Introduction to 1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Rambler

Nash president George Mason had high hopes for his compact Rambler when it was introduced in 1950, envisioning it as a high-volume line that could make major inroads into the low-price field. For a number of reasons, the going was slow at first. But a redesigned 1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Rambler served as the basis for an expanded model lineup that began to fulfill Mason's dream.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

1953 Nash Rambler Country Club hardtop coupe
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Country Club hardtop coupe accounted for more than half of the 31,790 Ramblers built for 1953. See more classic car pictures.

By the time World War II ended, most of the old-line independent automobile companies were already long gone. The remaining handful, however, were responsible for some of the postwar era's most exciting and innovative cars.

Studebaker debuted a sleek new look for 1947, Hudson introduced the modern "step-down" chassis design in 1948, and even Willys-Overland surprised folks with a Jeep-like all-steel station wagon in 1946.

Nash Motors, probably the most innovative of the independents, introduced its radically styled "bathtub" Airflyte Ambassador and 600 in 1949, then topped that the following year by introducing America's first compact car, the Rambler.

Nash president George Mason's original plan had been for the Rambler to be a volume seller. The company's 1950 annual report stated it plainly: "The Nash Motors division made an important move in fiscal 1950 entering the low-priced market with its new Rambler series. . . .

"A new Rambler body plant has been completely tooled for volume production. Its rate of operation will be determined by the amount of steel, copper, and other materials available. These factors also will govern the production of additional Rambler models to round out the new series of cars."

In the postwar years, material was allocated by a government agency according to past production levels, of which Rambler, being a new car, had none.

Unfortunately, obtaining sufficient resources was still a problem 12 months later when management noted that "(t)he story of Nash Motors division in the 1951 fiscal year is concerned principally with the difficulty experienced in obtaining steel, copper, and aluminum for the new Rambler series."

Nash was eventually granted an extra allocation of necessary goods by the National Production Authority after first showing that it had spent some $20 million developing the new car.

Even so, only 55,191 Ramblers could be built by the time Nash concluded its fiscal year on September 30. That was a lot more than the 11,428 convertibles and two-door station wagons built in 1950 but not enough to justify adding a lower-priced version.

Ultimately, output for the long 1951 model year came to 70,003 cars, but that pace proved unsustainable. Unluckily, the following year, strikes at suppliers held back Nash production, and exactly 53,000 of the 1952s were produced.

Go to the next page for more information on the Nash Ramblers that led to the 1953-1955 models.

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First Nash Ramblers

From the beginning, it was planned that the volume Nash Rambler model would be a budget-priced sedan. As a matter of fact, the first Nash Ramblers were six two-door sedans produced in 1950 as a test, then 50 more in 1951 (some of which may have gone to export markets), and one in 1952.

But, in the wake of World War II, parts and raw materials were still in too short supply to attempt to build cheap sedans in large numbers. Nash head George Mason, realizing that Rambler production was going to be less than hoped for, decided to concentrate on what he called "fringe" models -- the costlier body styles, such as convertibles, hardtops, and station wagons.

These would produce higher profits than plain sedans, helping to offset the restricted output, and in the case of the convertibles and wagons, were body types not offered in his larger cars.

A collateral effect was that this emphasis on higher-priced models served to enhance the Rambler's image. Since Ramblers came mostly as fancier models, they soon established a reputation as a very classy little car. As a result, this may have ended up being the most important aspect of Nash's product plan.

From its midseason introduction in March 1950, the Rambler won acclaim. By its third year on the market, however, the little car's appearance was in need of some reworking.

The original Rambler's styling reportedly evolved from work done earlier by Nash's then-consultant George Walker. Apparently, Walker's design had been altered somewhat by Nash engineers, ending up as the stubby but cute baby bathtub with which we're familiar today.

By 1952, though, the blunt, high-nose school of styling was going out of vogue and a sleeker, more modern look was Nash's new goal.

In the interval between the original design program and the restyle, Nash put together its own design staff. The head of Nash Styling was Edmund E. Anderson, formerly of General Motors. Anderson was Oldsmobile studio chief prior to World War II, and afterward settled in at Chevrolet.

To learn about Anderson's design process for the 1953 Nash Rambler, check out the next page.

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1953 Nash Rambler Design

Nash president George Mason had recruited Edmund E. Anderson from General Motors specifically to establish a design program for Nash. Anderson achieved that by hiring talented designers, like Bob Thomas and Bill Reddig, both from Ford, plus Don Butler, Royland Taylor, and others. Nash Styling's first assignment was the all-new 1952 Ambassador/Statesman. The second job on the list was the 1953 Nash Rambler design.

1953 Nash Rambler
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1953 Nash Ramblers were treated to
fresh new looks inspired by designer Pinin Farina.

There were certain considerations to take into account. Rambler should have a family resemblance to the rest of the Nash line. Additionally, stylists were required to retain the Rambler's enclosed wheels (which Anderson disliked) because Mason felt they were a strong design feature.

Design elements developed by Italian designer Pinin Farina had to be incorporated as well. The overall styling was going to be credited to Farina's firm, since Farina had a design contract with Nash (the all-new Nash-Healey for 1952 had been developed solely by his firm) and was being featured in advertising.

Rambler's new look mimicked the 1952 Ambassador and Statesman. The senior cars' styling had been a composite of two competing designs -- one by Farina, the other by Nash Styling -- and the result was hailed as the best in American and Continental thinking. Translating that theme onto the Rambler chassis worked wonders on the little car's appearance.

Most of the important dimensions remained about the same, including the 100-inch wheelbase on all models. But the still-skirted front fenders were more tightly drawn, looking lower and sleeker than before.

The high-prow hood was replaced by one that actually sat lower than the tops of the fenders. The enclosed rear fenders were also resculpted, imparting a more modern look and extending farther back than before.

Overall length was up 2 1/4 inches, to 178 1/4, or even further, to 185 3/8 inches, with the new "Continental kit" spare-tire carrier. The shape of the grille opening was a smaller version of that seen on the senior cars but featured a single floating horizontal bar inset, rather than the heavy vertical grille bars of the big cars.

Like the big Nashes, Ramblers wore a small badge with Farina's trademark red "F", affirmation of the Italian design input. One of Farina's ideas, a full-width heater intake that stretched across the cowl, was a great improvement over the ungainly-looking scoop seen on the 1950-1952 cars.

On hardtops, Farina's reverse-sweep C-pillars were retained, an attractive Nash stylemark. The net effect was that Rambler now exhibited a more modern, somewhat European look.

Find more details on the 1953 Nash Rambler in the next section.

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1953 Nash Rambler Model Lineup

The 1953 Nash Rambler model lineup was mostly the same as the prior year's. Wagons included the Suburban, which came only in lower-level Super trim, and the Custom station wagon, which could also be had as a better-trimmed Greenbrier.

Ordinary Custom wagons came with a Di-Noc imitation woodgrain trim around the side windows, while the lush Greenbriers came with two-tone paint as standard.

1953 Nash Rambler Custom convertible
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Nash Rambler Custom convertible enjoyed its final good year in 1953, when 3,284 were assembled.

The Rambler convertible, which still featured an electrically operated top that opened and closed like a roll-top desk on the fixed side-window frames, came only as a Custom model, as did the popular Country Club hardtop coupe.

At the bottom of the line was a basic Deliveryman wagon. Aimed at light-commercial users like florists and house painters, the Deliveryman had debuted in 1951, when 1,569 were produced. Another 1,248 were built for 1952.

However, for 1953 the Deliveryman was no longer listed in the regular catalog, and records indicate only nine were built (along with three basic Rambler Deluxe two-door sedans probably built for test purposes).

All Ramblers came with a higher-than-expected level of standard equipment. For 1953, the base price of Super models included both a radio and Nash's acclaimed "Weather Eye" heater-defroster.

To that, Customs added a deluxe steering wheel, fancier upholstery, foam seat cushions, directional signals, clock, courtesy lights, chrome wheel discs, and -- on convertibles and Country Club hardtops -- the Continental spare, all of which were very lavish by 1950s standards.

Like the big Nashes, Ramblers could be had with a voluptuous George Petty-designed hood ornament. Dashboards came in for attractive new styling, and interior trim was credited to "famed Parisian decorator" Madame Helene Rother.

Pricing reflected Rambler's premium models and standard equipment. Suburban station wagons started at $2,003, the Custom wagon was $2,119, the popular Country Club was tagged at $2,125, and the Convertible topped the line at $2,150.

These prices were just about what a stripped Statesman Super sold for, but the Statesman wasn't nearly so well equipped at that price. And, of course, the Statesman was a traditional family car; the Rambler was youthful, exciting, and different.

Optional for the first time on a Rambler was General Motors's excellent Dual-Range Hydra-Matic, a premium automatic transmission not usually offered on such cars back then. Also available was overdrive, plus the standard three-speed synchromesh.

Rambler buyers had two engine choices for 1953. Cars with manual transmissions got the new Super Flying Scot, a 184-cubic-inch L-head six that put out 85 horsepower, an improvement over the previous year's 172.6-cubic-inch, 82-horsepower version.

Cars equipped with Hydra-Matic got a 195.6-cubic-inch, 90-horsepower L-head engine, basically a depowered version of the Statesman six.

The new Ramblers, like all Nash-built cars since 1949, featured Airflyte construction, Nash's name for unibody design. As executive vice president George Romney explained it, "Rambler Airflyte body design replaces the separate frame weighing from 200 to 275 pounds. It also eliminates about 60 percent of the brackets needed to tie the older type body and frame
together. . . .

"Moreover, Airflyte construction practically doubles torsional rigidity of the integrated body-frame structure, improves spring suspension qualities and makes steering safer and more positive."

The auto market did an unanticipated about-face in the latter part of 1953. The seller's market ended abruptly, and a buyer's market took its place. Relaxation of government controls over raw materials, plus elimination of controls over car production, allowed Nash to increase the output of cars to near-capacity rates.

But, as management later explained, "It became apparent by mid-summer, however, that output was running in excess of current retail demand. Steps were taken immediately to correct the situation by stopping production for several weeks."

When, for the first time since the Rambler's introduction, there were no problems obtaining enough materials to build all the cars that Nash wanted to, sales demand began to wane. Only 31,790 1953 models were built, including just 3,284 of the once-popular convertibles. Something had to be done.

To learn about changes for the 1954 Nash Rambler, see the next page.

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1954 Nash Rambler Model Lineup

When the 1954 Nash Rambler model lineup was announced, there were several new designs available. To answer complaints that Rambler lacked sufficient room for larger families in its two-door-only models, Nash introduced a four-door Rambler sedan, at first only in Custom trim.

1954 Nash Rambler Custom wagon
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Custom remained the most wanted two-door wagon in 1954.

Although the company referred to the new four-door as a compact, with a 108-inch wheelbase it really was what would later be termed intermediate size. Compact on the outside but nearly as roomy inside as conventional cars, the Rambler sedans boasted exceptional fuel economy, plus ease of handling and parking -- qualities that suburban housewives were sure to appreciate.

Although reclining seats had been available on Ramblers since 1952, Nash's famed twin-bed option had remained exclusive to the Ambassador/Statesman line. But with the addition of the four-doors, twin-bed seats were now offered, although only on those models. All four-door Ramblers came with the 195.6-cubic-inch engine.

Also debuting was a new Country Club hardtop in lower-priced Super trim. It included Weather Eye and a radio but was fitted with hubcaps in place of wheel discs, and lacked the Custom hardtop's external spare tire carrier.

Sometime after the regular introduction, several additional models were added to the Rambler series. A lower-priced four-door Super was certainly a worthwhile addition, but the really big news was to be found in two other models.

Interestingly, they bracketed the 1954 lineup, one taking position as the highest-priced Rambler, the other as the lowest-priced. These were the Custom Cross Country station wagon, a four-door wagon in top-level trim, and the Rambler Deluxe two-door sedan.

Rambler wagons had always been popular, but the public response to the four-door wagon proved especially encouraging. Despite its position as the most expensive Rambler, buyers loved it.

The new wagon was a stylish and very practical car, perfectly suited to young families. Built on the 108-inch wheelbase, it used the same basic body as the sedan but featured an unusual and striking roofline. Designed by Bill Reddig, the roof panel continued the slope of the sedan's roof, dipping down before leveling off, then continuing rearward.

Reddig's purpose in including the unconventional dip in the roof line was twofold. The company had spent a great deal of money on body dies needed to produce the four-door sedan's rear doors and the stampings that made up the door framing, so Reddig's roof allowed those dies to be economically used for the wagon as well. Further, Nash Styling wanted a look that was different, to set its cars apart from others.

To reduce the visual effect of the dipped roof, Reddig suggested making a roof rack standard equipment. A simple affair stuck on the rearmost section of the roof, the rack completed the look.

Find information on the low-cost 1954 Rambler Deluxe model on the next page.

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1954 Nash Rambler Deluxe

The other new Rambler in 1954, the 1954 Nash Rambler Deluxe, was the low-priced volume model Nash head George Mason had envisioned years before.

A two-door club sedan, its baseline trim was anything but what the Deluxe name implied. Painted headlight rings replaced the chrome ones found on other Ramblers, and both windshield and rear window were framed in black rubber, not stainless steel.

1954 Nash Rambler Custom
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Though the Deluxe was the low-price model in 1954, Nash drew sales from four-doors like this Custom.

Overall, though, the Rambler Deluxe was the equal of any car from the "Low-priced Three." A price tag of just $1,550 (ah, the good old days!) made it the lowest-priced six-cylinder family sedan on the market. A two-door Super also joined the tine, but only 300 were built.

There was a change in equipment levels sometime after new-car announcement time, apparently occurring just about when the additional models joined the line.

Radios and the Weather Eye heating system were removed from the standard equipment list and became options. This allowed Nash to reduce prices somewhat, and wasn't at all unusual -- those items had always been optional on most other cars.

Air conditioning also became available, evidently sometime after new-car announcement time. A very sophisticated setup, it incorporated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in one system, a Nash exclusive. Priced lower than any other competing system, at $345, it was a remarkable advance.

Nash pitched a "Nash Challenge Deal" highlighting a Rambler Deluxe two-door sedan with air for just $1,895, an unbeatable bargain. Still, most buyers shied away from air-conditioned cars back then, regardless of who made them, and only 1,660 Ramblers were so equipped.

The year was one of turmoil. A Ford-Chevy sales war broke out, car prices were slashed in a bid for volume, and the independents took it on the chin in the showroom battle. Hudson went into a tailspin and ended up merging with Nash midyear, forming American Motors in the process.

In the end, the "Big Two" sold a lot of cars -- and the independents suffered for it. In spite of all the new models introduced, 1954 Rambler production totaled just 36,231. Of these, just 221 were ragtops.

The four-doors (including the Cross Country wagon) ended up being the salvation of hopes for Rambler, since they accounted for 20,982 units -- about 58 percent -- of the total built. Only 56 Deliveryman wagons were produced, plus exactly one four-door sedan in Deluxe trim, an evaluation model most likely.

To learn about changes for the 1955 Rambler, continue to the next page.

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1955 Rambler

The biggest news for the 1955 Rambler was the addition of a second line: the "new" Hudson Rambler series. With the cancellation of the ill-fated Jet, Hudson dealers needed a volume car to sell, and due to the 1954 merger of Nash and Hudson, the Rambler was it.

1955 Rambler
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Major styling changes on 1955 Ramblers included bigger front wheel openings and an eggcrate grille.

There wasn't anything about the Hudson Rambler that was different from Nash versions, other than wheel covers and grille badges. Records indicate that all models were shared between the two car divisions.

Styling came in for some big changes too. The floating-bar grille was replaced by an eggcrate type, with thick chrome bars filling up the opening, imparting a look of substance and quality.

Front wheel wells were opened up -- finally -- changing the overall appearance quite dramatically. The company seemed to be de-emphasizing Pinin Farina this year, for although his badge still appeared on cars, his name wasn't mentioned in some of the catalogs.

The model line was revised somewhat. Two-door Suburbans and club sedans were available in Deluxe or Super trim. Four-door sedans and wagons were available as Supers or Customs, and a Deluxe four-door sedan became a new offering.

The Country Club hardtop was back, though only in Custom trim, but the convertible was dropped.

As before, the Rambler line included a Deliveryman wagon that wasn't shown in the regular catalog. Only 35 were made under both Nash and Hudson nameplates, but another new model, a three-passenger business coupe (a two-door sedan with no rear seat), debuted with 77 produced.

1955 Nash Rambler Custom Cross Country
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Four-door Ramblers, including this Custom Cross Country, got a distinct paint option for spring 1955.

In the Mobilgas Economy Run that year, a Rambler four-door set an all-time record for cars with automatic transmissions: 27.47 mpg. Memories were still fresh of a stickshift Rambler with overdrive that set a record of 31.05 mpg in 1951, a record that was still in place in 1955.

American Motors's message this year was that Rambler was a bold new idea in automobiles. "IT HAD TO COME," shouted one line, "the time . . . for nimble, more agile cars . . . more versatile cars . . . stronger in construction, safer on curves . . . cars that can travel up to 600 miles on a tankful of gasoline."

May 1955 brought the debut of a special paint scheme, called Rambler Fashion Tone, which consisted of a main body color offset by a contrasting color applied to the rockers, roof, rear deck, and portions of the rear quarters and doors.

Production soared during the year, with Rambler finally able to build some volume. A total of 81,237 were built. The importance of the four-door models can't be over-emphasized; with 60,848 produced, they literally made the Rambler line viable.

Although the budget-priced two-door Deluxe boasted a low price tag, more than three times as many four-door Cross Country wagons -- the most expensive model -- were produced.

The value of having Hudson dealers on board can't be discounted either. Hudson versions accounted for 25,214 of the total Ramblers built.

By this time, George Romney had assumed the top post at American Motors, the new company that resulted from the Nash-Hudson merger. His predecessor, former Nash president George Mason, died suddenly in October 1954.

It has often been speculated that Romney rushed through the change to the open front wheels, dropping the enclosed fenders his boss had loved, but evidence discounts that idea. Mason's death came around the same time the new cars would have gone into production, so he must have seen and approved the new look.

Besides, Romney's hands were full enough. His company was enjoying a brief honeymoon this year but would be pushed to the wall in 1956. Tough times were on the way.

Check out numbers for weight, prices, and production of the 1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Rambler on the next page.

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1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Rambler Specifications

The 1953 Nash and Hudson Rambler breathed new hope into two automotive ventures in the 1950s. Originally marketed as a Nash, the Rambler in 1955 was also sold through Hudson showrooms after the two struggling companies merged to form AMC. Below are 1953-1955 Nash and Hudson Rambler specifications.

1955 Hudson Rambler Custom Country Club
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Apart from the grille badge, a 1955 Hudson Rambler Custom Country Club was identical to its Nash twin.

1953 Nash Rambler Models, Prices, and Production

Nash Rambler (wheelbase 100) Weight
Price Production
Super Suburban
2-door wagon
2,555
$2,003
1,114
Custom convertible coupe
2,590
2,150
3,284
Custom 2-door wagon
2,570
2,119
7,035
Greenbrier 2-door wagon
--
--
3,536
Custom Country Club
Hardtop coupe
2,550
2,125
16,809
Deliveryman
2-door utility wagon
--
--
9
Deluxe 2-door sedan
--
--
3
Total 1953 Nash Rambler


31,790

1954 Nash Rambler Models, Prices, and Production
Nash Rambler (wheelbase 100; 4-door 108)
Weight
Price
Production
Deluxe 2-door sedan
2,425
$1,550
7,273
Super Suburban
2-door wagon
2,520
1,800
504
Super 4-door sedan
2,570
1,795
4,312
Super 2-door sedan
2,425
1,700
300
Super Country Club
Hardtop coupe
2,465
1,800
1,071
Custom convertible coupe
2,555
1,980
221
Custom 2-door wagon
2,535
1,950
2,202
Custom 4-door sedan
2,630
1,965
7,640
Custom Country Club
Hardtop coupe
2,515
1,950
3,612
Custom Cross Country
4-door wagon
2,715
2,050
9,039
Deluxe 4-door sedan
--
--
1
Deliveryman 2-door utility wagon
--
--
56
Total 1954 Nash Rambler


36,231

1955 Rambler Models, Prices, and Production
Nash Rambler (wheelbase 100; 4-door 108)
Weight
Price
Production
2-door business sedan 2,400 $1,457 43
Deluxe Suburban
2-door wagon
2,528
1,771 12,023
Super Suburban

2-door wagon
2,532
1,869 2,379
Deluxe 2-door sedan
2,432
1,585 8,979
Super 2-door sedan
2,450
1,683
Custom Country Club
Hardtop coupe
2,518 1,995 2,993
Deluxe 4-door sedan
2,567 1,695
Super 4-door sedan
2,570 1,798 15,998
Custom 4-door sedan
2,606 1,989
Super Cross Country
4-door wagon
2,675 1,975
Custom Cross Country

4-door wagon
2,685 2,098 25,617
Deliveryman
2-door utility wagon 2,500 1,570 14
Total 1955 Nash Rambler


56,023
Hudson Rambler (wheelbase 100; 4-door 108)



2-door business sedan 2,400 $1,457 34
Deluxe Suburban
2-door wagon
2,528 1,771
Super S­uburban
­
2-door wagon
2,532 1,869 1,355
Deluxe 2-door sedan
2,432
1,585 2,970
Super 2-door sedan
2,450
1,683
Custom Country Club
Hardtop coupe
2,518 1,995 1,601
Deluxe 4-door sedan
2,567 1,695
Super 4-door sedan
2,570 1,798 7,210
Custom 4-door sedan
2,606 1,989
Super Cross Country
4-door wagon
2,675 1,975
Custom Cross Country­
­
4-door wagon
2,685 2,098 12,023
Deliveryman
2-door utility wagon
2,500 1,570 21
Total 1955 Hudson Rambler


25,214
Total 1955 Rambler


81,237

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