Nash Motors Company was an American automobile manufacturer based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the United States from 1916 to 1937. From 1937 to 1954, Nash Motors was the automotive division of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. Nash production continued from 1954 to 1957 after the creation of American Motors Corporation.
Nash pioneered unitary construction (1941), also a heating and ventilation system whose operating principles are now universally utilized (1938), seat belts (1950) and the manufacture of cars in the compact (1950), and muscle car (1957) categories.
1917 Nash Fire Truck Model 3017
1919 Nash Model 681
1920 Nash Model 41
1921 Nash, Model 681, 5 passenger Touring
1922 Nash Roadster Model 42
1922 Nash, Model 691, 5 passenger, 4 Door Touring, 6 Cyl
1923 Nash 6 cylinder, 4 Door Coupe
1924 Nash lafayette
1925 Nash Mdl 131
1925 Nash Roadster, 6 cylinder
1927 Nash Light Six Model 221 Tourer
1927 Nash Six Touring
1928 Nash Special Six, Sedan
1928 Nash Standard Six, Cabriolet
1929 nash 400 copia ad spain
1929 Nash 400
1929 Nash Advanced Six, Rumbleseat Cabriolet
1929 Nash Special Six Series 430 Coupé
1929 Nash Standard Six Series 420 4-Door Sedan
1929 Nash Standard Six Series 422 Convertible Coupé
1930 Nash 450 Dutch licence registration AH-20-61
Nash dealership in Alabama, ca. 1930-1945
1930 Nash Single Six Series 450 4-Door Sedan
1930 Nash Twin Ignition 8, 5 passenger, 4 Door, Trunk Sedan
1930 Nash Twin-Ignition Six Series 481 Convertible Coupé
1931 Nash Ambassador Sedan Front
1931 Nash Ambassador Sedan Rear
1931 Nash Eight-70, Rumble Seat Coupe
1931 Nash Eight-90, Convertible Sedan
1931 Nash Series 871 Convertible Sedan
1931 Nash, Model 898, 8 Cylinder, Twin Ignition
1932 Nash, Advanced Eight, Model 1092R, 4 Passenger, Rumbleseat Coupe France
1932 Nash, Big Six, Model 1060, 5 passenger 4 Door
1933 Nash, Mdl. 1122R, Big Six Coupe
1933 Nash, Mdl. 1193, 8 cyl sedan
1934 Nash Ambassador Eight 4-Door Sedan
1934 Nash Ambassador
1935 Nash 3540 400 4-Door Sedan a
1935 Nash 3540 400 4-Door Sedan
1935 Nash Advanced Six Series 3520 4-Door Sedan
1936 Nash 400 de Luxe
Nash Motors was founded in 1916 by former General Motors president Charles W. Nash who acquired the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. Jeffery’s best-known automobile was the Rambler whose mass production from a plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin began in 1902.
The 1917 Nash Model 671 was the first vehicle produced to bear the name of the new company’s founder. Nash enjoyed decades of success by focusing its efforts to build cars “embodying honest worth … [at] a price level which held out possibilities of a very wide market.”
The four-wheel drive Jeffery Quad truck became an important product for Nash. Approximately 11,500 Quads were built between 1913 and 1919. They served to move materiel during World War I under severe conditions. The Quad used Meuhl differentials with half-shafts mounted above the load-bearing dead axles to drive the hubs through hub-reduction gearing. in addition to featuring four-wheel steering. The Quad achieved the reputation of being the best four-wheel drive truck produced in the country. The newly formed Nash Motors became the largest producer of four-wheel drives. By 1918, capacity constraints at Nash meant the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company began to assemble the Nash Quad under license and Nash patents. Nash became the leading producer of military trucks by the end of World War I. After the war ended, surplus Quads were used as heavy work trucks in fields such as construction and logging.
Charles Nash convinced the chief engineer of GM’s Oakland Division, Finnish-born Nils Eric Wahlberg, to move to Nash’s new company. The first Nash engine introduced in 1917 by Wahlberg had overhead valves, and Nash incorporated this principle Wahlberg is also credited with helping to design flow-through ventilation that is used today in nearly every motor vehicle. Introduced in 1938, Nash’s Weather Eye directed fresh, outside air into the car’s fan-boosted, filtered ventilation system, where it was warmed (or cooled), and then removed through rearward placed vents. The process also helped to reduce humidity and equalize the slight pressure differential between the outside and inside of a moving vehicle. Another unique feature of Nash cars was the unequal wheel tracks. The front wheels were set slightly narrower than the rear, thus adding stability and improving cornering. Wahlberg was also an early proponent of wind tunnel testing for vehicles and during World War II worked with Theodore (Ted) Ulrich in the development of Nash’s radically styled Airflyte models.
Nash’s slogan from the late 1920s and 1930s was “Give the customer more than he has paid for” and the cars lived up to it. Innovations included a straight-eight engine with overhead valves, twin spark plugs, and nine crankshaft bearings in 1930. The 1932 Ambassador Eight had synchromesh transmissions and free wheeling, automatic centralized chassis lubrication, a worm-drive rear end, and its suspension was adjustable inside the car. A long-time proponent of automotive safety, Nash was among the early mid- and low-priced cars to offer four-wheel brakes.
The Nash was a success among consumers that meant for the company “selling for a long time has been 100% a production problem… month after month all the cars that could be produced were sold before they left the factory floor.”
Creation of the Ajax
For the 1925 model year, Nash introduced the entry-level marque Ajax. A car of exceptional quality for its price, the Ajax was produced in the newly acquired Mitchell Motor Car Company plant in Racine, Wisconsin. Mitchell was the manufacturer of Mitchell-brand automobiles between 1903 and 1923. Sales of Ajax automobiles, while quite respectable, were disappointing. It was believed that the same car would sell better if it were called a Nash. Thus the Ajax became the “Nash Light Six” in June, 1926 and sales did improve, just as expected. In an unusual move, Nash Motors offered all Ajax owners a kit to “convert” their Ajax into a Nash Light Six. This kit, supplied at no charge, included a set of new hubcaps, radiator badge, and all other parts necessary to change the identity of an Ajax into that of a Nash Light Six. This was done to protect Ajax owners from the inevitable drop in resale value when the Ajax marque was discontinued. In this way Nash Motors showed the high value they placed upon their customers’ satisfaction and well-being. Most Ajax owners took advantage of this move, and “unconverted” Ajax cars are quite rare today.
Acquisition of LaFayette
LaFayette Motors was the producer of a large, powerful, expensive luxury car. The company started in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1920, and later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The principal stockholder in LaFayette Motors was Nash Motors Company. Other major stockholders were Charles W. Nash and friends and business associates. The high quality, high priced LaFayette cars did not sell well.
In 1924, Nash absorbed LaFayette Motors and converted its plant to produce Ajax automobiles. The LaFayette name was reintroduced in 1934 as a lower priced companion to Nash. LaFayette ceased to be an independent marque with the introduction of the 1937 models. From 1937 through 1940, the Nash LaFayette was the lowest priced Nash, and was replaced by the new unibody Nash 600 for the 1941 model year.
Era of George Mason and Nash Kelvinator
1936 Nash Ambassador Six 3620 4-Door Sedan
1936 Nash Ambassador, 6 cyl
1936 Nash Lafayette Series 3610 4-Door Sedan
1937 Nash 4-Door Sedan
1937 Nash Ambassador Six Series 3728 4-Door Sedan
1937 Nash LaFayette 6 cyl., all purpose coupe
1938 Nash 3828 Ambassador 4-Door Sedan
1938 Nash Ambassador 8 cyl., Mdl nelson
1938 Nash LaFayette 3812
1938 Nash Lafayette Series 3818 4-Door Sedan
1939 nash la-fayette-convertible
1940 Nash 2-Door Sedan
1940 Nash LaFayette Deluxe, 6 cylinder
1940 Nash Motors Logo
Before retiring, Charlie Nash chose Kelvinator Corporation head George W. Mason to succeed him. Mason accepted, but placed one condition on the job: Nash would acquire controlling interest in Kelvinator, which at the time was the leading manufacturer of high-end refrigerators and kitchen appliances in the United States. The resulting company, as of January 4, 1937, was known as the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. Nash as a brand name continued to represent automobiles for Nash-Kelvinator. This was the largest merger of companies not in the same industry up until that time.
In 1938, Nash introduced an optional conditioned air heating/ventilating system, an outcome of the expertise shared between Kelvinator and Nash. This was the first hot-water car heater to draw fresh air from outside the car, and is the basis of all modern car heaters in use today. Also in 1938, Nash, along with other car manufacturers Studebaker and Graham, offered vacuum-controlled shifting, an early approach at removing the gearshift from the front floorboards. Automobiles equipped with the Automatic Vacuum Shift (supplied by the Evans Products Company) had a small gear selector lever mounted on the dashboard, immediately below the radio controls.
1941 Nash 600 4dr. sedan
1941 Nash Ambassador 600 Slipstream
1942 Nash Ambassador, 6 cyl., 2 dr. Sedan
1942 nash deluxe-600-army
In 1936, Nash introduced the “Bed-In-A-Car” feature, which allowed the car’s interior to be converted into a sleeping compartment. The rear seatback hinged up, allowing the rear seat cushion to be propped up into a level position. This also created an opening between the passenger compartment and the trunk. Two adults could sleep in the car, with their legs and feet in the trunk, and their heads and shoulders on the rear seat cushions. In 1949 this arrangement was modified so that fully reclining front seatbacks created a sleeping area entirely within the passenger compartment. In 1950 these reclining seatbacks were given the ability to lock into several intermediate positions. Nash soon called these new seatbacks “Airliner Reclining Seats”.
In 1939, Nash added a thermostat to its “Conditioned Air System”, and thus the famous Nash Weather Eye heater was born. The 1939 and 1940 Nash streamlined cars were designed by George Walker and Associates and freelance body stylist Don Mortrude. They were available in three series – LaFayette, Ambassador Six and Ambassador Eight. For the 1940 model cars Nash introduced independent coil spring front suspension and sealed beam headlights.
1946 Nash 4Door Sedan
1946 Nash 4-Door Sedan
1946 nash 6 p38
1946 nash 6 p39
1946 nash 6 p39u
1946 nash 46A p12
1946 nash 600 466 p1c
1946 Nash 600 Deluxe, 6 cyl., 4 dr. Sedan Slipstream
1946 nash 600 p44 Ad Germany
1946 Nash 600 Trunkback Sedan
1946 Nash From Argentina
1947 Nash 600 Sedan
1947 Nash Ambassador Deluxe, Trunk Back, 6 cyl
1947 Nash Coupe-march 18b
1947 Nash Coupe-march 18
1947 Nash-super-600 Policecar
1949 Nash 600 Super
1949 Nash Ad
1949 Nash Ambassador Super Fastback
1949 NASH Super 600
1949 Nash, 600 Super, 2 Dr., 6cyl Brougham
1949 Nash, Ambassodor Super, 4 Dr., 6cyl Sedan, with an F-15
1950 Nash Ambassador
1950 nash healey London
1950 Nash Rambler Convertible Landau
1950 Nash Rambler Convertible Coupe
1950-53 Nash Rambler
1951 Nash Canadian Statesman
The 1941, Nash 600 was the first mass-produced unibody construction automobile made in the United States. Its lighter weight compared to body-on-frame automobiles and lower air drag helped it to achieve excellent fuel economy for its day. The “600” model designation is said to have been derived from overdrive-equipped examples of this car’s ability to travel 600 miles (966 km) on a 20-US-gallon (75.7 l; 16.7 imp gal) tank of gasoline. In other words it would achieve 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp). The design of the cars was improved by new front ends, upholstery, and chrome trim from 1942 to 1948. The larger Ambassador models shared the same bodies with the 600 but continued to use body-on-frame construction.
Post-World War II passenger car production resumed on October 27, 1945 with an Ambassador sedan first off the assembly line. There were few changes from 1942 models, most noticeable were longer and slimmer upper grille bars and a projecting center section on the lower grille. The inline 8-cylinder Ambassador model did not return in 1946. The large Ambassador engine thus was the seven main bearing, overhead valve 234-cubic-inch six-cylinder developing 112 brake horsepower. For the 1946 model year Nash introduced the Suburban model that used wood framing & panels on the body. It was similar to the Chrysler Town and Country and Ford Sportsman models. Suburbans were continued in 1947 and 1948 models with 1,000 built over all three years. In 1948 the Ambassador convertible returned with 1,000 built.
Introduction of the Nash Airflyte
1951 Nash Statesman 2-Door Sedan
1952 Nash Rambler blue wagon front
1952 Nash Healey Coupe
1952 Pininfarina-styled Nash-Healey roadster (also in a special chapter further on)
1952 Nash Healey Le Mans Roadster
1952 Nash Healey
1953 Nash Healey Coupe
1953 Nash Healey Lemans Roadster
1954 Nash Healey Lemans Coupe
1954 nash healey
1953 Nash Ambassador Country Club 220HP Jetfire V8 ++
1953 Nash Rambler, 6 cyl., Country Club Coupe model 5327
1953-1961 Nash Metropolitan
1954 Nash ad
1954 Nash Ambassador Club
1954 Nash Rambler Custom Wagon, model 5428
The aerodynamic 1949 Nash “Airflyte” was the first car of an advanced design introduced by the company after the war. Its aerodynamic body shape was developed in a wind tunnel. Nils Wahlberg’s theories on reducing an automobile body’s drag coefficient resulted in a smooth shape and enclosed front fenders. The “cutting-edge aerodynamics” was the most “alarming” all-new postwar design in the industry. A one-piece curved safety glass windshield was used on both models. Wide and low, the automobile featured more interior room than its 1948 predecessor although its height was 6 inches less. Due to its enclosed front fenders Nash automobiles had a larger turning radius than most other cars. The 600 models used a 112-inch (2,800 mm) wheelbase while the Ambassador models stretched to 121 inches (3,073 mm). Both shared the same bodies. Coil springs were used on all four wheels. Three trim lines were offered in both models; Super, Super Special, and the top line Custom. Power was provided by an 82 Horsepower 176 cubic inch flathead inline 6 cylinder in the 600 and an 112 HP OHV 234 cubic inch inline 6 in the Ambassador.
The few changes for the 1950 Airflytes were a wider rear window, concealed fuel filler cap, some dashboard features and addition on Ambassadors of a GM Hydramatic automatic transmission option. The 600 models were renamed the “Statesman”. A new first for an American car were seat belts, also new was a five-position Airliner reclining front passenger seat back, both optional in both models. The stroke on the Statesman engine was increased 1/4 inch giving 186 cubic inches and 85 HP and the Ambassador received a new cylinder head that increased HP to 115.
Changes for the 1951 model Airflytes were to the rear fenders, elongated to incorporate vertical taillights, a new conventional dashboard replacing the Uniscope mounted on the steering column, a new vertical bar grille with horizontal parking lights and addition of GM Hydramatic as a Statesman option also. The three best sales years for Nash up to that time were 1949, 1950 and 1951.
Nash-Kelvinator’s President George Mason felt Nash had the best chance of reaching a larger market in building small cars. He directed Nash towards the development of the first compact of the post war era, the 1950 Nash Rambler
, which was marketed as an up-market, feature-laden convertible. Mason also arranged for the introduction of the Austin
-built small Metropolitan
, which was introduced as a 1954 model.
The full-size Nash Airflytes were completely re-designed for 1952, and were promoted as the Golden Airflytes, in honor of Nash Motors’ 50th anniversary as an automobile builder (the company now counting the years of the Thomas B. Jeffery Company as part of their own heritage.) “Great Cars Since 1902” became one of the company’s advertising slogans. Nash was one of the few American car manufacturers to introduce an all-new 1952 model other than Ford Motor Company. The new Golden Airflytes presented a more modern, squared-off look than did the 1949–1951 models, which were often compared to upside-down bathtubs. Pininfarina of Italy was contracted by Nash to design a body for the new Golden Airflyte; however management was unhappy with the design and the result was a combination of an in-house design and Pininfarina’s model.
Using its Kelvinator refrigeration experience, the automobile industry’s first single-unit heating and air conditioning system was introduced by Nash in 1954. This was a compact, affordable system for the mass market with controls on the dash and an electric clutch. Entirely incorporated within the engine bay, the combined heating and cooling system had cold air for passengers enter through dash-mounted vents. Competing systems used a separate heating system and an engine-mounted compressor with an Evaporator in the car’s trunk to deliver cold air through the rear package shelf and overhead vents. The alternative layout pioneered by Nash “became established practice and continues to form the basis of the modern and more sophisticated automatic climate control systems.”
Introduction of the Nash-Healey
1952 Pininfarina-styled Nash-Healey roadster
1951 saw the introduction of the Anglo-American Nash-Healey sports car, a collaborative effort between George Mason and British sports car manufacturer Donald Healey. Healey designed and built the chassis and suspension and also, until 1952, the aluminum body which another British manufacturer, Panelcraft Sheet Metal Co. Ltd., fabricated in Birmingham. Nash shipped the powertrain components. Healey assembled the cars, which were then shipped to the U.S. for sale. In 1952 the Italian designer Battista Farina restyled the body, and its construction changed to steel and aluminum. High costs, low sales and Nash’s focus on the Rambler line led to the termination of Nash-Healey production in 1954 after 506 automobiles had been produced.
Mason commissioned Farina to design a Rambler-based two-seater coupe called the Palm Beach, which may have been intended as a successor to the Nash-Healey. However the project did not progress beyond a concept car
For European endurance racing Healey and his staff designed and built three special Nash-Healeys with spartan, lightweight aluminum racing bodies. These competition versions entered four consecutive Le Mans races and one Mille Miglia. They bore no outward resemblance to the production Nash-Healeys, none of which ever contested these races.
At Le Mans they achieved fourth overall in 1950, sixth overall and fourth in class in 1951, third overall and first in class in 1952, and eleventh overall in 1953. In the Mille Miglia they finished ninth overall in 1950 and seventh overall, fourth in class, in 1952.
Creation of American Motors
In January 1954 Nash announced the acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company as a friendly merger, creating American Motors Corporation (AMC). To improve the financial performance of the combined companies, all production beginning with the 1955 Nash and Hudson models would happen at Nash’s Kenosha plant. Nash would focus most of its marketing dollars on its smaller Rambler models, and Hudson would focus its marketing dollars on its full-sized cars.
1955 Nash Amb
1955 Nash Rambler Cross Country Stationwagon
1956 Nash 4d Ambassador coupe
1956 Nash Ambassador
1956 Nash Ambassador sedan
1956 Nash Rambler Palm Beach Concept
1956 Nash Rambler Deliveryman
1956 Nash Rambler Pininfarina z
1956 Nash Statesman Super Sedan, 6 Cylinder, 4 Door. model 5645-1a
1957 Nash Rambler Cross Country Station Wagon
1957 Nash Rambler Custom 4 Dr. Station Wagon, 6 cyl. model 5718-2sw
1957 Nash Rambler Custom Station Wagon
1960 Nash Metropolitan Convertible. model 561
1953-1961 Nash Metropolitan-Aqua-White-le
For 1955, all senior Hudson and Nash automobiles were based on a shared common body shell but with individual powertrains and separate, non-interchangeable body parts à la the Big Three’s longtime practice allowing for maximum manufacturing economy.
The Nash Metropolitan produced with the British Motor Corporation, which had been marketed under both the Nash and Hudson brands, became a make unto its own in 1957, as did the Rambler. Rambler overtook Nash and Hudson as the leading nameplate manufactured by AMC.
Soon after the 1954 merger, CEO George Mason died. Mason’s successor, George Romney, future Governor of Michigan and father of future Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, pinned the future of the company on an expanded Rambler line, and began the process of phasing out the Nash and Hudson nameplates by the end of the 1957 model year. Nash and Hudson production ended on June 25, 1957. From 1958 to 1965, Rambler was the only marque sold by AMC, other than the Metropolitan, which remained in dealer showrooms until 1962. Under the tenure of Roy Abernethy, the Rambler name was phased out beginning in 1965 and discontinued after 1969.
In 1970, American Motors acquired Kaiser Jeep (the descendant of Willys-Overland Motors) and its Toledo, Ohio, based manufacturing facilities. In the early 1980s, AMC entered into a partnership with Renault which was looking for a re-entry into the American market in the 1980s. AMC was ultimately acquired by Chrysler Corporation in 1987, becoming the Jeep-Eagle division.
Nash dealership in Alabama, ca. 1930-1945
Nash automobile brands
LaFayette Four-Door Coupe, 1921
The LaFayette Motors Corporation was a United States-based automobile manufacturer. Founded in 1919, LaFayette Motors was named in honor of the Marquis de la Fayette, and LaFayette autos had a cameo of the Marquis as their logo.
LaFayette was originally headquartered in Mars Hill, Indianapolis, Indiana and made luxury motor cars, beginning in 1920. LaFayette innovations include the first electric clock in an auto. In 1921, Charles W. Nash became president of LaFayette. Nash was already president of Nash Motors, but for a time the two brands remained separate companies, although Nash Motors was the principal LaFayette Motors stock holder. In the 20’s rumors circulated about Pierce-Arrow merging with LaFayette, Rolls-Royce or General Motors.
In 1922, LaFayette’s facilities were moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In 1924, Nash Motors became full owner of LaFayette Motors, and the name was retired soon after. Its factories were quickly put to a new, more profitable use; the manufacture of Ajax motor cars.
In 1934, Nash re-introduced the LaFayette name, this time for a line of smaller, less expensive autos. In 1935, Nash introduced a series known as the “Nash 400” to fill the perceived price gap between the LaFayette and the Nash. By 1937, it was determined that this perceived gap wasn’t so important after all, and that Nash Motors was marketing too many models. The LaFayette and the Nash 400 were combined into a single model called the Nash LaFayette 400 for 1937, and the LaFayette ceased to be regarded as a separate make of car. For 1938, this became simply the Nash LaFayette, and the LaFayette line continued as Nash’s lowest-priced offering through 1940. For 1941, the LaFayette was replaced by the all-new unibody Nash 600.
Ajax (American automobile)
“Ajax Six Nash-Built” radiator ornament
The Ajax was an American automobile brand manufactured by the Nash Motors Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1925 and 1926. The Ajax was produced in the newly acquired Mitchell Motors Company plant inRacine, Wisconsin. In 1926, all Ajax models were converted into Nash Light Sixes.
Demand for Nash automobiles was so high that by November 1924, the company’s existing plants were operating around the clock six days a week and Charles W. Nash announced a US$1 million expansion at the automaker’s original Kenosha facility.
Mitchell Motors Company was the manufacturer of Mitchell brand automobiles from 1903 to 1923. In April 1923 the company was forced into bankruptcy. At the 31 January 1924 auction of the Mitchell land and buildings with 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) of floor space, Charles Nash offered the winning bid of $405,000.
The Ajax was built using machinery moved from Nash’s other acquisition, the LaFayette Motors Company of Milwaukee, and installed in the Racine plant. Thus, new Ajax was based on an earlier design, premium version of the Lafayette from the early 1920s. The Ajax was available in three body styles: 4-door sedan, 4-door touring, and a 2-door sedan. The advertised retail price was $865 for the five-passenger touring car, and $995 for the five-passenger four-door sedan.
The Ajax came standard with engineering and quality features that included a 170 cu in (2.8 L) L-head Nash straight-six engine with a seven main bearing crankshaft, force-feed lubrication system, three-speed transmission, four-wheel brakes (at that time unusual for a car of its price), steel disc wheels, as well as mohair velvet upholstery and an electric clock. The Ajax Six produced “genuine 60 mph” (97 km/h) driving, and its features were not found on cars of this size and low price.
Despite receiving good reviews from the automotive press and the general public, the Ajax brand was discontinued in 1926 after over 22,000 models were sold. Charles Nash ordered that the production continue instead as the Nash Light Six. The Nash was a known and respected automobile brand that was the name of the company’s founder. Production was stopped for two days while Nash hubcaps, emblems, and radiator shells were trucked to Racine where all unshipped Ajax brand cars were converted into Nash badged automobiles. Likewise, changeover kits were sent to dealers to retrofit all unsold cars by removing Ajax badges such as hubcaps.
One of the first cases of “badge engineering” began in 1917 with Texan automobile assembled in Fort Worth, Texas, that made use of Elcar bodies made in Elkhart, Indiana. However, the transformation of the Ajax was “probably the industry’s first example of one car becoming another.”. Nash even made the kits available at no charge to consumers who bought Ajax cars, but did not want to own an orphaned make automobile, to protect the investment they had made in a Nash Motors product. Because of this, few unmodified original Ajax cars have survived.
Sales of the rechristened Nash Light Six improved with the more known moniker. The 1926 four-door sedan was now advertised for $1,525. The combined Ajax and Nash Light accounted for more than 24% of the automaker’s total production in 1926.
There is coming a chapter about Rambler, till that time you can get info at
Thomas B. Jeffery Company
The Thomas B. Jeffery Company was an American automobile manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin from 1902 until 1916. The company manufactured the Rambler and Jeffery brand motorcars. It was preceded by the Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Company, a bicycle manufacturer. It was the parent company to Nash Motors, thus one of the parent companies of American Motors and Chrysler.
Thomas B. Jeffery
Thomas B. Jeffery and his 1897 Rambler prototype
Thomas B. Jeffery was an inventor and an industrialist. He was one of America’s first entrepreneurs interested in automobiles in the late 19th century. In 1897, he built his first prototype motorcar. Thomas B. Jeffery was serious enough about automobiles to sell his stake in Gormully & Jeffery to the American Bicycle Company to finance the new car company.
Charles T. Jeffery driving a 1901 Rambler model A
Charles T. Jeffery (left) Charles W. Nash (right)
Charles T. Jeffery‘s (Thomas’ son) experimental prototypes of 1901 (Models A & B) used at least two radical innovations – steering wheels and front-mounted engines. By the time Charles was ready for production in 1902, his father had talked him out of these wild dreams and convinced him to stick with tillers and engines under the seat.
From 1902 until 1908, Jeffery moved steadily to bigger, more reliable models. Jeffery cars were built on assembly lines (the second manufacturer to adopt them — Ransom E. Olds was first), and in 1903 Jeffery sold 1,350 Ramblers. By 1905, Jeffery more than doubled this number. One reason may have been because Charles went back to the steering wheel before 1904. In 1907, Jeffery was building a large variety of different body styles and sizes. Among them was a five-passenger, US$2,500 Rambler weighing 2,600 pounds (1179 kg) and powered by a 40-horsepower (30 kW) engine.
In April, 1910, Thomas B. Jeffery, died in Pompeii, Italy and in June of that year the business was incorporated under the name of the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, with Charles T. Jeffery as the president and general manager, H. W. Jeffery, vice president and treasurer.
In 1915, Charles T. Jeffery, changed the automotive branding from Rambler to Jeffery to honor the founder, his father, Thomas B. Jeffery.
As of 1916, G. H. Eddy replaced H.W. Jeffery as the treasurer so H.W. Jeffery could focus on the position of vice president. G. W. Greiner was the secretary, L. H. Bill the general manager, J. W. DeCou the factory manager, and Al Recke was the sales manager.
Charles T. Jeffery survived the sinking of the RMS Lusitania (a British luxury liner torpedoed by the Germans in World War I) in 1915 and decided to spend the rest of his life in a more enjoyable manner. Charles W. Nash resigned from General Motors, saw an opportunity and bought the Thomas B. Jeffery Company in August 1916.
The sprawling Jeffery works circa 1915
Jeffery company employees
Jeffery, with the money from his sale of Gormully & Jeffery, bought the old Sterling Bicycle Company’s factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The original factory building was only 600 x 100 feet (183 x 30 m) in size. However, by 1916, the company’s buildings expanded over 20 acres (8 ha) under roof and the facilities had grown to over 100 acres (40 ha) including a test track.
Main article: Jeffery Quad
The Jeffrey Quad, also known as the Nash Quad or Quad is a four-wheel drive truck that was developed and built in Kenosha from 1913, and after 1916, by Nash Motors, as well as under license by other truck makers.. The Quad introduced numerous engineering innovations. Its design and durability proved effective in traversing the muddy, rough, and unpaved roads of the times. The Quad also became one of the effective work vehicles in World War I. The Quad was also one of the first successful four-wheel drive vehicles ever to be made, and its production continued unchanged through 1928, or 15 years, with a total of 41,674 units made.
1897 – Jeffery builds a rear-engine Rambler prototype using the Rambler name previously used on a highly successful line of bicycles made by Gormully & Jeffery.
1899 – Positive reviews at the 1899 Chicago International Exhibition & Tournament and the first National Automobile Show in New York City prompt the Jefferys to enter the automobile business.
1900 (Dec 6) – Thomas B. Jeffery finalizes a US$65,000 deal to buy the Kenosha, Wisconsin, factory of the defunct Sterling Bicycle with money from the sale of his interest in Gormully & Jeffery.
1901 – Two more prototypes, Models A and B, are made.
1902 – First production Ramblers – the US$750 Model C open runabout and the $850 Model D (the same car with a folding top). Both are powered by an 8-horsepower (6 kW; 8 PS), 98-cubic-inch (1.6 L) one-cylinder engine mounted beneath the seat, and are steered by a right-side tiller. First-year production totals 1,500 units making Jeffery the second-largest car maker behind Oldsmobile.
1910 (Mar 21) – Thomas B. Jeffery dies while on vacation in Italy.
1910 (Jun 10) – Charles incorporates the firm as a $3 million (US$75,932,143 in 2015 dollars) public stock company.
1914 – The Rambler name is replaced with the Jeffery moniker in honor of the founder.
1916 (Aug) – Charles Jeffery sells the company to former General Motors Corp. President Charles W. Nash.
1917 – Charles Nash renames the Jeffery Motor Company, Nash Motors after himself.
The Nash 600 is an automobile that was manufactured by the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation of Kenosha, Wisconsin for the 1941 through 1949 model years, after which the car was renamed the Nash Statesman. The Nash 600 was positioned in the low-priced market segment. The ‘600’ name comes from the car’s ability to go 600 miles (970 km) on one tank of gasoline. Introduced for the 1941 model year, the Nash 600 became the first mass-produced unibody constructed car built in the United States.
The Nash 600 is generally credited with being the first mass-produced American automobile that constructed through unitized body/frame construction in which the car body and the frame are welded as one rather than the (then) more traditional body-on-frame (the body is bolted to the frame). Unitized construction allowed Nash to advertise that the car was lighter in weight, quieter, and more rigid than its competitors. Elimination of the frame in favor of a combined body-and-chassis construction reduced the car’s weight by 500 pounds (230 kg).
Nash’s innovation also required new techniques for collision repairs. This included the development of a new portable body and frame puller tool that was quickly accepted worldwide.
The “600” designation for this Nash reinforces the automaker’s claim for this model’s ability to travel over 500 miles (805 km) on one tank of gasoline. This range is due to the combination of the engine’s 25 mpg-US(9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg-imp) to 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) fuel economy combined with the car’s 20-US-gallon (76 L; 17 imp gal). Additional efficiency was due to its lower weight than similar cars.
The new cars were introduced for 1941 and marketed as the Nash Ambassador 600 series in four body versions: a four-door Slipstream (fastback) sedan with no protruding lights, running boards, or door hinges; as a four-door Sedan with built-in trunk (now called notchback style), as a Coupe Brougham with full-width front and rear seats, and as a Business Coupe featuring a roomy rear deck cargo compartment. Similar to the Mobilgas Economy Run, a 1941 event sponsored jointly by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Gilmore Oil, a California-based petroleum company, saw the new Nash 600 deliver 25.81 mpg-US(9.11 L/100 km; 31.00 mpg-imp) on regular roads and be proclaimed a “Best in Class” winner.
The 600 had a 33-foot (10.1 m) turning circle. It was powered by a 172.6 cu in (2.8 L) 82 hp (61 kW; 83 PS) at 3,800 rpm, L-head straight-six engine that became known for its fuel economy. The 600 featured a three-speed manual gearbox with electric overdrive and coil springs on all four wheels.
For 1942, the Ambassador 600 was one of thee series of Nash cars. Styling featured a revised front with prominent chromed NASH letters incorporated into the front trim, as well as upgraded upholstery and interior trim. Although the automaker began to gear up for defense orders for the U.S. Government, it expected to produce a sizable number of economical, low-priced 600 models.
Nash began post-World War II car production in the fall of 1945. There were few changes from the 1942 models with the exception of revised chrome trim and a projecting center section on the lower grille.
In 1946, the “600” featured the rear seat that could be converted into bed as an option. It was possible to sleep with the legs tucked into the trunk area.
The 1948 was the only post-war year that Nash made a 600 in the business coupe body style. This was the lowest-priced model with minimal features, lacking a back seat (to have room for samples) as well as no chrome trim, ornamentation, or comfort items such as a sun visor and door armrest.
The 1948 Nash 600 (and Ambassador Custom) bore the work of Helene Rother, Nash’s new interior stylist. They featured some of the most stylish interiors in the industry. Among her contributions were upholstery and trim colors that harmonized with specific exterior colors.
The 1949 Nash 600 featured a new design based on the aerodynamic Airflyte series that was developed by Nils E. Wahlberg, Nash’s Vice President of Engineering. The new cars stood out among the competition, six inches (152 mm) lower than the 1948s with a rounded body with unusual enclosed fenders so that detractors dubbed them the “bathtub” Nashes. “The envelope shape was the most streamlined form on the road, a large step ahead of the vaguely similar Packard” at that time. The 600 became the economical series competing with Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth; while the Ambassador became the premium models and up against brands as Buick, Mercury, Chrysler, DeSoto, Pontiac, and Hudson.
The sedan was the only body style available in either two or four doors and there were three trim series: Super, Super Special, and Custom. The interiors were cavernous and the driver had an unusual “Uniscope” instrument pod mounted on the steering column. Optional was a new “Twin Bed” that was formed by dropping the two front seat backs to meet the rear seat. The 1949 Nash 600 series were built on a 112-inch (2,845 mm) wheelbase and carried over the previous 172.6 cu in (2.8 L) I6 engine, thus lower prices than the Nash Ambassador series that now rode on 121-inch (3,073 mm) wheelbase and came standard with the 7-main bearing 234.8 cu in (3.8 L) overhead-valve I6 engine.
The Nash Statesman (1949–1956) was the lower-priced version of the two main Nash Motors‘ automobile series, and was priced below the top-line Nash Ambassador.
Although the Statesman’s interior cabin was nearly identical to that of the Ambassador, upholstery and trim materials were plainer in design and less expensive.
Mechanically, the Statesman’s wheelbase was substantially shorter than the Ambassador’s, which was achieved by using a shorter front “clip” (the portion of a car from the cowl forward) than was installed on the Ambassador; therefore, Statesman and Ambassador hoods and front fenders were not interchangeable. From the cowl rearward, however, the two series’ dimensions were identical.
Statesman engine designs were based on the sturdy and reliable decades-old L-head Nash Light Six engine designed in the 1920s and continuing into the 1940s in the Nash LaFayette and Nash 600, remarkable in itself for the lack of intake and exhaust manifolds. Because of the Statesman’s lighter weight, remarkable fuel economies were reported by owners and testers.
Nash Statesman models were offered in three sub-series – the top-line Statesman Custom and the entry-level Statesman Super and also a plain fleet-only model built for commercial and institutional use.
The Statesman models, along with the Ambassador line, were the volume and profit leaders for Nash.
A new design was introduced for the 1952 model year to replace the inverted “bathtub”-style Nash models. The result was a large “envelope-bodied” sedan with enclosed wheels that were characteristic for Nash.
The final Nash Statesman models were built in August, 1956. Starting in 1957 all full-size Nash models were Ambassadors.
Ambassador was the model name applied to the senior line of Nash automobiles from 1932 until 1957. From 1958 until the end of the 1974 model year, the Ambassador was the product of American Motors Corporation (AMC), which continued to use the Ambassador model name on its top-of-the-line models, making it “one of the longest-lived automobile nameplates in automotive history.”
From 1927 through the mid-1932 model year, the Ambassador name was applied to a high trim club sedan body style, one of Nash’s most prestigious senior models. The Ambassador series was the “flagship” in the Nash line.
Ambassador sedan 1927-early 1932
1931 Nash Eight-90 Ambassador sedan
Nash Motors’ first use of the name Ambassador was during the 1927 model year when a specially trimmed four-door, five-passenger club sedan version of the “Nash Advanced Six” (designated model 267) was developed. As the most expensive car in the line, the Ambassador received premium upgrades in upholstery and other trim items for a base price of US$2,090 (FOB).
Exports accounted for almost 11% per cent of Nash production in 1927, and the cars were purchased by several royal families. For example, Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland of Sweden and Norway personally visited the Nash factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1927, and Scandinavian factory workers delivered his Nash Ambassador Six (Model 267) four-door Brougham sedan.
The Ambassador model lost its position as Nash’s most expensive car in 1929 with the introduction of seven-passenger sedan and limousine models that were carried through the 1934 model year.
The Ambassador remained in the Advanced Six range until 1930 when the model was moved to the “Nash Twin Ignition Eight” series. In 1931 the cumbersome Twin Ignition Eight name was replaced by the simpler “Eight-90” model designation.
The Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) recognizes all Nash 1930 Series 490, 1931 Series 890, and 1932 Series 990 as full classics (including the Ambassador.)
Nash Ambassador, mid-1932-1948
1937 Nash Ambassador Six sedan
1946 Nash Ambassador Slipstream 4-door sedan
1947 Nash Ambassador Suburban 4-door Woodie
In mid-1932, Nash established the “Ambassador Eight” as a stand-alone model range, offered in a number of body styles, including coupes and victorias. Riding on 133-inch (3,378 mm) or 142-inch (3,607 mm) wheelbases, the Ambassadors featured a 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), 322 cubic inches (5.3 L) straight-eight engine with twin-ignition and overhead valves. All the cars were sumptuously appointed earning the title of the “Kenosha Duesenbergs” for their quality, durability, styling, and speed. The CCCA has recognized all 1932 Series Advanced 8 and Ambassador 8, as well as the 1933 and 1934 Nash Ambassador 8 as Full Classics.
This was part of Nash’s second 1932 series, which included completely new bodies and engineering updates to all models produced by the company. Aside from General Motors, Nash was the only automobile manufacturer to make a profit in 1932.
For 1934, Nash introduced completely new styling, called “Speedstream”, featuring generous use of ornamental moldings in body panels and fenders, in a very streamlined and Art Deco way. The designs were influenced by Russian Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and the new bodies featured streamline accents, bullet-shaped headlights, horizontal hood ribs, rear wheel spats, and built-in luggage boots with a full beaver-tail rear end. The Ambassador Eight series for this year was limited to various four-door sedan body styles.
The Nash Ambassador 8 now saw new competition with such cars as the redesigned and lower priced LaSalle, Auburn V-12, Reo-Royale 8, Buick Series 34-90, and the Airflow Chrysler Imperial.
The 1935 model year saw yet another complete re-styling, known as “Aeroform”, and a further trimming of body styles, as well as a new two-door sedan added to the Ambassador Eight series. However, the 1935 Ambassador Eight was now built on a much shorter 125-inch (3,175 mm) wheelbase, and used the smaller, former Advanced Eight engine. No longer would Nash build the big, classic cars of 1930-1934.
While the Ambassador had been offered only with Nash’s in-line eight from mid-1932 to 1935, the 1936 Ambassador Six added Nash’s largest in-line six as well, in a 121-inch (3,073 mm) wheelbase model, formerly known as the Advanced Six. In 1937 Nash acquired the Kelvinator Corporation as part of a deal that allowed Charlie Nash’s handpicked successor, George W. Mason, to become President of the new Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. The 1937 models saw the return of coupes and convertibles to the Ambassador lines. From 1936 onward, the senior Nash models used identical bodies, relying on a longer wheelbase, hood and front fenders (plus subtle trim augmentations) to provide visual cues to differentiate the more expensive Eights from the less expensive Six models.
Beginning in 1937, even the low-priced LaFayette series came under this plan. This basic formula was used through the final AMC Ambassador in 1974, with the exception of 1962-1964, when the Rambler Ambassador and the Rambler Classic shared the same wheelbase and front sheet metal. In 1937, Sinclair Oil Corporation teamed up with Babe Ruth in a baseball contest where a 1937 Nash Ambassador Eight sedan was awarded every week.
For the 1941 and 1942 model years (only) all Nash vehicles became Ambassadors, and rode both long and short wheelbases. The Ambassador Eight now shared the Ambassador Six’s 121-inch wheelbase. The Nash Ambassador 600, built on a 112-inch (2,845 mm) wheelbase, became the first popular automobile to be built using the single-welded “unibody” type of monocoque construction that Nash called “Unitized”, rather than body-on-frame. From 1941 through 1948, Nash Ambassador models placed this unibody structure on top of a conventional frame, thus creating a solid and sturdy automobile. It was also one of the first in the “low-priced” market segment with coil spring suspension in front and back, “giving it the best ride in its class.” In the spirit of wartime conservation, the Ambassador Six and Eight lost their twin ignition feature for 1942, reverting to a single spark plug per cylinder. The 1941-42 Ambassador 600 was also the only Ambassador ever powered by an L-head engine. Nash would remain with this model arrangement through the post-war 1946-1948 model years, although the 600 would no longer be known as an Ambassador.
As ordered by the Federal government, Nash suspended passenger car production during World War II (1942-1945). When production was resumed after the war, the Eights were no longer part of the program. The 1946 Ambassador Six was now the top of the Nash line. In 1946 Nash introduced a wood-panelled version of the Ambassador called the “Suburban”. Featuring high-quality ash framing, with mahogany paneling supplied by Mitchell-Bentley of Owosso, Michigan, the Suburban coachwork was based on the handsome “slipstream” sedan, a classic 1940s streamlined design. Intended as a halo car, the Suburban, like all other Nashes, featured options such as “Cruising Gear” overdrive, a trend-setting “Weather-Eye” heater, and a remote control Zenith radio, which enabled the driver to change stations at the touch of their toe. Production was limited, with Nash selling exactly 1,000 examples between 1946 and 1948. A convertible was added to the Ambassador range for 1948, and an even 1,000 of this one-year-only body style was produced.
Nash continued to use the Ambassador name on its plushest models from 1949 to 1957. Nash-Kelvinator president George Mason was an outspoken supporter of aerodynamics in car design, and the post war Ambassador is best remembered for its enclosed front wheels. When Nash rolled out its Airflyte body style, Ambassador sales enjoyed a significant gain by selling just four door and two door sedans in the 1949-1951 market place. The Airflytes also featured fully reclining seats that could turn the car into a vehicle capable of sleeping three adults, however this would also earn the dubious distinction of being the make-out automobile of choice for teenagers coming of age in the 1950s. The 1950 Ambassador became the first non-General Motors automobiles to be equipped with GM’s Hydramatic automatic transmissions. 1949 was the first year for a one-piece curved windshield, and front door wing windows featured curved glass as well.
Mason believed that once the seller’s market following World War II ended, that Nash’s best hope for survival lay in a product range not addressed by other automakers in the United States at that time – the compact car. With sales of the large Nashes surging ahead of prewar production numbers, Mason began a small car program that would eventually emerge as the compact Nash Rambler reviving the traditional Rambler marque.
1953 Nash Ambassador Custom
1956 Ambassador sedan with Continental kit
The Nash Ambassador received its last complete restyle in 1952 that carried over into 1954 almost unchanged. The Golden Anniversary Nash Airflyte, styled by PininFarina, received several prestigious design awards. Due to materials restrictions caused by the Korean War, Nash sales, like those of many other carmakers, dropped off sharply in 1952. With the end of the War, a battle for market leadership began between two historic rival automakers. The 1954 sales war between Ford and Chevrolet meant both divisions were shipping vehicles to their respective dealers no matter if there were any orders for them. Ford and GM dealers were often larger with stronger finances and they offered deep discounts to sell these cars. This caused a severe sales toll on all the independent carmakers (Hudson, Kaiser, Packard, Studebaker), and Nash was no exception. Airflyte styling entered its final season with the heavily facelifted 1955 versions, created under the direction of Edmund E. Anderson. “Scenaramic” wrap-around windshields accompanied an entirely new front-end treatment, which showed more front wheel than Nash had revealed since the 1949 models debuted. Ambassadors were now available with a V8 engine for the first time, supplied by Packard, and mated to Packard’s Ultramatic automatic transmission.
In 1954 the Nash Ambassador was the first American automobile to have a front-end, fully integrated heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system. The heating and ventilation system was called Weather Eye and now could equipped with Nash-Kelvinators’ advanced Automobile air conditioning unit. While other manufacturers in America at the time offered A/C on some models, their air conditioning units were driven by a large and heavy, trunk mounted expander and heat exchanger that carried the air into the car via clear plastic tubes and out through ceiling mounted vents. Nash’s unit was inexpensive, compact, fit under the hood, and could either circulate fresh or recycled air. With a single thermostatic control, the Nash passenger compartment air cooling option was described as “a good and remarkably inexpensive” system. The option was priced well below systems offered by other carmakers (in 1955, Nash offered it at US$345, against $550 for Oldsmobile or $570 for Chrysler); other makers, such as Ford, did not even offer optional air conditioning. (At the time, even a heater was not always standard equipment.)
Nash-Kelvinator merged with ailing Hudson Motor Car Company as of January 14, 1954 to form American Motors Corporation (AMC), and both Nash and Hudson dealers sold Ramblers that were identical save for the “Nash” or “Hudson” badging. Although the “senior” Nash and Hudson models continued to be marketed, it was sales of the Rambler that were powering the company’s bottom line. As the compact Rambler’s fortunes increased, sales of the senior Nash cars, including the Ambassador, plummeted.
Nash models fielded for 1956-1957 were heavily re-styled in the rear, and offered in a variety of two-and three-tone color schemes. The 1957 models were the first cars to come equipped with “quad” headlights as standard equipment.
The final Nash Ambassador rolled off the Kenosha, Wisconsin, production line in the summer of 1957. Nevertheless, the Ambassador – as a top of the line model name – would continue to exist under Rambler and AMC brands through 1974.
Eight Nash Ambassadors were entered in the 1950 Carrera Panamericana, a 2,172-mile (3,495 km) endurance race run over five days across Mexico. 47 of the 126 cars that started this “contest of heroic proportions and vast distances” were classified as finishers. Three Ambassadors finished all nine stages, but the highest-placed car was disqualified.
The 1950 Ambassador driven by Roy Pat Conner was in sixth place after the eighth stage, 33 minutes behind the leader, when Connor became too ill to continue. Curtis Turner, who shared another 1950 Ambassador with Bill France, Sr., purchased Conner’s car for its superior race position, replacing Conner at the wheel and leaving France to continue in their original car without him. On the final stage Piero Taruffi, arguably the most experienced road racer in the field, had moved his Alfa Romeo 6C up to fourth position when Turner passed him in the mountains by bumping the Italian “Southern style” until he yielded. Taruffi repassed the Nash when it was temporarily halted by a flat tire. At the finish, Taruffi was in Turner’s sights but Turner ended ahead in elapsed time, beating Taruffi by 3.5 minutes. This put Turner in third place overall, behind a Cadillac 62. He was disqualified when a quick review by the race officials showed that the rules specifically prohibited changing a car’s crew.
Bill France eventually crashed out of the race but the damaged car was driven back to the United States, where France and Turner used it for a full season’s dirt track racing in the Southern states. Mexican driver S. Santoyo was classified 36th in his 1949 Nash, while another 1949 Ambassador driven by Manuel Luz Meneses and José O’Farrill Larranoga finished 39th. In all, four Nashes crashed out, while a fifth retired with engine trouble.
The Nash Motor Company was the first manufacturer that actively supported NASCAR racing. Direct factory sponsorship was provided for the 1950 and 1951 Sprint Cup seasons. For 1950, Nash recruited and signed dynamic stars Curtis Turner and Johnny Mantz.
- North Wilkesboro Speedway on September 24, 1950, Ebenezer “Slick” Smith drove a Nash Ambassador, but crashed midway through the race and finished 20th in the field of 26. This was the same car that Bill France had crashed in the Carrera Panamericana.
- Carrell Speedway (Gardena, California) on April 8, 1951, Johnny Mantz‘s Nash Ambassador finished the 200-lap race in second place. However, Ebenezer “Slick” Smith was actually driving the car at the checkered flag in relief for Mantz.
For the 1951 NASCAR season, other automakers became more involved in sponsorship.
- Charlotte Speedway on April 1 – Curtis Turner won the 150-lap NASCAR Grand National race with his Nash Ambassador. This was the only first place finish for the large-sized Nash Ambassador in the NASCAR Grand National series as the car driven to victory in the 400-lap NASCAR Short Track Grand National race in Lanham, Maryland by Tony Bonadies on July 14, 1951, was the new compact-sized Nash Rambler.
- Michigan State Fairgrounds Speedway on August 12 – The 1951 Nash Ambassador, was the Official Pace Car of the “Motor City 250” stock car race, and was driven by NASCAR’s president, Bill France. Tim Flock won the race in a Hudson, earned $7,001 in cash, as well as a new Nash Ambassador.
||BMC for Nash and AMC
Metropolitan by American Motors
In non-U.S. & Canada markets:
||Longbridge, Birmingham, West Midlands, England
||William J. Flajole
|Body and chassis
||1,200 cc (1.2 L) Austin A40 I4
1,500 cc (1.5 L) B-Series I4
||85 in (2,159 mm)
||149.5 in (3,797 mm)
||61.5 in (1,562 mm)
||54.5 in (1,384 mm)
||1,785 lb (810 kg) (base)
The Nash Metropolitan is a car that was sold, initially, only in the United States and Canada, from 1954–62.
It conforms to two classes of vehicle: economy car and subcompact car. In today’s terminology the Metropolitan is a “subcompact”, but this category had not yet come into use when the car was made. At that time, it was variously categorized, for example as a “small automobile” as well as an “economy car”.
The Metropolitan was also sold as a Hudson when Nash and Hudson merged in 1954 to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC), and later as a standalone marque during the Rambler years, as well as in the United Kingdom and other markets.
1957 Hudson badged Metropolitan
1961 Metropolitan fender emblem
While most U.S. automobile makers were following a “bigger-is-better” philosophy, Nash Motor Company executives were examining the market to offer American buyers an economical transportation alternative. The Metropolitan was designed in the U.S. and it was patterned from a concept car, the NXI (Nash Experimental International), that was built by Detroit-based independent designer William J. Flajole for Nash-Kelvinator. It was designed as the second car in a two car family, for Mom taking the kids to school or shopping or for Dad to drive to the railroad station to ride to work: the “commuter/shopping car” with resemblance to the big Nash, but the scale was tiny as the Met’s wheelbase was shorter than the Volkswagen Beetle‘s.
The NXI design study incorporated many innovative features, and attempted to make use of interchangeable front and rear components (the symmetrical door skins were the only interchangeable items that made it into production). Although more complex, the new vehicle also incorporated Nash’s advanced single-unit (monocoque) construction. It was displayed at a number of “surviews” (survey/previews), commencing on 4 January 1950 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, to gauge the reaction of the American motoring public to a car of this size. The result of these surviews convinced Nash that there was indeed a market for such a car, if it could be built at a competitive price.
A series of prototypes followed that incorporated many of the improvements from the “surviews” that included roll-up glass side windows, a more powerful engine, and a column-mounted transmission shifter with bench seat (rather than bucket-type seats with floor shift fitted in the concept car). The model was named NKI (for Nash-Kelvinator International), and it featured revised styling incorporating a hood blister and rear wheel cutouts.
Nash was positioning this new product for the emerging postwar market for “personal use” autos. These specific use vehicles were as a second car for women or an economical commuter car. The Metropolitan was also aimed at returning Nash to overseas markets. However, Mason and Nash management calculated that it would not be viable to build such a car from scratch in the U.S. because the tooling costs would have been prohibitive. The only cost-effective option was to build overseas using existing mechanical components, leaving only the tooling cost for body panels and other unique components.
With this in mind, Nash Motors negotiated with several European companies. On October 5, 1952, they announced that they had selected the Austin Motor Company (by then part of BMC) and Fisher & Ludlow (which also became part of BMC in September 1953, later operating under the name Pressed Steel Fisher), both English companies based around Birmingham, England. Fisher & Ludlow would produce the bodywork, while the mechanicals would be provided, as well as final assembly undertaken, by the Austin Motor Company. This was the first time an American-designed car, to be exclusively marketed in North America, had been entirely built in Europe. It became a captive import – a foreign-built vehicle sold and serviced by Nash (and later by American Motors) through its dealer distribution system. It is believed that the first pre-production prototype was completed by Austin on December 2, 1952. In all, five pre-production prototypes were built by Austin Motors and tested prior to the start of production. The total tooling cost amounted to US$1,018,475.94, (Austin: US$197,849.14; Fisher & Ludlow: US$820,626.80) which was a fraction of the tooling cost for a totally U.S.-built vehicle.
The styling for all Nash vehicles at that time was an amalgam of designs from Pininfarina of Italy and the in-house Nash design team. The different models from Ambassador down to the Metropolitan utilised very similar design features (fully enclosed front wheels, notched “pillow” style door pressing, bar style grille etc.). Whilst Nash used the fact that styling was by Pininfarina in their advertising for their larger models, Pininfarina refused to allow his name to be associated with the Metropolitan as he felt it would damage his reputation with other Italian car companies to be linked to such a small car.
The new Metropolitan was made in two body designs: convertible and hardtop. All came with several standard features that were optional on most cars of the era. Among these factory-installed benefits for customers were a map light, electric windshield wipers, cigar lighter, and even a “continental-type” rear-mounted spare tire with cover. To give a “luxury” image to the interior, “Bedford cord” upholstery trimmed with leather was used (similar to larger Nash vehicles). An AM radio, “Weather Eye” heater, and whitewall tires were offered as optional extras for the U.S. market. (It is unlikely that a Metropolitan could have been purchased without a heater and radio, as all vehicles left the factory with both items fitted.)
The Metropolitan was the first postwar American car that was marketed specifically to women. The Dodge La Femme was introduced one year later. The first spokesperson for the car was Miss America 1954, Evelyn Ay Sempier, and the car was prominently advertised in Women’s Wear Daily. American Motors’ marketing brochures described the new model as “America’s entirely new kind of car” (1955), “Luxury in Miniature” (1959), and “crafted for personal transportation” (1960).
Initial reviews of the Metropolitan were mixed. However, owners of the cars reported that the “Metropolitan is a good thing in a small package”.
Automotive industry veteran and the largest publisher of automotive books at the time, Floyd Clymer, took several Metropolitans through his tests. He “abused” a 1954 Metropolitan convertible and “got the surprise of my life” with its “performance was far better than I expected”, that he “felt very safe in the car”, and that “it may well be that Nash has started a new trend in American motoring. Perhaps the public is now getting ready to accept a small car”. Clymer also took a 1957 Metropolitan hardtop through a grueling 2,912 mi (4,686 km) road test that even took him 14,100 ft (4,300 m) up Pikes Peak. He summed up his experience that “I can not praise the Metropolitan too highly. It is a fascinating little car to drive, its performance is far better than one would expect, and the ride is likewise more than expected”.
According to Collectible Auto magazine, the car was described in Car Life ’s review as “a big car in miniature” that was “fun to drive” and “ideal for a second car in the family,” while Motor Trend was not alone in regarding the rear “utility” seat as “a joke.”
Motor Trend praised the car’s economy: their test Metropolitan returned:
- 39.4 mpg-US (5.97 L/100 km; 47.3 mpg-imp) at 45 mph (72 km/h),
- 27.4 mpg-US (8.6 L/100 km; 32.9 mpg-imp) at 60 mph (97 km/h), and
- 30.1 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36.1 mpg-imp) “in traffic.”
Mechanix Illustrated editor Tom McCahill wrote: “It is not a sports car by the weirdest torturing of the imagination but it is a fleet, sporty little bucket which should prove just what the doctor ordered for a second car, to be used either for a trip to the movies or for a fast run to a penicillin festival.” He added that it was a “nice-handling car with plenty of control and amazing dig, considering it is powered by a small Austin A-40 engine” and that the finish was “very nice”, although having no trunk opening except by pulling down the back of the rear seat “poses a problem.” His test car accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 19.3 seconds and could exceed 70 mph (110 km/h).
A Road & Track road test recorded acceleration from 0–60 mph in 22.4 seconds, “almost half of the VW’s 39.2.” However the magazine noted that at 60 mph (97 km/h), a common American cruising speed at the time, the Metropolitan was revving at 4300 rpm, which shortened engine life, whereas the Volkswagen could travel at the same speed at only 3000 rpm. Road & Track ’s testers also said that the car had “more than its share of roll and wallow on corners” and there was “little seat-of-the-pants security when the rear end takes its time getting back in line.”
Road Test magazine said in 1954 that “on roadability and responsive handling, the Met shines. It also offers easy maintenance and downright stinginess when it comes to gasoline consumption. Also, it’s literally a brute for punishment. On several occasions I took familiar corners at speeds half again what I would dare to use in some cars of twice the weight – proof that proper weight distribution, low center of gravity and well engineered suspension have more to do with roadability than massiveness, weight and long wheelbases. Admittedly, the short wheelbased Met does pitch moderately on very rough roads, but the sensitivity and ease of steering make driving a pleasure.”
Production for U.S.
Nash dealership with a Metropolitan visible, 1954
Production at Austin’s Longbridge factory started in October 1953 (Commencing VIN E1001). Nicknamed the “baby Nash”, the cars were tiny. They had an 85 in (2,159 mm) wheelbase, overall length of 149.5 in (3,797 mm) and a gross weight of only 1,785 lb (810 kg) for the Convertible and 1,825 lb (828 kg) for the Hardtop, thus making the Metropolitan smaller than the Volkswagen Beetle. The two models, a convertible and a hardtop, were powered by the OHV 1,200 cc (73 cu in) straight-4 Austin ‘A40’ series engine (as used in the Austin A40 Devon/Dorset) driving the rear wheels through a three-speed manual transmission. The initial order was for 10,000 units, with an option to increase the order if sales were sufficient.
The new model was initially to be called the “NKI Custom”, but the name was changed to “Metropolitan” just two months before its public release. New chrome nameplates with the “Metropolitan” name were made to fit into the same holes as the “NKI Custom” script on the passenger side front fender. Nash dealers had to rebadge the early cars that came with the “NKI Custom” name, but some factory manuals had already been prepared and distributed to service departments with the NKI name. The first examples badged as Nash went on sale on March 19, 1954 in the U.S. and Canada. Autocar said that “at a production rate of less than 400 cars a week … it was hardly going to be a runaway best seller.”
In surveys, Americans had affirmed a desire for economy cars, but in practice they bought the Metropolitan in relatively small numbers. Although Nash merged with Hudson in 1954, and marketed the car as a Hudson Metropolitan in 1955, “demand never took off from the original level”, primarily because the Metropolitan was slow by North American standards. In the first month of sales, 862 Metropolitans were sold in U.S. and Canada, while in the first six months a total of 7,042 were sold. A further order was placed with Austin.
Available exterior colors were P903 “Spruce Green”, P904 “Canyon Red”, P905 “Caribbean Blue”, or P906 “Croton Green”, with P907 “Mist Grey” as a contrast color for the hardtops. P906 “Croton Green” was dropped as a color option in April 1954. Cars incorporated the Nash logo on their grille badge, hubcaps, horn button, and spare wheel cover. The suggested retail price (MSRP) for Series I (also known as NK1) models wasUS$1,445 (Hardtop) and $1,469 (Convertible). Adding a radio and a heater pushed the price above $1,500: at the time Volkswagen’s Bug/Beetle was being offered at $1,425.
In May 1954, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation announced that it had merged with the Hudson Motor Company to form American Motors Corporation (AMC). Thus by August 1954, Metropolitans also became available from Hudson dealers. These Hudson Metropolitans carried a Hudson grille badge, hubcaps incorporating an “M” logo, a “bulls-eye” horn button design, and a plain spare wheel cover. Braking performance was 90 ft (27.4 m) from 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) to a full stop.
In 1954, George Mason took two Metropolitans to Raleigh Speedway in North Carolina for some tests. The first Metropolitan did a 24-hour endurance run, going a total of 1,469.7 miles (2,365 km) without the need for a tune up, while the second car was put to a 24-hour fuel economy run. It averaged 41.7 mpg-US (5.64 L/100 km; 50.1 mpg-imp).
After the first 10,000 cars were built, the engine was changed to a B-Series, but still of 1,200 cc (73 cu in), (as used in the Austin A40 Cambridge). Other modifications that were incorporated at this time were a new gearbox, and hydraulic actuation for the clutch (Series I models used a mechanical clutch linkage). The change to a new engine and gearbox added 50 lb (23 kg) to the weight. This model is referred to as Series II or NK2 (Commencing with Vehicle identification number (VIN) E11001 on August 19, 1954).
November 1955 saw the start of Metropolitan Series III (NK3) production (Commencing with VIN E21008 on 28 November 1955). A redesign at this time saw the Metropolitan’s B-Series engine increased in capacity to 1,498 cc (91.4 cu in) (as used in the Austin A50 Cambridge). Polished stainless steel sweep-spears on the body sides allowed a new two-tone finish to be incorporated, which had the cosmetic effect of lowering, slimming and lengthening the car. The new exterior colors were P905 “Caribbean Green”, P910 “Sunburst Yellow”, and P911 “Coral Red” with P909 “Snowberry White” as a contrast. The grille was also redesigned, and the hood had its non-functional hood scoop removed. American Motors changed the designation to “Metropolitan 1500” to differentiate it from the earlier 1,200 cc (73 cu in) models. The interior was also changed to incorporate a “houndstooth” check material for the seats trimmed with white vinyl. The dashboard was also now painted black, rather than the body color as was the case for Series I and II Metropolitans.