Serious Collectors Only? 1953 Nash-Healey

OK, so this 1953 Nash-Healey has been an education for me. I had familiarity but I found the entire back story behind this American-British combo to be very interesting, and of course informative. This beautiful Nash-Healey is being sold by a collector, his finest and favorite, and is available here on craigslist for $110,000. T.J. found this Independence, Missouri domiciled discovery for us – thx T.J.!

The thing that first caught my attention here is the seller’s admonishment, “Serious Collectors Only!!!” An old departed friend and business colleague of mine, who called Ashburn, GA home, used to say to me, “Massa O’Donnell, bulls%!t is cheap, whiskey costs money!” which was his way of saying quit the squawking and put up the cash – that’s what gets the deal done. And I have to imagine, a collector or not, and considering that this is craigslist, enough green will get it done.

Being a 1953 example means that this steel-bodied two-seater, with its aluminum hood and trunk lid, is one of 162 produced that year and one of 506 total constructed between 1951 and 1954. Unbeknownst to me, a coupe was introduced in ’53 as a complement to the convertible, but the convertible body style is much more commonplace. One would have had to have been a logistician to pull off this Nash and Healey creation. The powertrains were sent from Kenosha, Wisconsin to the U.K. where they were married up to a Healey chassis and then that assembly made the trek to Turin, Italy where the Pininfarina body was placed on the rolling assembly. Upon completion, they were sent back to the U.S. where distribution and sales were arranged. I learned that the first-year ’51 edition used a Healey-designed body but Pininfarina took over for the ’52-’54 models. The final year of production, 1954, was abbreviated and only a coupe body was offered.

Power in ’53 came about thanks to a 140 HP, 252 CI, Nash “Dual Jetfire” in-line, six-cylinder engine fed by dual carburetors. The seller tells us that this car always, “starts right up” but doesn’t expand beyond that. All Nash-Healeys, including this one, employed a three-speed manual transmission, complete with overdrive. If nothing else, that engine sure is impressive looking!

The exterior is perfect – there’s not much else one can say. The mileage is listed as 86 K miles so either this car has been very sparingly, and carefully, used or it has undergone a restoration – neither status is disclosed. The seller adds, “No body damage“. My only negative is the front-end styling – it looks like an arcade bumper car.

The inside reflects as beautifully as the outside. The what-appears-to-be-leather upholstery is completely unmarred by use or age, and typical leather cracking is not evident. I would imagine that floormats are usually employed – that carpet is just too nice and has certainly never seen boats the likes of my size twelves clodhopping around in there. The gauges and switchgear check out as original and new.

OK, so this isn’t a barn find and it’s way out of the price range for most of what we feature here on Barn Finds. But, this is a remarkable and rare car, in a condition that is not to be denied. For a company probably better known for making refrigerators, these Nash-Healey combinations were quite the reach – an attempt at making a halo car that would drive interest, and of course sales, to Nash’s bread and butter models. Success or failure? You could take either approach but considering its origins, I’d say it was a definite success – it was the culmination of dreaming big, taking a chance, and saying “What if?” The AMC merger between Nash and Hudson is probably as responsible as anything for ending the N-H’s run but I’m thankful that it happened, how about you?

Comments

  1. Todd J. Member

    I’ve always been intrigued with these. I don’t follow the market so I don’t know what a reasonable price is. Right now there are seven listed on Hemmings, three as auctions. The four with set prices range from $29,950 (a BHCC offering) to $249,950.

    Like 4
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    The car’s history is pretty fascinating. The cars were raced in major European events among other things. The Nash engine put out some impressive numbers for the era. Know that because as a kid in the ’60s I helped a friend put a stock Nash engine and transmission into an early Willis coupe that turned out to be as fast as the flathead V8s everyone else was putting into hot rods. Remember it well as he beat my ’32 coupe with a Mercury V8 in it on a heads up drag race.

    Like 11
    • philip ashmore

      Forth at Le Mans…1950 Le Mans
      Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton debuted the prototype at Le Mans in 1950. It was the first-ever Le Mans entry to have an overdrive transmission. Not only was the car one of the 29 finishers from the field of 66,[35] but also finished in fourth place. This outstanding achievement sealed Healey’s contract with Nash for a limited production run of the road cars.[36] Roger Menadue, head of Healey’s experimental department, played a significant role in the success: He filed slots in the backplates of the brakes and extended the adjusting mechanism to a small exterior lever. Thus in a matter of seconds, he could adjust the brakes during pit stops without jacking the car up—an innovation that was said to save as much as half an hour at each stop.[37]

      Like 5
  3. Mrtinwoodie

    In the original 1950’s Superman tv series starring George Reeves, Clark Kent drove one of these. Sharp car for that era.

    Like 12
    • Howard A Member

      Ha! Your secret is safe with me, Superman,,Nash was the sponsor, and the whole “Metropolis” police force drove them. Even Lois Lane drove a convertible. https://www.imcdb.org/v055761.html

      Like 12
    • MKG

      It appeared in 4 of the shows. Most people call it the Superman car, but Superman didn’t need a car, he could fly. It was Clark Kent’s car. lol

      Like 4
  4. Matt

    This is the kind of seller And car I’d like to deal with if I ever won Megabucks. I’m sure he’s expecting some collector to buy it, put it in a room and look at it like he did. Id love to show up, give him his cash and pull away squealing rubber. Drive a car like it was supposed to be driven, investment be damned.

    Like 14
    • Kelly Breen

      My sentiments exactly!
      I try to take care of my Midget, but I also drive it every chance I get. I don’t rev the crap out of it, but I don’t baby it either!

      Like 4
  5. Joe Haska

    This car really sparks some memories. I was ten years old and was just showing signs of becomming a true gear head. This car just grabbed my attention , as there wasn’t too many “Sport Cars” around, at least not where I lived. Also, this car got a lot of exposure, that a kid would see. I kinda of just forgot about it, but seeing the B/F listing, my immediate thought was, I wanted it and I bet it is BIG bucks.

    Like 1
  6. Rixx56 Member

    Have wanted one since childhood. Appears I
    waited decades too long to realize my wish.
    These are absolutely beautiful automobiles!
    The front end is perfect… NOT a bumper car!

    Like 5
    • Tompdx Member

      I’m guessing bumper cars were designed as tributes to the Nash-Healy. Gorgeous car!

      Like 5
  7. Gordo

    I find the design, especially that front end to be less than attractive. Compare this car to a 53 Corvette or an Austine Healey of the period and I think the NH come in 3rd. But this car is certainly a nice, well preserved example.

    Like 3
  8. philthyphil

    Forth at Le Mans..1950 Le Mans
    Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton debuted the prototype at Le Mans in 1950. It was the first-ever Le Mans entry to have an overdrive transmission. Not only was the car one of the 29 finishers from the field of 66,[35] but also finished in fourth place. This outstanding achievement sealed Healey’s contract with Nash for a limited production run of the road cars.[36] Roger Menadue, head of Healey’s experimental department, played a significant role in the success: He filed slots in the backplates of the brakes and extended the adjusting mechanism to a small exterior lever. Thus in a matter of seconds, he could adjust the brakes during pit stops without jacking the car up—an innovation that was said to save as much as half an hour at each stop.[37]

    Like 1
    • Martin Horrocks

      Nash-Healeys also finished at Le Mans 4th in 1951, 3rd in 1952 and 11th in 1953. Pretty exceptional, Briggs Cunningham did no better despite his mega budget.

      Of course, Cunninghams are great, but Healey was an expert in giving and getting bangs per buck! He was a talented driver as well as engineer, winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1931, 2nd in 1932…..

      Like 3
  9. Malcolm Boyes

    That front end is very Nash IMHO..lovely and unique..I love these..thank you Donald for some great cars!

    Like 2
    • chrlsful

      there R 2 different ones (early v late). I like the earlier beddah~
      I think a lill diff as said earlier – I think you CAN drive one of these
      AND
      have an individually owned model respectful of the brand – through faithful diligent, maintenance. (big fan of the i6/i8 motors).

      Yes, some claim a pre-war car – a ‘sports car’:
      https://www.bonhams.com/press_release/22751/

      Instead I would claim those I restored asa kid: ’45 TD, ’57 Lotus 7, Cisitalia 202 , ferrari 250, fiats, alphas, & lancias.

  10. George Bishopric Member

    I looked at one in the 1990s, gave it a pass because it had been bastardized with a Chevrolet six. Beautiful cars, though

    I’m surprised to read that this has an aluminum body, because the second one I saw was exploding in rust. Are we sure about that?

    • Gordo

      George, You are right about the rust according to this Hemmings article. Only the 1951 race cars were aluminum.

      Sadly, this story does not have an altogether happy ending. As in the American automobile industry in general, style was about to vanquish substance, and these lithe, lightweight alloy-bodied Panelcraft Nash-Healeys would be replaced by the steel bodied Pinin Farina cars in 1952.

      https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2013/01/30/sports-car-one-the-first-nash-healey-is-restored

      Like 1
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Good catch, it’s the hood, trunk lid, and dash that were still aluminum after ’51. Updated now.

      JO

      Like 2
  11. Pat

    There was a fellow in Aberdeen md that collected these. His name was McGrady if I recall. He had over 80 of them as late as 2005, not sure if he still has them. Supposedly, Donald healey met him at a car show, and asked McGrady, “why?”

    • gordo
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Pat,
      As the owner of a local Maryland restoration shop, I met Len McGrady in the mid 1980s when we were doing some repairs to a ’53 N-H roadster after a car accident. Len suggested I come up to his huge barn, where everything was Nash-Healey. He set us up with the various parts we needed, along with plenty of advice for repairing the hand made body panels. And of course he was very persistent in trying to buy the car, but the owner kept saying no. I did hear Len finally bought the car a few years later.

      Like 1
  12. Gordo

    Nash-Healey Number one! IMHO What the Nash-Healy production cars should have looked like.
    Some good information too:
    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2013/01/30/sports-car-one-the-first-nash-healey-is-restored

    Like 2
    • Michael Garner

      Dang! What a beautiful car! I opened the link and couldn’t believe what I saw. Amazing! Thank you for posting the link!!

  13. Jim Duhig Member

    Didn’t these have sliding doors?

    • Andrew S Mace Member

      @Jim Duhig: You’re thinking of the Kaiser Darrin.

      Like 3
    • moosie moosie

      Jim Duhig, You are thinking about a Kaiser Darrrin,

      Like 2
  14. Malcolm Boyes

    That was the Kaiser Darrin with sliding doors.

    Like 1
  15. Ron

    My dad bought a coupe model about forty years ago, it had the McColough supercharger, in the trunk, needed to be rebuilt, but the car ran fine without it. He sold it a few years later to some who exported it to Holland. When I was in high school back in the 60’s he bought a ‘54 Nash Ambassador two door hardtop that had the twin carb setup like the car shown here, when he bought it, it only had one carb hooked up, the other was blocked off, well being a gear head I couldn’t leave it that way, so I pulled the block off plate off and ran both carbs with direct linkage, not progressive like some multi-carb setups. It had a three on the tree with overdrive and would squawk the tires.

    Like 1
  16. Amazon Greenie

    I saw a white one racing at Lime Rock Cintage races a few years ago. Pretty quick and not a bad looking car in person.

    • Gordo

      AG, do you think it was an earlier aluminum bodied car or a later Steel Pininfarina bodied car? !

      • George Bishopric Member

        This is a steel Pininfarina car

  17. Nomader 55

    In or about 1980, I was parts hunting in Nebraska and found a closed dealership in Paradise. Found the owner of the building and gained entrance. In the old showroom was what I later found out to be a Nash Healey roadster. I tried to get him to put a price on it. No go. Always wanted to go back and try to buy it, but never did.

  18. John Homonek

    Some say that the Nash Healey was America’s first sports car.

    • MKG

      1912 Mercer Sport About is claimed to be America’s first sports car. Some would say, lol

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