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1949-1951 Nash Airflyte

1949 Nash Airflyte

Nash put it this way: "Now you've seen EVERYTHING in postwar styling! No more ugly fender openings! Now a complete sweep of racing curves from massive front to perfect tear-drop back . . . from road to roof . . . and inside and out! Every line sings with action! There's nothing like it on the road."

Inside, the "Super-Lounge" interior ("Sky-Lounge" in 1950) featured a modern minimalist look "deliberately designed to be recessive in tone, restful, [with] no distracting halations."

1949-1951 Nash Airflyte interior view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Uniscope instrument pod took much of the clutter from the dash; note the vertical radio dial.

"No need ever to take your eyes off the road . . . all instrument dials are grouped just below eye-level, on your steering post. That's the Uniscope."
Tied in with that Uniscope pod was a recessed dashboard: "Everything that could be has been built in, out-of-sight. Behind the baffle is your complete Weather Eye Conditioned Air System."

Nash's famous unified heater/defroster/ventilation unit first seen in 1938. The interior was cavernous and comfortable: "No protruding panel cramming against you in front. There's room here to cross your knees and completely relax if you like."

In addition, the all-coil spring suspension provided a truly luxurious ride, and the aero design kept wind noise to a minimum.

Nash had previously offered a bed option in its cars, but for 1949 it introduced "the new Nash Twin Bed arrangement." The bed (or beds) were formed by dropping the front seat backs to meet the rear seat, a big improvement from the former style that had used only the rear seat, forcing owners to sleep with their legs tucked into the trunk area.

Special mattresses were optional, and window screens were soon offered, much to the comfort of campers who wanted to let air in and keep mosquitos out.

Although Nash had popularized unitized design for its 1941 600 series, the 1941-1948 Ambassador had retained a separate frame. For 1949, however, Nash went over to unit-body construction exclusively because the new cars shared their chassis as well as bodies with no extra framework underneath the costlier Ambassadors.

In 1949, Nash called it "Unitized" or "Airflyte Construction," and claimed it was "1 1/2 to 2 1/2 times as rigid as conventional cars," partly because of its 8,000 electronic welds.

1949-1951 Nash Airflyte rear view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
With its 28.5-cubic-foot capacity, the Nash Airflyte's trunk was huge.

Both series shared identical styling. The 600s rode a 112-inch wheelbase, while the Ambassador boasted a 121-inch span, both as in the previous year. The Ambassador's extra nine inches rode ahead of the windshield, so longer front fenders and hood were fitted as well. The body sharing meant that interior dimensions were identical.

Although fastback styling cues had shown up on earlier cars, like the previous year's Packard and "Step-down" Hudson, the Nash rendition went a step beyond them.

Nash had talked about "Aero-Form" design way back in 1935, but the new car was quite beyond that, and beyond any other sedan on the market for "pure" aerodynamics, including the concurrent semi-bathtub Lincoln.

Following wind-tunnel tests at the University of Wichita, Nash could boast in its 1950 brochure that "The Nash Airflyte moves through the air with 20.7% less air-drag than the average of all other leading makes of cars tested. Other cars used as much as 51% more power . . . at speeds ranging from 30 M.P.H. upwards. The new Nash Airflyte for 1950 requires 11 horsepower less at 80 miles per hour for air drag alone than the average of other modern automobiles."

Powertrains were conservative. The 600 came with Nash's four-main-bearing flat-head six displacing 172.6 cubic inches and rated at a modest 82 horsepower. The Ambassador boasted a larger 234.8-cid overhead-valve six that put out 112 horses at only 3400 rpm and featured a sturdy seven-main-bearing crank for longevity that was hard to beat.

"Both engines give you the unfaltering smoothness of Uniflo-Jet carburetion, exclusive with Nash," said the brochure, saving the gas "customarily wasted in acceleration." The carryover motors were mated to a three-speed manual transmission. However, they could be ordered with overdrive -- which Nash preferred to call "Automatic Fourth Speed Forward" -- and a large percentage were.

Both cars were available in just two body styles, a two- and four-door sedan, though the first was also offered as a Brougham, which differed only inside. All came in three trim series: Super, Super Special, and Custom.

Nash 600 base prices ranged from $1,786 to $2,000, while Ambassadors cost $2,170 to $2,363. This placed the 600 in direct competition with the Buick Special, while the Ambassador went up against the Buick Super.

This was formidable competition, as the Buicks rode a 121-inch wheelbase, same as Ambassador but weighed about 400-700 "road-hugging" pounds more than the equivalent Nashes and had straight eights delivering 110-120 horsepower.

Other rivals included the Olds Futuramic 76 and 88, Mercury, Chrysler Royal and Windsor, DeSoto, Pontiac, Hudson, Stude-baker Commander, and Kaiser.

Learn about the 1950 Nash Airflytes in the next section.

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