A Special Car
Story Jefferson Bryant / Images Jesse Bowers and Steve Fox - July 19, 2012 10:00 AM
When Norman Luke went to his local dealership to buy a new car, he wasn’t sure what he wanted.
It didn’t take long for him to realize the Sparkling Wine paint glistening off the sculpted lines of that 1972 AMC Ambassador Brougham station wagon held the answer.
He didn’t need a wagon, but it just had a certain look to it. When he asked about it, he was told that those cars are not popular. That dealer had never sold a single one. They suggested maybe Norman should “take a look at a few of these more popular models”.
Norman, though, liked the idea of having a one of a kind, so he made a deal on the spot and drove it home. Norman put about 80,000 miles on the car and continued to drive it up until he turned 85 in 2000, then Ms. Ruby sat in the garage.
Norman’s nephew, John Reel, asked after the wagon and Norman said he was just going to junk it. Not happy with that answer, John kept after his uncle until he finally told him to just come pick it up. That is where Stacy Thompson, the current caretaker, comes in. Stacy is Norman’s great-nephew and he has handled the restoration of the Ambassador wagon.
“I just happen to know quite a few people in the restoration business,” Stacy told us. “The car didn’t need a lot of work, but it had some issues.”
Stacy took the wagon to GA Coachworks in San Diego for the minor resto, which only took six months. The 360ci engine was freshened up with a four-barrel carb, new larger cam and aluminum intake, feeding a fresh set of dual exhaust pipes. In 1972, AMC introduced the first 12-month, 12,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty; with over 150,000 miles on the car’s otherwise stock engine, this is a certainly a testament to its longevity.
On the exterior, the body was treated to a fresh coat of the factory Sparkling Wine paint. Instead of replacing the aged vinyl woodgrain decals, Stacy opted for some Black Cherry paint for a two-tone effect. He also added new 20-inch wheels to blend a little new with the vintage body lines.
Since the restoration was completed, the wagon has been driven more than 60,000 miles, going to many shows, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Sacramento and Arizona. “This is a driver, not a trailer queen,” Stacy said.
In all of his travels to AMC shows, Stacy has never seen another ’72 Ambassador wagon. Come to think of it, neither have we. After all, it was this car that made us stop at a small show in San Diego. Glad we did.