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Is This the Most Beautiful Marlin Ever Built?

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 7/8/2015 Brandan Gillogly, Jorge Nunez

1965 Rambler Marlin Studio 01

1965 Rambler Marlin Studio 01
© Provided by Hotrod

Who doesn’t love an underdog? We HOT ROD editors tend to flock to the oddballs, the quirky body styles that were ahead of their time and weren’t truly appreciated until they were long canceled by their makers. Many AMCs fit the bill, especially the Rambler Marlin, a three-year-only model that helped steer muscle-car styling for years to come.


“I don’t let the car leave my garage, it takes too long to get it back”— Bob Bruhn on building the car all within his three-car garage

Bob Bruhn’s 1965 Rambler Marlin was on display in the House of Kolor booth at the 2014 SEMA show in Las Vegas because of its amazing, custom-mixed, black-cherry paint, but the canvas it was sprayed on is deserving in its own right. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Marlin is that Bob did all of the custom body modifications, chassis work, and final assembly in his home garage. Because we didn’t have a factory Marlin parked alongside to compare it with, there were some changes we didn’t notice until Bob pointed them out. When we asked Bob what inspired him to cut up the rusty $1,800 car three years ago and begin its transformation, he told us in a matter-of-fact way: “It was sitting in the driveway.”

The dash sheetmetal is factory, although now it’s filled with Dakota Digital custom analog gauges. A 1954 Pontiac steering wheel was cut down to 15-inch diameter.© Provided by Hotrod The dash sheetmetal is factory, although now it’s filled with Dakota Digital custom analog gauges. A 1954 Pontiac steering wheel was cut down to 15-inch diameter.

Bob had a few of the major sheetmetal modifications in mind and had already begun some of the major surgery on the roof while designer Keith Kaucher of Kaucher Kustoms helped dial in the details with a rendering. The two biggest exterior modifications we immediately noticed were the nose of the car and the top. Even though we couldn’t tell just what had been done, we knew it looked better than any stock 1965 Marlin. Bob cut the roof free of the windshield header and side windows and laid it down until the rear window looked right, which took about 2 inches out of the height of the C-pillar. Imagine the whole roof pivoting down in front while hinged along the back of the fastback. The rear of the roof was then fixed in position and the front portion of the roof was lifted up and pancaked to more closely match the windshield, which is still at the factory height. Bruhn gave us an even more detailed version of how the chop was done, but the bottom line is that he cut all of the ugly out of what was once a rather bulbous roof and left a much more sleek design looking like it could have been a factory concept. It’s clearly more in line with what designers would have wanted and less like the factory roof that seems to be a compromise for rear passenger headroom. In fact, it looks a lot like the redesigned, better-looking Marlin that AMC launched as a 1967 model on the larger Ambassador platform.

The honeycomb grille was CNC machined from aluminum.© Provided by Hotrod The honeycomb grille was CNC machined from aluminum.

As for the front, 1965 Marlins had a rather flat grille with slightly protruding headlights. It’s not a bad-looking car, but it’s perhaps a bit goofy—sort of like a 1964 Chevelle that was squeezed until its headlights bulged out. Sorry, AMC fans, we call ’em like we see ’em. To make the Marlin more muscular, Bob used a cowl-induction hood from a 1970 Nova and stretched it both toward the windshield and forward to create a peak. Lucky for Bob, the width was nearly dead on and only required a bit of finesse on the edges to create a tight gap with the fenders. Bob kept his eyes open while visiting local car shows, scouting for the right donor for a front bumper. He finally found the right shape in a 1965 Dodge Coronet rear bumper. Not just a simple bolt-on, the heavy Mopar chrome was cut into seven pieces and welded back together to fit the new prow. The same process was done in the rear to bring the Marlin’s factory rear bumper closer to the body. The new peaked front end required custom headlight bezels and grille insert, both of which were machined from billet aluminum. For the finishing touch, Bob sculpted a marlin figure out of brass and had it chromed.

The body was channeled 3 inches over the suspension for a low stance and an AccuAir air-spring suspension replaced the front struts and rear coil springs. That was no small feat considering the Marlin is a unibody. A front suspension from Scott’s Hot Rods with upper and lower control arms helped to get rid of the factory struts and streamlined the procedure, but Bob confessed that if he had to do it all over again it would have been much less hassle to go with a full aftermarket chassis.

1965 Rambler Marlin Studio 147© Provided by Hotrod 1965 Rambler Marlin Studio 147

Under the hood, a Chevy LS3 uses ported heads and a new Comp Cams camshaft has been installed to the tune of about 600 hp. An MSD Atomic EFI throttle-body injection system adds the convenience and performance of fuel injection while still looking the part of a carbureted engine. Further cleaning up the engine bay, the plug wires run to coils under the dash and the whole engine and accessories were sprayed with Sherwin Williams Rugged Tone for a bare, bead-blast look. The entire engine bay is framed by custom inner fenderwells painted in the same custom House of Kolor black cherry. The rest of the powertrain is a 700R4 trans and Ford 9-inch with 3.70 gears.

You can’t talk about the Black Marlin without mentioning its paint. The immaculate finish was sprayed by Steve Gaboury in a spray booth that Bob rented for a weekend. The multi-stage process began with KD3001 sealer, then two coats of Jet Black basecoat were topped with two coats of Russet Pearl. Then three coats each of Brandywine, Apple Red Kandy, and the House of Kolor Karrier that the Kandy is based on. Finally, four coats of Kosmic Klear were shot to give depth and the ability to cut and buff the surface to perfection.

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