Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Nash-Kelvinator's President George W. Mason saw that the company needed to compete more effectively and insisted a new car had to be different from the existing models in the market offered by the "Big Three" American car-makers. The Rambler was designed to be smaller than contemporary cars, yet still accommodate five passengers comfortably. Nash engineers had originally penned the styling during World War 2. The new model was the company's entry in the lower-price segment dominated by models from Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth.
The Rambler was designed to be lighter and have smaller dimensions than the other popular cars. A strategy of efficiency, Nash could save on materials in its production while owners would have better fuel economy compared to the other cars of the era. The Nash Rambler rode on a 100 in (2,540 mm) wheelbase, and power came from Nash's proven 173 cu in (3 Litre) L-head straight-6 cylinder engine
that produced 82 hp (61 kW; 83 PS). Following the design of the larger "senior" Nash models, the compact Rambler's styling was rounded in form and also had an envelope body
with fender skirts that also enclosed the front wheels. This design feature did not impair the car's cornering ability significantly.
The compact Rambler line was designed with several body
styles, but the inaugural year was limited to a single model: a fully equipped 2-door convertible. The decision to bring the new car out first in a higher market segment with more standard features was a calculated risk by Mason. Foremost in this strategy was the need to give the new Rambler a positive public image. Mason knew the car would fail if seen by the public as a "cheap little car". This was confirmed in small car comparisons in the media that described the "well-equipped and stylish, the little Rambler is economical and easy to drive" with no "stripped-down" versions, but in only high end convertible, station wagon, or hardtop (no "B-pillar") body
He knew what Crosley was just finding out with its line of mini cars, and what the Henry J would teach Kaiser Motors; namely, that Americans would rather buy a nice used car than a new car that is perceived as inferior or substandard. Unlike almost all traditional convertibles of the era that used frame-free side windows, the Rambler retained the fixed roof structure above the car's doors and rear-side window frames. This metal structure served as the side guides or rails for the retractable waterproof canvas top. This design allowed Nash to utilize its monocoque (unibody) construction on its new compact. It made the Rambler body very rigid for an open-top car, without the additional bracing required in other convertible models. The convertible top was cable-driven and electrically operated.
In developing this new car, Nash had originally planned to call it the Diplomat. This name would have rounded out the Nash family of cars; as for 1950, the 600 line was renamed the Statesman, and the Ambassador remained the flagship line. When it was learned that Dodge had already reserved the Diplomat name for a planned two-door hardtop body
style, Nash delved into its own past, and resurrected the Rambler name from an 1897 prototype
and its first production model, in 1902. Rambler was also one of the popular early American automobile brands. Additional historical context of the Nash Rambler, along with the Nash-Healey and the Metropolitan, was that U.S. citizens were exposed to and gained experience with the smaller, more efficient compact and sporty European cars during the Second World War. Along with the styling cues of European designs, the car's input included the approach of more compact cars, which came from Nash-Kelvinator having a wide market overseas. This influence is seen directly in the Pininfarina designed models. AMC would later continue to import European design and styling flair for its products, such as the Hornet Sportabouts by Gucci, the Javelins by Pierre Cardin, and the Matador coupes by Oleg Cassini.
The First Nash Rambler
Nash's venture in the automotive field in 1950 was a very appealing proposition. It was aimed at people who were looking for a reasonable convertible; those who wanted an economy car with good performance; and those who just preferred a smaller sized car or second car for getting around in traffic. Although the Rambler, a revival of the famous Rambler of 1902, was a small car in appearance - at least by USA standards - it definitely was not a small car in performance and comfort. The first model in the new Nash series, the Rambler was a true five-passenger convertible. Other models that followed in late 1950 included a station wagon, hardtop sedan, and coupe. With a wheelbase of only 100 inches, it still maintained room for five passengers. The foremost feature of the landau-type model was the convertible top. This electrically operated top was raised and lowered by means of steel cables that slid in tracks along the side rails that framed the top of the side windows. With the top down, the window frames were still in position, providing the safety of a steel-top sedan.
At the front of the leaf-type semi elliptic rear springs on the Nash Rambler, oversize rubber bushings were used to prevent transmission of road noise to the body. Hotchkiss drive used.
The convertible top was guided into place at front by two "plate hooks" engaging pins in the rails. Clamps were provided at each side to hold the leading edge to the windshield header.
The front suspension setup of the Nash Rambler shows how the spring suspension eliminated the usual heavy front crossmember. The wheels were suspended by control arms directly to the body.
The driving instruments were located in a compact cluster in front of the driver on a section that concealed the steering column and housed the gearshift.
In most respects the new 1950
Rambler was typical Nash, from the steering
wheel, engine accessibility, and entry into the boot/trunk compartment. The suspension
was the Airflyte (unit-type) construction. Even the wheels were typically Nash - but that was a good thing. Nash had a reputation for building functional automobiles - and the Rambler was no exception. For example, although the front wheels were enclosed, a bumper jack could be used for changing the tyres
with no trouble. The grille appeared to be of sufficient opening for adequate cooling, and a chrome bumper strip all around protected the guards, door and body
panels from damage in parking lots. This full fender type of construction, as with most cars from the era, cost more to repair, so that this bumper strip was very desirable for buyers of the time if they envisaged their Rambler spending a bit of time at the supermarket.
With the hood lifted, the engine became readily accessible. All components were within easy reach and the only apparent difficulty in working on the engine was with tappet adjustment. No dust pans were used, making it simple to get at the lower engine components, although the lack of dust pans did mean more road noise would enter the cabin. When the boot lid was opened, by means of the combination key and spring-release-type handle, it displayed a somewhat small compartment, which had been purposely limited to provide more passenger space. The compartment, however, was sufficient for small luggage and groceries, and when the top was up, storage space was provided in the area behind the rear seat.
On the Road
It was on the road where the Rambler really shone. The ease with which it could accelerate, handle and brake was very gratifying. It was easy to reach all of the controls, although the gearshift coming out of an extension of the dash appeared strange at first because of its position. If you are lucky enough to see an old Rambler at a car show, you will understand what we mean. Vision to front, sides and rear was as good as it was on most cars from this time. The amount of leg-room, both front and back was good, with none wasted. Headroom was ample in both seats. Although the interior was made to seat three persons in front and two in back, on long trips it was more comfortable to just have two persons sitting in front. The front seat was wide, however (58 inches), and the rear seat is 53 inches wide.
ratio of the Rambler was about average, but because of the fact that the car hugged the road good at high speeds, a slightly quicker ratio would be advantageous, as it would definitely have been called upon for fast driving. A short turning radius (18 feet, 7 inches) provided easy parking. Side-sway and body
roll were kept to a minimum through the suspension
system and proper distribution of weight. Long coil springs were used at the front, located at the heavy steering
knuckles to take direct vertical loads. Semi-elliptic springs were at the rear, coupled with the Hotchkiss drive to transfer driving and braking loads to the body
. Damping action was by four direct-acting tubular shock absorbers.
Some road testers of the time did dynamometer
rolls to determine speedo
error and to find the road horsepower of the engine. A dynamometer
will provide the net delivered hp at the rear wheels of a car and is a true measurement of its performance. Road hp takes into consideration normal losses through the transmission, differential, and the rolling resistance of the tyres
to the road. It is, therefore, lower than the advertised horsepower rating of the engine, which is measured at the flywheel and is the maximum power an engine, in perfect condition, will develop at maximum speed.
Through the use of the chassis dynamometer
, different load conditions were applied to the engine. The basic unit, or point at which most cars were checked back in the 1950s, was at 2000 rpm, full throttle. The observed road hp for the Rambler was 39.5, with the car climbing a simulated hill at 40 mph. At 1200 rpm, observed road hp was 24.5, with a speed of 24 mph. These two rpm's were the best basis for comparison, as these were the engine speeds the car was usually operating at. Maximum road hp was 49, with a car speed of 58 mph, and a tachometer reading of 2900 rpm. Various fuel consumption checks of the car, with the use of Mobilgas Special, were made under different conditions and speeds - through traffic (from light to heavy), and at speeds of 30, 45 and 60 mph. Fuel consumption in traffic ranged from 18.15 mpg to 25.18 mpg, with the average through all types of traffic being 22.22 mpg.
According to Motor Trend magazine, along open stretches of highway they let the Rambler have a free rein. "Here, and in the fuel consumption checks, this car certainly shows its mettle. With no effort whatsoever, it climbs to 60 mph and on up to its top speed. Handling
characteristics at this speed are good, riding qualities are unusual for such a short-wheelbase car, and road and wind noises are at a minimum. During the acceleration and top speed runs, no difficulty with overheating or brake fade was noticed. Shifting- of the car was done with no effort, although in second gear, your knuckles come quite close to the dash. All runs were made with the top up and windows closed.
"Brake checks followed the above runs and were quite surprising. The brake has a soft pedal, but is firm, providing a quick, safe stop. There was no evidence of brake fade at any time during the test. Through Cajon Pass, on a seven per cent test grade, we tried the car's climb ability. Although we had to slow down several times for cars and trucks ahead of us on the highway, we were able to maintain a speed of 59 mph in third gear. An interesting point about this test is that a fuel consumption check showed that with this full throttle-load condition, the Rambler averaged 19.9 mpg.
"The Nash Rambler is a comfortable car - the more you drive it, the more you like it. And probably, outside of its good performance, one of its chief selling points will be the fact that it is the lowest-priced American five-passenger convertible available on the market today. Priced below today's convertibles, this car includes in its standard equipment such items as an air heater, radio, directional signals, clock, foam rubber cushions and other extras. Overdrive is optional and the one extra item. The two overdrive gear ratios available give 3.06:1 or 2.87:1."
The 1951 / 1952 Nash Rambler Line
In 1951, the Nash Rambler line was enlarged to include a two-door station wagon and a two-door pillarless hardtop - designated the Country Club. Both the hardtop and convertible models included additional safety features. Two levels of trim were available: Custom and Super. A car tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1951 had a top speed of 80.9 mph (130 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 21.0 seconds. Fuel consumption of 25.2 mpg-imp (11.2 L/100 km; 21.0 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost $1,808 in the U.S., but British sales had not at the time started. There were no major changes for the 1952 model year. Models included a new Deliveryman 2-door utility wagon for $1,892. The "Custom" models featured Nash's Weather Eye conditioning system and an AM radio as standard equipment.
The new Greenbrier station wagons received upgraded trim with two-tone painted exteriors and they were priced at $2,119, the same as the Custom Landau Convertible model. The 1950-1952 Nash Ramblers "gained instant popularity with buyers who liked its looks, as well as loyalty among customers who appreciated its quality engineering and performance." A total of 53,000 Nash Ramblers were made for the year. The Rambler received its first restyling in 1953, and resembled the "senior" Nash models that had received all-new "Airflyte" styling the year before. The new styling was again credited to Italian automobile designer Battista "Pinin" Farina. The hood line was lowered and a new hood ornament, designed by George Petty was optional. The "racy" ornament "was a sexy woman leaning into the future, bust down and pointing the way."
The standard engines were increased with manual transmission cars receiving a 184 cu in (3.0 L) I6 producing 85 hp (63 kW; 86 PS), while a 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS) 195.6 cu in (3.2 L) L6 powered cars with the optional "Hydra-Matic" automatic supplied by General Motors. The Custom models added Nash's "Weather Eye" heating and ventilation system, as well as a radio as standard equipment, with the convertible and hardtop versions all getting a continental tire at no extra cost.
The 1953 Nash Rambler Line
The marketing campaign focused on the Nash Rambler as a second family car. Advertisements also featured the wife of Jimmy Stewart and her Country Club 2-door hardtop she described as "a woman's dream-of-a-car come true!" and promoting buyers to spend "one wonderful hour" test driving to discover how "among two-car families - four out of five prefer to drive their Rambler." A survey of owners of 1953 Ramblers conducted by Popular Mechanics indicated the majority listed their car's economy as the feature they like best. After they had driven a total of 1,500,000 miles (2,400,000 km), owners' complaints included a lack of rear seat legroom, water leaks, and poor dimmer switch position, but none of the Rambler drivers rated acceleration as unsatisfactory.
Fully 29 percent had no complaints and "only four percent of Rambler owners described the car as too small and 67 percent rated their Ramblers as excellent over-all." Production for the model year was 31,788 and included 9 Deliveryman models in the station wagon body
, 15,255 Country Club hardtops, 10,598 Convertible Landaus, 10,600 Custom station wagons (of which 3,536 were in the Greenbrier trim and 7,035 with 3M's "Di-Noc" simulated wood-grain trim), and 1,114 standard wagons.
The 1954 Nash Rambler Line
After offering only two-door-only models, Nash introduced a four-door sedan and a four-door station wagon in the Nash Rambler line starting with the 1954
model year. This was the automaker's response to demands of larger families for more roomy Ramblers. The four-door body
styles rode on a longer, 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase. Following the industry practice at the time, the heater and radio were now made optional. Added to the option list was Nash's exclusive integrated automobile air conditioning system, a "very sophisticated setup" for the time incorporated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in one system that was "priced lower than any other competing system; at $345, it was a remarkable advance."
The four-door Rambler sedan was at first only available in "Custom" trim. The "Country Club" hardtop became available in the lower-priced "Super" trim and without the "Custom" model's standard Continental tire (external spare tire carrier). The 4-door station wagons were designated Cross Country and featured an unusual roofline that followed the slope of the sedan's roof and then dipped down before leveling and continuing rearward. The design by Bill Reddig allowed the use of the same dies to produce door framing for sedans and station wagons, while the dip in the rear portion of the roof included a roof rack as standard equipment to reduce the visual effect of the wagon's lowered roofline.
There was turmoil in the U.S. automobile market as the Ford-Chevy sales war broke out and the two largest domestic automakers cut prices to gain sales volume. This battle decimated the remaining independent automakers in their search for customers. On May 1, 1954
, Nash and Hudson Motor Car Company announced a merger, and the successor corporation was named American Motors Corporation (AMC). Following the merger, Hudson dealers began receiving Ramblers that were badged as Hudson brand cars. The Hudson Ramblers and Nash Ramblers were identical, save for the brand name and minor badging.
The 1955 Nash Rambler Line
The Nash Rambler's most significant change for the 1955
model year was opening the front wheel wells resulting in a 6-foot (2 m) decrease in the turn-circle diameter from previous year's versions, with the two-door models having the smallest in the industry at 36 ft (11 m). The "traditional" Nash fixed fender skirts were removed and the front track (the distance between the center points of the wheels on the axle as they come in contact with the road) was increased to be even greater than was the Rambler's rear tread. Popular Science magazine described the altered design for 1955
: the "little Rambler loses its pants." As part of the facelift for 1955
, the Rambler's grille was also redesigned with only the center emblem differentiating the cars now sold by both Nash and Hudson dealers. The Rambler was a new model for Hudson dealers and it replaced the compact Hudson Jet.
The interiors of the economical Nash Rambler were designed by Helene Rother to also appeal to the feminine eye. American Motors featured "Created to Your Discriminating Taste" in the car's marketing knowing what women looked for in a car and Rother's designs featured elegant, stylish, and expensive fabrics that coordinated in colors and trim. Model and trim combinations were again reshuffled with a two-door Suburban and Club two-door sedans available in "Deluxe" or "Super" versions. Four-door sedans and wagons came as Super or Custom models, while a new Deluxe four-door sedan was introduced. The pillarless Country Club hardtop was reduced to only the "Custom" trim, while the convertible model was no longer available. Fleet sales only versions included a Deliveryman wagon that was not shown in the regular catalog, as well as another new model, a three-passenger business coupe: a two-door sedan with no rear seat.
; just five days after the new Ramblers debuted in both Nash and Hudson dealerships, quickly becoming one of the top watched programs in the U.S., thus helping AMC sell more cars. The focus continued on economy and a Rambler four-door set an all-time record for cars with automatic transmissions of 27.47 mpg-US (8.563 L/100 km; 32.99 mpg-imp) in the 1955
the Mobil Economy Run. The U.S. domestic market was turning to bigger and bigger cars; therefore, prospects for the compact Nash Rambler line was limited and production was discontinued after the 1955