Little America

The car was compact: in fact it was just 3.79 metres long, completely out of sync with the whole American automotive landscape, where in the early 1950s cars were getting progressively bigger and more powerful.

Nash was an automobile manufacturer active from 1916 to 1954, the year in which it merged with Hudson to form American Motors. The brand produced successful cars, characterised by original solutions, attention to style and design and also for their interiors, by designers such as Helene Rother, who worked from 1948 on finishes and personalisation of the upholstery combined with car body colours. In particular, one car remained the central focus of the brand’s production, despite the fact that it wasn’t a huge success: the Metropolitan. The car was compact: in fact it was just 3.79 metres long, completely out of sync with the whole American automotive landscape, where in the early 1950s cars were getting progressively bigger and more powerful.

It was a project which was counter to the other production of Nash and was developed in conjunction with English Austin, which took care of the mechanical base and final assembly at their Longbridge plant from October 1953 to April 1961. The body was not produced at the factory but by Fisher & Ludlow. The Metropolitan was derived from the Nash NXI prototype, from which it took a large part of the shape and some solutions for the interchangeability of components, such as the symmetrical door skins. The NXI also had symmetrical front and rear components, but the final production model abandoned this solution. From the mechanical point of view, the small utilitarian car was equipped with a 1200 cc engine from the Austin A40 and a three-speed gearbox. After about a year the Series II was launched, maintaining the 1200 cc power unit but it was more modern and had a new gearbox. In 1955 came the third series, powered by a new 1498 cc engine from the Austin A50; its design was also updated with a new front grille. From the third series, commencing in 1957, the Nash and Hudson marques, under which the car was marketed, disappeared and the Metropolitan became a model and marque in its own right. The fourth and final series appeared in 1959, featuring updates to the more powerful engine and changes to the design, new body colours and interior upholstery. Production ceased in 1961, but sales continued until 1962.

In total it is estimated that the total number of Metropolitans sold in the United States and Canada amounted to approximately 95,000; not a massive number but one which nevertheless positioned the Metropolitan as the most successful imported car in America, just behind the ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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