Aero Barn Find: 1950 Nash Statesman Airflyte

When I spied this 1950 Nash Statesman, it gave me a real start – it triggered a long-ago forgotten memory and I’ll further elaborate in a bit. The seller of this Nash barn find lists it initially as a ’51 with the suggestion that it might be a ’50 and I’m pretty certain that his second guess, based on the grille, is correct. But let’s look it over closely and see what’s really here. This Nash is located in Sand Canyon (near Santa Clarita), California and is available, here on craigslist for $4,999. Thanks to Ikey H. for this memory jogging find!

As I’m sure many of you know, Nash, based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was a forerunner of American Motors, formed by the 1954 merger of it and Hudson. As many auto manufacturers went, they continued with their early ’40s designs after the 1945 cessation of World War II and didn’t get newly designed cars into anxious consumer’s hands until 1949. So be it with Nash and their brand new Statesman Airflyte, a wind-tunnel inspired low aerodynamic drag design. Actually, the Statesman wasn’t called a Statesman until 1950, it was the “600” at inception in 1949. And this example is not an Ambassador/Statesman as indicated per the listing, as those are two different models, mostly separated by the Ambassador’s additional nine inches of wheelbase. Being a Custom trim level, this Nash was at the top of the Statesman heap.

Back to the triggering event. As a teenager in the summer of 1970, I started paying more attention to the newspaper. Many of my friends’ older brothers were getting an all-expenses-paid excursion to some far-off South Asian country and it was the big topic on TV and in the papers. While cruising through the evening edition of the local daily, I came across an article entitled, “Car, Skeleton Discovered in Lake“. Well that’s an attention-getter, right? Pictured was an oblong-shaped, inner-city lake, a reservoir actually, that is circumferenced by a sidewalk and a two-lane paved road. The reservoir had been pumped out for some needed plumbing/improvements, and sitting at the bottom of the lake, on its left side was a 1950 Nash Statesman. It was a very eerie, grainy, black and white image that permanently implanted in my memory and has stayed there ever since. The local police did a DMV search on the license plate and determined that the car belonged to a man who had disappeared in April of 1950. Inside the Nash, the authorities found a glass prescription vial and from that, they were able to further ascertain who the victim was. Next, they contacted the victim’s brother, and while there wasn’t enough of a person left that could be identified, the brother did state that the car matched the one that his missing brother drove at the time of his disappearance twenty years earlier. The brother and the victim were in the glass and mirror business, one started by their grandfather, and today, in 2020, that firm is still in business being managed by their children and grandchildren.

This barn find was recently discovered by the seller but there is no back story regarding its whereabouts or time spent in slumber though the seller suggests that it should clean-up nicely. There is some minor surface rust and two small areas where rust-through has occurred but as the seller states, the car seems pretty solid. When the Airflyte was launched on the unsuspecting public in 1949, there was a bit of a halting reaction. Auto design was truly moving forward with the elimination of pontoon-style fenders and quarter panels, but this type of aero design was considered radical. It’s definitely notable, it looks like it belongs in a Dick Tracy comic.  Of note are the front and rear windscreens, they possessed a pretty acute curve for their day, neither needing dividers for multiple panes.

Under the hood is an 85 HP, 186 CI, in-line six-cylinder, flathead engine powering (when running) through a three-speed manual transmission. The engine, though very complete looking, appears to have not turned a lick in many moons. The seller is mum regarding operating prowess, so this Nash is probably a non-runner.

The interior’s most conspicuous feature is its singular gauge pod most recently found in a Mini – it seems out of place in a car of this generation but then so did the exterior styling so I suppose it’s fitting. The woven seat upholstery has held up well, the white, blue, and gray door cards, a pleasant blend of colors, are letting go and there is evidence of rust staining the passenger side of the dash, probably from what appears to be a worn-out windshield seal. The headliner is stained too but it is still hanging up where it belongs. Back to the instrument pod, it is very dusty but the gauges seem to still be clear. I also think I see an original style radio in the center stack.

Almost every old car that I encounter needs to be saved by my reckoning, especially one as unusually styled as this Statesman. We still periodically find ’50 Chevrolets, Fords, and Plymouths, but a Nash? Not often enough. This example is so original and intact, it needs a new home. Just get a load of that fantastic rear styling, is that unique or what?

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Comments

  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    For crying out loud, give this old boat a bath and THEN list it, will ya? This car would probably look darn near pretty after some suds.

    Like 45
    • Mike

      Dirt = $$$$

      Like 4
    • Will Fox

      SO many people think they need to leave the dirt/dust all over it to ‘verify’ it’s a barn find. This car would have so much more appeal if it was washed.

      Like 19
    • David Taylor

      Actually, the BEST way to really show these old cars is “as found” covered in dust THEN right beside it the “cleaned up” version.
      Seeing this brought ME a vivid memory!

      Like 13
    • John M

      Love this car. My dad bought one & drove 8 kids around. Plenty of room for 4 older bros & sisters to sit on seats & us 3 smaller ones to stand between the seats. 1 baby up front on moms lap. My future bro in law at the time called a “capsized bathtub w/wheels”.

      Like 4
  2. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    This is a grand slam, Jim – very nice work, sir. That’s quite a story about the sunken Nash, wow!

    Like 15
  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    I agree with Barfengnuudels, wash the Nash, get more cash!

    Like 7
  4. Steve Clinton

    The ‘Bathtub’ Nash was one strange vehicle. It’s hard to believe buyers saw it and said ‘I gotta have one of those!’ I remember hearing that the way the frame was designed, the body had to wrap around and over the wheels…always reminded me of those bumper cars at the carnival.

    Like 7
    • James HGF

      The story you heard is a tall tale. Not true in any way shape or form (pun intended). The 1949 Airflytes were an in-house engineering and design process encompassing both unit body construction and aerodynamic design. Engineering vice-president Wahlberg’s long time fascination with aerodynamics which also appealed to George Mason led to aero design decision. Wahlberg and Ted Ulrich, body engineer, calculated stress on the unit body and consulted Nash’s William Kreiss, engineer in charge of the small in-house styling department to design the Airflyte cars. In 1949 the base car was the 600 as in 600 miles on 20 gallons. In 1950 the 600 model became the Statesman.

      Nash’s University of Wichita wind tunnel tests revealed the Airflyte’s drag coefficient of 0.43 bettered all cars tested including Studebaker, Hudson, Lincoln and Olds 88 fastback.

      Like 11
    • Vince H

      At the time it was a sellers market. Most makes sold everything they could build.

      • bill-w

        May be hard to believe, but the most popular Nash ever built was the 1950 Airflyte.

        The styling of the Standard Vanguard was taken off the 1946-48 Plymouth. According to an article I read about a decade and a half ago the American embassy in London had a 1946-48 Plymouth.

        You can see Plymouth highlights in a few places. Sort of.

        Some executive at Standard-Triumph liked the Plymouth lines and pushed to have the Plymouth downsized for the Vanguard.

        One problem with the Airflyte and its wheels – deep snow and mud quickly filled the wheel wells and brought you to a halt.

        When I was a kid a neighbour had a Vanguard. The first Vanguards sold well (for a British car) but the restyles over the next decade made the car look older.

        Like 1
  5. Vance

    It looks like it should have a giant key on top of it like we had when we were kids. i remember getting toys like that on Christmas morning, and winding them up while you opened the rest of your gifts. Good memories, getting sentimental, always miss my Dad this time of year.

    Like 7
  6. Frank j Opalka

    Fathers would not allow daughters to go out with guys that drove Nash

    Like 5
    • David Taylor

      well, just because the front seats folded completely back to form a regular bed. THAT was one of the big selling points.

      Like 6
  7. mike

    Looks like a 1949 to me. This was a unibody car and the sales of this model set records for Nash. It was a very successful model for them. This car looks pretty nice and all there. I’d buy it but I’m full now.

    Like 2
    • Keith Johnson

      1949 had thinner bumper guards and different dash. This is a ’50.

      Like 2
  8. Howard A Member

    Not Dick Tracy, Superman. The Metropolis Police drove Nash Airflytes. We laugh today, but the Nash Airflyte was really a nice car for the early 50’s. Needs to be updated for todays travel, but Nash had the road market cornered with the reclining seats. Surprised nobody mentioned those.

    Like 2
    • Steve Clinton

      Didn’t Kaiser also have reclining seats? Just like today’s vans, many a father refused to allow their daughters to date a boy who drove one. LOL

    • Rick Rothermel

      Nash had a pretty aggressive media car program back then. Someone in that company was paying attention and numerous movies and TV shows used Nash generic cop cars.

      The George Reeves SUPERMAN series took it a bit further, putting a Nash Healey to use as Clark Kent’s hero car. Even as a kidlet I asked why he needed a car if he couold fly, but that was just me…

      Like 4
  9. Dual Jetfire

    The all new, ultra modern UNIPOD gauge cluster was the rage for 1950. Later, twin Carter yfs would be available as POWERFLYTE carbs. Powerflyte is very, very rare. I’ve only found 1 car that has it, and that’s a 54.

    Like 1
    • Keith Johnson

      Uniscope was their name for it.

      Like 2
  10. Niles Ingalls

    It’s a 1950. The 49 had a vertical radio, and black cluster gauge.

  11. Maynard Keller

    Based on the bumper guards, it’s definitely a 1950. Looks like a solid, complete car. With some TLC, this will probably run well and look great. I have a 1950 Nash Ambassador, which is the big brother of the Statesman. It is longer and has the OHV engine. The aerodynamic design makes for a very quiet ride.

    Like 2
  12. Steve Clinton

    This is what I love about the internet…the ability to find out ANYTHING about anything! Where would one have gone for information on a 1950 Nash Airflyte before Google and blogs such as these?

    Like 6
    • That AMC guy

      Magazines devoted to the old car hobby, maybe encyclopedias.

  13. Kenneth Carney

    …Beep beep (beep beep) beep beep.
    His horn went beep beep beep (beep beep)

    Like 4
    • Steve Clinton

      No, that was a Nash RAMBLER.

      Like 4
  14. Calipag

    I’d love to own this! You know you’d be the only one pulling up to the local coffee and cars driving this! The door handles intrigue me!

    I’d like to see some photos of what’s next to it in picture 2 and 3!!!

    Great write up!!

    • John M. Lilly

      Calipag, click on the highlighted Craigslist link. 20-30 pics there.

  15. Guggie 13

    My grandfather had one of these Nash’s back in the day , he loved that car
    he drove it until the 1956 Pontiac star Chief caught his eye . Remember going on a road trip across upstate NY to Buffalo NY and thinking what a smooth comfortable and quiet car that was . I do know he had to do a valve job on it , but otherwise it was know as Pa’s Nash ! , and he was proud of it

    Like 2
  16. Bill-W

    I remember the Airflyte! Was one in the neighbourhood and anyone who saw it never forgot it.

    One winter night the city plowed the street, leaving a row of snow on either side. Somehow the driver of the Statesman landed up with his right wheel on the wrong side of the row of snow. The owner called a tow truck but he didn’t show up until after noon.

    Nash purchased Ford of Canada’s assembly plant on Toronto’s East Danforth Avenue in 1946. Four years later, in April, 1950, Nash Canadian Statesman models, 2dr and 4dr sedans, began rolling off the line. They were identical to the U.S. models. Biggest difference was that Nash of Canada offered 4 exterior colours while Kenosha had 15 on their list. .

  17. Larry Ashcraft

    Just one of my pet peeves, especially coming from a car guy. “Rear windscreen” There’s no such thing, the windshield or windscreen is in the front The back window can be called a “backlight” or rear window, but it’s not a windshield.

    Like 6
    • Niles Ingalls

      >The back window can be called a “backlight” or rear window, but it’s not a windshield.

      what, you’ve never driven in reverse?

      Like 5
  18. chrlsful

    the waggy is 1 of my all time fav.s

    As a kid I could never understand how they could go around a corner. Now I say “Would I wanna change a flat?” aahahahaaa

  19. Richard Van Dyke Sr

    My Dad had one of these. It was tank some guy hit the car while it was parked and dang near totaled his car all it did to the Nash was bent the bumper a little. Rode like a dream.

    Like 1
  20. Jetfire88

    Quite a few years ago, I read a mag article about GM’s design for the ’91 Caprice. It stated that they put a poster of one of these on the board and said “Make it modern”. I can no longer find the article in my library to verify it.

    True or not, there is a strong resemblance between the two. I’ve often thought of customizing one of mine by putting a Nash grille on it, Just haven’t found a nice grille cheap yet.

    Like 2
    • Bill

      Push it back into lake 🤭

      Like 1
  21. Jeff Smith

    There was one of these at a local scrap yard until 2019 when the owner died. I always thought the front end was awesome. Looks determined. Would like to own one.

  22. OzyJohn

    WOW! Fond memories of a Nash just like this owned by an American engineer working on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme in Australia. Used to dream about it every time it drove past our house.

  23. BronzeGiant

    Love it! I would love to get my hands on one of these a little closer than CA.

  24. Terry

    My Dad had either a Statesmen or an Ambassador in the early to mid 50’s. Loved that dash pod.

  25. David Thomas

    “Save It” In its way it has a certain beauty about it reminiscent of our (U.K.) Standard Vanguard of the period. We has many years ago the original presenter of tv’s Antiques Roadshow..Arthur Neegus. Always remember his words. “ They don’t make them anymore”. Like the car or loath it “ They don’t make them any more”

    • Bill

      And there was a reason for that David

    • Keith Johnson

      I always thought the Standard looked like a mini-Nash. Most people in the US have never seen a Vanguard.

  26. George E

    Hi all, I am helping the owner sell this car. She inherited it from her father, who passed away several years ago. The property has now been sold and everything has to go. There are a few other interesting cars there, including the Napco 4×4 that is seen in some of the photos, a Studebaker Lark and an old midget race car (perhaps a Kurtis) with a flathead Ford V8. Great information about the Nash, and fun to read some of your memories! Thanks

  27. Vince H

    It looks pretty solid. I can always make them run.

  28. Guggie 13

    seeing all the posts on this Nash got me thinking about Pas Nash , as I remember he turned the key and then pulled the shifting lever back to start the car , also it had one of the best heaters ( up state NY winters) , a couple other things I remember when you opened the trunk at night there were lights to warn other drivers , also the arm rests on the back seats were like you were setting in a lounge chair. also remember my dads comments on the seats turning into a bed .Pas Nash was the same color as this one . Pa ran a roofing company and ha a guy that worked there that had a 1955 Nash now that was another diffrent car also. I also think some of these bath tub Nash’s had motors with overhead valves .

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