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1949-1951 Nash Airflyte

1951 Nash Airflyte

Trim levels for the1951 Nash Airflyte were reduced to two, Super and Custom, although the Statesman line also offered a single low-priced DeLuxe business coupe. Custom models came with more upmarket trim, full wheel discs, custom steering wheel, and a folding rear-seat armrest.

1951 Nash Airflyte full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
For 1951, Nash gave its Airflytes a more thorough restyling. Up front was a new vertical-bar grille.

In April 1950, Nash unveiled an all-new companion line, the Rambler. In one of those footnotes to history, the Rambler was originally going to be called Diplomat, keeping the civil servant nomenclature intact. But Chrysler owned that moniker, so Nash dug into the past for an old name used by Nash's predecessor, Thomas B. Jeffery & Company, from 1902-1913: Rambler.

The new car carried the Airflyte look, complete with enclosed wheels and soft corners, and even wore Airflyte badges.

There is nothing more satisfying than following up a great year with an even greater one, and for 1950 Nash did just that. Total production for the calendar year was 191,865 cars, helped along by decent sales of the Rambler. Along the way, on April 18,1950, the two-millionth Nash was produced.

1951 Nash Ambassador full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1951 Ambassador Statesman lacked any extra brightwork, as the Super four-door next to the lighter Ambassador Custom shows.

Long before the 1951 model year rolled around, it had been determined that the big Nashes would need a freshening up. New squared-off, more conventional-looking "Sky-Flow" rear fenders appeared on both the Ambassador and Statesman, complemented by vertically placed oval taillights.

Up front, the sheetmetal was unchanged because the differences in length would have doubled the tooling cost. But the grille was new, sporting a handsome, toothy grin that had a bit of 1951 Buick flavor to it, making the two look more-or-less related from a head-on view.

1951 Nash Ambassador full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
This 1951 Nash Ambassador Custom looks like the squad car Inspector Henderson of the Metropolis Police drove in the Superman TV show.

The 1951s also received horizontal parking lights and new "Guard-rail" front bumpers, and for Ambassadors a distinctive molding that swept rearward from the parking light down two-thirds of the front fender.

Inside, the Uniscope was gone, replaced by a new "Pilot Panel" dashboard color-matched to the exterior. Though more conventional now, it still placed all of the "driving dials" directly in front of the driver, sported a "curved cowl," and retained the sliding Glove Drawer.

1951 Nash Statesman engine view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Statesman's L-head six delivered 85 horsepower.

Statesmans added Hydra-Matic to the options list, necessary because automatic drive was fast gaining in popularity -- more than 60,000 Nashes were ordered with it in 1951. Overdrive was also still popular: about 87,000 installations.

Though mechanical changes were few, prospects were reminded that "Only Nash and Rolls-Royce have the husky 7-bearing, 100% counterbalanced crankshaft . . . that's super-quiet, vibration-free, built for years of rugged service."

Nash also boasted that a 1950 Ambassador had traveled 712 miles at 95.3 mph in the Pan American Road Race in Mexico, "Believed to be a class stock car record never equaled!"

1951 Nash Statesman full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
For three years running, the 600/Statesman Super four-door had been Nash's bestselling model.

Another Ambassador won the Bell Timing Award Trophy as the fastest sedan tested at El Mirage Dry Lake, California; it did 99.4 mph in the flying mile.

Calendar-year production fell to 161,140 units in 1951, and that included 57,555 Ramblers. Model year results were more encouraging: 205,307, including 70,003 Ramblers.

The latter was getting the lion's share of the firm's attention now as a new Country Club two-door hardtop joined the station wagon and convertible. Interestingly, Ramblers came in body styles that the big Nashes didn't offer. Conversely, the Rambler lineup still lacked sedans, though they would soon appear.

There were several reasons why production was beginning to falter as the 1951 model year ground on. First off, the Airflyte was in its third year, so it was no longer the newest car on the block.

Secondly, the public was tiring of the fastback look in general, and not just Nash's. General Motors, for example, was quickly abandoning that body style across its vast lineup.

Finally, the overall auto market was having an off year after record-breaking 1950.

1951 Nash Ambassador full view
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1951 Ambassador Super four-door cost $2,330; 34,935 were built.

It was proudly pointed out in 1951 that "the Sales Gain of Nash since the war has been 5 Times as Great as the Industry's!" George Mason was thus rightly well pleased that he had decided to go ahead with the aero look and made sure the enclosed wheels and smooth fender shapes were retained when he directed Styling to come up with the next generation of senior Nashes. This new automobile would be ready for Nash's Golden Anniversary celebration in 1952.

Wally Wahlberg had left the firm by then, replaced by Meade Moore. But Airflyte styling remained a hallmark at Nash and its successor, American Motors, perhaps longer than it should have.

Styling opened up the Rambler's front wheels for 1955, but Ambassadors wore enclosed wheels through 1956, and of course the little British-built Metropolitan carried that look right to its 1962 demise.

Aero-styling didn't reappear on American sedans until the mid-1980s, when Ford picked up the torch and ran with it -- covering much of the ground the Airflyte had already traveled!

For 1949-1959 Nash Airflyte specifications, see our final section.

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