Most of the time I write about cars that are quite nice or are interesting. Occasionally I do venture over to the nether side, such as a post a few months ago about the Trabant. I was reading a book recently called “Lemons, The World’s Worst Cars” by Timothy Jacobs. This book was written almost 25 years ago, in 1991, so I’m sure that some other lemons have come on the scene.
Interesting Book About Some Undesirable Cars
One of the “lemons” in Jacobs’ book is the 1951 Nash Ambassador Airflyte sedan. This car did have a somewhat unusual design. They looked somewhat similar to the Hudsons of that era, but the Hudsons were much more attractive cars. Craig Cheetham wrote a similar book in 2005 called “The World’s Worst Cars”, but he did not include the 1951 Nash Ambassador Airflyte in that book.
1951 Nash Ambassador AirFlyte Sedan
George Mason, who was the president of Nash at that time wanted a car that had a streamline and aerodynamic design. One of the results of this was the front fender design that had a minimal wheel well cut-out. This design would have limited wheel movement.
The Front Wheel Opening Limited The Turning Circle For The Big Nash
The design of the Nash Ambassador Airflyte is very rounded and frankly not very appealing. The weight of the Nash Ambassador Airflyte surprised me. The four-door sedan weighed “only” 3,450 pounds. In the days before thin metal and extensive use of plastics, I was expecting a weight of a little over 4,000 pounds. The weight of the Nash Ambassador was almost the same as another controversial car, the AMC Pacer, that came along about 25 years later, yet had smaller dimensions.
Some Referred To The Nash As An “Upside Down Bathtub”
The resultant design of the Nash Ambassador was aerodynamic, but to me it just looks too bulbous. Definitely not to my liking.
From This Angle It Almost Looks Like a Saab 96!
One of the options available on the Nash Ambassador Airflyte was a front seat that folded backwards to form a bed. This option was a favorite of traveling salesmen, sportsmen, and teenagers. This option is illustrated in the following Nash publicity photo.
Factory Cut-a-Way View Of The Fold-Down Front Seat Option
This advertising photo above suggested to me that a “suicide” style door design might have been more appropriate for the Nash Ambassador Airflyte.
The Steering Wheel Is Huge
As illustrated by its sleeping capacity, the Nash Ambassador Airflyte was a spacious car. The dash and interior furnishings are typical of this era.
This Car Had A Three-Speed Column Mounted Transmission
The 1951 Nash Ambassador is powered by a 235 cubic inch inline, overhead valve six cylinder engine. It had a bore of 3.375 inches and a stroke of 4.375 inches. It had a compression ratio of 7.3:1 and a Carter one-barrel carburetor. The result is an engine that produced 115 horsepower at 3,400 rpm.
115-Horsepower Ambassador Six-Cylinder Engine
The Nash Ambassador was a capable performer in its day. Four Nash Ambassadors were entered in the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana. One Nash Ambassador driven by Roy Conner with co-piloto, Robert Green were initially listed as finishing third Overall in the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana. This car was subsequently disqualified because Conner, a car dealer from Texas, had “felt sick” on the last day of the race. Another Nash Ambassador, Car #37, driven by NASCAR founder Bill France with Curtis Turner, had crashed out earlier in the race. It was decided to put Curtis Turner, one of the top dirt-track racers in the USA, behind the wheel of Pat Conner’s Nash in place of the “sick” Conner.
NASCAR’s Founder Bill France & Curtis Turner With Their Nash Ambassador, Car # 37, In The 1950 La Carrera Panamericana
The picture below shows the heated discussion that took place at the finish line around Nash Ambassador Car #49 when Curtis Turner emerged as the driver instead of Pat Conner. These images of the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana came from “The Carrera Panamericana, Mexico” by R. M. Clarke.
Heated Discussion After The Initially Ranked Third Place Nash Ambassador, Car # 49, Crossed The Finish Line
The same Nash Ambassador engine with a slightly larger cylinder bore of 3.50 inches, increased compression ratio and two carburetors became known as the LeMans Six which powered the Nash-Healey to a third place overall finish in the 1952 24-Hours of LeMans race.
The Nash Healey shown above is probably the design style that most people would think of when they think of the Nash-Healey cars, but the early Nash-Heal;ey cars used the same front grille as the Nash Ambassador Airflyte, as shown in the image below from “Cars of the 1950s” by Consumers Guide.
1951 Nash-Healey Used The Nash Ambassador Grille
I’ll leave it to others to decide if the Nash Ambassador Airflyte belongs on a list of the world’s worst cars, but I would say that it could be a contender.