1951 Nash-Healey

After all the publicity its racing brother earned at the 1950 LeMans 24 Hour, the 1951 Nash-Healey made its United States debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1951.

"I was there and remember how excited Nash salespeople were about having a real live sports car to call their own," says former Nash PR agent John A. Conde. "I also remember that the cute little Rambler Country Club hardtop, just introduced, garnered about as much interest among showgoers."

1951 Nash-Healey
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
A rare color advertising photo of the production 1951 Nash-Healey.

The Nash-Healey arrived with a suggested retail delivery price of $4,063. Standard equipment included leather upholstery, adjustable steering wheel, directional signals, chrome wheel discs, foam rubber seat cushion, five four-ply whitewall tires, and the aforementioned overdrive. The heater cost extra, and color choices were limited to just two, Champagne Ivory and Sunset Maroon.

Dimensionally, the 1951 Nash-Healey was as compact as you'd expect in a British roadster of the early 1950s, with a 102-inch wheelbase and overall length of 170 inches. Track measured 53 inches at each end -- fairly wide in relation to the 60-inch overall width. Thanks to the aluminum bodywork, curb weight held to 2,690 pounds. That sounds like a lot today, but it wasn't excessive considering the healthy powerplant.

As modified by Healey, the 234.8-cid Ambassador six was rated at 125 bhp at 4,000 rpm versus 115 for the stock 1951 engine and retained its seven-main-bearing crankshaft. Providing the extra horses were a pair of British SU sidedraft carburetors, a hotter cam, and an aluminum cylinder head with sealed-in intake manifold and 8.0:1 compression ratio.

The chassis incorporated Nash's torque-tube drive and rear coil springs, but a Healey-designed trailing-link suspension was used up front. Fuel capacity was a generous 20 gallons.

"Press reaction to Nash's new sports car was what our PR people half-expected: guarded enthusiasm," recalls Conde. Mechanix Illustrated magazine's veteran tester Tom McCahill, certainly not one to say harsh things about any car he drove, wrote: "I want to go on record right now and say I have never driven a sports car that handled better or gave the driver so much control in a power-glide or spin."

Motor Trend magazine reported that "the Nash-Healey rides far better than the average sports car without any apparent ill effect upon handling qualities." Meantime, the Nash-Healey returned to LeMans in 1951 and again proved its mettle by finishing fourth in class and sixth overall in the 24 Hours, ahead of two Ferraris and an Aston-Martin.

a 1951 Nash-Healey
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Chrysler Corporation shot this 1951 Nash-Healey for a comprehensive, internal-use-only report to top executives. Sign on door refers to the Nash dealership of Charles Dalgleish, one of America's top Cadillac agents.

Chrysler Corporation took more than a passing interest in the Anglo-American hybrid, going so far as to purchase a Nash-Healey from a Detroit-area dealer. After studying it, the firm's engineering department prepared a comprehensive, illustrated report for executives, describing it in part as "a low, fast convertible featuring an aluminum body with lines reminiscent of Italian styling." But although Chrysler couldn't know it, the Nash-Healey was about to get legitimate Latin lines.

Find out who owned a 1951 Nash-Healey when you continue to the next page.

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