For some reason, older, less well-known classic cars are becoming popular with younger collectors. Nolan from Donut has a 1952 Imperial, for example. There’s the Buick Roadmaster, the Pontiac Chieftain, and so on, but the nice ones are too expensive. So instead, let’s check out something totally unique that nobody talks about, the 1951 Nash Ambassador.
This one, discovered by YouTuber RambinAround, is sitting over at Country Classic Cars in Illinois and has been painted Olive Drab to make it look like an early military staff car. That’s amusing because the Nash should be connected to the air force, not the army.
Because it was a small automobile maker, Nash had an interesting but very troubled history. It existed as a standalone company only between 1916 and 1937, when it went out of business. Between 1937 and 1954, it was the car division of the Nash-Kelvinator corporation after merging with a big appliance company that made some of the earliest side-by-side refrigerators.
In 1954, Nash was bought by Hudson Motor Car Company to form the American Motor Corporation, better known as AMC. The Ambassador is a version of the Nash Airflyte, introduced in 1949 with “cutting-edge aerodynamics.”
Commercials at the time showed this car as being designed and built the same way as airplanes and streamlined trains. Streamlining was a big thing in the post-war era, and the Nash really was designed in a wind tunnel with enclosed wheels at both the front and the rear, which unfortunately gave these cars a wide turning circle.
The Airflyte came in two main flavors. The regular 600 models had a 112-inch wheelbase whereas the Ambassador came with a more comfortable 121-inch wheelbase, although both of them had the same body. Power options started with an 82 horsepower flathead 6-cylinder, and this being the Ambassador would have the 115 horsepower 234 cubic-inch (3.8-liter) inline-6.
Most interesting Nash Airflyte facts
The Airflyte is a car of quite a few firsts. For example, it was the first American car optionally fitted with lap belts. They were fitted to some 40,000 cars made in 1949. Despite scientific data conclusively showing they saved lives, most people asked dealers to take the seatbelts out.
Was this car designed by Pininfarina? Kind of. This happened at the big re-design in 1952, when the car began being called the Golden Airflytes. Battista “Pinin” Farina did create a body for the car but nash executives apparently didn’t like it and went ahead with a combination of in-house design and Pinin Farina’s work.
Also, the seats fold down into a bed, and as far as I’m aware, this is the first car to do that. The story is that the president of Nash was traveling and had to pull into a motel for the night. They wanted $2 per night, which he didn’t like, so he came up with this solution. It should have been used by traveling salesmen but what ended up happening is dads wouldn’t let their girls go out in a Nash because… it had a bed.
Also, thanks to the experience Kelvinator had in the refrigerator business, Nash had the first single-unit heating and air conditioning unit. This unit was relatively affordable to make, entirely housed inside the engine bay, and was introduced in 1954.
Buicks, Chevys, and Chryslers were used often as staff cars in the 1950s. We can’t find any records of a Nash putting on the Olive Drab green and joining the service, which makes this quite an interesting find. It’s an interesting car that you can buy for $10,350.