Cheap Thrills: 1951 Nash Rambler Airflyte Convertible

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Maybe you’re watching the auctions on TV this week. If you’re like me, you’re looking on and saying, “When did $40K become the default price for an everyday collector car?” I realize this is not the only way to judge the market, but for one, I’m discouraged, because there’s a trickle-down effect that happens where these inflated prices lead everyone to believe that his or her “hopeless pile” is somehow an undiscovered gem. Hence the fact that everyday drivers are now also priced in the stratosphere. Then along comes this little nugget: a 1951 Nash Rambler Airflyte convertible. This car is listed at buy-it-now on ebay for $9500. Current price, just $600. There are five days left in the auction as of Saturday. Thanks to TJ for this great tip. Where else you going to find a convertible for that kind of coin?

This car and its fair price might just have the effect of shifting attention back to the 1950s machines that have lost their popularity recently, overshadowed by 1960s muscle, 1970s Trans Ams, and every piece of junk Bronco anyone can pull out of a farmer’s field.  This one’s in Washougal, Washington, awaiting a new owner. The odometer shows 16019 miles, but the wear on the front seat suggest you add 100K to that. That also calls into question the fitness of the motor, but the seller isn’t claiming a car that you can jump in and drive. Just a good platform for a restoration.

What gets me right off is the compelling shape of the body. Look at the massive hood and rounded fenders. That “Airflyte” designation was meant to appeal to post-war enthusiasts by pointing to the aerodynamically designed body. You can just see this one cheating the wind. How about those lower fenders that cover the wheels! It would also be fun to decipher the history. The car sports a Cali license plate, but a black plate. Those started well after this one’s 1951 birthdate, so why the re-tagging? The license surround does suggest an origin in Stockton, CA. It would be great to retrace this car’s history.

This is no muscle car. It sports a 6-pot engine that is said to have run fine when parked, but that was nearly thirty years ago, so you’ll be doing some recommissioning. But as I look at the images in the listing, everything seems true to form. I’m a purist, so if this were a car I knew a lot about, I’d be picking at details. However, since I have little experience with these cars (I did see and photograph one on the streets of Pasadena, CA, a few years ago), the uber-correctness (or lack thereof) wouldn’t be my focus. I’d just put this little cutie back to whatever state of normal I could within a reasonable budget and drive, drive, drive.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    To be clear, $40K is the median price for TV auction shows in certain areas. Kansas City doesn’t garner near the alleged money say, like Scottsdale or Vegas. Regardless, it’s all scripted anyway. It is refreshing to hear an author mention that. Now, in a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” thing, I’d say, step right up folks, here’s your chance to own the very car Lois Lane drove in Superman,,hey, why not? Since the original Superman has all but faded, celebrity cars, or ALLEGED ones, seems to add to the appeal. 5 bids and $2,000 pretty much tells the story here. Shame, classic-wise, I think it would be a great car, good mileage, top down, nostalgia up the ying yang, and might go 55,,,eventually, but certainly not some military Jeep, and a neat cruiser. By all rights,,my rights, I suppose, this should be long gone, but here we are. I think many may think to be involved in the classic car hobby, one must spend 5 figures, and proof right here, t’aint so. Okay, it’s not going to be a ’63 GP, but I think these “lesser” classics will be the next ones for many.
    Lois Lane,( Noel Neill) 1952ish,,–117797346484503058/

    Like 9
    • Frank Sumatra

      I thought Lois drove a Metropolitan?

      Like 1
      • tiger66

        Nope. There were no Metros in 1951 when the show began filming. Metros didn’t hit the market until late 1953 as 1954 models. So the original, first-season-only Lois (Phyllis Coates) drove a ’51 Rambler vert. The show, however, did not start airing until 1952 so the second season wasn’t filmed until 1953 by which time Coates had been replaced by Noel Neill who played Lois for the rest of the series. Neill’s Lois first drove a 1953 Rambler vert and later a 1955 Plymouth vert.

        Like 6
      • ramblergarage

        no it was a 51 Rambler and later a 53.

        Like 1
      • Sam61

        Nice a$$, hood ornament….and Lois. Sorry, could not resist a “PG” sophomoric comment.

        Like 1
    • Mr. Johnson

      You have too much time on your hands.

      Like 0
  2. angliagt angliagtMember

    Those Fuzzy dice add $1500 to it’s value.
    Not saying it’s not a good car,but Normal people
    didn’t buy these.
    On the other hand I don’t think I know of any
    “Normal” people (including myself).

    Like 6
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Normal compared to what? :)

      Like 3
  3. Ken B

    Would get more attention at a car show than the field of Corvettes and two seater Thunderbirds.

    Like 1
  4. TheOldRanger

    I got to ride in one of these about 70 years ago, and I thought I was a pretty cool kid. It certainly wasn’t the best looking car around, but it still had a bit of pizzaz back then. But if this is running and you live around where I do, we have plenty of retirees in this area that will remember this one… so it would be great for starting conversation.

    Like 5
  5. Kenneth Carney

    Unless there’s any serious rust out, it
    looks as though you could do what you need to do to the engine and
    brake system and drive it as is for
    awhile. Those Flying Scot engines
    are a hearty bunch and you could
    revive one with a weekend’s worth of
    work. Only thing that bothers me is
    That knocked out freeze plug. He
    says the block is fine, but I’d have it
    magnafluxed to be sure of that.
    And while you’re at it, treat the engine
    to a rebuild using some modern parts
    like rings and pistons for better oil
    control. Next, check the crank to see
    if you could drill it for full pressure
    lubrication. And check the valve seats for cracks too. An older
    mechanic I ran around with told me
    these engines were really bad for
    this especially if they had overheated.
    You may have to get them hardened
    so you can use regular gas today.
    If it’s gonna go then it’s gotta whoa so
    I’d also install a dual master cylinder
    along with disc brakes up front with
    vented rotors to disepate the heat and fight pedal fade. Throw in a set
    of electric wipers and a like powered
    steering box, and call it done. The rest you could redo when time and cash permit. Gonna have to teach my
    SIL and neice how to drive a 3 on the
    tree– especially if it has OD added to

    Like 0
    • ramblergarage

      Really dont need any of those upgrades these drive and stop just fine. I know we have 2 of them.

      Like 0
  6. ccrvtt

    Mom had a 1951 2-door painted gray, later black, bought new when Dad worked for Nash Kelvinator. She drove it until 1957 when she got a new Country Squire and Dad took it over as his commuter. It was finally replaced in 1961 with a white Falcon 4-door. I have 3 very specific memories of that car: 1) Driving home late one night from Birmingham to Okemos sleeping on the front seat as Dad drove us, my little brother in the back; 2) Dad getting a ticket in downtown Lansing for running a red light while searching for Sexton high school to watch my cousin play basketball; and 3) Poring over the owner’s manual and looking at the instructions for the convertible top and wishing my parents had bought that version.

    Most likely we couldn’t get ‘that’ channel that carried Superman (remember those tragic days?) (of course you don’t, I’m older than dirt) so I don’t recall seeing Lois Lane’s car. As for the snarky comment about “normal people” not buying these – my Dad was an All-American at Michigan and later VP of Diamond Reo trucks and my Mom taught high school French and became an estate appraiser.

    Not normal people – exceptional people.

    These are not ugly cars given the styling idiom of the day. They were marketed as inexpensive, practical cars and were produced well into the ’60s. The Country Club coupes with their reverse slant C-pillars showed a classy bit of pizzazz, if you’ll pardon my retro verbiage.

    Like 1
  7. Arden Engel

    I had a 50 Airflyte. My favorite thing about them was the “bomb” shape, that aerodynamic art deco look. The convertible takes what I like about the shape away.

    Like 1

    This is a great little car when it’s all together and running right. It’s surprisingly peppy and amazingly agile. It’s also a total attention getter. I’m the third owner of a car exactly like this one minus the Petty hood ornament. I’ve owned it since 1996 and drive it in the summertime. I got it with 43K on the odometer and it’s now up to 56,263. I never hesitate to drive it on the interstate. Mine is rust free which is a rarity for one of these. It took a two year search for me to find one that didn’t need rust repair or restoration for that matter. This listed example looks very complete and straight. It’s hard to tell if it’s very rusty. If you want to drive one of these, make sure that it has overdrive.

    Like 6
  9. GT

    Brian K. Up until 1963, California license plates were re-issued and the previous plate was removed and replaced with the new one. So a 1951 vehicle that remained in California since new, would have first had a 1951 plate, then each year from 1952 through 1955 a validation metal tab attached to the corner. In 1956 a new plate was issued so the the old 1951 plate retired. From 1957 through 1962 a validation sticker was attached. Then in 1963 a new plate was issued and the 1956 plate retired. That process was stopped so from 1963 until today the first plate issued remains with the vehicle.

    Like 2
  10. Richard

    I always loved the look of these and never understood the lack of a collector following. Poor orphan car. Looks like it’s getting some love on eBay. ~$7600

    Like 2
  11. javman

    Had a 51 airflyte country club (2 dr hardtop) the first place I noticed rust was above the tail lights dirt collected on the underside and Wisconsin winter salt created the rust. Loved that little thing quite snappy for 75 or so hp.

    Like 2
  12. chrlsful

    some say “When they knew how to do a frnt end” (I agree as home builder – we like a nice 1st impression – doll up a frnt door/entery-way). Some say “Too much tin haingin” (then look at today’s ‘on-rd space ships’).

    I like the whole. With special nod to the dropped fenders, vert here, but not the yellow. No vehicle on land sea or air needs a coata that.

    Like 0
  13. ramblergarage

    My brother and I have 2 of these one restored and one mostly original. Here is a video I have on youtube with a little bit of history on them.

    We have more fun with these cars and they are the highlight of every show we take them to.

    Like 2
    • Peter Storen

      Beautiful cars and a lovely video , thanks Fellas !

      Like 0
  14. Denny N.Member

    These little early Ramblers are as cute as can be and the ladies really like ’em. Rust is the enemy of these unit-body cars but being from CA this one looks encouraging. Congrats to the seller for taking many photos and showing the underside.
    It’s up to $7900 now.

    Like 3
  15. Dennis Young

    My parents bought the non-ragtop version of this car used sometime between 1951 and the summer of 1953. It was a brighter yellow main body with a gloss black roof two door and I remember our first family trip from Houston, Texas to Fernandina Beach, Florida (Amelia Island), to visit my fathers family, in the summer of 1953. I was 4 1/2 years old at the time and remember the car, and a lot of the trip, very well. Have often thought that I would like to have a copy of that car and this “ragtop” version would be close enough but the timing is all wrong as I just spent thousands this week on a Model A “hot rod”. I also have insufficient indoor parking at this time for another car but…this little car is sure enticing to me. On a side note, my sister, who is 2 years, 9 months younger than I rode in the back seat with me on that Florida trip and I drove my father crazy (as young’uns are wont to do) by teaching my sister to talk on the trip down, and back, repeating many words and phrases endlessly. I don’t know whether I would have had his patience with all of that back seat “babble”!

    Like 2
  16. jmolsnMember

    Bought it!! Cant wait to add it to the Nash collection!

    Like 2
    • Richard

      Congratulations jmolsn. Love the look of that one!

      Like 0
  17. GT

    Jmolsn Congratulations! How many Nash cars do you own?

    Like 1
    • jmolsnMember

      I think it’s 7-8 presently

      Like 0

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