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Saturday, February 19, 2011

1957 Nash

1957 was the final year for Nash after 40 years on the market.
The factory in Toronto closed in July.

Nash Motors was established in 1916 when Charles Nash left his job as president of General Motors. Quitting one of the largest companies in the world was big news and he told reporters he was going fishing. Indeed he did and what he reeled in was the pioneer Jeffery concern in Kenosha, Wisconsin. That manufacturer had built the Rambler until it changed the car’s name to Jeffery in 1913 The auto tycoon yearned to put his own name on a car. Nash trucks appeared in 1917 and Nash cars followed, appearing in 1918.

Nash built vehicles in the mid- to upper price range. Nash competed primarily with Buick, Chrysler and higher end models of Studebaker and Hudson. That was no surprise since Charles Nash had started out as works manager at Buick. Nash was such a well-organized and well-run concern that the automaker was chosen to be one of the leading indicator companies the prestigious Dow-Jones Index.

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Nash made no overt efforts to sell cars in Canada but they were imported by CCM, the parent company of the ultra-luxurious Russell, manufactured in Toronto. When  the latter went out of business in 1922 it appears that its successor, Willys, continued to import the cars from Kenosha. Nash Motors of Canada, Limited was first organized in 1939 with headquarters in Windsor, Ontario as a distribution arm of the parent company in Detroit. 

Charles Nash never had sons. He purchased Kelvinator, the refrigerator company, in 1937. That cool deal secured him an heir in George Mason. The refrigerator king had plenty of automobile experience with Studebaker and Maxwell-Chalmers. With his company’s future now secure, Nash sold his mansion in Kenosha, Wisconsin and promptly retired to California. 

Under Mason's guiding hand Nash Motors became more forward looking then ever. Engineers developed a radical unit-body vehicle that was poised to take on the low-priced Ford and Chevrolet. Suddenly Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and the United States of America was plunged into global conflict.

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1949 Nash
After the war Nash resumed manufacture of automobiles. The first cars were nearly identical to those sold in the aborted 1942 season. The famed bathtubs appeared for the 1949 selling season. These luxurious land yachts were the finest Nash had ever produced and the public snapped them up as fast as they rolled out the doors. Sales records were shattered month after month. 

After World War Two, Ottawa threatened to shut out American automobile manufacturers who didn’t assemble cars in this country. Nash spent $1.4 million in 1946 to purchase a mothballed plant in Toronto from Ford of Canada. Located at the corner of The Danforth and Victoria Park Road, the property was situated at the extreme eastern end of the city, at the end of the Luttrell Loop tramline. There were only fields and farms beyond the factory. 

Unstable currency conditions kept Nash Motors of Canada from opening up shop until April of 1950. When the plant finally did open, the Canadian Statesman was the first model built. A total of 1,150 of them rolled out the factory doors during the very short season. The 1951 Nash cars began rolling off the lines in September of 1950 and the company was pleased with the total of 3,808 units built during that model year. 

1952 Nash Golden Airflyte four-door sedan.
Nash marked its Golden Jubilee in 1952 but the domestic production story gave little reason to celebrate. The UN police acction on the Korean peninsula and a prolonged steel strike held production of the beautiful 50th anniversary cars to only 1,612 units for the model year. 

In June of 1952, company officials announced that it would be adding the popular Nash Canadian Rambler compact to its 1953 production schedules. Once again, the start up was delayed because of war but in December, cars started moving down the lines. The first Nash Canadian Rambler was completed on March 10, 1953. It sold for $2,460. 

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1953 Nash Rambler

The compact 100-inch wheelbase Rambler carried many features that cost extra on other cars. A fully dressed Nash Rambler, convertible with radio, heater, leather trimmed interior, white-wall tires and full wheelcovers cost only a few dollars more than a stripped Chev.  Rambler promptly became the darling of the well to do. Surveys revealed that the Nash Rambler was most often the second car in the family’s stable—the other set of wheels being GM's posh Cadillac. 

A total of 3,038 Nash cars were built during the 1953 model year. Of that number, 863 of them were the stylish Canadian Ramblers. The Toronto facility turned out a total of 3,778 Nash cars for the calendar year.

In 1953 Chevrolet and Ford began to duke it out for the Number One position in the market. The competition between the two automotive giants was fierce, leaving the smaller automakers—particularly the remaining independents—vulnerable in 1954. Suddenly old-line Willys-Overland and upstart Kaiser were joined at the hip in order to survive. Nash purchased ailing Hudson and turned itself into American Motors.  Merger of the two pioneer auto manufacturers constituted the biggest business merger in world history and made news around the globe.

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Production of the 1954 models began in the Toronto plant on October 2, 1953. The conflict in Korea had been resolved but material, particularly steel, was still in short supply and there wasn’t a sufficient supply of automobiles on hand until December. Relieved dealers finally introduced the 1954 Nash line to Canadians on December 4. The two-door Nash Canadian Rambler Club Sedan was new to the lineup. Unfortunately, now there was an oversupply of cars. The plant was closed on December 9 to correct inventory and did not reopen for forty-one long days. 

1954 Nash Statesman

Domestic production for 1954 consisted of 1,400 Statesman four-door sedans, 326 Canadian Rambler Club (two-door) sedans and 395 Rambler four-door sedans. The model year run ended on August 6, 1954 finishing with a disappointing tally of only 2,321 units. 

Canadian Automotive Trade reported sales of 2,383 Nash cars during the calendar year. New car registrations showed 2,370 new Nash passenger cars were plated throughout the Dominion during the calendar year. That figure did not include sales or subsequent registrations of Nash cars to the federal, provincial or municipal governments, however.

With the amalgamation of Hudson with Nash, the two senior lines now shared a body shell. They shared a plant, too. The Hudson facility in Tilbury, Ontario was shut down and the parts department was moved to the Nash plant on the Danforth in Toronto’s east end.  The move was a Herculean feat, completed during the Civic Holiday weekend. Hudson’s sales office was moved to a new address on the Queensway in Toronto rather than in the Nash plant on the Danforth. The two former rivals now had to reposition themselves in the market to be complimentary rather than competitive. Gone was the dowdy compact Hudson Jet: both Nash and Hudson would offer the smart compact Rambler distinguished by appropriate marque badging. 

The new, thin-wall cast V-8 engine from American Motors bowed in 1956. The monstrous mill cranked out 255 horsepower. It was designed by David Potter who had originally developed the motor for Kaiser-Frazer before that company ceased manufacture in North America.

Those officials who had worried so much at the start of the season now had plenty to crow about at its end. Sales were up by 116 percent for Rambler alone and total Nash and Hudson production had reached 3.68 percent of the domestic industry total—a huge increase from a paltry .85 percent the previous year. A total of 5,585 Nash and Hudson units were built in Toronto, a record. 

The 1957 Nash featured a gracefully elegant engine-turned
 instrument panel with centre-mounted gauges and controls.

The 1956 Nash carried headlights in the grille,
giving a very European flavour to the car.

When the boys on the Danforth popped open the bubbly, no one in the head office had the slightest idea that 1957 would be the last year for the respected Nash name or that the company’s fortunes were about to soar as high into the stratosphere as the futuristic Avro Arrow. 
The 1957 Nash four-door Custom sedan  rode a 
121 ¼-inch wheelbase. It carried a $3,746 price tag.

Nash and Hudson were finally merged into American Motors Canada Limited—nearly a year-and-a-half later than had happened in the United States. The public got its first peek at the ’57 Nash in October of 1956. It was a radically changed vehicle. Inboard headlights migrated to the fenders and were doubled to make quad lamps—an industry first—shared with Lincoln.  A massive ovoid grille was filled with a tartan-weave pattern, double-edged in chrome. At the centre of the grille was the Nash emblem flanked by a gold “V.”  Front wheel wells were opened fully—the first time since 1948. Wheels were now 14 inches. At the rear, huge lollipop taillights rode atop long backup lights.  

The 1957 Nash Ambassador Country Club Custom
two-door hardtop listed for $3,860 f.o.b. Toronto.

Sumptuous interiors, 23 two-tone colour schemes and numerous tri-colour applications didn’t turn the tide toward Nash, the “Travel King.” Neither did the attractive  human models, decked out in tuxedoes and evening gowns, to showcase the steel beauties. Canadians were hungry for compact cars. Fortunately, Nash had an ace up its sleeve with the Rambler. The grand Nash name would be laid to rest at the end of the 1957 selling season. The handful of sales were mute testimony to its death. After 40 years, the Nash name had outlived its usefulness. Customers no longer had confidence in the name. The Toronto factory would close too in July 1957, until times were better.

The externally mounted continental spare was a
popular add-on and a natural for the natty Nash.

The Nash legacy and heritage would live on in the spirit of the Rambler, a thoroughly modern, compact car that captured the public’s imagination and the independent automaker would return to Canada with a new assembly plant in 1960.

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 Copyright James C. Mays 2007 All rights reserved.


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