria is much more collectable and even in rough condition will be £8000 with pristine cars closer to £13,000 - £15,000. Expect to pay around £5000 for a Ford Galaxie 500 with a premium for convertibles. Entry level for the Cadillac STS will be £2500-£5000.


The AMC Ambassador represents a good, spacious V8, though the body styling may not be liked. The Fairlane represents another well built 1950’s classic. The Crown Victoria is a much underrated model, clearly not as popular as its Chevy Bel-Air competition, but every bit as attractive, comfortable and pleasing to drive. Glass-Tops are at a premium. Excellent club support and strong following in the USA. The Galaxie 500 is a beast while the Cadillac STS represents ultimate luxury in a ‘compact-ish’ body but its a modern. As you can see the choice is limited if you insist on a RHD classic!

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