As Nash Motors embarked on what would become its final decade – the 1950s – they enjoyed a period of record sales and prosperity. In 1952, they celebrated their 50th anniversary as the predecessor firm, the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, marketed its first cars in 1902. 1952 was also the year that the Nash Ambassador received its last complete restyling that carried over into 1954 almost unchanged. Like many other automakers, Nash sales fell sharply in 1952 due to materials restrictions caused by the Korean War. When the restrictions were lifted following the end of the war, Ford and G.M. quickly increased supplies to the dealerships and were financially able to offer deep discounts on their merchandise. Slows sales, significant development costs, and competition were detrimental to the independent carmakers – Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, Packard, and Studebaker – and none would survive the 1950s. Some of these companies merged, helping to prolong their existence, but continued to struggle in the highly competitive marketplace.
Even with the end in sight, Nash continued to introduce new innovations and offer a product that was unique among its peers. The 1954 Nash Ambassador was the first American automobile to have a front end, fully integrated heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. This system, known as the Weather Eye, could be installed with Nash-Kelvinators’ advanced automobile air conditioning unit. The air conditioning systems offered by other manufacturers in America at the time on some models were operated via a large and heavy, trunk-mounted expander and heat exchanger that funneled the air into the car via clear plastic tubes and out through ceiling-mounted vents. The innovative system used by Nash – in comparison – was both compact and inexpensive. It was installed under the hood and could either circulate fresh or recycled air. The company described it as ‘a good and remarkably inexpensive’ system. It was operated by a single thermostatic control and was priced well below the systems offered by other carmakers. In 1955, Ford did not offer an optional air conditioning system and even a heater was not always standard equipment. The optional air conditioning unit offered by Oldsmobile was $550 and Chrysler’s was $570, much higher than Nash’s $345 unit.
Despite its legacy and numerous innovations, Nash-Kelvinator merged with the ailing Hudson Motor Car Company as of January 14, 1954, to form American Motors Corporation (AMC). Nash and Hudson’s dealers sold Ramblers that were identical except for the ‘Nash’ or ‘Hudson’ badging, and these models provided the lion’s share of the company’s sales. ‘Senior’ Nash and Hudson models continued to be marketed, but sales continued to decline.
The styling of the 1956 and 1957 Nash models were offered in a variety of two- and three-tone color schemes and styling was updated in the rear. Significantly, the 1957 models were among the first cars in the industry to come equipped with ‘quad’ headlights as standard equipment. The Ambassador received a large oval grille, new front fenders, spear-like side trim, and a fender top parking light. They had a lower roofline, full wheel cut-outs, and a lower stance due to the switch from 15- to 14-inch wheels. The rear styling remained largely unchanged but the front was noticeably different as a result of ‘un-skirting’ the front wheel openings, ending a Nash styling tradition dating to 1949. A Nash-designed 327 cubic-inch, overhead valve V8 engine was standard on the Ambassador and with a Carter four-barrel carburetor it produced 255 horsepower. It had hydraulic valve lifters, a 12-volt electrical system, dual exhaust, five main bearings, and 9.0:1 compression.
The 1957 Ambassador was offered in both Super and Custom trim levels with the ‘Custom’ adding the ‘Custom’ script on the fenders, full wheel covers, and dual molding lightning streak trim. The ‘Super’ sedan was priced at $2,820 and the ‘Custom’ sedan was listed at $3,010. The latter was more popular with 5,627 units sold compared to 3,098 of the ‘Super.’ The two-door ‘Custom’ hardtop was priced at $3,100 and 997 examples were sold, compared to 608 of the ‘Super’ hardtop ($2,910).
Power brakes, an electric clock, Airliner reclining seats, and padded sun visors were standard on the Custom and optional on the Super. Unique amenities available only to the Custom trim were the three-tone paint schemes and special leather seat trim. Optional to both trims were power steering, powerlift windows, Back-O-Matic lights, windshield washer, factory applied undercoating, heavy-duty springs and shocks, oil filter, Hydra-Matic automatic overdrive, two-tone paint, twin speaker radio, Continental tire mount, All-Season air conditioning, and Weather-Eye heating and ventilating system.
While the Rambler accounted for 1.78 percent of the market share, the Nash automobiles accounted for just .06 percent. The total number of Nash Ambassadors sold in 1957 was 10,330 units, fewer than the 15,531 examples produced the previous year.