Designed by Nash and originally introduced in 1941, American Motors’ first straight-six engine was the 195.6 cu in (3.2 L)-often referred to as the 196. The Rambler version was produced from 1952 through 1965 in both overhead valve (OHV) and flathead (L-head) side-valve versions.
Even though gasoline was in the 20-cent range in the 1950s, the state of America’s economy was down and the thrifty six-cylinder engines used in the American series were well built and quite reliable. Its 3.125-inch bore and a fairly long 4.25-inch stroke, when combined with its 8.0:1 compression ratio, yielded 90 hp. The crankshaft ran in four main bearings, and had solid valve lifters and a single Carter YF-2014S one-barrel carburetor.
American Motors introduced a die-cast aluminum block version of the engine in 1961. It was produced through 1964. This engine used cast-iron cylinder liners and a cast-iron head. The cast iron and aluminum block heads are of similar design, but will not interchange. The aluminum block head is roughly 1/8″ wider than the iron block head and uses a slightly different head bolt pattern.