In the history of industrial design, only twice have the styling of cars and refrigerators come together with any great and lasting success. One of those is the BMW Isetta, instantly recognizable as one of the cutest little cars ever invented. Less well known is the Nash Rambler, built by the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation between 1950 and 1955.
Nash introduced the Rambler in 1950 as its lowest-priced model at $1,800, which wasn't cheap by any means. But buyers got a car that was loaded with standard equipment, including a radio, heater, courtesy lights, an electric clock, custom upholstery, wheel discs, and more. The Rambler was also the company's smallest model; in fact, its relative diminutive size, with respect to the rest of the Nash lineup (and indeed the entire American car market), made it one of the first compact cars.
The Rambler utilized a 100-inch wheelbase and weight wasn't more than 2,500 pounds. As with other Nash models, the Rambler employed Airflyte construction, which was simply Nash's way of saying unibody. Whatever the name, the cars offered a strong and stiff build in a small package.
Yet despite its smaller stature, it still seated five adults in comfort. The unique body styling was perhaps more "bathtub" than it was "refrigerator," and included partially enclosed front fenders. The American public loved it, and the Rambler was a hit.
The Rambler's 173-ci L-head 6-cylinder was a derivative of the powerplant first introduced in the 1941 Nash 600 (Airflyte construction also debuted in the 600, in 1949), and in the Rambler it produced 82 hp. This was sufficient to propel the car well enough, and to also return decent fuel economy. A 3-speed manual transmission was standard, while overdrive could be specified as an option.
In 1950 the Nash Rambler’s body style lineup included two open cars, the Custom Landau convertible coupe and the Custom convertible coupe, plus a Custom two-door wagon. Total production for 1950 eclipsed 11,000.
For 1951, Nash added models and trim levels to its all-star small car. A Custom Country Club two-door hardtop for those who preferred a solid roof, as well as a Suburban two-door wagon in Super trim. The cars made huge gains in the market this year, with production exceeding 70,000 units.
In 1952, Nash added the Greenbrier, another two-door wagon, which was outfitted with Custom trim and equipment, and featured a unique two-tone paint scheme. Global and domestic woes saddled the American auto industry, however, and Nash was not immune. Raw material supplies were restricted in an effort to support the war effort in Korea, while a steelworker strike during the summer further impacted production, to the tune of a near-18,000-car drop off from the previous year.
Nash built nearly 135,000 Ramblers in its first three years, then restyled the popular car for 1953 and added new models to the lineup. The car would go on to trump sales of other Nashes during the 1950s, even beyond the 1954 merger with Hudson, which created American Motors Corporation.