It is quite unexpected to see an unmolested and stock car from the 1940s parked out by the curb. A more common but still unusual sighting would be a resto-modded or hot rodded example with a more modern power train. These stock examples still exist but often only show up at classic car shows or events, but this was a genuine curbside find. As a bonus this Nash is quite an innovative vehicle and well worth preserving.
With the 600, which arrived in 1940, Nash can reasonably make claim to being America’s first mass-produced unit-construction (“unibody”) car. The Lancia Lambda of 1922 is generally credited as be the world’s first unibody car but when determining America’s first the water gets a little more muddy. The Chrysler Airflow and Lincoln Zephyr can make a partial claim to be America’s first unibody but their efforts fell just a little short of the Nash. The Airflow and Zephyr still had a frame but it was welded rather than bolted to the body. So in a sense the frame was integral to the body but it did not offer any of the weight savings associated with a true uni-body design. A person could in theory separate the frame from the body by removing a few spot welds.
The Nash was different with a body structure that included gussets welded within the body structure to strengthen it. Over 8,000 spot welds were used in the construction of the uni-body. Additionally the front and rear inner fenders were not removable and contributed to the body rigidity. The result was that the 600 weighed about 400 lbs less than the Big Three cars. Although a bit shorter than them, with a modest 112″ wheelbase, it also had a wider body than the comperable Chevrolet, as it was a more modern design. It weighed about the same as a Studebaker Champion, but that car was narrower, and not as roomy inside. The 600 was arguably the most advanced car design and construction in the US at the time.
The light weight of the Nash made it quite spirited for the day even with a 172.6cid / 2.8L flat head straight six engine. This engine produced 82 horsepower at 3,800 rpm. The transmission was a manual three speed on the column that could optionally be fitted with overdrive. Fuel economy was another strength with up to 30 mpg claimed.
Legend has it the original 600 was named for 30 mpg and a 20 gallon fuel tank. So 600 miles to a tank. Later advertising revised this to 500 to 600 miles to a tank.
The uni-body was not the only advanced feature found on the Nash 600. While leaf springs were still a mainstay of the industry especially at the rear the Nash featured coil springs at all four corners. The front suspension also featured a sliding-pillar design that was licensed from Lancia. This allowed for independent front suspension and resulted in excellent handling as well as ride quality. Unfortunately the design required regular lubrication and soon proved to be a challenge for mechanics as well as owners more familiar with solid front axles. Nash swapped to a more conventional double wishbone design for the later cars.
This 1946 example features the updated front end styling sold during 1942 to 1948 years as well as an attractive two tone paint scheme. The white wall tires are a nice period touch.
Nash offered an option for the rear seat to convert into a bed.
The interior of this example looked to be in excellent condition and a car show sign on the back seat confirmed that a restoration had been performed in the recent past.
Given all the advanced features the Nash 600 has a curiously low profile among collectors. Perhaps if it were built and sold by one of the Big Three it would better known. Going by the rear license plate frame the owner is in the Nash Car Club and likely knows exactly how special this car is.
Wow, a superb example of a car you wouldn’t normally expect to be preserved.
Absolutely beautiful, a car that hasn’t been hacked to death by the resto-modders, and one that I’ve rarely seen at antique car shows. Gives me some hope that some people out there (a definite minority anymore) still believe in restoring a car to what it was.
Not taking the cheap and easy way out.
Syke, absolutely agree. As I say so often, appreciate an antique automobile for what it IS…..not what you think it SHOULD be! If not just stick w/ the modern stuff. What I’m saying isn’t freaking rocket science……show the respect they deserve.
WOW! Your interior pic is especially good, showing the uncracked plastic on the steering wheel and radio speaker. I don’t think any of that Tenite stuff has survived uncracked…. the restorer must have molded those pieces, or else the car was in perfectly controlled storage from birth.
From the look of the interior, this Nash looks like a slightly better looking car than your typical “low priced 3”.
For the 1949 (?) model year nearly every car manufacturer broke free from their pre-war styling. Nash and Packard adopted the inverted bathtub look, an obviously radical styling track. You have to wonder if the Nash management considered that as step 2 in their plan to revolutionise American cars and car building in general. Step 1 being unibody construction.
Beautiful car, I can’t think of a thing I’d change.
Nash never was meant to compete with Chevrolet, Ford or Plymouth. It was solidly a mid-priced car with it’s cheapest models designed to compete with Pontiac and Dodge.
They were definitely known for their ability to doing things a bit differently than the Big Three, realizing that they couldn’t succeed by just turning out copies of what the majors were doing. So, you ended up with a dedication to the OHV engine (only Chevrolet and Buick were doing the same), the first truly effective heater/climate control (not air conditioning, though), and unibody construction.
As a result, they were the only independent who was still healthy and had anything resembling a future when they joined with Hudson to create American Motors. But they also had the corporate intelligence to realize that, in the long run, they had no hope of surviving as an independent.
Nash did come up with the first air conditioning system where all components were located under the hood and the compressor used an electric clutch so the belt did not have to be removed to turn the system off. That was in 1954.
Very nice car and almost edible color scheme. Nash made a bit of a styling boo-boo for the following year 1948. The car was little changed, but the chrome strip along the upper body was done away with. This had the unintended result of making the car look higher and less sleek.
I’ll take it! Beautiful and quite stylish.
U’ve often wonder if in this day of crossover everything, if a newly-designed car resembling this classic styling were built, would it sell? I’m not talking PT Cruiser size, either, but a real, full-sized car.
Well, would you take $30,000 of your own money and buy it?
I am sure you could locate a good example for even less than the above price.You could even save money by driving a 70 year old car.
Why aren’t you, then?
Beautiful car! I am not sure I have ever seen one of these in person.
I am still not so sure that the weight-savings claims hold up with this car, which weighs about the same as the similar BOF Stude Champion. Perhaps the benefits of the unitized design showed up in rigidity. And Nash soon abandoned this 7/8 scale car, becoming truly standard sized (and underpowered).
BTW, I believe that the term “Uni-Body” was the name Chrysler gave its new 1960 cars. Like “Kleenex”, it has become a generic term.
I am still not so sure that the weight-savings claims hold up with this car, which weighs about the same as the similar BOF Stude Champion.
I specifically edited this post to make sure that the wording about its weight was correct and in proper context. It does weigh some 400 lbs less than the Big Three cars. Here’s the text:
The result was that the 600 weighed about 400 lbs less than the Big Three cars, although it was shorter too, with a modest 112″ wheelbase. It weighed about the same as a Studebaker Champion, which was rather similar in size and weight and engine size to the 600. They were both a step smaller than the Big Three cars.
Clearly it doesn’t weigh less than the Champ, but then it wasn’t claiming to.
Update: the 600 was a bit longer, but substantially wider than the Champ, 75.25″ vs. 73″. The Champ was a rather narrow car. The 600 appears to have had a full-size car interior, despite being a bit shorter than the Big Three cars. So its claim to be lighter due to its unibody construction appears to be a valid one. I’ve amended the text accordingly.
The 1947 Chevy was a few inches longer overall than the Nash, but it was also narrower, at 73.4″. The Nash has more modern proportions, with a wider body and better space utilization than either the Chevy or Studebaker.
The 600, which was new in 1940, was essentially a more modern take of the full-sized car, with a wider body and better space utilization than the Big Three cars, even if it was a bit shorter.
I may have missed it, but when was this unit construction Nash launched? Pre-war, I assume, since you mention a 1942 update.
I think 1939
1940. As such, it was the most modern of the cars in the lower-price classes, as most of them had bodies dating to 1939 or earlier. The 600 had a wider body, which was a predictor of how cars would evolve after the war. It was arguably the most advanced car of its time,
The Nash 600 was introduced for the 1941 model year.
The larger Ambassador Six and Eight used the same body as the Nash 600 but with a different floor, separate 121″ wheelbase chassis frame, a longer front clip, and full wheel openings on the rear fenders. But that was nothing new as Nash, for one, had been doing that (except for the unibody adjustments) with their smaller Lafayette for years.
In the case of Studebaker, the Champion used a smaller body than the Commander and President, but would return to one body for 1947. The interiors on the Commander and President were similar in size to the Nash Ambassador.
Prior to the Champion, Studebaker used one body and used longer hoods, extended rear floors/ wheelbases to come up with Rockne, Six, Dictator, Commander, and President series during the 1930’s.
Other manufacturers had been doing the same – Hudson with Terraplane, 112, etc.; Packard with the 110 and 120 series. The true pioneer in using one body for various sizes was Chrysler. The 1929-30 DeSoto Six was a Plymouth with a six cylinder engine and the 1934 six cylinder Plymouths, Dodges and Chryslers all shared the same body, adjusted as needed for wheelbase and length. And there was the Airflow.
After the war Studebaker body interior measurements were comparable to Commander’s competitors – Dodge and Pontiac. Nash was 7.6″ wider than Studebaker in 1949 , but that was due to thicker doors. The 1949 Nash had front hip room at 60.5″ while Studebaker was 59.25″ – 1.25″ difference.
I’m surprised how few Nashes seem to have been preserved or at the very least lauded for their legitimate pioneering efforts, they’re substantially interesting, and by extension more conversation worthy than the cookie cutter Fords and Chevy’s of the same period, that get all the attention. The styling is even attractive(well, let’s face it, besides the airflow most of these era cars were identical past their grille designs… like today) and the the interior is nice and inviting as well.
Part of the reason few Nashes survive is that they never had the slightest bit of street cred with the high school motorheads, hot rodding crowd, or customizers of the 50’s or 60’s. A Nash was not a car desired by a 17 year old as his first car, or hopped up by the third or fourth owner and sent out cruising on a Saturday night. Nor did it have a racing pedigree, like Hudson (which was in much worse shape by the early 1950’s.) And you supposedly wouldn’t want to borrow dad’s Nash for a date on Friday night because the car’s reputation with the reclining seats would supposedly guarantee your girlfriend’s father wouldn’t allow her out of the house once he saw what you were driving. (I tend to take those stories with a large grain of salt.)
Rather a Nash appealed to the respectable, middle-class businessman, who’d buy the car, use it, and then it would get sold to a less affluent individual with about the same outlook on life as a used car. They were built to go from owner to owner, always staying stock, until they finally headed to the crusher.
And, let’s face it, the auto restoration/hot rod/resto-rod hobbies are built on an enthusiasm for cars that were cool when we were in school.
Stop and think about the entire lineup of cars that eventually became American Motors. Step-Down Hudsons are rather popular on the antique circuit, in part because of their NASCAR history. How many other Hudson models do you ever see?
Rambler’s? 50’s Ramblers are pretty scarce on the planet, and when you do hear of one, invariably that mentioner wants to talk Rebel, probably the only cool Rambler of the 50’s. Once you get into the 60’s and 70’s, it’s somewhat a different story.
Thus Nash. A car that was designed to be better in a way that never got the adrenaline flowing. A car who’s only claim towards coolness was a Nash-Healey – and that’s a very limited production British sports car, not something that is usually thought of as a ‘Nash’.
If it helps, the Nash was kind of like the Camry, or Crown Victoria (minus the police connection) of its day.
Skye: lots of old movies with Nashes in police drag, especially the bath tub ones.
It’s a scream to see them in high speed chase footage.
But no, not as associated with police duty as Crown Victorias, 70s mid size Plymouths and Dodges and LA Matadors.
And exactly as you described. There’s no passion in “good value”. Just good value.
Syke, you’re really stretching here, and it’s not working for me, at all.
Just how many original ’47 Chevys or Fords are out there? These original/preserved/restored cars have essentially nothing to do with the appeal of certain cars as hot rods. There always were a certain number of folks who just want/wanted a car from the past. And who knows; this may have been in a family for decades or such. We don’t know the history of it.
I’ll answer my question for you: the number of original/preserved/restored old cars like this one are more than likely in proportion to the number originally sold in 1947. So yes, if Chevy or Ford sold 20 times as many of their cars in 1947 as Nash 600s, then one is 20 times more likely to encounter an original/restored Chevy or Ford of this vintage. Makes sense, right?
So the reason so few Nashes survive is because so few were sold at the time.
And no, the Nash 600 was decidedly not the (best selling) Camry of its time, since that contradicts the whole gist of the argument here; both yours and mine.
When I say ‘Camry’ I’m not talking about numbers sold, I’m talking about the image of the owner it conveyed. And during my childhood, someone who drove a Nash was definitely not a car buff. He was a person who wanted good, solid, forgettable transportation.
Which had a lot to do why the brand didn’t exist to all the car crazy kids out there in the 50’s. I’ll freely admit, I was the weird one; the Chevy dealer’s kid who was turned on by anything on four wheels. Which is why I knew about them back then.
How many ’47 Chevys and Fords are out there? I’ve run across quite a few in my time. And they’re nowhere near as rare as Nashes today – unfortunately, pretty much anything I see today are resto-rods. And I’ll guess that the Ford/Chevy ratio run way more than the ’20 times’ guess you give in your comment. Of course, it helps a lot that stovebolt and flathead V-8’s have always been more popular. And have a lot easier parts availability.
“Thus Nash. A car that was designed to be better in a way that never got the adrenaline flowing.”
This is a very good answer to those who suggest that other independent marques might have survived if they’d played it safe and didn’t take any far-out, costly chances in areas like styling or trying to break into markets that the Big 3 had tightly sewn up.
The sad fact is that as the Big 3 steadily increased market share, the independents were damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t. Unlike the others who tended to roll the dice with meager resources, Nash played it conservatively, offering solidly engineered and styled cars that got their owners from point A to point B, but lacked in excitement. The market reacted accordingly.
Ooh, love this post and the postwar Continental-resembling front clip…
Thank you for sharing these photographs of a very neat and pioneering vehicle. Wonder how difficult a restoration of one of these is? Maybe I will see a Nash 600 in person someday.
“Engineers predict that tomorrow’s far-traveling tourist will need a built-in bed…” — so said Nash’s futurists.
However, it turned out that decent lodging hasn’t been so hard to “hunt up,” in part thanks to the Best Western cooperative that began just one year before this Nash was built. It established basic service standards among participants, to reduce customer fears about Norm Bates-mode motels.
I remember seeing one of these for sale in Delphos, OH in the 70’s. It was very tired-looking, and painted an awful dark green (and the paint job was horrible).
I can’t remember what they were asking for it, but at the time, I thought it was one of the ugliest postwar coupes I’d ever laid eyes on.
After reading this article and looking at the example in it, I’ll have to rethink that.
I wonder if this one has the sliding-pillar suspension on it?
The sliding-pillar suspension was used only on the 1941 and 1942 600.
Having been bitten by old car bug in the early 1960’s, and bugging my dad to take me junkyard touring, I got to see lots of these pre- and post-war era cars at the end of their cycle. Nashes, as has been correctly stated, were just solid, unexciting family cars, without performance pretentions. As such they just got gradually used up, run into the ground and junked. Really not unlike any other six cylinder Pontiac, Dodge, Oldsmobile, Hudson, Studebaker, or other of Nash’s primary competitors. Hardly anyone thought of saving them, unless they happen upon one in exceptionally good condition.
Independent makes, with few exceptions, were thought as “odd-ball” or “off-brands” by Big Three adherents. As used cars, they were more cheaply priced for their model year and condition versus comparable Big Three models, which made them an excellent value for those who sought that. I saw many people of modest means drive cars like this Nash for years, long after others had moved on.
My dad used to drive one of those back in the early 50’s.
My Dad briefly worked for his friend’s Nash dealership in the early 50’s so our family had quite a few Nashes. We had a 47 sedan during my early years, seen here. My Dad gave up his 1940 DeSoto convertible and late 30’s Ford coupe when he got married and became a family man, sensible but probably not easy for a car guy.
Interesting to compare the 600 with the Champion. Two cars driven by the same idea: build something smaller and lighter than the big three offerings. The Nash’s body is more advanced, and the engine is…umm…different. Both engines were designed with minimal expansion room, the Nash’s topping out at 196, the Champion’s at 185.
The Champion engine’s design is more conventional, with typical cast iron intake and exhaust manifolds.
The Nash six was designed for reduced part count and reduced manufacturing cost. The pic in the article is really from the wrong side to show the unusual features. The carb is bolted directly on top of the head, with the intake passages cast into the block. The exhaust passages are also cast into the block with the passages feeding into a straight piece of round pipe clamped onto the side of the block. These features probably didn’t do the engine’s breathing any good, but they saved cost.
A cutaway of the flathead, and the related OHV conversion that was introduced in 56.
Thanks for that photo. It is an interesting layout for the carb and exhaust. Sure not performance oriented.
David… As you said in your article about Lincoln and Chrysler’s offerings falling short being full-on unibody offerings, so does the Nash. I have photos of the underside of one of these cars and it too has perimeter rails and cross bracing welded to the undercarriage. This photo is of the 1941 model and it is the same for all Nash models from then on.
I have been studying vehicle chassis designs for the past 8 years for an academic book and also have had to figure out “firsts” and right now it looks like the 1958 Lincoln and Thunderbirds may fall into the true American unibody category?
my 47 is based in england. not many around and we love it to bits.
This is a shot in the dark from an old posting, but be sure to check out the Bellingham, WA Craigslist for a very solid looking 1941 Nash 600. Can’t be more than a handful of these left. Great patina and looks to be very much together. Only $1000 in Everson, Washington. Save it from the rodder.
Does anyone remember that Nash sponsored the TV Superman series? The Cops had c. 1951 models. And Lois Lane had a Rambler American.