Not Graham Nash (Crosby Stills Nash) … not Steve Nash (7 time NBA all-star), but it’s the Nash Car Company that celebrated its 100th birthday this week. They were kick-ass until they dissolved into the pudding that became American Motors in mid-fifties.

Nash never seemed to run out of gas …

Jason Torchinsky pointed out in a recent Jalopnik post FIVE MAJOR REASONS to hoist a stein to the Nash Motor Company.  

[Photo above of 1957 Nash Rambler Rebel by Daniel Strohl of Hemmings]

1. Unibody construction: which dispenses with a frame and is the way we build cars today.  Nash was first to blaze the trail in an affordable mass-volume car.

Nash Unibody Construction

2. Flow-through ventilation & modern HVAC systems: which means they invented a) the car heater that took in fresh air and heated it over a heater core full of hot radiator water (still how it’s done) b) a thermostat to control the temperature c) upon merging with refrigerator maker Kelvinator, the first modern heating/air conditioning system for a car.

3. Seat belts: self-explanatory.  Paradoxically, the Nobel prize-winning mathematician John Nash (no relation) was killed in a car accident last year because he was not wearing seatbelts.

4. Reclining seats and car-sleeping: in 1936, Nash pioneered the ‘Bed-in-Car‘ system.  The rear seat would fold down, thus creating an opening into the trunk so you could sleep in the car, your legs outstretched in the trunk.  By 1950 , they had come up with the ‘Nash Airliner Reclining Seats‘ – closer to what we have today with front seatbacks that can recline.  These front seats reclined flat and met the rear seats to form one bed. Perhaps anticipating future recessions when folks had to live out of their cars.

Nash bed in a car

“No more feeling tired on your country trip when all you need is to lower down the front seat of 1951 Nash Ambassador AirFlyte Sedan and stretch yourself as long as you want!”

5. Compact Cars: Torchinsky is a bit tormented on this claim.  He points out that Crosley built seriously compact cars in America in 1939.  But no question the adorable Metropolitan was the first of its ilk!  It made its debut in 1953 and looked every bit “a tiny little shrunken big car.”  Not only was it uber economical, but came with several standard features only optional on most cars of the era. Among these factory-installed benefits were a map light, electric windshield wipers, cigar lighter, and even a “continental-type” rear-mounted spare tire with cover.

Nash Metropolitan

Nash Metropolitan – the first compact car in the US – actually the first sub-compact car too!

Wikipedia article on Nash Motors lists some more innovations from Nash…

“Nash’s slogan from the late 1920s and 1930s was “Give the customer more than he has paid for” and the cars lived up to it. Innovations included a straight-eight engine with overhead valves, twin spark plugs, and nine crankshaft bearings in 1930. The 1932 Ambassador Eight had synchromesh transmissions and free wheeling, automatic centralized chassis lubrication, a worm-drive rear end, and its suspension was adjustable inside the car. A long-time proponent of automotive safety, Nash was among the early mid- and low-priced cars to offer four-wheel brakes.”

It’s said the problem with Nash was not that they could not sell enough cars.  It is that they could not keep production up for all the cars they did sell.  Somehow for all their energy and innovation, the car maker eventually ran out of gas after it became American Motors.  It didn’t last 100 years, but it never took its foot off the pedal.