Torq-O Podcast #12: Dr. Charles Hyde on Nash, Hudson and AMC

Torq-O has a holiday gift for you: a brand new podcast!

STORIED book cover
Nash, Hudson, and AMC fans will love this podcast (our last one!) with Dr. Charles K. Hyde, the author of Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson and American Motors.

Hyde is the only guy I know of who has actually done a swan dive into the surviving corporate records of Nash, Hudson, and AMC. Listen in as he provides an objective historical perspective on three of our favorite orphan car companies.

Plus, Torq-O delivers three impossible-to-find radio commercials.

It’s 65 minutes of orphan car bliss. It’s our longest podcast ever, and it’s just for you. Happy holidays, orphan car fans!

1949-57 Nash Ambassadors in Collectible Automobile

Patrick Foster definitely knows his Nashes. He writes a compact history of Nash’s full-size car in the August 2010 issue of Collectible Automobile (Anyone know how/if/when they’ll ever get a web site?).

Normally, I would slam the article as another car history that reads like a book report: all facts and very little human interest. Indeed, my eyes started spinning when I saw the overwhelming number of prices, model year changes, and trim variations. It gets so overwhelming.

But I have to cut Foster some slack. He slipped in a little bit of human interest with the story about how Nash Vice-President Meade Moore sabotaged stylist Ed Anderson’s design for the 1952 Golden Airfltye Ambassador, because Moore held a grudge for anyone who took the job that he felt his son was entitled to.

(Foster has always been partial to Ed Anderson and led a renewal of interest in Anderson back from the time he published his book American Motors, the Last Independent. I’m sure he’s responsible for anyone at all remembering Anderson’s contributions to Nash and AMC.)

Foster was probably given an assignment and a word count. It’s hard to tell the human story of product creation when you have so much to say and so little space in which to say it.

Nevertheless, if you want a tight, concise story about the postwar Nash Ambassador, Foster’s article is a great place to start. He boils it down and fits it in. You’ll find a lavish display of pictures, including many from Foster’s own impressive archive.

In fact, there are so many pictures of Ambassadors in the article, that I’ll bet half of the Nash Car Club’s members are name-checked in the photos!


Postwar Indy Pace Cars in Hemmings Classic Car

I really love the photos of the orphan Indianapolis 500 Pace Cars in the July 2010 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

At Torq-O, I collect vintage motion picture film of orphan cars, and I’ve been looking for 16mm footage of the 1947 Nash Ambassador pace car for a long time. (I had an eBay opportunity to get a film about the ’47 race once, but my bid got clobbered.)

I’d also like to find some great color footage of the 1952 Studebaker Commander pace car, but I’ve never seen a thing. Maybe the Studebaker Museum in South Bend has some film.

DeSoto is a murky brand to me. No one ever writes about it with much excitement or enhusiasm. Maybe that’s why I’ve never found media associated with the 1956 DeSoto Pacesetter. Writer Jim Donnelly notes that this car represents maybe the first Big Three car to be marketed as a pace car replica in DeSoto dealerships.

Since Pontiac is a recent addition to the Torq-O Garage, I’ve never really searched for footage of the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville.

Now that there are many new marques to celebrate, I’ll have to keep an eagle eye out for the 1960 Oldsmobile 98, the 1965 Plymouth Sport Fury, the 1966 Mercury Comet Cyclone, the 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2, the 1972 Hurst Olds, the 1974 Hurst Olds, the 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88, and the 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am. (Oldsmobile owned Indy in the 1970’s!)

I left out one car on purpose. Last year, I bought a 16mm film about the 1962 Indy 500 called 33 Men. In it, you several great color shots of the 1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona. One down and a dozen (or more) to go.

Stout Scarab in Hemmings Motor News

There’s a nice refresher by Ed Heys about the Stout Scarab in the February 2010 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

The Scarab was a mid-1930’s car that looked more like an Art Deco bus. It kinda reminds me of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion with a 1950 Nash Airflyte rear end.

Like Fuller, Bill Stout was another ahead-of-his-time designer. He designed the Ford Tri-Motor and thought he could translate his success from airplanes to autos.

He might have done it if he had built more than four (maybe nine) Scarabs. (One of them was built in 1945 in conjunction with Kaiser-Frazer and Owens/Corning Fiberglass.)


Fiat accidentally summons the ghost of Nash.

Fiat has released a brand new Nash Rambler Landau. It’s called the Fiat 500 1.2 Pop Convertible.


There’s a review of it on Autocar. (Thanks for the tip, Aaron Severson!)

This descendant of the original Fiat 500 Topolino looks less like its predecessors and more like the original Nash Rambler to me. Compare the photo above to our copy of a 1950 Nash Rambler TV commercial.

It looks like Fiat’s shamans accidentally summoned Nash’s ancestors along with their own. Motorized sliding top. Pleated folds.

This reminds me of Studebaker’s Lark Wagonaire and GMC’s 2003-04 Envoy. No idea, er, product feature ever dies. It’s just forgotten until it gets recycled. (In GM’s case, they claimed that their recycled feature was brand spankin’ new. FF to about 45 seconds into their commercial to see what I mean.)


A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

I judge books by their covers. (I'm shallow that way.)

And if the cover of Richard Peck's book A Season of Gifts is any indication, I'm going to like it. It's the first kids' book I've ever seen with a green 1950 Nash Airflyte on the cover. (Statesman or Ambassador? They're both long enough to strap a Christmas tree to.)

I'm not going to reveal the plot, but one section of the book is like a walk through an orphan car parking lot.
Richard Peck book cover

Exhibit A: The Pickle. The description: "The steering on a 1950 Nash is loose as a goose, and the hood's as big as an aircraft carrier." (Couldn't be more true if it was a police report.)

Exhibit B: on page 135, Miss Flora Shellabarger owns a 1942 Packard Clipper. (Miss Shellabarger has good taste and good sense. She's not strapping any Christmas trees to the top of her car.)

Exhibit C: Roscoe Burdick's DeSoto on page 98.

Exhibit D: the homecoming queen's float is built on a 1932 Hupmobile sedan.

I didn't see any illustrations other than the cover Nash, but I love the fact that Peck has excellent taste when it comes to orphans.

The book is available online and in bookstores now.

Ate Up With Motor

If you need an alternative to the automotive scholarship of Hemmings Classic Car, Collectible Automobile, and even the Society of Automotive Historians, you should try Aaron Severson's site Ate Up With Motor.

Severson writes with a desire to share the human drama behind the stories of our favorite cars. Like me, he values first person accounts and numerous quotes in his stories from the people who were there at the time.

I recommend his latest article Ramble and Roll: The Compact Nash Rambler. Look for Torq-O's contribution: a where-do-you-find-this-stuff 1950 Nash Rambler TV commercial. (Anything to help out a car fan who wants to write something more interesting than a book report!)

Lucky Lee Lott in Garage Magazine

Back in the day, it seems like every car manufacturer had a group of stunt drivers who jumped, burned, wrecked, and tortured its cars at public events like county fairs.

Kaiser Frazer had the Aut Swenson Thrillcade. Plymouth had the Hurricane Hell Drivers. And Nash had Lucky Lee Lott.

So imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I saw a picture of the late Lucky Lee Lott in Issue 18 of Jesse James’ Garage Magazine. (Nash fans, don’t get your heart rate up. There’s no story about Lott. Only some chest thumping from Garage at Lott’s expense.)

The picture shows an older Lucky Lee behind the wheel of one of his stunt cars. A reader sent in the photo claiming that THIS is the kind of guy who reads Garage.

I laughed, and it’s all in good humor. But Garage reminds me of some nerd who has to stand in front of the mirror and tell himself every morning what a badass he is even at the expense of others (like Lucky). He can weld. He can fabricate. He has tattoos. Friends, if you have to loudly announce your garage cred to everyone who cracks the spine of your magazine, then you, sirs, are not really badasses. Just asses.

But, hey. There’s an awful lot that Garage does right. Design, layout, stories, cheesecake. It’s all done really well. Only the self affirmation is overcooked.