The Nash Metropolitan is one of the few US designed
sub-compact cars to make it into serious production.
The Metropolitan patterned a concept car, the NXI (Nash
Experimental International) during a time when US car
designs were getting bigger and bigger.
But Nash were
never conventional, and felt the sub-compact market
was simply being ignored by the more mainstream manufacturers.
To prove the theory right, Nash-Kelvinator enlisted
the design services of William J Flajole, to construct
a Metropolitan prototype that would allow the company
to gauge public reaction to a radically small (particularly
by US standards) car.
The good news, for Nash at least,
was that interest in the little Metropolitan was high.
But with nearly every person questioned, one overwhelming
response was that such a car would have to be cheap,
really cheap. To achieve a reduced cost of manufacture,
the company looked for “small car” expertise
overseas, and who better to join with than Austin of
By entering into a manufacturing arrangement,
Nash would avoid the expense associated with tooling,
body panels and components.
Austin in turn used Fisher & Ludlow to produce
body parts, while it assumed responsibility for the
assembly. Underpinning the car were the tried and trusted
Austin mechanicals, ensuring that, at least from a
reliability point of view, the US market would have
little to complain about.
Available as either a convertible
or hardtop, the Metropolitan’s also featured
appointments that were, at the time, considered as
luxury items. There was a map light, electric windshield
wipers and beautifully sculpted “continental
type” rear mounted spare tire with cover.
began in October 1953 at the Austin facility in Longbridge.
The car quickly became known as the “Baby
Nash”, due to its tiny size. The wheelbase was
2159mm (85 inches). Overall the length was 3797mm (149.5
inches) and its gross weight was a very light 818kg
(1803 pounds). This made the Metropolitan even smaller
than the Volkswagen Beetle!
The first models used the Austin "A40" engine of 1200cc from the Devon/Dorset cars. Later cars used the "B" series engine of 1200cc, and then the "B" series engine of 1489cc,
which in turn drove the wheels through a 3-speed manual
Initially the car was to be named the “NKI Custom” but
it was re-named the Metropolitan in January 1954
. In 1956
the car had a major re-design, most significant
of which was the adoption of the Austin B-Series engine,
this new power-plant offering a very healthy 1500cc
capacity. To further enhance the look of the car, chrome
strips were added creating a trendy two-tone finish.
The front grille was also changed and the controversial
hood-scoop was removed. From 1957
onwards almost 9,400
extra units were sold in the UK and other overseas
destinations including Australia. It may not have been
an exceptional hit with buyers, but nor was it a total
flop either. In the UK the car was sold as simply the “Metropolitan”,
naturally enough through Austin dealers, but the car
did not feature any Austin badging or other identification.
The same applied to Australia, although they were known
here as the “Nash Metropolitan”. Best of
all the Metropolitan was a complete departure from
the traditional rounded styling that British and Australian
motorists had grown used to. Take it or leave it, at
least it was different!
Nash Metropolitan Production Comes To An End
In April 1961
the Metropolitan came to an end, however there were
sufficient stocks to allow continued sales for another
12 months. By the end of production, approximately
95,000 Metropolitans had been sold in the US alone, and
while this figure is perhaps nowhere near that being
achieved by local manufacturers, when looking at sales
figures for imported cars, the humble Metropolitan
came in second, only the venerable Volkswagen Beetle
managing to obtain better sales figures.
the economic recession of 1958
AMC outsold Chrysler
with their economical little cars. The Metropolitan’s
best year was 1959
, and it garnered enough sales to
have the likes of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler
sit up and take notice, each launching their own “sub-compact” vehicles.
On May 1, 1954
, Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson Motor Car
Company merged to form American Motors Corporation.
By mid 1954
, the Metropolitan was being marketed as
a "Hudson Metropolitan" as well as a "Nash Metropolitan".
The models were identical, with the only difference
being the grill emblem and horn button. The "Hudson
Metropolitan" used the "bull's eye" horn button that
would later be used on all Metropolitans. The "Nash
Metropolitan" still used the "Nash" hubcaps for a short
while, but soon changed to the "M" hubcap used by the "Hudson
Metropolitan", and all later Metropolitans. During
the Rambler years, and in the UK, it became a standalone
“Weird Al” Yankovic says that his
favorite car is the Nash Metropolitan with many
of his music videos featuring a classic brown and