Founded by Charles W. Nash, a self made entrepreneur that started out as a farm labourer, then by 1912 had landed the job as president of none other than General Motors. But Nash wanted to be his own boss, and in 1916 he purchased the Jeffery Motor Company with the intention of building his own cars. In 1917 the very first Nash hit the roads, it being powered by a 244ci 4 litre six cylinder engine; this was soon followed by the release of both sports cars and roadsters.
A smaller 2.5 litre 4 cylinder engine was developed, and by 1920 there were no less than eight different body styles using the new engine. Wanting to move the marque up-market, Nash purchased La Fayette Motors to provide a fast entry into that sector, particularly given he would benefit from the La Fayette 341.7ci 5.6 litre V8. The attempt to market a high end Nash proved difficult however, and soon the plan was abandoned, Nash having to settle on the middle ground.
Like most other manufacturers Nash was hit hard by the Depression, however clever management and rationalisation ensured the company remained in profit, despite production falling to a mere 14,000 units in 1933. The La Fayette name was introduced in its own right, but not as an up-market limousine, but rather as a cheap big car; while to aid in rationalisation the model line-up was reduced from 32 to just 6. In 1941 Nash replaced the La Fayette with the all-new Nash 600, a car incredibly advanced for the time.
Featuring unitary construction
, the 600 was light, enabling particularly good fuel consumption combined with more spirited performance from the 2.8 litre six. Nash car manufacture was halted in 1942 so that the company could concentrate on war time production, but following the war the Ambassadors were reintroduced, and they now featured Airflyte styling complete with wrap-around windshields and semi-enclosed road wheels.
Then came the 1950 Rambler
, arguably the first US compact sedan, but despite the forward thinking, quality and value for money each Nash offered, it remained too small to viably compete with the Big Three. The company merged with Hudson in 1954 to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC), and while sales of the Rambler and Metropolitan continued to do well, the bigger Statesman and Ambassador models were fairing poorly. In 1957
AMC gradually dropped both the Nash and Hudson names.