1955 - 1957 Nash and Hudson


 

1955 - 57 Nash and Hudson

 

General Information

In 1951 the Nash Motor Company was on a high note. The 1949 - 1951 models had been very successful, and the compavt Rambler was begining to find its niche. Civilian car output was restricted by the government because of the Korean war, but in compensation the government awarded military procurement contracts to the car makers, including Nash. The "Golden Anniversary Airflytes" introduced to mark the company's 50th anniversary were much more attractive than their successful predecessors, and Nash management had every reason to expect even higher sales.

However, the company's finances went down very quickly. Once the government removed its restrictions, GM, Ford and Chrysler expanded production as far as they could. With their higher volumes, not only did they have lower costs per vehicle than the independents like Nash, they could afford to develop new technology, update their models more often, and spend advertising dollars like water. As Nash President George Mason had seen as early as 1946, the five independent producers were hit by a tidal wave of cars from their larger competitors during 1953 - 1954 and were forced into mergers. Because of the competition, the 1952 - 1954 Nash Airflytes sold poorly, and the company was sustained by Rambler sales.

But Nash had always been a seller of mid price cars, and watching Buicks, Mercurys and Oldsmobiles selling rapidly, believed that they could compete with the right product. Before the May 1954 merger with Hudson, a deft restyle of the Nash Statesman and Ambassador was ready for introduction as a 1955 model.

Undoubtedly, the Nash designers would have liked to start with a clean sheet of paper, but they had to re-use the 1952 - 1954 unit body. They moved the headlights to the grill, making possible a graceful line rising up and slightly forward from the front bumper, then back to the taillights. There was no chrome except for the strip below the doors. Of course the car got a vision distorting wraparound windshield, just like everyone else in 1955. Overall, although the car was higher and boxier than a new unit body would have been, it was perhaps the most attractive postwar Nash.

As before, the Statesman was on a 2.900 m wheelbase, the Ambassador on a a 3.081 m wheelbase. The Statesman was available only with a 3.2 liter 6, with 100 or 110 hp. The Ambassador was available with a 4.1 liter 6, 130 or 140 hp, and a 5.2 liter V8, an engine bought from Packard which was also used in the 1955 Packard Clipper.

These cars did not sell. AMC was the sponsor of the Walt Disney hour, a very popular program which began in the fall of 1954 in a prime time Sunday time slot. However, it was not enough, and in any event, as Rambler sales began to increase, most of their limited marketing funds were put into Rambler.

In 1956, AMC tried to turn the Nash into a Pontiac. There was more chrome, more two tone paint, a more complicated front end and taillights. The Statesman models were joined by an Ambassador Special on the 2.900 m wheelbase, which introduced the AMC developed V8. This engine, 4 liters and 140 hp, had a long lifetime ahead of it, but unfortunately not the car it came in. The short wheelbase models ended production in 1956.

 

The Ambassador for 1956 used the 1956 Packard Clipper V8, enlarged to 5.8 liters and 220 hp. For 1957, only the Ambassador models on the long wheelbase were available, and the only engine was the AMC V-8, 5.35 liters and 255 hp. Nash production ended in 1957.

What about Hudson? At the time of the merger, Hudson had no product in the pipeline for 1955, but AMC had contractual obligations to supply Hudson dealers with Hudson cars until the contracts could be renegotiated. So, the busy AMC design team came up with Hudson body panels for the 1955 Nash in a very short time. The Hudson did not go into production until January of 1955 at Kenosha, several months after the Nash.

The Hudson Wasp used the Nash Statesman unit body; the Hudson Hornet used the Nash Ambassador unit body. The only significant difference is that some Hudsons used Hudson engines. The Wasp used a 3.3 liter 6 for 1955 - 1956, 120 hp. The 1955 - 1956 Hornet used the big 5 liter 6 as the base engine, the engine that had driven the successful competition career of the Hudson make during the early 1950s. Unfortunately, those engines were the only link between the 1955 and earlier Hudsons. The low center of gravity and "better than it has to be" engineering that enabled the earlier Hudsons to run reliably under extreme conditions were gone.

For 1956 the Hornet Special was available on the short wheelbase with the AMC V8 as an option to the 3.3/6. After that year the short wheelbase models were dropped. Only the Hornet was available for 1957 with the 5.35 liter AMC V8. It is safe to assume that sometime during 1956, the decision to discontinue these cars and concentrate on the Rambler was made. It was the only sensible decision. AMC would be able to compete with a unique product, not one which competed directly with Detroit.

In Canada, Nash and Hudson merged to form AMC Canada. The Hudson plant was closed in 1954. Nash and Hudson Ramblers went into production for 1955, as did the Nash Statesman and the Hudson Wasp. However, only the Statesman was continued for 1956. The Wasp was phased out to expand Rambler production. For 1957, only the Rambler was produced.

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Production Numbers

U.S. production figures

  1955 1956 1955 -1956
 Total
1957 Total
Nash Statesman 14,369        
Nash Statesman, Ambassador Special   11,583 25,952    
Nash Ambassador 25,764 10,680   10,830 47,274
Nash Totals 40,133 22,263   10,830  
           
Hudson Wasp 7,191        
Hudson Wasp, Hornet Special   4,276 11,467    
Hudson Hornet 13,130 6,376   4,108 23,614
Hudson Totals 20,321 10,652   4,108  
           
           

Canadian production (estimated)

  1955 1956 Total
Nash Statesman 553 277 810
Hudson Wasp 363   363
       

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Bibliography

  • Nash U.S. production figures are from copies of internal AMC memoranda provided by former AMC executive John Conde.
  • Hudson U.S. production figures are from:  Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. Encyclopedia of American cars, Publications International, 2006.
  • Canadian production figures are estimated from Wards and Wards Canadian automotive yearbooks  as well as from serial numbers published in Bill Watson's Guide to Canadian car ID numbers, Amos Press, 2006