The Rebel Machine Stripe Kit Program (Part 1)
Gearing Up to Run the Stripes
The only reason you can buy a stripe kit for your Rebel Machine in the 21st century is because I started making them in 1996. If I hadn't, Rebel Machines would still likely be considered worthless. At the time, they were the most disliked - even detested of all AMC made vehicles by AMC staff and even other AMC owners. A few die hards like myself still cared about them, but it had been years since the performance car magazines had given them much ink.
AMC had run out of stripe kits by 1978. I tried to buy one from AMC head office for my #1 Machine then when I was restoring it and was told in very unfriendly language that there was no stock and none available in the foreseeable future. I concluded that AMC staff had no love for Rebel Machines and yes they had reasons.
The biggest and most important of those reasons was that THE MACHINE came along just as AMCs financial fortunes took nose dive because of the acquisition of the Jeep brand. At such a time a performance car promotional campaign and supporting program just expanded the financial hurt and drain. Everything to do with THE MACHINE spelt profit drain.
Back in the early 90s having traded my #1 Rebel Machine, I bought my second Rebel Machine and it needed a paint job and a stripe kit. I figured there was no point beginning a restoration without first having an authentic stripe kit in hand. I figured that restoring a Machine would be a complete waste of money if there was no stripe kit to put on it at the end of the restoration. That's because the stripe kits define the car to the general public and especially in the automotive world of literature. Solid colour cars are almost invisible by comparison and worth substantially less as a rule. In fact in Canada by that time they were worthless and considered gas guzzlers to boot. That notion has not changed much in Canada.
My first move was to call Phoenix Graphics in Arizona because their ads in the performance car magazines famously stated that they made graphic kits for all domestic makes of performance cars. It turned out that Phoenix Graphics did not make graphics for Rebel Machines or any other American Motors vehicles. AMC was beneath their notice.
In 1994 I called Chrysler Headquarters and asked one of their corporate lawyers to get Chrysler to re-run the stripe kits. Not interested. What about letting me re-run the stripe kits? Maybe. Let me think about it... Over a couple of years I badgered him into letting me reproduce the stripes and Chrysler instructed 3M to release the ink recipes so I could run the stripes.
Then at the Kitchener, Ontario AMO show in the mid-nineties I met Barb Hillock whose company at the time was the only source for stripe kits. By then I knew her then $400 kits were defective because the inks washed off. So my last hope had evaporated. Besides she had none left and was getting out of the AMC business because her husband Bill had died recently.
In 1996 I finally got firm with the Chrysler lawyer and put a proposition to him that would allow him to finally get me out of his hair and at the same time allow me to make the stripe kits with Chrysler's blessing. His stipulation was that the stripes had to be made in a Chrysler and 3M approved shop. They gave me a choice of two shops. The one I chose was run by two former Rebel Machine owners.
Since there were no colour scanners then, it was a matter of colour matching using the human eye. Several people participated including Pat Wnek and an international colour expert. There we were/are - three principals involved and all three of us owned or had owned Rebel Machines.
Even so, none of it would have been possible but for the fact that Randy Piitz had his NOS stripe kit under his bed that was still in its American Motors box. He lent me the kit to use as the template to help create the next generation of stripe kits.
As well, I'd previously bought a NOS rear quarter, and used a door and fender from my #3 car while it was being restored to tape out the stripe kit outline. From there it was digitized to become the master file from which the stripe kits have been made with a few adjustments along the way since that time.
The Licencing Issue where the Rebel Machine Stripes are Concerned
By 1995 Chrysler's corporate lawyer had given me permission to make the stripe kits. 3M was involved in the decision and was instructed by Chrysler to give me the recipe for the AMC blue. Back then there were no colour scanners so the blue ink recipe was a company secret owned by Chrysler but administrated by 3M on Chrysler's behalf.
They initially wanted me to pay a licensing fee but when they found out how few sets were involved, they gave 3M the authorization to run the stripes without asking for it. They never have asked but the lawyer gave me the go-ahead when he authorized 3M to release the inks to me.
Upon giving me permission to make the stripe kits, 3M initially was to make the stripes for me. But they refused saying that they would not be involved unless the run was for a minimum run of 50 sets. There has never been a time since the cars were new when 50 Machine owners could be organized enough to order 50 sets of stripes. History has shown that it takes two years or more to get ten Machine owners to order up a ten set run. So 3M was not involved other than at Chrysler's instruction to release the ink to me so I could make them using an approved local supplier. That's what I did. I selected the supplier and both Chrysler and 3M approved my decision. I've been working with the same company ever since and have followed every direction Chrysler gave me which in the end was none.
In order to make them at all, I needed a NOS set of stripes. Randy Piitz had just such a set under his bed still in the AMC box it came in.
What none of us knew at the time was that AMC had created a set of dies from which the original stripe kits had been cut. When Chrysler forced AMCs employees to dispose of the tooling and design drawings, all of the tooling was ordered dumped by Chrysler on the bottom of Lake Michigan. At that time, anything in the way of AMC parts that could be carried out by the employees was carried out. Chrysler didn't care, they wanted it gone. So despite the mass exodus of parts, Chrysler can't even go after the people who removed the parts because they didn't police it. Years later they did in hindsight and did successfully prosecute one individual who had apparently been pilfering long before the order to dispose of the equipment, parts and design drawings. The design drawings according to Vince Geracci the Senior Cars Design Manager at the time were all thrown in the garbage by the staff. He later told me at an AMO meet in Kenosha that if any of them had had any idea how valuable their work would become they'd have saved it because there was nothing stopping them from doing so.
The dies for the stripe kits made their way out of the building at that time. It wasn't saleable merchandise so the edict to dispose of AMC tooling applied to the dies. Chrysler by the terms of their own irrefutable instructions to their own recently acquired employees, threw out the tools and dies and the design of the stripes. The destruction is all verifiable.
Years later most of the dies resurfaced in Oregon at a swap meet where they were obtained by a friend of mine who wants to remain nameless. I traded a set of seat belts for them years after that. I legally own the dies and the design that Chrysler threw in the garbage.
My first run of stripes was based faithfully on the stripe set from under Randy's bed. We colour matched from that and the O'Donnell-Morrison Machine then located in Guelph, Ontario.
We needed two different sets of stripes to match against because Randy's set had the silvery white chevron stripe over the trunk lid and rear quarters. I knew when I saw them that wasn't right and after a discussion with Pat Wnek at the time we were both certain AMC must at some point in the eighties have created a second run. But in doing so changes were made to the original design.
Steve Bruggeman was the first customer to install a set of my stripes on his Machine and he sent me photos. When he did, it was clear that the second run had not been based on the original artwork. Someone had not liked the beige stripe. So that was changed and so was the grille stripe. Other changes were made as well that I won't reveal. By that time they'd either lost the dies, thrown them out or forgotten all about them. It's also possible they had been taken by Jim when he left the company because he could not have been involved in the second run because he had solved problems before running the first sets that were not solved or even understood by the second team who developed the second run.
At some point 3M decided it was going to make stripe kits for customers in 2015. However they don't have the original artwork either so they have made new and different mistakes with the kits they have produced.
After I'd been making the stripe kits for over ten years, Phoenix Graphics who I'd tried to buy stripes from in the early 90s decided it was finally time to notice that Rebel Machines existed and that since they had been advertising all along that they made graphics for all the muscle era cars when they didn't, that it was time to start making Machine stripe kits. They went to Chrysler and got licensed to make the kits. What they didn't get was the stripe kit design or the correct colours. So their kits despite their false advertising, are not remotely close to the correct shape. Not my problem. They were cheated by Chrysler who did not own the rights they licensed to Phoenix. Chrysler did not have the design. They'd given it to me when they approved me to make the stripes. They had not owned the design since they had given the order to scrap it and the tooling. The graphics are automotive parts and vendors had already been making the stripe kits and were not hiding that fact from anyone including Chrysler. The fact that their kits were all wrong was irrelevant because Chrysler, Merecedes and now Fiat to this day could not recognise a Rebel Machine stripe kit to this very day.
It is my design because I created it using legally obtained permission, legally obtained intellectual rights, the materials and the hardware. Chrysler threw it all out and I ended up with it.