How Nash Cars Work

1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 Nash Cars

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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