Founded in 1916 by a former General Motors executive, Nash quickly became known for its innovative, mid-priced cars. After Nash bought kitchen appliance maker Kelvinator in 1937, company engineers used their refrigeration technology to introduce the first automobile air conditioning in 1938, decades before most other brands.
Another Nash signature feature came that year, seats that folded down to form a sleeper bed. Nash was early in adopting unibody construction in 1941. Most cars are made this way today. Using the entire body shell as a unit instead of bolting a body atop a frame saves weight and allows lower, sleeker lines.
Nash’s first postwar car was their dramatically new Airflyte of 1948. A wind-tunnel tested body fully enveloped the car's wheels, giving it the look of an inverted bathtub. Dashboard instruments were set in a Uni-Pod streamlined bullet mounted on the steering column. While owning an Airflyte, I never tired of showing off its futuristic Uni-pod.
Unfortunately, most major Detroit companies stuck with conventional dashboards and rejected the aero look for more conventional "three-box" designs festooned with chrome and finned rear fenders. Nash Airflytes soon looked tubby and out of date.
Nash introduced a cute little compact Rambler convertible in 1950 featuring fixed side window frames and a roll back canvas top. One starred as Lois Lane's ride on the original Superman TV series.
In 1951 Nash coupled with British sports car builder Donald Healy to produce low-slung Nash-Healy two-seat sports jobs in closed coupe and cabriolet forms. The sleek Nash-Healys won first and second places in their class at the historic 1953 Le Mans race. With Pinin Farina design and reliable Nash power, they were a hit in the sports car mad early fifties, but the high cost of hand assembly priced them high in the stratosphere and production ceased after just 506 examples were built.
Nash introduced the Nash Metropolitan in 1953, a subcompact coupe built in England with Austin mechanicals and familiar “Pinin Farina” inspired styling that lasted through the 1961 model year. (Here is the article on that).
After merging with Hudson in 1954 to form American Motors Corporation, the Nash brand name disappeared when new CEO George Romney, father of politician Mitt, phased out the Nash and Hudson brands after 1957, calling all their cars Ramblers, a name that held sway until 1969.
AMC acquired Jeep in 1971 and later entered into an unfortunate relationship with a French lover, Renault of France. Chrysler bought AMC in 1987, just in time for the Jeep brand to profit from the dawning boom in SUV sales, then Fiat of Italy bought Chrysler/Jeep.
Written by Jim Cherry
The Curbside podcast on Nash along with a trip to the Drive-Through Tree.