“Red Lizy”, one of a kind
Text by AMCRC Member Johan Lindersson, with assistance from Mr. Lawrence K Behle
Red Lizy 1976
This is the story about a unique Rambler Ambassador Convertible and its owners. It started when Lawrence K. Behle a 23-year young man in
The Ambassador had become very much appreciated, almost a child, and a dear family member for many years and she gets the name “Lizy”. The reason for this name is that Larry’s father always talked to his car using the name "Tin Lizzy" from the nickname given the old Fords. The Rambler became "Lizy" as in "come on Lizy, we can make it up this slippery hill".
Even though Ramblers has a well-known quality reputation the car needed some reapers. One major issue was fading paint and rust in the rear fenders. AMC used enamel type of paint originally, but the red color constantly oxidized to a dull almost-orange color in only months. In the early days of her existence, she was always parked outside in the sun, as Larry had no other place to keep her. A good wash & paste wax job brought her back to shiny bright red, but then in a few (maybe 6 months) [she changed] back to the dull orange again. There was also always a rust problem on the "quarter panels" behind the doors & under the rear fenders so once when Larry had a "rust job" performed, the repair man suggested that the car be repainted using acrylic lacquer, a new paint at the time. Larry seldom had to wax the car again. It always retained its color & shine after that. The reason for the excessive rust under the rear fenders was due to unavoidable water running down under the rear window & into the trunk, then into the "wells" on either side - with no way out. Larry solved the problem by drilling some small holes in those "wells" to vent the water & it seemed to help considerably.
The person that did all of the repair work was a friend of Larry and owner of the Old Style Body Shop, by the name of John Counauer. His hobby was traveling the country & finding old, derelict airplanes & rebuilding them. Some of them made their way into the
A recurring problem was the carburetor that Larry had to renovate several times. If it gets any dirt, etc. in the gas, the float will hang up. Once, when driving the car, Larry began to smell gas very strong. He pulled off to the side of the road & upon opening the hood, found gas running out of the carburetor and down over the hot engine & manifolds. He shut it off and called the service manager at Airport Rambler, Bill Kesting (also a relative of Larry & Wilford Behle), Bill told Larry to take a hammer and give the carburetor a good “whack” on the side & it would probably be OK - at least to drive it the rest of the way home. He did and it worked, then Larry had the carburetor cleaned and overhauled and she was good for another couple of years.
Another peculiarity of Lizy’s was doing was that she sometimes smoked on start. This is the story that Bill Kesting told Larry. If you ever have looked under the hood of an Ambassador V8 from the early sixties you may have noticed that the engine sits at a slightly nose up position. Because of the position & the airflow, the back part of the engine gets more heat than the front. Because of this and the position of the exhaust manifolds, the aft, especially the left aft (drivers side), valve guide seals tend to deteriorate at a faster rate thus allowing small amounts of oil to seep down into the cylinder when the engine is shut down and left idle for days or weeks at a time. Every time Larry ran her the first time after sitting for a month or so, there was smoke all over the place, but once it burned out, everything was OK. The good side and the bad side - it wasn’t much oil. Larry changed the oil approx. every 2000 miles & normally did not have to add oil between changes. The bad side is that the rear spark plugs, especially on the left side had to be pulled and cleaned every several hundred miles or she would start “missing” & the gas mileage would drop considerably. Other than that, Larry had little or no problems with the engine itself.
Another little tip that Bill Kesting gave Larry was that if you don’t drive your manual transmission car for periods of time, it would be well to push the clutch pedal down to the floor and wedge a stick (or something) between the seat rails & the pedal to keep it there. Otherwise there is the possibility that the clutch plates will “weld” together from rust &/or corrosion and either will not separate as they should or at least do damage to them by pulling part of one plate off, stuck to the other. Then you will have to replace them both.
There were also some issues with the overdrive controls. The upper overdrive cable holder came lose a couple of times because of loose screws. The button on the top of the over drive shift handle, which is supposed to kick out the overdrive when pressed, stopped working once or twice. Larry took it to the garage where he bought the car & they fixed it saying that they "repaired a broken wire".
Sometime around 1982,
Lizy was involved in one accident. Larry with wife & approx.
was driving home one very foggy, misty night and at an interchange
leaf) Larry could not find the turn. It had just been changed the day
Larry’s wife suddenly exclaimed "there it is", Larry saw it in the
fog, turned the wheel & as it was new, oily "blacktop" with mist
on it, the car "broke away" sliding sideways & came to rest
against the end of a concrete "road divider" dead center. The damage
& repairs (made by Larry’s trusted body shop) were that they
bumper, grill, radiator, fan & water pump. Other than that,
was straightened and repaired. Larry says “a very unpleasant experience
sure, but no injuries (my son was in this mothers arms) and the car
& drove as good as new in the end”.
Larry used Lizy as his daily driver until 1990. Thereafter she was only driven occasionally until 2009 when the odometer reeds 125000 miles. After been nursing the car for more than 40 years, Larry decided to sell Lizy and started trying to find a good AMC home for her. The first try is made April 2009 with an ad in a club magazine, the Gateway AMC “Ramblings”, but it failed. Next try was to put the car out on eBay. This worked out and the car was sold to a garage owner (motor cycles) in
On September the 10th the same year the car was sold again, this time to a devoted car and motorcycle collector in
The story now continues across Atlantic
It is not hard to bring home a car from the
Like Larry Behle, I also name the cars that I have a special relationship to. Sometimes it is simply like our Marlin, which is her name, and was from the very beginning. Some people confuse the name with the famous magician Merlin in King Arthur's Court. Others believe that the car is named after Marilyn the famous actress. I must explain to them that the car is both enchanting and has a nice shaped rear end, but she still is a fish. As I went home and waited for the new car, I pondered some of what name it would have. I decided pretty quickly that the car had more male than female traits, and then came the name "Red" by itself.It was with great excitement that I received my order. Would Red live up to my expectations? Buying a car on eBay is, as we know, like buying a pig in a poke. The start was not so good. The driver who drove the car carrier was in a bad mood. He had not been able to start Red, so had to winches up and down the car by hand. But unloading went smoothly, and the car rolled into the garage for an initial inspection, with the help of son-in-law and neighbors.
Lizy at home in the US in 1976On the whole, the car looked very well and also seemed to have passed the long journey without harm. The battery was both old and run down and put it immediately on the charger. The next morning it was time for the test start, but Red did not want to. I filled in more fuel in the tank and checked that there were ignition power, everything seemed OK. A proven trick is to schnapps the engine with a splash of gasoline in the carburetor, now it came to stuff! The car had reportedly received a new 2” dual exhaust, but [someone skipped the step of installing] some mufflers. Red roared like a hungry lion and also threw out the oily black smoke that quickly made it impossible to remain in the garage. My wife come running and wondered what in the world was going on, and so did a few neighbors. When [I was ready] I made a new test, this time outdoors. Red started now with no problems, but run nervously and badly. I decided at least to take a spin around the block. It turned out that the clutch gearbox and the brakes worked, but the overdrive did not. The car was also deteriorating, so it was a short trip. I had hoped to quickly get the car to the inspection of vehicles to be able to slide around in the late summer's warm winds, but had to change my plans and spend my spare time in the garage instead on the road.
Lizy at home in Sweeden in 2011. Not muh seems to have changed from the 1976 picture, except for a new white boot to replace the original black one. The white boot seems to go better iwth the cars interior, while the black one matched the convertible top.
The carburetor proved to be quite broken due to corrosion in the float house, so a replacement has to be purchased from Blaser. The new one made the engine runs like new. Right front spring was broken, so I replace all four along with the shock absorbers to be sure that the car would not be slanting. There was also a lot of crafting to get turn signals, brake lights, etc. work. Red also got mufflers which made my wife more sympathetic to him. On November 9th, it was finally time to go to the Swedish vehicle testing and get our verdict. It all went well and Red was passed with distinction. On the way home it started snowing and the Winter King arrived, as a twist of fate.
In the spring of 2011 I renovated the left window regulator and cleaned the gas tank & changed the petrol gauge. I did take the car to some local shows but not on any longer trips, I wanted to see that the car was dependable before I drive it for a longer distance. There are still a lot of little things to fix. A new cable the over drive switch must be installed, and I want to fix the cracked dashboard pad. But I’m in no hurry; I plan to keep this car for many years.
As the car nut I am, I would like to know the story behind my old car. In the case of Red, I was lucky when I got it with a lot off documentation, original order, receipts and more. I started to search for information on the car's original owner, Lawrence K Behle, on the web and phone book white pages. But it turned out that there were more people with the same name. First I thought to send letters to them all, but abandoned that idea. I also sought information on the car model to learn more about this beautiful model. I've been working with AMC for nearly 25 years, but there is always more to learn. In a Google search on "ambassador convertible twin stick" I got a smash hit. I found the network version of the Gateway AMC 'Ramblings' (club journal for the Gateway AMC in
An interesting coincidence is that in 1997 I went with my family to
So it was with great excitement I hit the number. Would someone answer wo was willing to let me have more information about Red. It was Mr. Behle self-respondents. I introduced myself and told me that I called from
Larry Behle with the Ambassador in 1967
In the summer of 2011 I went with my wife and some friends in the Swedish AMC Rambler Society to visit the AMC show "Cars in the Park", in
Larry was already as a young man very interested in aviation and decided early to become a pilot. In order to finance flying lessons, he worked extra for his uncle Wilford. Every Friday after school he and the service manager at Airport Rambler, Bill Kesting and yet another employee went by the night train from
The next Sunday morning Larry went off to the airport where he bought flying lessons for this newly earned salary. That way you can say that the Airport Rambler & American Motors helped Larry to acquire the pilot job, which in turn allowed him to purchase a brand new Rambler Ambassador Convertible in the spring of 1965.
I also took the chance of questioning Larry on our common baby (who recently turned 46 years). One thing I wondered about was a funny little metal plate with an engraved owl who was installed between the gear levers. I wondered if it was a symbol of any association or similar. Larry laughed and told us that it was his brother in law who made the plate and gave it to him because Larry had the nickname "Uncle Owl". Larry said “I have glued it on with a hearty click epoxy adhesive so you have to work really hard if you want to get it of”. I replied that the plate is a piece of the cars history, and as long as I own the car the owl remains where it is.
Larry's wife Prill did fall in love (not entirely unexpected) during their stay in
When we separated from Larry I felt like the adoption was finished and that I could now continue the custody of the car in the best way. I really hope we get the opportunity to meet with the nice couple Behle again, perhaps even in
I took of course the chance to buy some spare parts in
For those of you who are wondering, the car has now been given back her original sex and may now be considered as a she, and as for the name she has gained a double name as befits a girl from the South, her name is now "Red Lizy".
It's soon summer again and I hope for many miles with my dear and patient wife in our Rambler Ambassador Convertible.