VotW – The Inside Story of the Metropolitan

Our video this week is a bit different, as is the car in focus. This week we are featuring the Nash Metropolitan which many do not even consider to be a British car. In that aspect, it may have been years ahead of its time because it prompts us to ask, again, what is a British car? We start with a 1954 filmstrip for dealers ‘The Inside Story of the Metropolitan‘.

The Metropolitan was also sold as a Hudson when Nash and Hudson merged in 1954 to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC), and later as a standalone marque during the Rambler years. Additionally, it was actually sold in the United Kingdom and some markets under the Austin brand.

We actually have more than one video this week, all dealing with the Metropolitan though. So let’s move on to the second filmstrip for dealers. This one is titled ‘Luxury In Miniature‘ and is from 1959.

I am going to pull a bit of the history of the Metropolitan from Wikipedia, so read on for some explanation of this fascinating little car.

Nash was positioning this new product for the emerging postwar market for “personal use” autos. These specific use vehicles were as a second car for women or an economical commuter car. The Metropolitan was also aimed at returning Nash to overseas markets. However, Mason and Nash management calculated that it would not be viable to build such a car from scratch in the U.S. because the tooling costs would have been prohibitive. The only cost-effective option was to build overseas using existing mechanical components (engine, transmission, rear end, suspension, brakes, electrical), leaving only the tooling cost for body panels and other unique components.

With this in mind, Nash Motors negotiated with several European companies. On October 5, 1952, they announced that they had selected the Austin Motor Company (by then part of BMC) and Fisher & Ludlow (which also became part of BMC in September 1953, later operating under the name Pressed Steel Fisher), both English companies based in Birmingham, England, and vicinity. Fisher & Ludlow would produce the bodywork, while the mechanicals would be provided, as well as final assembly undertaken, by the Austin Motor Company. This was the first time an American-designed car, to be exclusively marketed in North America, had been entirely built in Europe. It became a captive import – a foreign-built vehicle sold and serviced by Nash (and later by American Motors) through its dealer distribution system. It is believed that the first pre-production prototype was completed by Austin on December 2, 1952. In all, five pre-production prototypes were built by Austin Motors and tested prior to the start of production. The total tooling cost amounted to US$1,018,475.94, (Austin: US$197,849.14; Fisher & Ludlow: US$820,626.80) which was a fraction of the tooling cost for a totally U.S.-built vehicle.

The styling for all Nash vehicles at that time was an amalgam of designs from Pininfarina of Italy and the in-house Nash design team. The different models from Ambassador down to the Metropolitan utilized very similar design features (fully enclosed front wheels, notched “pillow” style door pressing, bar style grille etc.). Whilst Nash used the fact that styling was by Pininfarina in their advertising for their larger models, Pininfarina refused to allow his name to be associated with the Metropolitan as he felt it would damage his reputation with other Italian car companies to be linked to such a small car.

Our final video is from a car show in the 1980s that shows a more modern view of the Metropolitan. Interesting to see it sized up against some other cars of the era and of more recent vintage.

I hope you enjoyed this short look back at the Metropolitan, and if you have any stories of these cars, please let us hear them in the comments.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British

Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car fan, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100, a 1977 MGB, a 1978 Triumph Spitfire, and a 2002 Land Rover Discovery.


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