While some of its dimensions are slightly larger, the Lancer is a fairly close replica of the Valiant. The Valiant's 108.5-inch wheelbase is repeated in the Lancer. Both are 53.3 inches high and offer the fine-performing standard 101-hp slanted six engine, as well as optional engines which turn 145 hp. As compacts go, both are heavy. Valiant weighs in this year at a heftier 2,695 pounds (up 60 from 1960) and Lancer weighs 2,725.
Lancer's styling should win the same flattery accorded Valiant last year. As in the Valiant, the large windows extend into the roof line, and the grille, hood and bumper come together in a forward-thrust V design, making it a handsome car. Two-door and four-door sedans and four-door station wagons fill out the line.
Where do these new compacts leave George Romney and his American Motors Corporation Ramblers? Right where Romney wants to be. "Refreshing change is one thing," he said not long ago, "but incessant change has a touch of idiocy." AMC now calls its 108-inch-wheelbase Ramblers "classic," the basic design having been retained. But there have been changes, and the boxy models of two seasons ago are out. Most improved is the Rambler American, the 100-inch-wheelbase car that has lost its bathtub bulge and has sleeker lines. American will offer a convertible model this year, thus becoming the second compact convertible (Studebaker's Lark was the first).
There are now 12 compacts being produced by American manufacturers. The models have become so popular that they have forced modifications on the low-and medium-priced cars, many of which are shorter today than they were a year ago and now offer engines burning regular fuel. But the ambivalent attitude of the consumer still has Detroit guessing. Two things seem sure: U.S. buyers have more and better models to choose from than they have had in years and, until further notice, the chromium craze is over.