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1952-1954 Nash Ambassador and Statesman

1952 Nash Design

Entered in a competition to replace the "bathtub" Nash, the company's in-house team worked long hours on its proposal for the 1952 Nash design. What emerged from its efforts was a large envelope-bodied sedan with the obligatory enclosed wheels.

1952 Ambassador Statesman
Internal Nash politics led to the large, toothy
grille for the 1952s, seen here on a Statesman.

The mock-up carried several unique design features. Most prominent was a notch formed on both front doors, which provided visual relief to the slab sides and gave a jaunty air to the overall design. The grille was an oval with heavy vertical bars, fine horizontal strips inset, and the Nash badge prominently fixed in the center. Headlamps were cathedral style, much like those eventually seen on the 1955 Packard, though more petite; one could almost say delicate.

Three chromed vents lined each body side, two mounted on the rear door and one on the quarter panel just aft of the rear door cut line. A chrome spear also adorned the sides, and where it wrapped around under the headlamps it carried inset turn signals. The U-shaped bumper and thick bumper guards lent a formal look to the front end. The greenhouse featured vent windows front and rear, along with a large wraparound rear window.

It was, all in all, an elegant design, in keeping with the Nash heritage.

Meanwhile, legendary designer Pinin Farina -- the other entrant in the competition -- did his design work in his home country of Italy. His model was then shipped to America. Both Ed Anderson, head of the in-house team, and designer William Reddig expected Farina's car would be a visual knockout. Reddig was already familiar with Farina's skill. "I had seen the work he'd done on the Cisitalia, which was just a beautiful car. I felt, well this guy is good. ..."

Farina's proposal had been constructed in sheetmetal as a full-size prototype, complete with interior. Reddig recalls it had a neat European touch, an interior fishnet "parcel holder" over the shield for holding maps and sunglasses, that made it to production.

When Farina's model was unveiled to Nash executives, however, it received a less than enthusiastic reception. Some who viewed the prototype say the design looked "soft" overall, with severely sloped front and rear ends. Farina also hadn't allowed enough square inches in the grille for proper air flow, and the headlamp height wouldn't meet U.S. standards, either. Some Nash executives felt the design had too much "European" flavor to be successful in America. The Farina model was moved to a corner of the styling studio and covered up with a tarpaulin. No photos of the car are known to exist.

Reddig believes the problem may have been simply that Farina wasn't used to the unique demands of designing large, American-type cars. "I'm sure this was the first time he (Farina) had the challenge to make a car with that sort of body dimensions, with the kinds of features that he was used to doing. And it just didn't look right," he said.

No matter, since the Nash team's proposal was a completely acceptable alternative. Anderson was given the go-ahead to produce it. But soon after tooling was ordered, a decree came down halting the project. Nash president George Mason, most likely influenced by chief engineer Meade Moore, decided a better course might be to integrate some features of the Farina design into the in-house styling proposal. Anderson was ordered to come up with what he later termed a "composite" design, based mainly on his own team's effort, but with several Farina touches worked in.

1952 Nash Ambassador
Reverse C-pillars, as on this 1952 Ambassador,
were thrown in as a nod to designer Pinin Farina.

Reddig remembers how disappointed the Nash team was. "Yes, it was a letdown, no question about it, because we sure were excited about what we were doing," he said. "But the rationale, as I recall, was that after a management decision, that they felt that the Farina name ... what they wanted to do was to merchandise Farina's reputation and name. So, he was lending that, and his name-plate would be on the side of the car. And that was extremely important (to Nash management) as far as merchandising the car."

"So yeah, it was a disappointment but you know, we were professionals, not amateurs, so when that's the decision, you just do the best damn job you can to make the best acceptable design to achieve what management wants."

Anderson and crew went to work on the composite design. Reverse-slanted C-pillars were incorporated, and the front doornotch was carried over to the rear doors as well. The elegant grille was replaced by a larger oval with toothy grille bars. The cathedral headlamps gave way to ones with a rounded shape. What emerged was a remarkably good-looking automobile. Mason approved it for production.

Sometime later, George Romney stopped Anderson in the hallway. As the designer later related, Romney said, "Ed, I know you and your staff did most of the styling of the 1952 Nash, but the advertising agency and our sales department feel it might be good publicity to give Farina full credit. How do you feel about that?" To which Anderson said he replied, "George, I am a corporation man as much as you are. If Farina's name will sell one more car, then I am for it."

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