After all, the company had debuted the unibody mass production, in 1941, with the low-price “600” and was among the pioneers of wind-tunnel-studied design. This drag-avoiding approach (a technique introduced by Chrysler with their splendid Airflow in 1934) ultimately led to the company’s first new model after WWII – the 1949 AirFlyte.
Streamlined and flowy, the car proposed several wind-defying innovations and a minimalistic use of vortex-inducting protuberances on the body. For example, a hood ornament was a $9 option, but all four wheels had skirts over them as standard.
The result was a sleeping area large enough for two adults. (Check the video to see how the Nash turns into a camper, courtesy of the YouTubing vloggers from WD Detailing). The idea was to offer salesmen an alternative to motels or expensive accommodations while roaming the country in the Nash. Still, it had an unexpected side effect (or so the legend has it).
Back in the 50s and early 60s, when the car was still fresh and relatively commonplace among gearheads, fathers would forbid their daughters from going on dates with young men driving a Nash. (I guess this puts the phrase “baby boomer” in a whole new light).
The Nash 600 was aptly named so for its manufacturer-claimed capability of traveling 600 miles (970 kilometers) with one filled-to-the-brim 20-gallon (76 liters) tank of gasoline “at average highway speed.” The gallery shows a sales flyer from 1949, advertising over 25 mpg fuel economy (roughly 9.4 liters per 100 km). Math may slightly disagree with copywriting verbiage, but the car’s overall performance was impressive.
Owing to a lower body mass than traditional body-on-frame cars, the Nash 600 could make do with a smaller engine –the inline-six flathead with 173 fuel-budget-friendly cubic inches (2.8 liters). The engine’s single barrel carburetor cracked the whip on 82 hp (83 PS), and the 138 lb-ft (187 Nm) made quick work of the 2,960 lbs (1,342 kg) Nash. The transmission was a three-speed manual with overdrive (this would explain the fuel economy claims).
The car featured in this story is a last-model-year Nash Super 600 from 1949 (the car’s final production year) that presents itself in a more than respectable condition, given its 74-year-old age. There is no rust or tear, and the interior – albeit unlawfully, but very inconspicuously, seized by rodents – is still in one piece.
The odometer reads 27,000 miles (and some change), but several viewers speculate the actual mileage is 127,000, pointing out the wear on the carpets and accelerator pedal, the stains by the door handles, and the pitting on the chrome.
Although the car has been sitting in a barn, collecting dust and serving as a residence for mice, the paint is in fantastic condition. We could suspect the vehicle has seen at least one restoration since Ike Eisenhower left office, especially since the body is speckless and the engine starts without hiccups.
Not that Nash had installed some never-before-seen technology in the Airflyte – at least, not a kiss-starter – but that’s the owner’s way of building up pressure in the fuel tank to prime to pump. In all fairness, Nash adorned its cars with innovations – chief of which was the “Conditioned Air” system.
This was another world-first tech for an automobile, and Nash introduced it in cars after taking full advantage of its association with Kelvinator. The latter was a white goods producer, and refrigerators were on their offer. One thing led to another, and today we ride in climatic comfort thanks to that unlikely joint venture from eight decades ago.
Coil springs on all four corners made the ride quieter and smoother, and the car felt sturdy and robust, thanks to its 8,000 electric welds used for the unibody. More than 31,000 Super 600 four-door Nashes were built in the model’s final year – the highest production yield of all body styles and trims for the Airflyte of 1949.