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Reporting for Duty: 1951 Nash Ambassador Is a Rolling Bathtub in Army Overalls

Founded in 1916 by former General Motors president Charles W. Nash, the Nash Motors Company disappeared in 1954, when its merger with Hudson Motor Car Company created American Motors Corporation. Largely forgotten nowadays, Nash left many cool and innovative vehicles behind.
1951 Nash Ambassador 9 photos
Photo: RamblinAround/YouTube
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The first carmaker to introduce automobile heating and ventilation in 1938, Nash also pioneered the unibody construction layout in 1941 and the seat belt in 1950. Nash also created the first U.S.-built compact car in 1950 and launched the first midsize automobile available with a big-block V8 engine, the Rambler Rebel, in 1957.

But I'm not here to discuss any of the above. I'm here to introduce you to a unique-looking Ambassador. Not familiar with the Ambassador? Well, it's the company's longest-running nameplate and it was so lavishly equipped that it was nicknamed "the Kenosha Duesenberg."

The Ambassador arrived in 1927 as a range-topping trim of the Nash Advanced Six. Redesigned in 1932, it became a stand-alone model and remained in production until the U.S. joined WWII in 1942. The nameplate returned in 1946 with pre-WWII styling and was redesigned again for the 1949 model year. And that's when the Ambassador became one of the wildest-looking automobiles designed in America.

Using revenue from its wartime contracts and the know-how Nils Eric Wahlberg had acquired in the wind tunnel during the conflagration, Nash set out to develop a car that would have "the most streamlined form on the road". Riding lower than its competitors and featuring enclosed wheels at all four corners, the 1949 Ambassador ended up looking like a bathtub on wheels.

While polarizing on the outside, the Ambassador was quiet and decidedly comfortable on the inside, even when compared to the Cadillacs and Lincolns of the era. And unlike its luxury market rivals, the Ambassador also hit the motorsport scene.

No fewer than three cars finished the grueling 1950 Carrera Panamericana, while Curtis Turner won a 150-lap NASCAR Grand National race at Charlotte Speedway in 1951 driving a full-size Nash.

The bathtub styling was retained after the 1952 redesign and eventually soldiered on until 1957 when the front wheels were no longer enclosed. Even though Nash disappeared as a brand in the mid-1950s, the Ambassador nameplate survived until 1974 with Rambler and AMC badges.

So why am I talking about an automobile that few people remember and care about? Well, for starters, I'm a big fan of defunct brands, especially Nash and Hudson. Second, I just stumbled across a unique and intriguing 1951 Ambassador that's been transformed into a military staff clone.

No, it doesn't have machine guns, armored windows, or an oscillating turret on the roof. The "conversion" is only about an Olive Drab repaint but it's very cool because the refinish also includes the chrome work. Yup, this Ambassador is pretty much chrome-less now, which looks weird and interesting at the same time. And with the wheels painted in the same color, it sure looks like this Nash is floating a few inches above the ground.

Of course, I'd really like to see this brilliant full-size restored to original specification, but since most of them are rotting away in junkyards, I'm happy to see an early 1950s Ambassador that's still in one piece, regardless of color and trim. If you're a fan of the Ambassador, you'll definitely love this one.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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