Live Auctions

No Reserve: 1953 Nash Rambler “Airflyte”

While it might not seem so at first glance, the Nash Rambler is actually a significant car in American automotive history. It represented the first example of an American manufacturer being able to successfully introduce a “compact” car to its range, thus paving the way for the 2-car household that has become so common today. This 1953 Rambler Airflyte is a solid car that would benefit from a light cosmetic restoration, and I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Ikey H for referring it to us. The Nash is located in Murphy, North Carolina, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $3,272 in what is a No Reserve auction.

The Nash Rambler certainly features interesting styling, and the enclosed front wheels became something of a hallmark of Nash cars from this era. This was also a clever move from a marketing perspective because this feature made the Nash immediately and unmistakeably identifiable against its direct competitors. This particular Rambler is finished in a combination of Willow Green with a New Hunter Green top. There are no signs of any rust issues, and the owner does state that there is nothing more than surface corrosion for the next owner to address. Given the fact that the Rambler is of unibody construction, a rust-free status is far more important here than if it was a body-on-chassis vehicle. One area of concern for me is the alignment of the driver’s door. I might not be anything significant, but it has dropped noticeably. This could be a simple adjustment issue or sign of heavily worn hinges, but it could also be a sign of something more sinister. It would certainly be worth asking the question on that front. Otherwise, the panels are straight, and I honestly believe that even though the vehicle would benefit from a cosmetic restoration, a wet-sand and polish could return the Rambler to a fairly presentable state. All of the trim and chrome is present, although some of this might require a trip to the plater if the next owner is seeking to perform a restoration to a high standard. All of the Nash’s glass is tinted, and it appears that whilst the windshield does sport a significant crack, the rest of it seems to be free from any problems.

Lifting the hood on the Nash reveals a 184ci flathead 6-cylinder engine, which produced 85hp. This is backed by a 3-speed manual transmission, and this brings us to an interesting little quirk in the Rambler’s mechanical specifications. Nash offered both an automatic and a manual transmission in the Rambler, but each of these was only available in concert with a specific engine. For instance, a car like our feature vehicle would receive the 184ci engine as a matter of course with the manual transmission. However, if the original buyer had wanted their Rambler equipped with a Hydramatic transmission, then the only engine available was the larger 195ci unit. That is just one example of the quirky nature of cars that were the product of Nash. This vehicle is another classic where the owner states that it ran when parked, and it appears that it might have been maintained in running order for some time after it was parked. However, the previous owner managed to lose the vehicle’s keys about six-months-ago, so no attempt has been made to kick the engine into life. The good news is that the current owner has checked, and the engine does still turn freely. The Rambler has no brakes, so it will require some refurbishment work before it will be fit to hit the road once again.

While it might have been built on a relatively short 100″ wheelbase, the Rambler was a surprisingly spacious car. It was capable of seating 5-people in comfort, although taller people did find that the rear seat provided limited leg-room. The interior of this Nash is serviceable, but it isn’t perfect. There is wear on the seats, along with a couple of minor tears and seam separations. The headliner is showing some sagging in the back, but it looks like the remaining trim is in good order and would respond well to a deep clean. This is not a car that is loaded with comfort or luxury features, with no radio to relieve the boredom on longer journeys. There is a clock, but I guess that if you are embarking on a solo long-distance trip, all that it will do is constantly remind you of just how long you’ve been on the road!

The Rambler was a calculated gamble by Nash that might not have brought the company the overall sales success that it had hoped for, but it did pave the way for the compact 5-seater, and thus for the 2-car family. Nash managed to sell 30,260 examples of the Nash in 1953, and while this total might not have reached the lofty heights that the company hope for, it still represented a reasonable level of success. Fully half of these sales (15,255) were 2-door hardtops the same as this car. These aren’t a car that commands an enormous value, but nice unmolested examples can still sell quite easily for figures well in excess of $20,000. If this one is as solid and rust-free as the owner claims, then it does have the potential to reach that sort of value once restored. Do we have any readers who are interested in restoring a truly quirky American classic?


  1. Gaspumpchas

    Wow that sure is cool and appears to be in good condition, wonder how it would look with a buff job. You would need to build a subframe if you wanted to upgrade the mill. These are so funky looking it would be a shame to change the outside appearance. Good luck to the new owner. Amazing survivor!!!
    Stay safe

    Like 10
  2. Cadmanls Member

    Something is going on I think with front of passenger fender and the door on the same side is missing the molding. Not a clear full picture of the passenger side like the drivers side. Maybe it’s nothing. Other than that car looks really clean.

    Like 3
  3. Pat

    That car has a radio. Their radio was two knobs; on/off-volume and channel selection. The station numbers were printed on the knob and you aligned the number to a hash mark. They didn’t have a dial. At night you had to tune by ear, turn on the dome light, if their was one, or light a match. My moms didn’t have the dome light, so we basically tuned to one station and left it there.

    Like 14
    • ruxvette

      Lotta times at night you tuned by ear looking for the wolfman.

      Like 12
  4. That AMC Guy

    Early automatic transmissions were pretty inefficient so it was common to find an engine with a few more hp combined with them.

    While it may look spartan by today’s standards, early 1950s Ramblers were well-equipped by the standards of their time. They were not marketed as cheap strippers but as classy second cars for successful people, what a doctor’s or business owner’s wife might drive while hubby had the Caddy or Lincoln. (Of course that changed later and by the 1960s Rambler took on the reputation of a poverty ride for skinflints and poor people, but it didn’t start out that way.)

    This car was the basis for the Rambler American from 1958-1963. (There was an outer reskinning in ’61 but it was still the same underneath.) Look at the engine compartment, you’ll never fit anything else in there without a lot of custom fabrication. (Maybe something really compact like a Mazda rotary?)

    Like 5
  5. DualJetfire

    This is a 53 Country Club, the top of the Rambler line. It appears complete. The sagging drivers door is very probably worn hinges, which can be easily rectified by bronze bushings from Help!
    The fender crowns in front of the windshield look solid; this is a frequent location for rust. The conti panels also look good. I don’t think it has overdrive; I don’t see the relay in the engine compartment.
    This is a great buy and a very good car. They are easy to work on, mechanical parts are plentiful, and everyone loves them. EVERBDY’S grandmother had a Rambler.

    It’s an important car, too. In 1950, when they debuted, you could get a full size Plymouth, Chevy or Ford with a average 90 hp flathead for about $1600. Hudson tried the compact, but it cost almost $1900; why pay $1900 for less of a car? By 53, you could buy a bottom of the line Rambler for $1500. Less car, but less money, too, and it did everything the competition did, but got way better gas mileage. It started the 2 car family idea. In 55-57 they went up chassis and AMC lost its shirt. Romney, on the verge of bankruptcy, brought the Rambler back out as the Rambler American and made so much money that it saved the company.
    I’d buy this in a heartbeat if I didn’t have……. a 1954 Nash Ambassador Country Club LEMANS!

    Like 12
    • pixelpusher

      And I bought it! It is an Overdrive car. All the glass was good as it turned out. I may be contacting you with your expertise!

  6. nlpnt

    These 100″ wheelbase Ramblers were the Grover Cleveland of cars, in production for two non-consecutive terms. 1950-55 and 1958-63 with heavy reskins in ’53 and ’61.

    Interesting thing is that the turning circle only decreased by about a foot when the front wheelwells were opened up for 1955,but when the extra width needed by the old fully skirted ones was finally trimmed away in 1961,overall width was cut from 73″ to 70″ (in modern terms, the difference between a Honda Accord and a Honda Civic), which must be a record for anything short of a full clean-sheet redesign.

    Like 1
    • JamesHGF

      For 1955 the Rambler took advantage of the newly opened front fenders to increase the front track from 53.4″ to 54.6″ and tighten the steering lock to obtain the shortest turning circle of an American family sedan.

      The turning circle for the ’53 rambler was 42 feet 3 inches. That was reduced in the ’55 and later models to an even 36 feet. Thus the turning circle for the ’55 was not “decreased by about a foot”, but decreased by 6 feet 4 inches. 1955 brochure proclaims “a brand new kind of performance”:

      Like 1
  7. ruxvette

    That horn goes beep beep beep…it’s probably stuck in 2nd gear.

    Like 7
    • DualJetfire

      Yes. Yes it does.

      Like 1
    • Hotroddaddy

      Too bad it doesn’t have the all weather eye!

  8. Andy

    I know it’s not the same model, but when I see this car I think of Lois and Jimmy trying to get a scoop on Clark. And don’t call me Chief!

    Like 5
    • ruxvette

      Great Caesar’s ghost

      Like 4
    • That AMC Guy

      Lois Lane did drive a Nash Rambler, but it was one of the early convertibles. Almost more like a giant fabric sunroof since full door and window framing was retained and the top was electrically operated via cables.

      Superman was a Nash-heavy show – Nash police cars were commonly shown and Clark Kent drove a Nash Healey.

      Like 7
      • DualJetfire

        This raises the issue of what Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, drove. Superman told me it Perry’s car was a …. green and white 54 Ambassador Custom Coultry Club LEMANS. He WAS the boss, after all. Great Caesar’s Ghost, what a coincidence!

        Like 1
    • Bill Hall

      This is what Lois had maybe a convertible? It has been a couple of years?

  9. Howard A Member

    Reclining seats?

    Like 4
    • dr fine

      Grandad’s ’52 Country Club didn’t have recliners. It had the badly worn door hinges, and if you hit a bump while turning, the door latch would jump above the stop with the door flying wide open.

      It had a big Kelvinator plate under the hood, and I’ve heard they were stamped with refrigerator dies. If Romney had stuck with just the simple Rambler instead of a full stable of different models, it might still be going.

  10. Blyndgesser

    Recommission it and make it safe. Then drive. Repeat as necessary.

    Like 2
  11. don

    My mother had a 58 American ; theres no mistaking the lineage , thats for sure. She had it for 10 years, and only drove it very other Thursday for groceries. When it developed an overheating issue, and my parents sold it to the neighbors kid in 1968 for $25.00 , low mileage and rust free. My mother liked it so much they went out and bought a Matador red American 220 2dr. She had that until 2000, when she couldn’t drive anymore.

    Like 1
  12. Philip

    Might be a cool candidate for an electric motor (I’ve been watching “Vintage Voltage” on Motor Trend).

    It says you must “bring a trailer”…they are on the wrong venue.

  13. Lou Rugani

    Early Rambler convertibles and hardtops were luxury compact cars with radios, heaters, whitewalls, wheel covers, clocks, directionals and more as standard equipment. The cheaper models came later, after the Rambler image was established as a class act that no one was embarrassed to say they owned. The lesson was lost on other carbuilders that thought people wanted a cheap car first and foremost. Later, of course, AMC went the other way after visionary George Mason passed on.

  14. Chris in Pineville

    so the key is lost.
    why not get a locksmith to make one?
    what’s the thought process here?

    Like 2
  15. Al

    Radio antennae is visible on passenger side front fender in cowl area. Writer Pat noted the sparse radio controls on the dash clearly seen on the interior pictures. What a fun ride and unique car to take to the shows. Very cool !

  16. lc

    There was a 55 Rambler listed locally where I live for a couple of months. Seemed to have just recently went off sale. The seller had it for $2400. Said that the flat head engine would run by adding gas to the carb. He also claimed that it was the first year for air conditioning, and it was all there. It was a four door, and looked very much like the one featured here except that the front wheel well was open full tire and the grill was more of a honey comb look but same shape. It also had a rusted through area under the right rear tail light. Also, it still sported all of its hub cabs with white wall tires! The body looked straight from what I could see. It had the continental kit as well.

  17. Marty Member

    I remember these types of cars (Nash, Packard and others) sometimes having been referred to as having “bathtub styling”. I think this car looks more like a bathtub than my bathtub does. But I only see it once per week, so I’m not entirely sure. This car is the bathtubbiest of them all.

    I agree this beautiful ride is an essential part of the whole American car lexicon and is certainly worth preserving.

    Like 1
  18. charlie Member

    And, my mother had a ’68 Rambler American Rogue, with the 289 V8. She did not learn to drive until she was 55, it took forever and lots of lessons, and three fails at the DMV in PA, but I bought her a very used ’60 Corvair, when she passed, thinking it would be easier to drive than the ’56 Chevy she had, automatic, but no power steering or brakes, and she could see all four corners of the car, and it was easy to drive. When rust killed it, she bought the Rogue, red with black vinyl top, and when she quit driving in 1996, she sold it for a song to the man who had been asking to buy it for 10 years. Persistence sometimes pays. It was a great car.

  19. John S.

    I like this car! It’s different… stylish… classy in it’s own way. I believe a car like this would bring a lot of enjoyment just as it was / is. If it wasn’t where it is, I would be very tempted…

  20. pixelpusher

    Looks like both front fenders have creases in them. May contribute to why the driver’s door isn’t aligned. That fender color looks off as well. Hard to say without seeing in person. Nice car.

    • pixelpusher

      And I ended up buying this car, sight unseen. Seller offered some good additional information, and it seems it was a good time to pick it up! Wish me well…

      Like 1
      • CVPanther Member

        Congrats, Pixel, I wish you the best in getting it roadworthy! You got a really cool car there.

  21. lc

    Hey, pixelpusher. There was a 55 Nash 4 door that looks just like that one for half that price. It may have had a little rust on it though, but not bad. I did see it once in person. If you would like I could stop by there, to the place where it was being sold, and see if it is still available. It was on Craigs for quite sometime, but has been taken off. Maybe they can give some information about it. I do have a phone # that was on another car that they were selling (seems to be a body shop). But don’t think I could post it here. Good Nash Rambling Wheeling! Hope you can take it to some local car events!

  22. lc

    They have reposted this 55 Hudson/Rambler that I was talking about above. They want $2450 in trade or less for cash. It can be viewed in Colorado Springs, CO Craigslist. It looks real straight except for the rust areas one being under the right rear tail light.

    • pixelpusher

      Thanks, one at a time. I like them in two doors!

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