Jay Leno Reviews His 1950 Nash Airflyte: Video
Although many U.S. automakers went bankrupt during the Great Depression, some of them managed to survive and even flourish prior to and after World War II. One such manufacturer was Nash, who survived the Great Depression thanks to its "Give the customer more than he has paid for" slogan, along with a host of innovations that included a straight-eight engine with overhead valves, twin spark plugs, synchromesh transmissions, and automatic centralized chassis lubrication.
Nash also began streamlining the design of its vehicles in the 1940s, but its product line peaked in 1949 with the introduction of the redesigned Ambassador model. Featuring the company’s all-new Ayrflyte body style, the Ambassador became one of the first vehicles to boast enclosed front wheels, as well as fully reclining front seats that turned the car’s interior into a full-size bed. In 1950, the Ambassador also became the first non-General Motors vehicle to be equipped with GM’s Hydramatic automatic transmission.
Motivation was provided by a 3.8-liter, inline-six engine rated at 115 horsepower in its most powerful trim. Although the Ambassador lacked the V-8 present in most GM cars of the time, it was rather powerful given its size and weight, becoming one of the first automobiles to join NASCAR stock car racing.
Even though it was an innovative car, the Nash Ambassador didn’t become as popular as the Cadillac Coupe de Ville of the era, probably because it lacked the brand cache of its competitors and a V-8 powerplant. We might not remember it as we should, but car enthusiast and collector Jay Leno has one of these classic rigs sitting in his famous garage. And as always, Mr. Leno is more than happy to talk about it and take it out for a spin for yet another history lesson. Check it out in the video above.