Nash Metropolitan 1954-1962
American-designed, British-built, the little Metro measures less than 13 feet, and is often called America's first sub-compact car. Production began in October 1953, with the first shipment of cars arriving to the U.S. several months later. Over the next eight years, over 95,000 Metropolitans were produced and sold under the marques of Hudson, Nash, Rambler, and AMC.
1954-1956 Metropolitan (First Series)
The Metropolitan used a conventional front-engine, rear-wheel drive format, but with body and frame welded as a single unit. This unibody design, produced by Fisher and Ludlow of England, was advanced for a time when most manufacturers were still using body-on-frame construction. Drivetrain and suspension were supplied by the Austin Motor Company, who also did final assembly. The 1.2 litre four-cylinder motor is of an OHV format, and a compression ratio of 7.2:1 allowed the Metro to run on low-quality gasoline. Transmission was a three-speed manual, with the shifter mounted on the steering column.
Metropolitans were offered as either convertible and hardtop models, with standard features that were optional on most cars of that time, including electric windshield wipers, cigarette lighter, interior map light, and a "continental-type" rear-mounted spare tire with cover. Folding the rear seat forward accessed trunk space. Although an AM radio, heater, and whitewall tires were listed as optional extras, it appears all Metros left the factory with these items.
Shortly before the Metropolitan was launched, Nash-Kelvinator merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company, forming American Motors Corporation. By mid-1954, the Metro was being marketed as a both Hudson Metropolitan and Nash Metropolitan. When sold by Hudson dealers, hood and grille emblems and horn buttons identified them as such.
1956-1959 Metropolitan (Second Series)
In January 1956, the Metro was updated with Austin's 1500-cc A50 engine. A higher 8.3:1 compression resulted in an increase in horsepower, now rated at 52. A larger clutch was also fitted. Also new was the hood, a mesh grille, and stainless-steel side strips which separated the two-tone body colors. The interior was updated as well, with a black dashboard replacing the former body-colored dashboard. In 1957, the names of Nash Metropolitan and Hudson Metropolitan were no longer used, as the Metro became its own model.
The Austin Motor Company acquired the rights to sell the Metropolitan to non-North American markets in December of 1956. Modifications to the interior and engine compartment allowed both left and right hand drive models to be made.
1958-1962 Metropolitan (Third Series)
Several more improvements were seen for 1959, including a glove box door, seat adjusters, and window vents. Mid-year models had an opening trunklid and tubeless tires, with sales peaking this year with 22,309 cars sold. The last Metropolitans were fitted with the 55-horsepower A55 Austin engine. Although production stopped in 1960, 'leftovers' were sold for another two years. Competition from Detroit's Big Three, and also from their own compact American model, prompted Rambler to discontinue the Metropolitan in 1962.
A "Road and Track" road test of the day recorded acceleration from 0-60 mph in 22.4 seconds, noting it was "almost half of the VW's 39.2 seconds." Top speed was about 70-mph on early models, 80-mph with the later 1.5 litre motor. A well-engineered suspension, low center of gravity, and proper weight distribution gave the little Metro decent handling, but steering was hampered due to the enclosure of the front wheels.
Economical was certainly the word for the Metropolitan. In an official 24-hour non-stop mileage test, a stock Metro netted 41.57 miles per gallon at an average speed of 34.83 miles-per-hour.
With a high survival rate of the 95,000 produced, Metros are fairly easy to find in good shape, and there's many regional and worldwide clubs for support. Indeed, the little Metro stands tall as a fun to drive, affordable Fifties icon.
Pictures courtesy of NashNut.com
The photo below was taken at the Charles Nash Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The car is inside the library. It's a perk to the older students; they get to sit in the car and read.