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1951 Nash-Healey

By Vern Parker

  

The sporty roadster that carried the Nash-Healey name had an unlikely genesis.  A chance meeting of Charles Nash and Donald Healey found the two men had a lot in common.

In 1951 a Nash-Healey roadster was introduced. It featured a British Healey aluminum body with an overhead valve six-cylinder Nash engine.

Without the financial backing of automotive giants such as  General Motors or Ford costs were shaved wherever possible. The grille was lifted right off the Nash Airflyte sedan assemble line.

Now Reggie Nash claims no relationship to Charles Nash other than the name they share. However, the rare Nash-Healey sports car has long held an attraction for him. He says that only 104 were manufactured.

Fortune smiled on Nash in 1978 when he found one for sale in Kansas City. Records indicate the car, originally painted black had been assembled in December of 1950. It was the fifth one off the line.

When new the car had a warranty of 90 days or 4,000 miles. That is not as bad at first glance because the big Ambassador six-cylinder engine had a reputation for reliability.

Without travelling to Kansas City to inspect the car Nash bought it sight unseen and had it trucked to a restoration shop in Mechanicsville, Virginia. He then went to visit his dream car.

"I thought it was great," Nash exclaims  He was not disappointed. The car was as represented and he had it disassembled in 2001, "It did need to be restored completely," Nash said. One of the fenders was damaged beyond repair so a new one was fabricated out of aluminum.

Additionally where the aluminum body was rolled under the steel frame and attached it had corroded where the two different metals were in contact.

All of the brightwork was either replated or replaced.  After all the bodywork was stripped and smoothed out better than new Nash and his wife then had the daunting task of selecting the color for the paint and the upholstery.

The final color paint they picked was Champagne Ivory.  A contrasting red leather and matching carpeting is highlighted with white piping.

The original gauges including the 140-mile-per-hour speedometer were spruced up and reinstalled in the instrument panel. A telescoping three-spoke steering wheel can be adjusted for the comfort of drivers of any height.  A 360 degree chrome horn ring helps to add sparkle to the interior.

A two-piece glass windshield is at the front while a plastic window at the rear is mounted in the tan fabric top.

The bench seat has a notch interrupting the otherwise smooth upholsteryl. Nash explains that the notch is necessary to accommodate the floor-mounted gearshift lever as the driver works his way through the 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive.

The Dual Jetfire in-line six engine delivers 124 horsepower, sufficient to propel the 2,600-pound car on its 102-inch wheelbase.  When new the 14-foot, 2-inch-long Nash-Healey had a  price of $3,982.

After four years of restoration work the task was completed and Nash finally was able to take his car home to Richmond, Virginia.

"I've always wanted a Nash-Healey," he says, "and now I have one."

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