Monday, May 2, 2011
Luxury in Miniature
While most American manufacturers in the fifties were going with a "bigger is better" philosophy, bit player Nash was looking for ways to provide American drivers with more economical transportation. Based on an earlier design study, the Metropolitan was positioned to take advantage of the emerging market for "personal use" cars-second cars for shopping or commuting for shorter distances. Some of the Met's design cues are also directly targeted at another emerging market-of the emerging number of women choosing their own cars. The Nash was the first car marketed directly to women (the Dodge LaFemme came a year or so later)-the first spokesperson for the car was the reigning Miss America, and Nash took out ads in Women's Wear Daily, among other women's magazines.
Built by Austin in England, the little Metropolitan sought to provide a big car feel in a tiny package. To further this, it included such things as leather interiors, standard radio and cigarette lighters, those snazzy two tone paint jobs, whitewall tires, and jaunty little continental spares. It also included this almost comically oversized hood ornament-it almost seems too big for the car!
Finally hitting showrooms in 1954, the Metropolitan received mixed reviews. Testers found the car to be solidly built and nippy around town, but rather slow and noisy at faster speeds. Despite this, the little car sold respectably, garnering about 95,000 sales over a ten year lifespan. The final nail in the Met's coffin was the introduction of cheaper Ramblers within the AMC stable. The Met was always an expensive proposition, what with being built overseas and shipped to the States, and by 1960 you could get a much bigger, more powerful Rambler for only about $200 more.