In its hey day, there were around 27 AMC/Rambler and Jeep Dealerships in and around the St. Louis area. During the late 60’s and early 70’s a few local Dealers sponsored Drag Race cars and competed in the Mid-West with success. American Motors made its presence known even though the ‘BIG 3’ had 4 assembly plants in the area. St. Louis was second only to Detroit in Auto Production in the 60’s – 70’s.
Between 1975 and 1979, a group of AMX enthusiast in the North County of St. Louis area, Mike Miles, Ken Hogshead and myself, Jeff Malacarne, began to hang out together. There were several Car Clubs in the St. Louis area but none that really opened their doors to AMCs/Ramblers. We were genuine independents/underdogs. Whenever Mike, Ken and myself would get our AMX’s out, the topic of starting an AMX Club would always arise.
After a while I finally decided to grab the bull by the horns, and with the help of Mike and Ken, attempted to start a club. By running an ad in the St. Louis Post Dispatch,(Newspaper-Pre-Internet) some interest was aroused locally. In December of 1979, we had our 1st meeting in our living room in Harvester, Mo. We started getting additional calls. Within 2 months we outgrew our living room. The Pizza Hut near Lambert Field was our next home for our meetings, only one of many venues over the years. Our numbers began to grow, and immediately the interest for ALL AMC Cars became apparent, not just AMX’s.
The Club was open to anyone interested in AMC’s. Members did not have to own an AMC to join. The Club changed quickly from only AMX’s and was named Gateway AMC Association. During the early years, several members would attend AMC Conventions in Kenosha and we aligned our group with the American Motors Owners Association. I believe we became a Chapter of AMO around 1982.
During the early years, our membership numbers would vary. With 3 members at its inception Gateway ranks fluctuated, and currently have been holding steady with a group of about 60 enthusiasts. We cover approximately a 75 mile radius around the St. Louis Area. Over the years we also acquired Associate Club Members who would receive newsletters only. Those members were scattered around the country.
Unfortunately we have lost a few of our Gateway Family members over the years. Their spirit and contributions to the AMC Hobby have made Gateway AMC what it is today, they are truly missed.
Our initial interests were mainly restoration/maintaining the cars, and attending Car Shows. Soon we started to have a group of guys who loved to race and modify their cars.
I believe the success of Gateway AMC has been the fact that our cars are just a common thread, the main focus is on friendship and family by doing things other than just Car Shows. Picnics, Wine Runs, Freeze- Out Get-together’s in the middle of winter and Christmas Parties to name a few. We enjoy our cars, but the camaraderie and friendships acquired over the years has been the bond that holds it together.
In 1989 we decided to celebrate our 10th Anniversary as a club by hosting the 1989 AMO International Convention. As anyone who has worked on a National Convention, you know how much blood, sweat and tears it takes to pull off a successful show. Temperatures in St. Louis in July/August can range from a pleasant 80* with low humidity to a whopping 100*+ with 90% humidity. Over the years I have seen many local clubs implode when attempting to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. It becomes very stressful putting a National Show together. We had a steep learning curve and of course we had high heat and humidity for our 1st outing. (Several Canadians really suffered while camping when in town).
After the convention was history, we, like many other 1st time Show Host stated that we would never ever do it again! Well 8 years went by, the pain was forgotten and the idea was brought up to host the National meet once more to celebrate Gateway’s 20th Anniversary in 1999. I think you see the trend here. For 2009, we thought we would try something never done in the American Motor Owners Association history, an In-Door/Outdoor show venue. Wow, we finally would have a cool place in St. Louis in July. Well everything was set up and the show time arrived. Of course, temperatures were in the upper 70’s and low 80’s that day. Odds of having a cool July Show in St. Louis is slim to none! Happy 30th Gateway AMC Association!
2019 rolled around and we decided to do it again! Are we crazy or what?!?!?! Well this time, the Collinsville Convention Center paid off. Upper 90* temperatures with high humidity made the air-conditioned Center a welcome place to get out of the heat. Gateway AMC still RAMBLIN after 40 years!
2029? Who knows?? The hobby is constantly changing, and only a few of us are getting older! We at Gateway AMC, I believe, will continue to do our part to “support and promote AMC’s Finest”, our Club motto.