How Nash Cars Work

The 1930 Nash Twin Ignition employed two sets of spark plugs and points plus dual condensers and coils, all operating from a single distributor.

Crusty Charles W. Nash resigned as president of General Motors in 1916 to build a car under his own name. Two years later, he bought the Thomas B. Jeffery Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin, which manufactured the slow-selling Jeffery and an earlier model called Rambler.

Renamed Nash Motors, the firm charged up the sales charts, reaching as high as eighth place in industry production during the 1920s. Along the way, Nash introduced the low-cost six-cylinder Ajax and expanded by absorbing Mitchell and LaFayette. But none of these marques were as successful as the Nash itself and were gone by 1930.


Nash suffered in the general economic malaise following the 1929 Wall Street crash but found financial salvation by merging with the Kelvinator appliance company in 1937. Kelvinator president George Mason, a burly man described by many as "cigar-chomping," continued as president of the new concern; Charles Nash was chairman of the board. By 1940, Nash-Kelvinator had turned the corner and was profit­able once more.

Many early-'30s Nashes were sumptuous, beautifully styled automobiles with numerous special features. But the firm also sold low-priced cars with an ordinary side-valve six. For 1930-32, this was a 201.3-cubic-inch engine with 60-70 horsepower; for 1933, it grew to 217.8 cid and 75 bhp. Series were variously titled Single Six (1930), 660 (1931), 960 (1932), and Big Six (1932-33).

Prices started at around $1000 in 1930 but were later lowered to the $800-$900 range to spur sales in the Depression-crushed market. A side-valve straight eight was added for the 870/970 of 1931-32, with 227.2 cid and 78 bhp. In 1932-33 came a bored-out 247.4-cid engine with 85 horsepower for Standard and Special Eights (Series 1070/1080), listing at $1000-$1500. The smaller eights generally sold for just below $1000.

More interesting were Nash's "Twin Ignition" cars, also variously titled. As the name

implied, these employed two sets of spark plugs and points plus dual condensers and coils, all operating from a single distributor.

The Twin Ignition Six arrived in 1928 as a 242-cid engine with 74 bhp. It continued through 1930, then stepped aside in '31 for a 240-cid straight eight with 88-94 bhp. The Twin Ignition Eight arrived for 1930, delivering 100-115 bhp from 298.6 cid. That powerplant persisted through the 1932 model year, when it was bracketed by new 260.8- and 322-cid engines with respective bhp of 100 and 125. The 322 was canceled after 1934, but the 260.8 would carry on all the way through 1942, although it lost twin ignition that final year.

Charlie Nash was president of Buick in 1910-11, a make that espoused overhead valves, so it wasn't surprising that all these Nash engines were ohv, too. The eights also boasted nine main bearings for smooth operation. Cost factors and rising public demand for greater fuel economy prompted Nash to abandon eight-cylinder engines after 1942; they wouldn't return until 1955.

Nash persisted with classically upright styling through 1934 even though other makes were shifting to a rounder stream-lined look. Body styles in all early-'30s series encompassed the most-popular period types: closed sedans, touring car, victoria, rumble-seat coupe, roadster, and convertible cabriolet. Seven-passenger sedans and limousines on wheelbases of 133 and 142 inches were cataloged for the six- and eight-cylinder Twin Ignition lines.

A notable addition for 1932 was the Ambassador -- a nicely proportioned, luxuriously trimmed five-seat sedan priced at $1855. A four-door brougham sedan was also offered, as were two seven-seaters priced $100-$200 higher. Additional choices arrived for 1933.

Charles Nash believed in offering a lot for the money, and his cars bristled with innovations. The Twin Ignition Eight, for example, sported cowl ventilation, a dashboard starter button (instead of a floor pedal), shatterproof glass, and automatic radiator vents in 1930; downdraft carburetors and Bijur automatic chassis lubrication for '31; "Syncro-Safety Shift" and optional freewheeling for 1932 (a device built into the transmission that allowed the car to coast when the driver's foot was off the accelerator; it was ultimately determined to be dangerous because it eliminated engine braking); ignition/steering-wheel lock for '33; and aircraft-type instruments for '34. Many of these features also appeared on the cheaper side-valve Eights.

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The 1936 Nash 400 New Six shown here featured the 234.8-cid engine, introduced in 1934.
The 1936 Nash 400 New Six shown here featured the 234.8-cid engine, introduced in 1934.

Like most automakers, Nash was damaged badly by the Depression. Though it regularly built over 100,000 cars a year in the late '20s, it wouldn't repeat that figure in the '30s, and thus ranked 11th, 12th, or 13th in industry production, with the exception of 1932, when it placed seventh in a down year for the industry.

Also like many others, Nash hit bottom in 1933, output totaling less than 15,000. With a new approach desperately needed, a planned 1934 restyle was postponed a year while Nash pinned its hopes -- and resources -- on new low-priced LaFayettes.

Nash built its millionth car in 1934 while trying to summon better times with a drastically reduced line consisting of the 116-inch-wheelbase Big Six, 121-inch Advanced Eight, and 133/142-inch Ambassador Eight, all with ohv Twin Ignition engines. But production didn't improve much, and Nash lost over $1.6 million.

Hydraulic brakes arrived for 1935 models, reduced to just a four-door sedan and six-passenger victoria in each series. Ambassador also lost its smooth 322-cid engine, sharing the Advanced Eight's 260.8-cid unit.

But the belated restyle appeared that year as "Aeroform Design," and it was good. Highlights included sweeping skirted fenders, a handsome Vee'd radiator, and a louvered hood. Prices spanned a range of $825-$1220. Happily for Nash, sales turned up. Registrations for the calendar year went from just under 24,000 to a bit over 35,000.

Things were even better for 1936, reaching 43,000 with the help of new low-priced six-cylinder "400" models, standard and Deluxe. That year's Ambassadors comprised two Sixes and one eight-cylinder "trunkback" sedan, all on a 125-inch wheelbase. Prices were $835-$995. Sixes shared the "400" engine: the 234.8-cid unit introduced back in '34, now with 90 or 93 bhp.

Hopes for the revived LaFayette weren't entirely realized. An ostensibly separate make, it was, of course, planned as a junior-edition Depression-beater. Trouble was, the Great Depression was easing by the time the car debuted in 1934, which made the line far less necessary.

Indeed, LaFayette attracted only 5000 first-year buyers and another 9400 for '35 before unexpectedly sky-rocketing to 27,860. They had ordinary styling on a 113-inch wheelbase, and popular body styles were offered at $585-$715. But the cars were "built down" to achieve those prices. Their powerplant, for instance, was the old 75-83 bhp 217.8-cid six from 1931-33.

Accordingly, LaFayette was made the lowest-priced 1937 Nash, taking over an unchanged chassis from the previous year's "400s." The Ambassador Six returned on a 121-inch platform and was increased to 105 bhp. Ambassador Eight continued with its 125-inch chassis and a 260.8-cid Twin Ignition eight that now made 115 bhp.

This range of engines and wheelbases continued through decade's end. Styling was cautious, even imitative. The '37s, for instance, were much like Chrysler/DeSoto Airstreams: slightly lumpy, with similar barrel grilles. But they seemed to satisfy buyers. Nash had its best year of the decade in 1937, building 77,000 cars to earn $3.4 million.

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The 1938 Nash LaFayette was a popular car for the company and accounted for more than 50 percent of the company's production in 1939.

Kenosha lost some of this hard-won sales ground as 1938 production stumbled to 41,543 cars and the new Nash-Kelvinator Corporation lost $7.7 million.

A severe facelift changed Nash's resemblance from Chrysler to the dumpier GM products, but the sales drop was primarily due to that year's sharp recession. A noteworthy innovation was the "Weather-Eye" heating/ventilation system, a pioneering "climatizer" that would remain one of the best in Detroit for the next 20 years.

A total 1939 restyle ushered in handsome Ford-like styling announced by flush-fit headlamps astride a narrow prow bearing horizontal bars; fine vertical bars adorned the "catwalks" on either side. The rest of the package was neat, trim, and coherent, combining all the best elements of late "art-deco" design.

Production rebounded strongly to 63,000 cars. Significantly, LaFayette accounted for over 50 percent of production. Although Nash-Kelvinator lost $1.6 million in 1939, its future looked brighter than it had in a decade.

LaFayette made its final appearance for 1940, when all ­models were cautiously facelifted, mainly via applied trim. The veteran 234.8-cid six, as smooth and quiet as ever with its seven main bearings, was up to 99 horsepower for LaFayette.

Ambassador Sixes still offered 105 bhp from the same engine, plus a four-inch-longer wheelbase, for about $110 more model-for-model. Ambassador Eights again delivered 115 bhp, as they had since 1937. Body styles were the same in all three series: business coupe, two- and four-door fastback sedans, trunkback four-door, and "All-Purpose" coupe and cabriolet. Model-year output was down slightly from '39 but still fairly healthy at 62,131.

For 1941, Nash joined future partner Hudson in advocating "single-unit" construction with the new 600, which signified 600 miles on a 20-gallon tank of gas. A handsome package on a 112-inch wheelbase, the 600 offered eight models powered by a new 75-bhp, 172.6-cid six. These included sedans and coupes in Special or Deluxe trim, all priced remarkably low. The Special fastback four-door, for instance, cost $805, less than a compar­able Ford V-8.

Time magazine called the 600 "the only completely new car in 1941," and demand was strong. Styling, evolved from the '40 look, was shared by senior Nashes, which also gained new unitized bodies, though the Ambassador Eight was demoted to the shorter chassis of its six-cylinder ­sister. More-horizontal front end styling was featured across the board. Altogether, 1941 proved very profit­able for Nash-Kelvin­ator, which closed the fiscal year with $4.6 million in earnings on total volume of just over 84,000 cars.

Production slimmed to only 31,780 for war-shortened 1942. Following an industry trend, Nash heavily facelifted with a low wraparound grille composed of three horizontal bars, a motif repeated as fender trim on some models. A slightly blunted prow hood rode above a small upper grille with four short hori­zontal bars, and parking lights appeared atop the front fenders.

The same three series continued, but with fewer body and trim variations. Nash-Kelvinator then dug in for war production, turning out $600 million worth of aircraft engines and parts, munitions, cargo trailers, and other goods.

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The 1948 Nash Ambassador line required extensive hand labor, resulting in higher-than-average prices in the
The 1948 Nash Ambassador line required extensive hand labor, resulting in higher-than-average prices in the

Despite severe postwar materials shortages, Nash returned to civilian operations earlier than most automakers and built 6148 cars during late 1945. That was good for third in the calendar-year race, but amounted to only four months of production.

For 1946, the first full postwar model year, Nash built about 94,000 cars to finish eighth. Its 1947-48 totals were 101,000 and 110,000, good for only tenth and 11th. Still, these were good years, with strong profits. As if to celebrate, Nash opened a new 204-acre proving grounds near Burlington, Wisconsin, in 1946.

In June 1948, Nash president George Mason became board chairman, succeeding the venerable Charles Nash, who died that month at age 84. Nash was able to share in the 1946 cele­bration of the auto industry's Golden Jubilee, one of only a dozen pioneers still living at the time.

Mason was among the postwar era's most visionary industry executives, certainly the most prophetic outside the Big Three. Believing the independents would have to merge for survival against the Detroit giants, he soon began working to put Nash together with Hudson and hoped to combine with Studebaker and Packard as well. More immediately, he pre­sided over the develop­ment of a radical all-new Nash for the 1949 model year.

In the interim, Nash followed most other makes by fielding renovated 1942 models for 1946-48. Ambassador Eights were dropped, the 600's horsepower was boosted to 82, and the Ambassador Six was pushed to 112 bhp. Styling alterations were relatively minor, yet the cars managed to appear fresh enough. The 1946-47s had inboard parking lamps; the '47s gained a wider upper grille and raised-center hubcaps. For '48, Nash erased the side moldings below the beltline, a cheap change that inadvertently made for a higher, less-streamlined appearance.

The postwar 600 line comprised fastback and trunkback four-door sedans and a notchback Brougham two-door. The lineup was expanded for '48 with the addition of DeLuxe, Super, and Custom trim variations, Nash anticipating a major sales upsurge that year.

Ambassador Six offered the same choices save for DeLuxe-trim '48s. Unique to Ambassador was the Sedan Suburban, lavishly trimmed in wood like the contemporary Chrysler Town & Country and Ford/Mercury Sportsman. Extensive hand labor necessitated stiff prices ($1929-$2227), so Nash built only 272 Suburbans for '46, 595 for '47, and a mere 130 of the '48s (which came only with Super trim). But they played the same role as the nonwagon Ford and Chrysler woodies, attracting buyers to showrooms with the promise of something new.

Suburbans are now coveted collectibles, mainly because only 10-15 are thought to survive. Only slightly less rare was the Custom-trim cabriolet added to the 1948 Ambassador line. It was the first open Nash since the war, but only 1000 or so were built. (Nash also built a small number of trucks with sedan-type front ends beginning with the 1947 model year, but most were ­­exported.)

Meantime, Nash's independent rivals had restyled for 1947-48, as had Olds and Cadillac. Remaining Big Three makes targeted 1949 for their first all-new postwar models. But so had Nash, and it weighed in with a stunner: the radical Airflyte. Continued through '51, it looks rather strange now, yet in its day the Airflyte was one of the most-advanced cars on the road. It was unquestionably the boldest Nash ever.

The Airflyte was cooked up during World War II by engineers Ted Ulrich and Nash veteran Nils Erik Wahlberg. Ulrich had worked on the prewar "600" while at The Budd Company, and was hired by Wahlberg on the strength of its success. The way-out "bathtub" styling was the work of Holden "Bob" Koto, who, with partner Ted Pietsch in 1943, had shown Wahlberg a small scale model much like the eventual production Airflyte.

Wahl­berg must have liked it, for he'd already experimented with streamlined cars in wind-tunnel tests. The Airflyte was thus very slick aerodynamically, with only 113 pounds of drag at 60 mph versus up to 171 pounds for the ­similar-looking '49 Packard.

Maintaining Nash's two-series lineup, the '49 Airflyte came as a "600," still on a 112-inch wheelbase, and as a 121-inch Ambassador (with the extra wheelbase length again entirely ahead of the firewall). Each series listed two- and four-door sedans and Brougham club coupes, all bulbous fastbacks. Engines were unchanged from 1946-48.

Novelties abounded: one-piece curved windshield, "Uniscope" gauge cluster (in a pod atop the steering column), reclining front seatbacks that met the rear seat to form a bed (dealers sold pneumatic mattresses as accessories), dual inward-facing rear seats on Broughams (separated by a "card table" armrest) and, after '49, optional seatbelts. Form-a-bed seats, plus the acclaimed "Weather-Eye" system, made Airflytes the most habit­able long-distance cars in America.

With the postwar seller's market still strong, the Airflyte sold very well -- better than any big Nashes had before. Some 135,000 were built for '49, rocketing Nash into the industry's top ten. The 1950 total was over 160,000 -- a company record, and that didn't include Nash's new compact Rambler introduced that year.

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The 1950 Nash Ambassador featured the GM-purchased Drive and more horsepower than earlier models.
The 1950 Nash Ambassador featured the GM-purchased Drive and more horsepower than earlier models.

Optional Hydra-Matic Drive (purchased from GM) arrived for 1950, along with three more horsepower for each engine. The 600 was renamed Statesman. The rear windows were enlarged to improve visibility, though it was still pretty poor. Prices remained competitive: under $2000 for Statesmans, $2060-$2200 for Ambassadors.

New for '51 were extended and raised rear fenders that softened the "beetleback" look, plus new grilles. As in 1950, trim levels comprised base Deluxe, midrange Super, and top-shelf Custom, an arrangement Nash would keep for most of the rest of its days. Prices again changed little, but the public was tiring of "bathtubs", so production eased to about 153,000, again minus Rambler.

The new 100-inch-wheelbase 1950 Rambler was the very antithesis of the huge Airflyte. Though several Detroit auto­makers had attempted smaller cars before World War II, Rambler was the first to sell in significant numbers.

Interestingly, Ford and Chevrolet briefly considered compacts after the war, but their concepts were quite different from Nash's. As George Romney, then Mason's top assistant, once said: "It's one thing for a small company -- a marginal firm -- to pioneer a new concept like that and really push it. But it's another thing for people who already have a big slice to begin pushing something that undercuts their basic market." Still, the Rambler's early sales success didn't go unnoticed at the Big Three, who would follow Nash's lead -- though they'd take ten years to do so.

Small cars fascinated George Mason, who knew that the independents couldn't hope to survive in the postwar market without offering types of cars that the Big Three didn't. Together with chief engineer Meade Moore, Mason hammered away until the Rambler (and later the Metropolitan) was a reality. It arrived just as the sell-anything era was ending, and it would keep Nash's head above water through its 1954 merger with Hudson. Three years later, the resulting American Motors Corporation would be selling Ramblers almost exclusively.

The 1950 Rambler saw little change through 1952. Only two models were offered initially: a Custom two-door wagon and the interesting Custom Landau convertible with fixed side-window frames. A pretty hardtop coupe called Country Club was added for '51, but most sales came from the practical, attractive ­wagons (called Suburban after '51).

In those early days of all-steel models, Rambler accounted for 22 percent of total U.S. wagon sales. All these Ramblers carried Nash's smaller 82-bhp L-head six, good for a claimed 25-30 mpg. The '52s maintained the 1950-51 pace, recording just over 53,000 total sales.

Quotable road-tester Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated magazine once wrote that Mason and Nash were "busier than a mouse in a barrel of hungry cats." As proof, Mason busied himself with a sports car in these years. Called Nash-Healey, it started with a chance meeting aboard the Queen Elizabeth between Mason and famed British sports-car builder Donald Healey, then looking to buy American engines.

Their meeting led directly to a low, slab-sided, two-seat roadster appearing in 1951 with a 102-inch wheelbase, British-crafted aluminum body, and an Ambassador six tuned for 125 bhp. Healey built it at his small works in Warwick, England.

The Nash-Healey perfectly expressed Mason's "be different or die" attitude, but it cost a bunch -- over $4000 at first -- and thus didn't sell well: 104 of the '51s, 150 for '52, 162 of the '53s, and just 90 for '54 (including a few leftovers reserialed as '55 ­models).

Even so, the N-H became better as it went along. Handsome steel bodywork shaped by Italy's Pinin Farina bowed for 1952. The next year brought a six-inch longer wheelbase for a companion coupe called Le Mans (honoring high N-H finishes at the French 24-hour race in 1951-52).

Nash also offered a 140-bhp dual-carburetor option, but canceled the roadster after '53. The high cost of transatlantic shipping pushed the price over $6000 by the end, but every Nash-Healey was a genuine dual-purpose sports car: quick and nimble on the road, yet strong enough for the track.

Mason so liked Farina's N-H restyle that he asked the designer to shape a new big Nash for 1952. Farina submitted two proposals, but the end product was mostly the doing of Nash's own Edmund A. Anderson. The only surviving Farina elements were a simple, square grille and a three-element wraparound rear window.

Still, the 1952 Statesmans and Ambassadors were good-looking notchbacks that wore "Pinin Farina" badges, just like post-'51 Nash-Healeys. Nash called them "Golden Airflytes," honor­ing the firm's 50th birthday that year. Unfortunately, integral front-fender skirts, as on the 1949-51 "bathtubs," made for huge turning circles and difficult tire-changing.

Big-Nash offerings for '52 comprised Super and Custom two- and four-door sedans plus a new Custom Country Club hardtop in each line. Statesmans now rode a 114.3-inch wheelbase and carried a stroked 195.6-cid six with 88 bhp. Prices moved up: $2150-$2400 for Statesmans, $2520-$2830 for Ambassadors.

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After 1956, Ramblers like this 1957 Nash Rambler featured squared egg-crate grilles, inboard headlamps, and optional two-tone or three-tone paint.

The '53s were identified only by small chrome spacers on their cowl air scoops (part of "Weather-Eye"). Nash still billed itself as "America's travel car" with things like a drawer-type glovebox and a full-width parcel net above the windshield, but those were just masks for tepid performance. To perk things up for '53, Nash boosted the Statesman to 100 bhp and offered the Ambassadors with dual carburetors and a high-compression aluminum head in a 140-bhp "Le Mans" option a la Nash-Healey.

An attractive new "floating" grille appeared for '54, when Custom two-door sedans were scratched and the Statesman got its own dual-carb engine: a 110-bhp setup dubbed "Dual Power­flyte." That surely raised eyebrows at Chrysler, which had a new PowerFlite automatic transmission that year, but Nash probably got away with it because sales had been steadily dropping: from about 143,000 for '52, to 109,000 for '53, and finally 77,000 for '54. More ominously, the low-profit Ramblers -- nicely updated for '53 via a clean single-bar grille -- accounted for a continuously growing percentage of this dwin­dling pie.

And Nash had something even smaller for '54: a tiny two-seater on an 85-inch wheelbase. Called Metropolitan, it originated in a prototype by freelance designer Bill Flajole that was displayed to select audiences during 1950 as the NXI (for “Nash Xperimental International”).

Response was favorable, but Mason didn't arrange for production until late 1953. The bodies were contracted to the well-known Fisher & Ludlow works in Birmingham, England, and final assembly to Austin in Long­bridge, England. Austin also donated a four-cylinder engine from its A40 model, an elderly long-stroke bit of ironmongery that extracted 42 bhp from 73.8 cid.

The Metropolitan arrived in hardtop and convertible models priced around $1450. Weight was just over 1800 pounds, so mileage was good: up to 40 mpg. At first, sales were pretty good too, Austin shipping 13,095 through late '54. But demand fell to just under 6100 the next year, prompting some changes for '56.

Mason achieved a portion of his goal on May 1, 1954, when Nash and Hudson merged, forming American Motors Corp­or­ation (AMC). He still wanted Studebaker and Packard to join the fold so the resulting company could enjoy the economies of scale of the Big Three, and therefore be competitive with them. Studebaker and Packard did merge with each other (also in '54), but Mason died late that year, and his dream of a large company made up of several independents was never fully realized.

Meanwhile, the big "Farina" Nashes were facelifted for 1955, acquiring raised front wheel arches at last, plus a wrapped windshield and a smart new oval grille encircling the headlights. Cooperation between the new AMC and Stude­baker-Packard (another '54 merger) gave Nash its first eight-cylinder cars since 1942: Ambassadors with a new 208-bhp Packard-built V-8 of 320 cid.

The Ambassador Eight was much quicker than the Six, but cost $300 more. Remaining two-door sedans departed, but other models stayed. As in '54, Statesmans had 100 standard bhp, Ambassador Sixes 130, and both again offered power-packs adding 10 bhp.

For '54 Rambler got its first four-doors: sedans and Cross Country wagons on a new 108-inch platform (unitized, of course). Two-doors retained the original 100-inch chassis. Rambler had adopted larger six-cylinder engines in '53: the old 184- and 195.6-cid engines with 85 and 90 bhp, ­respectively. The smaller engine disappeared for 1955, but the larger one now came in 90- and 100-bhp guises. Fifty-five styling featured exposed front wheels and an eggcrate grille

With Ramblers still popular and Nash newly married to moribund Hudson, the 1955 Ramblers were sold through both dealer chains -- with appropriate badges, naturally. The same would apply to 1955-56 Metropolitans. But this tended to obscure the fact that the big Nashes were failing as much as the big Hudsons. In a model year when almost every Detroit make did well, Statesman/Ambassador managed only slightly over 40,000 sales -- lower even than the '54 tally.

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

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.

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