When Norman Luke went to his local dealership in National City to buy a new car, he wasn’t sure what he wanted. Then he saw the Sparkling Wine paint glistening off the sculpted lines of the 1972 AMC Ambassador Brougham Station Wagon and he knew that this beauty would be his. 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, in fact, that dealer had never sold a single one, and maybe Norman should “take a look at a few of these more popular models”. Norman 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 his 85th birthday 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 comes in, the car’s current caretaker. 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 restoration, which only took 6 months. The 360 ci engine was freshened up with a 4-barrel carb, new 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. The Ambassador was built to last, and the fact that the car has over roughly 150,000 miles without an engine or transmission build is a testament to that.
On the exterior, the body was treated to a fresh coat of the factory Sparkling Wine paint, but instead of replacing the aged vinyl woodgrain decals, Stacy opted for some Black Cherry paint for a two-tone effect. He also added some new 20-inch wheels to blend a little new with the vintage body lines.
Since the restoration was completed, the wagon has been driven all over SoCal and to many shows, including trips from LA to Vegas, Arizona and Sacramento. “She is a queen, but not a trailer queen” Stacy said. In all of his travels to AMC shows, Stacy has never seen another ’72 Ambassador wagon. In fact, neither have we; it was this car that made us stop at a small show in San Diego. Glad we did.