The Nash-Healey – A Strange Mix

In the early 1950s it was not uncommon for car builders to put American engines into English cars.  The most prominent of these cars was the Allards, which I have discussed before.  In England, the Healey company wanted to use the new overhead valve Cadillac V8 engine in their cars, but this engine was unavailable from Cadillac as Cadillac had to fill their own needs.  Donald Healey had been told by George Mason, then president of Nash, that Nash would be interested in supplying engines to Healey. Therefore after it became evident that Cadillac would not be a source of engines, Healey entered into a joint production deal for a new model that eventually became the Nash-Healey.

Nash Healey 1953 (1)

A 1953 Nash-Healey

Originally the Nash engine was going to be installed in the Healey Silverstone, but the Nash people thought that the Healey Silverstone was too austere for the American market.  This resulted in a new body design that ultimately resulted in the Nash-Healey.

Nash Healey 1953 (5)

The Nash-Healey

The Healey Silverstone chassis was slightly widened to accept the Nash engine.  I have read that some Nash-Healey owners did their own engine swap and found that a V8 engine could be fitted into the Nash-Healey.

Nash Healey 1953 (7)

This Was The Only Car That Nash and Healey Made Together

Nash Healey 1953 (6)

Note The Presence Of Stubby Fins On The Nash-Healey

 

Nash Healey 1953 (9)

Pininfarina Designed, Built, and Assembled The Nash-Healey

Nash Healey 1953 (10)

The Front Grille Resembles The Nash Ambassador

The early Nash-Healey cars had a front grille that had a number of vertical bars.  In 1952 the front grill was redesigned to look more like the rest of the Nash model line-up.

Nash Healey 1953 (2)

This Nash-Healey Engine Was Based On A 4.1-Litre Nash Engine

The first Nash-Healey cars used the Nash 3.8-litre inline overhead valve 6-cylinder engine which produced about 125 horsepower.  In 1952 a larger 4.1-litre Nash engine was used that produced about 135-140 horsepower at 4,000 rpm. These engines were fitted with dual carburetors and had the compression ratio increased to 8.25:1.  As the car shown in these pictures is a 1953 model, it would have the 4.1-litre engine.

The higher performance 4.1-litre (253 cubic inch) engine that was in the Nash-Healey was also available in the USA in the Nash Ambassador.  In the USA the engine was known as the Le Mans “Dual-Jetfire” six.

Nash Healey 1953 (3)

Twin Carburetors Were Used On The Nash-Healey Engine

I was interested in the rally history of the Nash-Healey, but the only reference that I could find was that a Nash-Healey driven by Edgar Wadsworth crashed out of the 1952 Alpine Rally on the Stelvio Pass.  Wadsworth had won a Coupe des Alpes in the Alpine Rally the previous year while driving a Healey Silverstone.

Nash Healey 1953 (4)

The Nash-Healey Dash Is Very Much A 1950s Dash

The Nash-Healey had a floor mounted three-speed transmission with a Borg-Warner overdrive.  The seat was a bench-style seat which would comfortably seat two people or three close friends.

Nash Healey 1953 (8)

The Nash-Healey Had A 3-Speed Manual Transmission With a Floor-Mounted Shifter And An Overdrive

The Nash-Healey was raced at Le Mans and in the Mille Miglia on several occasions in the early 1950s.  The engines in the Le Mans cars were fitted with hemispherical combustion chambers which increased the engine horsepower to around 200 hp.

100_5196

This Nash-Healey Is Active In Vintage Racing In The Northeast USA

The Nash-Healey model was produced between December 1950 and August 1954 and during this period a total of 506 Nash-Healey models were delivered to Nash.  These cars were very expensive, which I suspect was due in large part to the shipping costs.  The Nash engine and transmissions were shipped to England for installation in the Healey chassis.  Following that the chassis were shipped to Turin, Italy so Pininfarina could install the body on the chassis.  After that the cars were shipped back to Nash in the USA for sale.  The result was that the Nash-Healey cars sold for about $6,000 at a time when the 6-cylinder Corvettes sold for about $3,500 and the yet-to-be-introduced early Thunderbirds sold for about $3,000.  So while the Nash-Healeys were very attractive cars and had good performance, the price differential against the competition was very significant.

The Nash cars were not widely known as performance cars and the Nash-Healey was not able to help keep Nash afloat.  In 1954 Nash-Kelvinator merged with Hudson to form the American Motors Corporation.  The last Nash badged cars were built in 1957.

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3 Responses to The Nash-Healey – A Strange Mix

  1. Merrill Smith says:

    Interesting article Steve, but you have one Nash too many in the opening paragraph.

    • Hi Merrill,
      I corrected that. The whole story about the relationship between George Mason and Donald Healey is rather interesting. They met on a ship crossing the Atlantic and initially built up a friendship based on a common interest in photography. This led to the discussions about cars which eventually resulted in the Nash-Healey. At this time there is a 1953 Nash-Healey roadster for sale on eBay for about $110,000.

      Thanks,
      Steve

  2. Hugh Nutting says:

    The Panelcraft early Nash Healeys came out as 1951 models in December 1950. They had the head with SU carbs. Some of these cars are listed as 1950 Models, Some had the 1949/50 Nash grill. Are these considered prototypes? Most seem to be RHD in old photos. Mason told Healey to use as many stock Nash parts as he could like bumpers, interior trim and drive train, etc. All the cars before the pf re-design have 1951 grills for the production run.

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