Vintage R&T Review: 1954 Nash-Healey – A Contrast and Comparison to the ’54 Corvette

We recently took a deep look at the new Corvette, thanks to a 1954 Road and Track Test and tech analysis. Interestingly, in the same issue there is also a road test of the Nash-Healey, the first genuine production sports car by one of the major American manufacturers. The approach was rather different, as it was a joint project initiated by Donald Healey and Nash’s George Mason, who met on an ocean liner as Healey was heading back to England, disappointed that Cadillac wouldn’t sell him their new ohv V8 engine.

But Mason was quite willing to hand over the engine and drive line from his Ambassador, and the result was the 1951 Nash-Healey. And for 1952, Pininfarina was commissioned to design and build a new body. The result was a lot of transatlantic shipping and high costs, resulting in a $6,000 price tag, compared to the Corvette’s $3,515 price. That and the fact that the V8 Thunderbird was on the way resulted in 1954 being the last year for the N-H, and only a mere 520 were made over its four year lifespan. But given that it had a six cylinder engine of very similar in size and rated power to the Corvette’s, but teamed with a three-speed manual and overdrive, it makes an interesting point of comparison.

Despite the Nash-Healey’s manual transmission, its 0-60 time of 11.5 seconds was a bit slower than the Corvette’s 11.0. The gap widened further in the 0-80 run, with the Corvette finishing it three seconds sooner. Given that both had almost identical curb weights, it says that the Corvette’s 150hp 235 CID six was probably even stronger than the 10hp more it was rated at compared to the N-H’s larger 252 CID 140 hp ohv six. And clearly the Corvette’s Powerglide did not put it to any disadvantage.

As to its looks, there’s probably very few who are going to find the N-H the better looking of the two, despite it originating from P-F.

Since the pictures aren’t very good, here’s what the N-H looked like.