Handsome Bargain: 1939 Nash LaFayette

While we live in a world populated by a handful of automakers, that wasn’t always the case.  Inspired by the multiple divisions of General Motors, automakers who are no longer with us tried to build sales and gain profitability by starting multiple nameplates.  These additional nameplates were often sold by new dealerships eager to peddle offerings that were a little different in price and styling.  One such short lived marque was Nash’s LaFayette.   While there are few of these interesting cars still around, eagle eyed reader Darrun has found for us a running and driving example being sold on eBay in Wanda, Minnesota.  With bidding only to $3,100, this 1939 Nash LaFayette could be quite the bargain for someone who wants a very distinctive prewar car.

Named obviously for the Marquis de LaFayette, who helped us out during that whole American Revolution thing a while back ago, LaFayette Motors started out in 1920 as an independent manufacturer that later curiously had Charles Nash as its president.  Nash was at the time also president of Nash Motors.  In 1924, Nash Motors bought out all the outstanding stock and took over the company.  Soon after, according to autospanna.com, the name was retired and the factory began to punch out Ajax automobiles.  The name came back as a separate division of Nash in 1934 with the goal of producing smaller, more fuel efficient, and cheaper automobiles to fill a niche.  The division was later absorbed into the Nash brand as a lower cost car from 1937 through 1940.  It then morphed into the Nash 600 economy car.  Confused yet?

What isn’t confusing is that this car may be a real bargain.  With its distinctive vertical grille and integrated headlights, this LaFayette is a good looking car.  Add to that an overall shape that looks very much like a 1940 Ford tudor, and it is difficult to figure out why the bidding is so low on a running car.  A big reason is that less mechanically inclined prospective buyers generally choose cars that have club support and a fair amount of aftermarket parts available.  Add to that the fact that there just aren’t that many people around that remember these cars in the first place.

Despite all of this, an adventurous soul who is a bit resourceful could probably have a blast with this car.  The seller tells us that the car has 31,330 miles on the odometer and that it runs OK.  The filling station oil change stickers on the door jam might be able to confirm this mileage figure.  While we are not told if the car is in original condition, the faded paint and slightly tattered interior allude to that being a possibility.  The only non-original part we are told about is an electric fuel pump.  Sometimes this change is made to reduce instances of vapor locking.  This is a situation where the carburetor is struggling to get enough fuel due to engine heat vaporizing the gasoline coming in through the fuel line.

While the driver’s seat and door panel seem to have taken the brunt of the wear, the rest of the interior is in remarkably good shape.  The window surrounds are solid and rust free, and the glass looks to be in good shape.  We are warned by the owner that the passenger side windshield is turning white.  This is most likely due to the safety glass delaminating.  Replacing the glass will also necessitate replacing the rubber weather stripping it sits in.  Luckilly, Steele Rubber Products has the weather stripping needed for this fairly rare car.

Under the hood sits an inline six cylinder engine that put out 99 horsepower.  This was a fair amount of horsepower for an economy car of the time.  Ford’s Flathead V-8 put out just 85 horsepower in comparison.  The picture above shows that some ignition modifications have been made, as the coil looks to be a later model in a non-standard mount.  Otherwise, all the necessary parts and pieces seem to be present.

While this LaFayette is not restored to perfection, it looks to be perfectly useable as it sits.  Some work cleaning the car and getting it to run better than “OK” would result in a very good looking and fun car.  As more and more older collectors, or their heirs, liquidate their collections, we will continue to see cars like this one enter the market.  I just hope we have enough new collectors to take them in.

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  1. Howard A Member

    I think there will still be a market for these types of cars, as long as they are somewhat drivable. I doubt many have the skills or resources to restore a basket case, but this could be easily done. Many years ago, in the mid-70’s, I was dirt biking with a friend in N.Wis. and we came across an abandoned farm. In one of the buildings, was a Nash Lafayette like this.It had been sitting so long, it was sunk up to running boards in the dirt, but in great shape. I went back several years later, and it was gone.

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    I remember about 15 years ago a ’34 Nash LaFayette 4-door showed up at an oil field trucking company shop, a block away from my work place. I looked it over and it was in good shape. I asked if it was for sale and was told–on no uncertain terms–that it was NOT for sale, and it was going to be hot-rodded. It disappeared shortly after that but reappeared in pieces in the back yard. That’s where it sat until the company was sold and taken over a couple of years later. Hate to see something like that, but more often than not, the same thing occurs all across the country. It still breaks my heart.

  3. Fred W

    Has all the hallmarks of a truly low mileage, untouched car. Would be much higher already if not an orphan. I suspect someone is going to steal it.

    • Wingunder

      Well I wouldn’t say I “stole” it, but I took it for a nice price. I plan to check it over, clean it up and drive it as is!

  4. Miguel Member

    Does anybody know when composite headlight were outlawed?

  5. Kenneth Carney

    Sounds like a problem I used to see on
    Ford products back in the day. Had a
    ’53 Ford and ’59 Lincoln Premiere that
    always seemed to vapor lock on hot
    days. I cured the problem by placing
    wooden clothspins on the fuel line
    from the carbeutator on down to the
    fuel pump. They must be the spring
    loaded type that clamp around the
    fuel line and stay in place. The wooden
    clothespins absorb the engine heat and
    the car stays running, period. That’s what
    I’d do if I had it. Had to buy Mom 2 or3
    big bags of clothespins after I swiped
    hers. Did that to all my Fords and lived
    happily ever after.

  6. Dirk

    Nice car – nice price (so far).

  7. Ikey Heyman

    Mechanically straightforward enough so that the average shade tree mechanic should be able to work on it and keep it going. At the right price, buy it and drive it and have fun with it, restoration optional.

  8. gene

    No vapor lock issues typical, but heavy clutch foot is discouraged, since starter is actuated when pedal hits the floorboard.

  9. grant

    Wow! Seems to be a very nice price on a prewar car. Anyone want to buy a boat?

  10. Mitchell Ross

    I can’t believe I’m considering a bid on this. Those headlights are calling me. Never was interested in pre 1950s cars but what the hell…

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