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Monday, April 30, 2012

1956 Nash

  Imported from the United States, the 1956 Nash Ambassador Country Club hardtop cost $4,220 f.o.b. Toronto, making it the most expensive Nash Canadians could buy.
Top brass at Nash Motors of Canada, Limited had a great deal to worry about as the 1956 sales season opened. Production in the Toronto factory and sales nationwide had been dismal in 1955. Although American Motors had been officially chartered in the United States since May of 1954, the corporate marriage had not yet taken effect in Canada. In 1954 Hudson's production facilities in Tilbury, Ontario had been closed and moved to Danforth Avenue in Toronto where it shared assembly lines with Nash-- the two grand marques were still operating as separate corporate entities pending legal hurdles that would allow them to amalgamate. 

The bright, shining star at American Motors Canada, Limited was the compact Rambler. The least expensive model in 1956 was the Deluxe sedan, selling for $2,447.

While the compact Nash Rambler was larger and new from the ground up, the senior Nash lines were on the second year of their styling cycle. The envelope was freshened up. Stylists referred to this as “perfuming the pig.” Headlights were still inboard but the fender-mounted parking lights and turn signals were now circular, set in a huge, ersatz air intakes. 

Brightwork was tastefully rearranged on the sides for a new look, dubbed Speedline Styling. The design lent it self nicely to two- and three-tone paint jobs. At the rear, enormous oval tail lamps were ensconced in a chrome pod that ran to the base of the fender and also housed elongated backup lights. These lights were particularly distinctive when set off with the Continental Rear Tire Mount.
The 1956 Nash Ambassador Super four-door sedan sold for $3,350 f.o.b. and weighed 1 612.5 kilos (3,555 pounds).
Posh Nash Ambassadors were imported from AM’s factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as were the Statesman hardtops. Statesman Deluxe Sedans were what rolled out the factory doors when production got under way in November of 1955 at the Toronto plant. Whether sourced from Toronto or Kenosha, the entire senior Nash cars were billed as the “Finest Travel Cars of our Time.”

For a few extra dollars, power for one’s Nash Ambassador was supplied by the Jetfire V-8 with its horsepower rating of 220. The engine was sourced from Packard.
The blazing 220-horsepower Jetfire V-8 powered the package. Advertising wasn’t shy to boast, “There’s silence so hushed the tick of the clock seems loud. There’s just one smooth surge of furious acceleration from the first touch of the throttle” and “Feel the lightening lunge of its getaway as it plasters you against the back seat.” 

The Statesman’s base power plant was the Nash-designed overhead-valve, tweaked to 130-horsepower in 1956.
Of course, the 135-horsepower Super Jetfire 6 was available as was the legendary 145-horsepower Le Mans Dual Jetfire mill that had set a record at the Grand Prix in Le Mans, France. Electrics were supplied by a new 12-volt system that provided significantly higher generator output, designed to meet the demands of lights, radio and air conditioning.

While a three-speed synchromesh manual transmission was standard equipment, the Twin Ultramatic self-shifter was an extra-cost option. Advertising called it the finest of all the automatic transmissions on the market. “You get split-second action—from standstill to 60 in seconds.” 

Instrument panel of the 1956 Nash Rambler was stylish and practical.
The vast cabin of the Ambassador could be appointed with special leather trim covering front- and rear-foam covered seats. The Statesman was given foam only in the front seat and the interior was dressed in a more sober two-tone cloth and vinyl upholstery treatment. Both Ambassador and Statesman carried a vinyl covered rubber crash pad atop the instrument panel.

The four-door hardtop station wagon Nash Rambler was an industry first.
The Nash Rambler was as striking as it was new. Like the senior members of the family, it boasted superior unit-body construction. Its headlights were inboard, at the ends of the Sports-Racer grille. It rode on a 2 743-millimetre (108-inch) wheelbase, making it considerably more compact than the Statesman. Styling touches included a highly attractive ‘basket handle’ sweep up the body, over the roofline. The headlines fairly shouted that the Nash Rambler was “Canada’s most miles-a-gallon car” and predicted that from Newfoundland to British Columbia, Canadians would “make the smart switch for ’56!”

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Only the Nash Rambler Deluxe sedan was built in Toronto. The sedan, the four-door hardtop and the Cross-Country station wagon in the Rambler Custom family were imported from the United States. There were no two-door models among the 1956 Nash Rambler offerings.

The 1956 Nash Rambler Custom four-door sedan.
President Richard T. Purdy talked to the press about this year’s larger compact. “The Rambler was designed to meet the special needs and tastes of the Canadian market. We have turned out a car that is bigger on the inside and smaller on the outside—we believe there is a substantial group of the buying public interested in this compact car and these are the buyers we are out to win.”

The sole convertible Nash in 1956 was the Metropolitan. Imported from the UK, it topped the scales at  809 kilos (1,785 pounds).
Joining the Nash family for its third year was the miniscule Metropolitan from Britain. Manufactured to Nash specifications by Austin in Longbridge, England, the jaunty ragtop sold for $1,681 and the sophisticated little hardtop listed for $1,652. 

Both Mets wore bright cheery colours, rode on a 2 159-millimetre (85-inch) wheelbase and zipped down the road courtesy of a four-cylinder, 42-horsepower Austin engine. The first generation Met gave way to an updated 1500 model in April 1956. The new Met wore striking two-tone dress and boasted a tweaked 52-horsepower mill. Canadians snapped up 1,423 of the tiny Metropolitans during the calendar year.

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Owners could hang almost as much optional equipment on their cars as Monarch butterflies could flock to Pelee Island. With the exception of the Metropolitan, one could make one’s Nash more natty with power steering power brakes, Power-Lift Windows, the fabled Weather-Eye Heating and Ventilating System or the breakthrough All-Season Air Conditioning.

Optional Airliner Reclining Seats and Twin Travel Beds that turned every 1956 Nash and Hudson into a roadside Hilton.
 Airliner Reclining Seats and Twin Travel Beds, the Twin-Ultramatic Drive or Dual-Range Hydramatic transmissions, Automatic Overdrive, an oil filter, an oil bath air cleaner, an electric clock, the Continental Spare Tire, the Twin Speaker Duo-Coustic Radio, white sidewall tubeless tires, 6-ply tires, Solex glass, seat belts, the hood ornament and Back-O-Matic lights, to name but a few.

Selling for $3,218, the Nash Statesman Deluxe was built by workers in Toronto. Records show that 639 were built during the 1956 model year.
The legal incorporation of American Motors Canada, Limited finally came into effect in January of 1956. An intense drive was promptly undertaken to beef up the dealer body. By the end of the model year, the number of dealerships Canada-wide had increased by nearly 50 percent.

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 units were built in Toronto, a record. When they 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 Avro Arrow.

From 1917 to 1957 Nash represented the best of independent automotive engineering and styling.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

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