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1949-1951 Nash Airflyte

1949 Nash Airflyte Development

Let's look into the 1949 Nash Airflyte development. The president and chairman of Nash-Kelvinator, George W. Mason, was certainly willing to look at any plan that might help his firm increase sales. Nash had always been a conservatively run company when it was led by its namesake, Charles W. Nash.

Charlie Nash had hand-picked Mason as his successor, partly on the belief that Mason was a fiscal conservative like himself. It's doubtful that Nash ever regretted his choice, for Mason ran the company very well indeed, avoiding the pitfalls that had killed off so many other independent automakers.

1949 Nash Ambassador Super full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1949 Nash Ambassador Super four-door sedan listed at $2,195 without options, and with 17,960 built, it outsold any other Ambassador model by more than two-to-one.

By 1945, Nash was a solid company that had earned a reasonable return on its wartime contracts and had plenty of cash on hand to retool for the future.
But George Mason was cut from a different cloth than Charlie Nash.

Mason understood the need for fiscal responsibility, but a part of him yearned to take a chance on something a bit daring, bold, and out of the mainstream. He believed that the way to ensure success for a smaller independent automaker was to offer cars noticeably different from those of the mainline Big Three producers.

Mason, in figuring out how long it would take the auto companies to satisfy the pent-up demand, was certain that when the thirst was slaked the market would quickly turn cold and cruel.

Knowing that he would need an all-new car when competitive conditions returned, he settled on 1949 as the year he would introduce the first all-new postwar Nash. This would be the car that would lead the firm into the future.

1949-1951 Nash Airflyte interior view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Nash heavily promoted its seats that converted into a bed as well as the "Uniscope" instrument pod on the steering column.

Preliminary work on the 1949 had actually begun during the war, 1943 to be exact. While laboring on wartime projects, Wahlberg had gained access to a large wind tunnel, something Nash didn't have.

He began to experiment with different shapes and forms, trying to determine an optimal package that would hold a full load of passengers and cargo while offering minimal wind resistance.

At about the same time, Wahlberg was visited by two independent auto designers, Bob Koto and Ted Piech. What they had to offer was a design for a large aerodynamically clean family car for the postwar market.

Although Wahlberg looked over the clay model and supporting drawings, he passed on the car, deciding to do one with his own team instead. But Koto's design almost certainly exerted a heavy influence on the car that Wahlberg eventually put into production.

Nash Styling in the late 1940s was a part of Engineering, so naturally Wahlberg had command. Actual work on the production cars was done by Wahlberg's assistant, Chief Engineer Meade Moore, and Ted Ulrich, perhaps the top unit-body designer in the country at the time and the man who popularized it with the landmark 1941 Nash 600.

Assisting them was a small band of engineering department employees. Ray Smith worked on the one-quarter-scale models, Don Butler on body details and chrome accessories such as wheel covers, mirrors, and trim.

What a car they built! The 1949 Nash was a standout, easily identifiable to the man on the street -- exciting and exotic all at once. The envelope shape was the most streamlined form on the road, a large step ahead of the vaguely similar Packard.

At Wahlberg's insistence, form was to follow function, with better airflow the main goal, and indeed the Airflyte generated just 113 pounds of drag at 60 mph, compared to 171 for Packard. The rounded fenders flowed smoothly, their gentle corners easing a path through the wind.

At 62 inches tall, the new car stood six inches lower than the 1948 Nash, and the windshield was one piece and curved. Semi-enclosed rear wheel housings had been a feature on the previous Nash 600, but for this daring postwar car both front and rear wheels were enclosed at Wahlberg's insistence.

1949 Nash Ambassador Super closeup view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The flying lady hood ornament on the Nash Ambassador cost an extra $9.

George Mason became an instant convert to the aero look, championing the enclosed wheels as a boldly innovative feature -- and a Nash exclusive. So pure, in fact, was the aero look that buyers had to cough up an extra $9 if they wanted a hood ornament.

Find details on the 1949 Nash Airflyte series on the next page.

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