18 January 2013

1954 Nash Metropolitan - Noir Nash

Nash Metropolitans and hot rods aren't really known for being great bedfellows. Their similarities usually start and finish with the fact they're both cars and that's about it, but as we can see here with this LS1-powered 1961 example, it's apparent this metropolitan is more metro-genre. But before we uncover it's dirty little secrets, let's look at a little background information on the littlest Nash.
UK fans will know the Metropolitan as an Austin model, but it's roots come from the USA. It was patterned from a concept car in 1950, the NXI (Nash Experimental International), that was built by Detroit-based independent designer William J. Flajole for Nash-Kelvinator. It was designed as a "commuter/shopping car" with a family resemblance to the big Nash, but the scale was tiny, as the Metro's wheelbase was shorter than the VW Beetle.The NXI design study incorporated many innovative features, and attempted to make use of interchangeable front and rear panels, but the symmetrical door skins were the only interchangeable items that made it into production. After a series of prototypes that refined the model, Nash-Kelvinator planned to launch the model, with a mind at returning the marque to overseas markets. However, Nash management calculated that it would not be viable to build such a car from scratch in the US because the tooling costs would have been prohibitive. The only cost-effective option was to build overseas using existing mechanical components, leaving only the tooling cost for body panels and other unique components. With this in mind, Nash negotiated with several European companies, before choosing the Austin Motor Company in 1952 (by then part of BMC) and Fisher & Ludlow (which also became part of BMC in 1953 under the name Pressed Steel Fisher), who would produce the bodywork. Austin's role was to provide the engines and running gear as well as final assembly, with Austin-badged versions being sold in the UK and Europe, while their Nash equivalents made the long trip back over the Atlantic. This was the first time an American-designed car, that was to be exclusively marketed in North America, had been entirely built in Europe.
This Metropolitan is all-American under the skin however; it has a one-off chassis, with a Ford 9-inch rear and  Mustang II IFS from Speedway Motors. The little Nash is suspended on air bags for that ground-hugging look to be practical, something that questionably couldn't be said for the GM 350ci LS1 lump jammed under the bonnet. It's 410bhp - no doubt fun in that short wheelbase - is transmitted through a TKO 5-speed manual to the revamped running gear. Body mods are kept to a minimum, with shaved handles, suicide doors and 17" American Racing Torque Thrust rims, while the simple black interior has a tilt column topped with a Grant wheel, pistol-grip Hurst shifter and vinyl seats.
More info here.

This is what was left of the base car; not a lot of Nash left...

And some pictures from an Illinois auction site, where it's for sale for just under $34k:

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