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.

For more on defunct American cars, see: