Cohort Capsule: 1956 Nash Ambassador Eight Custom – Christmas In July


Well, sorta.  Paul posted a few years back about wanting to find an end-of-the-line 1957 Nash Ambassador; is this 1956 close enough?  If so, let’s give EricClem a big cyber hug for this minty-green gift.  But in the case this fails to cut the mustard, let me preemptively say, we’re very disappointed.  Don’t come back until you find a proper ’57, and while we’re young, please!


I’m obviously joking, but such a nasty reaction would mirror the public’s reception of Nash’s biggest, ritsiest models, despite excellent efforts to win buyers over with fully integrated A/C, up-to-date suspensions and a reputation for quality.  You gotta feel a little sorry for them; no, this isn’t the most successfully styled car, but it’s pretty cool looking in its own way and has plenty to redeem it.


It just goes to show, you sell people what they want, and maybe dictate to them what that is, but please, don’t sell them anything they actually need.  No, the rounded dash with its minimum of protruding metal parts just won’t do, nor will the car’s apparent durability (with these seat covers and that dent in the driver’s door, it isn’t a garage queen).


I will pardon buyers who passed the Ambassador of the era over in favor of other cars based on its looks, however.  As a rule, the styling of cars from the ’50s does not appeal to me at all; I’ll never understand the ostentation they embody alongside the very stark, minimalist architecture that was going up in most places (Googie excepted), but even with that said, this car is a bit overdone.  It began life with a more subtle look, inspired by none other than Pininfarina, but as interest waned, on went the jewelry and makeup.


Even Googie architecture was more restrained than this, and all this decoration actually makes the car look smaller than expected.  Every trick was thrown at it, including the external spare.  This car fairly begs for validation, and it’s always sad whenever someone (or something) tries extra hard to achieve it.  But even with the deepest sympathy, in real life we usually don’t care to give such sad types much attention anyway; it’s too painful.


It’s especially upsetting when the desperation hides genuine substance and integrity.  Such would be the case here, with this car’s thoroughly modern overhead valve V8.  Being an Ambassador Custom, and not an Ambassador Special, it has a 352 CID Packard unit routing power through a two-speed-plus-torque converter Packard Ultramatic and not the latter’s new AMC 250 V8/Hydramatic (this transmission was also used with the Ambassador Six).  The final year 1957s would receive a 327 CID version of the AMC unit with 9.1 compression and a four-barrel car to go along with the Hydramatic, along with slightly more conservative styling.  Maybe that’s why Paul wants to find one so much.


But even with all the improvements, 1956 production still plunged 2/3s from the prior year’s numbers, and as a relatively well-trimmed example with plenty of bizarre design flourishes, this car is quite uncommon, especially since it appears to be in regular use.  If anyone is underwhelmed by this find (not likely!), I would not be one of them.


Related reading:

Car Show Classic: 1953 Nash Statesman – AMC’s DNA

Curbside Classic: 1956 Hudson Hornet – Waiting For Death In A Borrowed Four-Tone Suit

Here’s A CC I’d Like To Find: 1957 Nash Ambassador – The End Of The Road