Production records for the Nash Motor Company’s postwar trucks were lost after its merger with Hudson in 1954, so much of the company’s truck history has to be pieced together from personal recollections and public records.
It is known that Nash Motors entered the postwar era with enthusiasm and plans for an expanded model line. High on the list of new products was a line of trucks. MoToR magazine announced in January 1946 that Nash would produce three models with half-, 3/4-, and 1˝-ton capacities.
The company spent the ensuing year building and testing prototypes. A March 1947 press release proclaimed that a half-ton pickup and two larger models would soon go into production. In November 1948, however, the company reported that the truck project, at least for the domestic market, had been postponed indefinitely.
That did not stop Nash from making trucks. One-ton and larger trucks were built for the domestic and export markets, and it is rumored that even pickups were built for export. In addition, Nash needed trucks to transport bodies, parts, and complete cars to and from the company’s production and test facilities scattered up and down the shores of Lake Michigan. Nash was perfectly capable of building its own trucks, and it did.
Photos of a number of pickups taken at the Nash factory have survived. Some trucks were production prototypes built when Nash was still considering making pickups for the market, but some may have been built simply for company use.
Many “glamour shots” show variations of a truck of about half-ton capacity with a beam axle in front and leaf springs front and rear. This truck, or series of trucks, has pre-1946 Nash 600 front sheet metal and rear fenders. Some photos show a truck with no spare tire and others show a side-mount spare. The spare is mounted high enough that the rear fender did not need to be cut out to accommodate the tire, suggesting that the photos may be of the same vehicle with and without the tire mount installed. Photos showing various configurations of chrome and painted trim also may be of the same truck. The photos offer no clue as to whether they depict a single prototype, which was modified repeatedly, or if there were several trucks.
A prototype truck that is still in existence is similar except that the rear fender is cut out in order to mount the spare tire lower. This truck has a 1945 Nash 600 serial number and carries an identification plate stating it is a “SAMPLE.” It is on display at the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford.
A photo of the proving ground garage fleet shows an obviously different pickup. This truck wears the same early Model 600 front sheet metal with no trim except for a 1942-style, vertical Nash badge on the hood and chrome spears on the hood sides. The hood has raised panels on its top near the cowl. The truck has a simple box for a bed with tall frames on the bed sides and crude semi-circular fenders. It has the number “3” on the cowl and “Nash Kelvinator Corporation” on the driver’s door. The number on the cowl is typical of vehicles that Nash kept for its own use.
Nash built a third type of pickup, one of which has survived and is in working condition. Jim Dworschack of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, owns this truck, and it is reputed to be an example of a production model that Nash made and intended to sell domestically. It is built with many off-the-shelf 1948 Nash Ambassador parts. The front sheet metal is straight off an Ambassador, and the frame is from an Ambassador convertible.
The convertible has a reinforced sedan frame, the reinforcement made necessary because the convertible body did not offer the structural strength added by the roof of the sedan. The pickup also needed the extra strength, so the convertible frame was a logical choice. The front springs are heavy-duty units that were offered as an option on the Ambassador, and the rear rides on special leaf springs.
The cab is basically the front of a 1948 Ambassador sedan cut off behind the seat with a special stamping welded on to fill in the rear. It is the same one used on Nash’s large trucks—with appropriate mounts to fit it to the convertible frame and a cutout section to accommodate the side-mounted spare tire. It is one of the earliest known truck cabs to feature quarter windows.
Nash contracted with Heil to make the bed especially for these trucks. The rear fenders are 1948 Ambassador units with spacers shaped to allow them to be bolted to the bed. The right fender has a well installed to accommodate the spare tire.
After it was built and given unit No. 31, the truck that Jim now owns worked at Nash as a company truck for the body plant. It is not believed to be the only production version built—Nash employees reportedly used several of these trucks to run between plants—but it is the only one known to have survived. No records show how many pickups were made.
“We in the Nash club think more Nash pickups were sold overseas than in the United States,” said Jim. “It sold poorly here because the price was so much higher than other pickups. Trucks were in high demand all over the world, and the overseas market would buy whatever was available at any price. Still, no other pickups of this type have been located anywhere.”
Jim acquired No. 31 about 1986. When Nash was finished with it, the truck was sold to an employee. It next surfaced in the late ’60s as a parts runner for an auto parts store. By then it was totally worn out. In the late ’60s or early ’70s, a Nash Car Club of America member purchased it and began to restore it.
“I had always been interested in old Nash products,” Jim told me. “I visited the owner in late ’72 or ’73, and he had taken it apart and repaired the rust in the cab. In 1986, I ran into him at a Nash club meet and discussed the truck with him. He said that he hadn’t touched it since I had last seen it, and he offered to sell it to me.”
The truck was in pieces when Jim picked it up, and much of it was rusted metal. The cab rust had already been repaired, though, and the purchase included a lot of NOS parts. Having new parts to replace the rusted ones made the job of fixing up the truck less daunting.
It took Jim about eight months to get No. 31 back on the road. “Since then, I’ve used it for chores, hauling firewood, and so on.” said Jim. “I pull a trailer behind it if I have a lot to move. I use it to run errands into town. It’s my only pickup, and I live on a farm, so you can imagine it gets its share of use.”
Jim uses No. 31 regularly and doesn’t have a special maintenance regimen for the old truck. “I give it regular grease jobs and oil changes, check the fluids, and so on. Nothing special,” he said. The only mechanical issues he’s had is a problem with the valves that cropped up shortly after he bought it and worn rear axle bearings. Like most old vehicles, if it sits a while, the wheel cylinders stick, so he tries to drive it regularly.
“The repair I’ve made the most is replacing the rear glass in the cab, and that’s been my own fault. I’ve broken the rear window a couple of times while putting cargo in the truck, and once after hauling a piano. I was pushing the piano off the back of the truck and caved the window in. I didn’t realize I was pushing against the rear window.”
Jim’s truck does its share of work on the Dworschack farm, working alongside No. 5—Jim’s Nash dump truck, which is also a rescued Nash company vehicle. The trucks are driven as often as possible, but neither of them ever sees Wisconsin’s salty winter roads.
The truck’s red paint has faded some and accumulated some scratches in the 25 years since the restoration was completed. The Nash pickup, though, is just as sound mechanically as the day the restoration was completed.
Jim’s plan for No. 31 is to keep it working. “It’s an old restoration already, but I’ll just maintain it and use it. Maybe my son or another Nash collector will want it when I’m done with it.”
Jim would be happy to exchange emails with anyone wanting to talk Nash. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nash Car Club of America, the word’s gathering place for Nash enthusiasts, has a wealth of Nash information and photos at www.nashcarclub.org as well as a Facebook page.