The Nash Rambler: The Big 3′s Competitor

The President of the Nash-Kelvinator Company, George Mason, saw that his company needed to design a car to compete with the “Big 3”, and it had to be something that those companies did not have.  He decided to concentrate on a compact car that was small, yet still would fit 5 passengers comfortably.  Finally, he wanted a car that would save Nash on materials but still get great fuel economy and that would compete with companies that were dominating the lower price segment of the market (i.e. Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth).  His outcome, the first successful modern American compact car, the Nash Rambler.

In April of 1950, Nash released the Rambler during the middle of a model year.  They took a calculated risk because they released it as only a fully-loaded 2-door convertible.  This proved to be smart, though, because they did not want consumers to view the Rambler as just another “cheap” or “inferior” car like the Kaiser Henry J and the Crosley mini cars.  They wanted customers to purchase this new car with options like white wall tures, full wheel covers, electronic clock and pushbutton AM radio, instead of buying a used car.  The 1950 model had a 173c.i. (2.83L) L-head Straight-6 cylinder engine that produced 82hp and got 30mpg.  They followed in the footsteps of other Nash models and kept the rounded form and the envelope body with the fender skirt that enclosed the front wheels but did not impair the cars cornering ability.  This model also branched away from the typical convertible that used frame-free side windows.  The Rambler had a fixed roof structure about the doors and rear-side window frames that acted as a guide or rails for the retractable, waterproof canvas top.  This car had a base price of $1808 (slightly less than its competitors) and successfully sold 9330 units in its first year.

In 1951, the Rambler line was enlarged with the addition of a 2-door station wagon and a 2-door pillarless hardtop dubbed “The Country Club”.  Both of these included new safety features and “custom” and “super” trim was available.  In 1952, a new “Deliveryman” 2-door utility wagon was introduced.  The Rambler brand, in general, gained popularity with customers who liked the look and loyalty with customers that appreciated the quality engineering and performance.

1953 brought the Rambler’s first re-styling.  It was designed more like the “senior” models that had just received the “Airflyte” styling.  The hood was lowered and an optional hood ornament was added.  Customers had the option between the standard engine, which was a 184c.i. (3.02L) I6 – 85hp and the optional engine that was a 195.6c.i. (3.205L) I6 – 90hp with GM’s “Hydromatic”.  In 1954, a 4-door sedan and station wagon, called “Cross Country” were added.  The heater, radio and air conditioner were optional.

In May of 1954, Nash and Hudson Motor Compnay merged to form American Motors Corporation (AMC), which allowed both Nash and Hudson to brand the Rambler. In 1955, the traditional enclosed wheel wells were opened.  In 1956, the compact Rambler was no longer, but was replaced by the Rambler Six and Rambler V8. They were bigger, came in only 4-doors ,and had both the Nash and Hudson branding.  The model options were:  4-door sedan, station wagon, new hardtop sedan and hardtop station-wagon (industry first).  By 1957, the Rambler ceased to exist and was modified into the 2-door compact Metropolitan.

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