How Nash Cars Work

1953, 1954, 1955 Nash Cars

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.

For more on defunct American cars, see: