The first captive import to be sold in the United States, the Nash Metropolitan was also one of the first subcompact cars to enter production in the American marketplace. Designed in the United States by William Flajole, the small car was intended to serve as cheap transportation for the increasing number of multi-car families and was also thought to meet the needs of female drivers that would be attracted to its nimble handling and cute appearance (styled by Pinin Farina).
A prototype debuted early in 1950 and strong response led Nash to pursue production of the car. Improvements were made to the monocoque-constructed vehicle including roll-up windows, a more powerful engine and a column-mounted shifter. Because the car could not be affordably built in the United States, Nash entered into an agreement with Austin and its BMC sibling Fisher & Ludlow to assemble the car and produce the bodies, respectively. The first pre-production car was finished in October 1952, with production versions following in open and closed form. Costs to produce the car in England were a fraction of what it would have cost in the states and made mass production of the car possible at a low price.
The cars were finished with quality interiors similar to those in the other upscale Nash models and many standard features were included that would have been optional on other cars including a map light, electric windshield wipers, cigarette lighter and a Continental spare tire kit. Marketed to women, the Nash Metropolitan was a popular choice for many families seeking a second car that could be used for real duty without sacrificing any creature comforts.
Sold from 1953 to 1962, almost 95,000 Nash Metropolitans were sold across four series with later cars getting the A50 Cambridge 1498-cc engine and revised styling that was more attractive than the earlier cars. Later cars – from 1957 on – were sold in overseas markets as Austin Metropolitans with almost 10,000 units sold as badged.
Several celebrity owners had Metropolitans at one time or another including Paul Newman, Steve Jobs, Jimmy Buffett and Weird Al Yankovic.
By Johnny Oversteer