This 1957 Nash Ambassador was one of the final Nash cars produced that year.

1956, 1957 Nash Cars

Rambler got all the emphasis for '56 under new AMC president Romney (who took over upon Mason's death). A full outer-body reskin brought a wrapped windshield, squared eggcrate grille with inboard headlamps, blocky body lines, and colorful exteriors with optional two-tone and even three-tone paint.

What's more, all Ramblers were now on the 108-inch wheelbase and had four doors. Some lacked B-posts, though, as airy hardtop sedans and Detroit's first hardtop wagons were added. Horsepower was boosted to 120 across the board. Prices were higher too, but still reasonable: $1830-$2330. Once more, Ramblers wore Nash or Hudson badges depending on which network they were sold through. About 10,000 were built for the model year, after which Rambler became a separate make (see Rambler).

An improved Metropolitan, the 1500, was introduced in mid-'56. That referred to the metric displacement of a 90.9-cid Austin four churning out 52 bhp, 24 percent more than the old "1200." Where early Mets did only about 70 mph tops, the 1500 could approach 80, though it was still hardly a sports car.

Styling was updated by a mesh grille with a prominent new "M" medallion, a hood shorn of its dummy air scoop, and zigzag side moldings that delineated loud two-tone paint schemes. Though prices were hiked to $1500-$1600, the Met would continue to find favor through decade's end. Sales averaged 14,000 a year for 1957-58, then jumped to 22,300 for '59.

But that would prove the peak. Sales dropped to 13,000 for 1960, then plunged below 1000. The Met thus departed in 1962, when a mere 412 were sold -- all leftovers (production ceased in mid-1960). These cute little cars have since become "cult collectibles." Who would have thought it?

Far less unthinkable in 1956 was the end of the big Nash. That year's lineup was cut to Statesman and Ambassador Six Super sedans, plus V-8 Ambassador Super and Custom sedans and Custom Country Club. The V-8s retained Packard power through April, then became Ambassador Specials by switching to AMC's own new 250-cid with 190 bhp. Ed Anderson devised big "lollipop" taillights, extra chrome for the sides and front, and splashy duo-tone and tri-tone paint schemes, but they were little help. Model-year production plunged by two-thirds.

Nash got one more chance, but 1957 was anticlimactic. Side trim was shuffled, and headlamps not only moved back to the fenders but multiplied to stack in pairs astride a busy oval grille. Models were limited to Super and Custom Ambassador sedans and Country Clubs, with Customs often heroically overcolored. All carried a 327-cid V-8 lifted to 255 bhp by a four-barrel carb, dual exhausts, and 9:1 compression.

But the bell had been tolling for some time, so after 1957 production of under 3600 big cars, Nash was laid to rest alongside Hudson. It was purely a survival move. AMC was still digging out from the debts incurred with the Nash-Hudson merger, and the Rambler name had become a far more salable commodity -- to say nothing of the cars. At least the Ambassador didn't die, returning as a 1958 line of stretched Ramblers once planned for Nash and Hudson.

For more on defunct American cars, see: