Smooth Operator


Did you have a a tin toy car when you were a child? It you were a child last month, probably not…but if you can remember the 50’s without thinking of Henry Winkler and Happy Hays, you likely did. They were a large feature of the Christmas toy catalogues in Western Canada and I’ll bet they were in Australia too.


Pressed from thin sheet steel and decorated with bright lithograph stamping, they clacked and rattled their way along many a bare floor propelled by clockwork or friction wheel mechanisms. The fancy ones were made to represent Cadillacs or Space cars and the humble one were made in the shape of this 1949 Nash Airflyte. That’s because it was an easy shape to press out of the tinplate. Sometimes the tinplate really was old tins – you could disassemble a tin toy and discover labels from vegetables or fish inside.


Well, there are not going to be any beans or peas on the inside of this Nash’s steel – because it was designed to look that way for commercial and technical reasons.Nash took on board the lessons of pre-war and wartime aerodynamics and figured that the buying public had noticed them as well. They decided to tuck as much of the disturbing bits behind smooth streamlining  – even to the extent of encasing the front wheels of the cars nearly as much s the rear ones. Successful or not, it was the sort of distinct look that set the cars apart from the rest of the American market. Of course people who look may see Porsche styling there as well as that of Kaiser, and Tatra, but Nash had enough other features to claim their own place.


For instance – fully reclining rear seats that made for in-car bedding. They were big enough for adults as well as children. Power steering – powered front disc brakes, front torsion bar suspension. Overstuffed seats.


And the type of styling that reminds you of a 1940’s movie serial – one of the ones with bad special effects and corny villains abut great streamlined city cars.


This example of the Nash is the only one I have seen in Western Australia and I am pleased to see that the owner has applied some personal car touches to it as well as preserved the basic features of the styling. The business of the chrome on 65-year-old cars is a vexing one. Just look at what happens to the hair on 65-year-old heads…The decision to smooth and paint some of the chrome is a very sensible one, in my opinion, and when it is done with  sense of taste it highlights the lines of the car. Some may see it as a sacrilege and some as a fad, but I think it is a valid Personal Car decision. I respect it.

One part of the restoration and customising of older cars that has always interested me is how the question of turn signal indicators is dealt with. Prior to coming to Australia I noticed in the middle 60’s that the only amber trafficator lenses were provided on European imports to mNorth america. All the domestic cars seemed to have white front indicators and not a few of them had a similar colour displayed at the rear – if there were trafficators at all.

I thought it a good idea to have lights that were different from the main illumination or the stop lights to signal change of direction and I’m glad to see the Nash has these fitted. The rear lights are VERY  custom affairs and I would like to see what they do when the lever is flicked. Good choice as a personal design feature.


One final note – the Nash seen from the side sometmes seems to have an inordinately long bonnet. But as soon as you step to the front quarter view it becomes magnificent.



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