Tiny Classic: 1957 Nash Metropolitan

When it was released, the Metropolitan attracted a great deal of attention due to its distinctive styling. After a tentative start in the American market, it soon began to rack up some reasonable sales figures. However, its time was short-lived, and sales petered out after 10-years. This 1957 model was referred to us by Barn Finder Healeydays, so thank you so much for that. The little Nash is located in Wenham, Massachusetts, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set a price of $6,900 for this 1950s classic.

Beginning in 1956, the Metropolitan gained a new appearance by the introduction of two-tone paint. This served two purposes. The first was to allow potential buyers to personalize their car’s appearance to a certain extent. The second reason was to give the Metropolitan a longer and lower look, which it did seem to do. This Metropolitan is finished in the combination of Frost White and Coral Red. It probably isn’t the best of the combinations, but it certainly does make the otherwise ungainly looking car appear both longer and lower. It’s also interesting to note that I don’t believe that the car started life finished in its current combination. There is evidence in a number of spots that indicates that the original paint scheme was Frost White and Berkshire Green, which I find to be a much nicer combination. There is some rust just beginning to show on the driver’s side in the very lower reaches of the front fender and in the door. This doesn’t look like it has advanced too far, and should hopefully be relatively easy to fix. The rest of the car looks to be solid and clean.

Apart from the new paint schemes, the introduction of the Series III Metropolitan brought some interior changes as well. The dash was no longer painted in a body-color but was finished in basic black. There were also some changes to upholstery material to include a hounds-tooth pattern. The interior of this Metropolitan appears to have undergone a retrim at some point in its life, because neither the material on the seats nor on the door trims, looks to be original. It is definitely neat, tidy, and serviceable, but the changes have taken away some of the charm from the car’s interior. Having said that, this is a situation which would be easy to address, if the next owner feels so inclined.

Powering the Metropolitan is the 1,489cc Austin B-Series 4-cylinder engine, producing 52hp. This power finds its way to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. Power and acceleration weren’t the strengths of the Metropolitan, and it was never designed to be a highway cruiser. The primary aim of the car was to be either a 2nd family car or a commuter/shopping car. That meant that the fact that the Metropolitan was flat-out at 77mph was irrelevant to the majority of buyers that the car was aimed at. The owner says that the little Nash runs, drives, and stops, but it will need some work before it can be deemed to be roadworthy.

The Nash Metropolitan is a distinctive car, and in 1957, there were 13,425 people who were willing to give the little cars a home. This represented the 2nd most successful year of Metropolitan sales in the US, and by 1962, sales had plummeted to a mere 412 cars. Today, the Metropolitan has become something of a curious collectible, with the Convertible being more popular than the Hardtop. Even allowing for that, a good Hardtop can still command $15,000 or more. The record for a Hardtop was set in 2013, and that car was literally as-new. It sold for $88,000, which is enough to make your eyes water. This one isn’t at that level, but it is still a solid little project car that potentially offers the next owner plenty of fun.

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Comments

  1. Dan

    Design-wise, the worst thing about this car is that the license plate bracket looks like an afterthought. I like it, and hope it finds a good home.

    3
  2. ken tilly

    It wouldn’t have made a very good shopping car as the storage/trunk area is behind the seat back, which, if something moves to the back, makes retrieving it quite an accomplishment.

    3
    • That AMC guy

      As I recall an outside trunk lid was finally added for 1959 models.

      An interesting thing about the “3-speed” transmission in these is that it’s actually a standard 4-speed box out of the Austin parts bin. Nash/AMC specified that 1st gear be blocked off, fearing that their customers would be unfamiliar with the operation of something as exotic as a 4-speed transmission.

      5
      • Andy

        Is it possible to unblock 1st? And possibly put in a taller final drive?

        1
      • That AMC Guy

        Not sure about unblocking 1st. Might involve having to change to a floor shifter. I’ve read of people swapping in the final drive from an MG Midget to get a taller final drive for better highway cruising. Also disc brakes for better stopping. (A lot of period parts from MGs and the like will bolt up.)

        There’s an outfit in California that caters to Metropolitans. They supply parts and do restoration and customization. I’ve been to their museum and it’s pretty amazing, they even have a Met station wagon prototype and the futuristic Astra-Gnome:

        https://www.metpitstop.com/

        5
      • JOHN

        All I know is I drove one briefly, that shifter is a 3 on the dash rather than a three on a tree, weird car to drive.

  3. Andy

    I don’t know if I’d call a ten year run “short-lived.”

    5
    • Jeff

      Produced 1954-1960 (7 years). Leftovers sold new as 1961-1963.

      1
  4. Bultaco

    The transmission is an MGA/early MGB basic box set up for column shifting with first gear blocked. Bet it wouldn’t be too difficult to bolt in an early MGB 1.8 and four speed box. You’d have to move the shifter to the floor, but otherwise everything should fit.

    3
  5. Dave

    Beep beep,
    (beep beep)
    Beep beep,
    (beep beep)
    His horn went beep, beep, beep!
    (beep beep)

    There’s an earworm for ya!

    7
    • madbrit

      The lyrics of the Beep, Beep song say it was a Nash Rambler, not a Metropolitan. That being said, people also get confused and often ask if my Met is one of those cars that goes in water. I reply, “Not intentionally”.
      I never understood the rumor of a 4 speed with the blocked off 4th as final ratio is 1:1 and the 3 gears are correctly spread. Most importantly, there are only 2 levers and a 4 speed with reverse would need 3 levers. I feel it may have been a modified 4 speed design and use some of the parts but that is all. Mine runs a 153″ Chevy ll (Mercruiser Marine version) with 140hp and a TH 200-4R overdrive auto. Cruises all day at 70+mph and so far has topped over 90mph. MG Midget Rostyle wheels, disc brakes with a VW dual circuit master cylinder. Stock 4.22 ratio rear end which works great with the overdrive.
      Always gets lots of attention at car shows, etc.

      6
      • That AMC Guy

        I”ve seen the claim that the transmission was a 4-speed unit with 1st blocked off repeated in quite a few places over the years (decades).

        I checked my copy of Pat Foster’s excellent book “The Metropolitan Story” and it states that the transmission was the standard Austin 4-speed box with first gear removed.

        I’ve never had one apart to check one way or the other.

        1
  6. Benjy58

    My dad worked for a Rambler dealer and would bring one of these home on occasion. We would take them for a ride when my parents went visiting. The fun part was a foot race between the telephones with the Metro almost always losing.

    4
  7. Dean

    My grandmother had a pink one when I was a kid

    1
    • Gary D. Oliver

      My grandmother had a pink and white one too. She used to let me drive it when I was 14, 15 years old. I was a little embarrassed to be seen with it by my friends but at least I was driving something. I used to race VWs and I don’t remember ever having one beat me.

      3
  8. John B.

    I love these cars-they will always occupy a fond place in my heart! I have actually seen these at car shows with big block Chevy engines in them-neat! Good luck to buyer and seller!

    2
  9. grant

    My mom had one of these as her first car. I always wanted to build her one as a mini hotrod, with a turbo V6.

    1
  10. Dusty Rider

    The neighbor across the street had a black one to travel to surrounding towns selling school books. He was about 6 foot and weighed about 250. He always looked pretty cramped in it.

  11. Eric Murphy

    I dont see any reason not to drop a V8 in it.

    3
    • DavidL

      One used to show up a the local drag strip with a Cadillac V-8 in it. Firewall was pushed back a little as i recall. Other modifications as well.

  12. Eric

    Some annoying “hipster” would love this… to seem cool!

    1
  13. Jimmy

    I remember coming home from grade school in the mid 60’s and there was one of these in our driveway. I asked Dad is that the go cart you promised me, he said no It’s your mom’s car for shopping, she never touched it and Dad finally sold it.

    1
  14. Steve

    My dad had one of these before I was born. He spoke fondly of it.

    1
  15. yes300ed

    I own a 2015 Honda Fit. People think my car is small. They have no idea.

    1
  16. bobhess Member

    Andy.. it has the same rear center section as the Sprites and Midgets. Gear ratios are available from 5.38 to 3.7 with a bunch in between. We collect them out of cars like these to use for the race cars.

    2
  17. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Great comments about the Midget-Metro connection. And the museum is a must-see if you are in that area in California. I have to laugh about the bumpers on this car being black — along with two hubcaps it appears. This is one of the few 1950s cars that won’t break the bank to do a rechrome job and yet the owner chose to paint stuff in black. Funny.

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