Friday, April 04, 2008

Nash Ambassador - Impressively Ugly

After posting about the Faurecia concept car on Dinosaurs and Robots, I can not help but to think about the Nash Ambassador that spent some time at Hooptyrides, Inc. Mercifully, it has returned to whence it came.

In the early 1950's, the independent American automakers were having an extremely difficult time competing with the Big Three. Following the rationing of materials during the World War II, the big auto companies locked up the supply chain of steel and rubber so that the minor players were not able to meet customer demand. When raw materials were once again available, the independent automakers responded with outrageous design to distinguish themselves from the mainline automakers.

Nash engaged the legendary Italian design firm, Pininfarina, to design a luxury automobile. To save development costs, Nash fitted the Ambassador with a powerful, modern Packard V8 engine. In theory, it seems like a good idea. Without fax machines or email, Nash executives tried to explain to Italian sports car designers what an American luxury car should be. As evidenced by the photos above, the collaboration was not a success. Through mergers and dilution, Nash eventually became American Motors, but 1957 was the last new model year for the Nash marquee.

Like Paris Hilton or McMansions, the Nash Ambassador is an easy target. During a visit to Hooptyrides, Gale Banks declared it the ugliest car he had ever seen. He is not wrong, but the longer the Ambassador sat in my back yard, the more I began to appreciate it.

Boldness - It has a lot of look.

Comprehensive - Every single element of the car was designed. From the hood ornament to the gas cap, nothing was left to chance or considered to minor to escape the Italians. If nothing else, Nash certainly got their money's worth.

Complexity - Check out those front fenders and the grill. The sheet metal has more folds and curves than the Sydney Opera House. Complex, yes. Elegant, graceful? No.

Condition and Originality - Not a function of design, the car was completely original right down to the pink leather and silver brocade interior

Lineage to Nash Metropolitan - Probably a decision that doomed the Ambassador to being forever awkward, the choice was made to tie the ambassador to the Nash Metropolitan. Though it is not immediately apparent, there is a Metro nestled between those pontoon fenders. The Ambassador is actually a docking station for the trapped Metro!

Checking the Pininfarina 1950's timeline, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and Ferrari 250 are mentioned but somehow the Nash Ambassador has slipped through the cracks.