Rare Roadster: 1952 Nash-Healey Roadster

The years following World War II saw a number of cooperative automotive endeavors between American and British automotive manufacturers, especially given the fact that at that particular point in time, the British were recognized as leaders in the design and production of sports convertibles. One of those efforts resulted in the production of the Nash-Healey, which was anything but an affordable vehicle. This 1952 example has been parked in a barn for more than 30-years, but its restoration needs appear to be remarkably minimal. It is located in Astoria, New York, and is listed for sale here at Gullwing Motor Cars. The price for this classic has been set at $59,500.

Originally designed and built as a collaboration between Nash and Healey, famed Italian design studio Pinin Farina entered the mix for the second year of production. The Italian firm was contracted to undertake a restyle of the original car, and it was from this that production became slightly convoluted, and resulted in the Nash-Healey becoming a seriously expensive car. Nash driver-train components were dispatched from America to Britain, where they were installed in the Healey-designed chassis. The cars were then dispatched to Pinin Farina, who crafted and fitted the aluminum and steel bodies. Each completed car was then shipped back to the USA, where it was sold in Nash dealerships as their “halo” model. All of this shipping had an impact on prices, and a 1952 Nash-Healey Roadster could be yours for the princely sum of $5,900. Compare that with the cost of a Corvette at that point of $3,500, and it becomes apparent why Nash was only able to sell around 150 cars in 1952.

This particular Nash-Healey is going to require a complete restoration, but it looks like the next owner will be starting from a pretty solid foundation. The body appears to be rust-free, and all of the external trim and chrome also appears to be present. It seems that body damage is confined to a small dent in the passenger side rocker, while the distinctive full hubcaps are free of damage and curb strike. They will require a trip to the plater, as will a few of the other external trim items, but at least they are in restorable condition. It’s also a bonus that the new-for-1952 single-piece windshield looks to be in good condition. This is good news simply because you would get no change from $700 if you had to source a replacement. There is no information on whether or not a soft-top or frame are included with the car. One interesting aspect of undertaking a restoration on this vehicle will be to ascertain the exact color that it was painted when new. I believe that the paint is original, but getting an exact match on the original might take a bit of patience. The reason for this is that the Nash-Healey was never finished in a shade from the regular Nash paint selection, with the colors actually coming from Pinin Farina’s own color catalog. It will probably be a case of finding a spot on the car that hasn’t been exposed to either weather or UV rays and obtaining a match from that.

As with the situation with the body of the Nash-Healey, the interior looks like it will be fairly straightforward to restore. The leather upholstery on the seat looks like it is in good condition, and would respond well to a clean and condition. The dash will need some restoration work, but the saving grace is that not only is it complete, but the majority of the components look like they are in fair condition. The door trims look good, but the car will require new carpet. The steering wheel will probably need to be restored, and I have found a company in California that has experience with these particular wheels. That wheel also provides one of the interesting features of the car, and it was something that was quite rare in a sports car of this era. The wheel position was actually adjustable, which is a feature that we simply take for granted today.

Under the hood of the Roadster, we find the 252ci 6-cylinder engine, which saw service in the Ambassador. Once shipped to Healey in Britain, the original cast iron cylinder head was replaced with an alloy unit, and hanging off this was a pair of Carter carburetors. The result was an engine that produced 140hp, compared to 120hp when fitted to an Ambassador. The power then found its way to a coil-sprung rear end via a 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive. Braking was taken care of by 4-wheel drum brakes. Tipping the scales at 2,750lbs, the Nash-Healey was not a light vehicle, especially for a 2-seat sports car. Performance would be classed as adequate, rather than startling. This particular car still houses its numbers-matching engine, but we have no idea about its relative health. One positive to consider is the fact that apart from the cylinder head and carburetors, what we essentially have here is an Ambassador engine, so any maintenance work should be fairly easy. The only thing that I would be worried about would be the potential for corrosion inside the cylinder heads, especially in the water jackets. Hopefully, that would be okay. I am aware that there is a company in the UK that manufactures reproduction cylinder heads, but these aren’t cheap. If there are issues with the cylinder head and it is beyond repair, then a standard Ambassador unit could be substituted as a last resort.

An asking price of $59,500 may seem like a lot of money for a project car, but in the case of the 1952 Nash-Healey, it would seem to be well justified. The Nash-Healey is one of those British/American collaborative efforts that has tended to slip under the radar to a certain extent. While this one will need work, it appears to be a solid example and the simple fact is that with a build total of only 150 cars in 1952, they are a rare and desirable vehicle. Fully restored to Concours condition, a 1952 model can now achieve a price in excess of $100,000, while $120,000 is certainly not out of the question. That would seem to make this a project car that is well worth investigating.

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Comments

  1. SMS

    Remember looking at one of these and a Sunbeam Alpine about the same vintage and thinking that they were very attractive and bargains in the early ’80’s. Not so much the bargain anymore. Still very attractive.

    Like 5
  2. ken tilly Member

    What with the purchase price being at $60k and a resale price of maybe $100k there doesn’t appear to be much room for a complete restoration, allowing for a decent profit upon completion.

    Like 5
    • Roarrr Rogers

      You’re exhibiting one of the WORST aspects of the collector car field–it isn’t a hobby or love but an alternative investment strategy the same as many other fields like art, antiques etc. There are many that would love to caress this rarie back on the road as an example of cars that once were on the road before appliances like now. Cars like this tend to disappear into an investors vault to sit and appreciate until sold depriving those less than in their 70’s from ever enjoying them–when did you see one at a show??

      Like 14
  3. Rube Goldberg Member

    “It’s a bird, it’s a plane”, again, I’ll give Adam the benefit from living down under, although, I’m sure he’s heard of Superman, just maybe not the series. The Nash-Healey made it’s appearance on the the TV series “Superman”( 1951-1954) Shown here as mild mannered Clark Kent outside Metropolis police headquarters.
    https://www.imcdb.org/v055761.html
    Nash was the sponsor, and all the cars were Nash’s. These were cool cars, but sorely needed a V8. I believe it does have the honor, aside from Crosley, as being the 1st 2 seat American sports car. Again, not to be a AP promoter, but this Mike Wolfe bought one, surprisingly paid about the same in the same shape. I wonder if the seller watches that show too. Very cool car for you bottomless pocket types.

    Like 14
    • Roarrr Rogers

      There were several earlier sports car like cars in the 40’s, of course the Jaguar XK120 came out in 1949 and blew everyone away but it was just another British sports car, they had been making them for ever. I recall seeing what might have been a DAVIS roadster rotting in a scrappers in VA in the 50’s, it had a removable tin top and a flathead six. I’ve not seen or heard of one since.

      Like 1
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    About the only issue I have with the description is the comparison to the Corvette, it wasn’t available till the 53 Model so I’m not sure you could buy one at the time this one was available. It does have character and I’d like to see it back on the road but it won’t be a cheap endeavor.

    Like 3
  5. On and On On and On Member

    Anyone know offhand how many were built total?

    • RayT Member

      Wikipedia says the total through end of production in ’54 was 506.

      Like 3
      • On and On On and On Member

        Thanks RayT………rare indeed. This one almost looks like you could go over the systems and drive it for awhile before investing in a restoration. All for the price of a new loaded F-150.

        Like 8
      • Rube Goldberg Member

        Hey On and On, not to change the subject, but I’m looking at a 1969 CB 350 this week. I’ve given up on classic cars and am going for a classic bike. I’ll let you know how that works out.

      • On and On On and On Member

        Rube! wish i would have known, just sold a 1969 CL450 Scrambler on Ebay. It only had 1790 original miles. It was on Ebay for less than 2 hours and a guy from France bought it for the buy-it-now price. Great bike, he’s a lucky guy. Still have a BMW R75/5 for sale and a 1965 CL77 scrambler. Only keeping one bike to ride, a 1982 Honda 500cc Ascot, a one lunger that has always been my favorite rider. ……As far as 350’s go, I’ve owned and rehabed half a dozen of them, bulletproof in every way and great driving bikes. I prefer the CL Scrambler models because they have a different cam for more low end torque and power and gearing. Wish you lived closer, I’d introduce you to 40-60mph 2 lane country riding………..heaven on earth through the woods and lakes of our beloved Wisconsin. If you need any help or resource material on the 350 let me know.

        Like 5
      • On and On On and On Member

        Hey Rube, If you wish you can email me at: durant28@yahoo.com. I’d like to hear details about your potential 1969 CB350. I don’t want to keep posting distracting comments for all BF’ers to tolerate.

        Like 2
  6. Capt Doug

    I drove one of these once.

    I drove to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix with a friend in his fathers Nash-Healey in the late 60’s – 4 hrs. each way with an overnight at his dorm in Ithaca.
    A great time – my 1st look at the McLaren racing cars – we made no splash in the parking area with the Nash Healey — it was just another car then — the big attention grabbers were the 911’s.
    back home it was not often the car was driven out of the garage. Hope it eventually went to a good home.

    Like 6
  7. Andrew S Mace Member

    Same old story: Everyone complains about the cost of “restoration”! It’s hard to judge without seeing the car, but I have to wonder if this particular example might be perfect for conserving and preserving rather than nut-and-bolt restoration. “They’re only original once” and all that, and this one looks to be quite presentable as it sits.

    Of course, it’s a moot point for me, as I’m a good $55k or so short of the purchase price…. :(

    Like 15
    • CFJ

      Yes, agree! Severe TLC and the car is back on the road….

      Like 2
  8. Wayne

    Left front wheel appears to have a bit of negative camber. ( the right appears to have a minor amount) So there may be a little suspension repairs required. Or at least some adjustments needed.
    Neat car!

    Like 6
  9. Chuck

    Being a 1952 model myself, I’d love to own this. Unfortunately, I have too many project cars now and not enough funds to add another.

    Like 3
  10. jimmy the orphan

    Thanks for the great photo Rube. This car needs to look like that again. I hope Mike Wolfe sprayed a coat of clear over the PATINA on his at least………………………………JIMMY

    Like 4
  11. TimM

    Pretty sanitary and I bet it would be a blast to drive!! A lot of motor for that little car!! The price is still high enough that I would rather spend that kind of money on a on C2 corvette!!!

    Like 3
  12. Del

    Very rare only 150 made in 52.

    This looks pretty good. I agree this could be coaxed back without a full resto.

    But never saw any comments about it running.

    None runners take big hits. This car is only going to have a small audience. Offers should start about 30 grand

    Like 2
  13. Tom Smith

    Two were entered in the ’52 LeMans 24 hour race, one finished third behind Mercedes 300SL team cars. Re-bodied and lighter, they out-performed Astons, Ferrari and Lancia.

    Like 6
  14. Bob C.

    140 horsepower is still quite impressive for the day. You figure a Ford flathead v8 of that time tweaked out at 110. Even the first y block for 54 came in at 130.

    Like 2
    • Patrick Farmer

      You need to go see what John Kaase has tweaked out of one of those Y-blocks today. I was never a fan but he is getting diesel like torque out of them. 140 is impressive, but did it run long enough to see all of the 140hp?

  15. Robert L Roberge

    I had a ’54 Nash Ambassador LeMans. I don’t remember whether the carbs were Carter’s or not, but the engine/dual carb set up is the same.

    Like 3
    • Little_Cars

      Bittersweet. I watch these videos or catch them on TV and always feel like the Pickers somehow violate the sanctity of whomever’s property they are wandering over. When they haggle with people who’s best motoring days are behind them it is really sad to see the kind of final dollar amount they land on.

      Like 1
      • Ken Tilly UK Member

        Little-cars. I am of the opposite opinion as I believe they treat the sellers with respect and in the end pay a price that I sometimes feel is way over the top. Sometimes the seller asks for say $20 and they offer $30+

        Like 1
  16. chrlsful

    all ways liked the earlier model w/the hdlgts in the fenders…
    Very nice cars, tho !

    Like 1
  17. arizman2

    apparently it is illegal to post a youtube link about these cars in the comments

  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Cool….to bad it’s in the wrong hands at the moment…….

    Like 4
  19. Luki

    https://dvdbash.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/audrey-hepburn-1954-sabrina-bogart-holden-dvdbash28.jpg
    Nice Nash Healey in the 1954 movie Sabrina with Hepburn and Bogart.

  20. Little_Cars

    Front wheels appear to have lost their ability to stand straight! Camber adjustment needed along with whole new front end?

  21. RH FACTOR

    For $60K, you’d think they could have at least detailed it. And I don’t give a darn about barn patina. Ridiculous.

    Like 3
  22. Patrick Farmer

    ls! it needs as lsx!!!

  23. Patrick Farmer

    Are they going to deduct for the electrical tape on the steering wheel? And don’t tell me that it is handlebar grip tape. Both are wrong. Bakelite repair, learn about it.

    Like 3

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