Given his belief in the importance of new products, Mason ordered up fresh styling for the 1939-1940 Nash Ambassador and prepared to press on. With a "can-do" guy -- George Mason -- at the helm, Nash Motors wasn't about to let an economic recession slow it down in the late 1930s.

1939 Nash Ambassador
An example of George Mason's fresh styling: the 1939 Nash
Ambassador. See more pictures of Nash cars.

America's battle against the Depression suffered a setback in 1938, when the economy snapped with what Republicans were quick to label the "Roosevelt Recession." The sharp downturn hammered the U.S. auto industry, shrinking model-year sales by almost half from the 1937 total.

The recession proved a death knell for a few smaller automakers, but most every company felt the pain. That's one reason why you don't see many 1938 cars today.

The Nash Motors Division of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation took an especially big hit. Calendar-year sales plunged from 70,568 to 31,814. Model-year production withered from 85,949 units to 32,017. These drops were bigger than most, and would have been easy excuses for cutting capital spending.

But Nash had a recently arrived president named George Mason, charged with making the company much larger. Determined to keep moving despite the recessionary setback, he ordered up a brand-new Nash for 1939. It was a beauty.

By any standard, George Walter Mason was one of the most brilliant auto executives of the era. He started his career the old-fashioned way, selling cars during summer vacations from college.

After stints at several automakers, most notably as a manager at Chrysler, Mason joined Kelvinator, where he engineered a turnaround that saved the appliance maker from extinction.

Charlie Nash, acting on a strong recommendation from old friend Walter Chrysler, convinced Mason to become Nash president by agreeing to a Nash and Kelvinator merger, which was completed in January 1937.

Continue to the next page for details on the 1939 Nash Ambassador.

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