In 1951, America’s first post-war sports car came from the most unlikely source – Nash. Better known for sensible, well-built mid-priced cars, Nash was eager to cash in on the burgeoning sports car market in America. The car came about almost by chance, during an unlikely meeting of two men at the polar opposite ends of the automotive industry. While aboard the England-bound Queen Elizabeth, the Nash-Kelvinator’s conservative president, George W. Mason shared a meal with British racer, sports car builder, and tireless self-promoter Donald Healey. It was a spontaneous encounter, and despite their vastly different positions in the automotive world, they found they got along quite well. Healey was fresh from a meeting with GM where he was unsuccessful in his attempt to procure a series of Cadillac V8 engines to drop into the Healey Silverstone sports car. Cadillac wanted none of it. George Mason wanted a halo car to lift the rather stodgy Nash lineup, so a handshake deal was made to supply modified Nash Ambassador six-cylinder engines, transmissions, and axles to the Donald Healey Motor Company in England and the Nash-Healey was born.
The first series cars wore an alloy body designed by Healey and built by Panel Craft in England. Healey assembled the cars and shipped them back to the US. While the first Nash Healey was a relatively attractive car with brisk performance, it was unrecognizable as a Nash. For 1952, Nash contracted with Pininfarina to design and build the bodies with a new, yet cohesive look that better aligned with the Nash range. A performance boost came in the form of twin Carter carburetors on a larger Nash six, making 135 horsepower. The manufacturing process was complicated, as engines left Kenosha, Wisconsin, bound for England to be fitted to Healey-built ladder chassis. Then it was off to Italy for body fitment and final assembly before being sent back across the pond to their home market. As one would expect, this was a costly endeavor, and the 1953 Nash Healey cost $5,908 compared to the Corvette’s $3,513. Sales were undoubtedly sluggish. In the end, just over 500 Nash-Healeys found buyers, as Donald Healey focused his efforts on the homegrown Austin-Healey, and news of the upcoming Ford Thunderbird dampened Nash’s sports car ambitions. Despite the addition of an attractive coupe to the lineup, the Nash-Healey did not survive past 1955 when the last few leftover ’54 models were finally sold off.
Beautifully restored and detailed, this 1954 Nash-Healey Roadster is one of only 314 examples of the lovely Pininfarina-built roadster. In our 25 years of experience with these cars, we are confident that this is one of the finest examples we have ever had the pleasure to offer. It is highly correct and features desirable options including, most notably, the only factory removable hardtop known to exist. This marvelous Nash-Healey was owned for many years by the noted enthusiast Jacques Harguindeguy. “Frenchy,” as he was best known, famously won Best in Show at the 2000 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with a spectacular Delahaye he restored. When we first encountered this car during Frenchy’s ownership, it was one of the best original, honest, unrestored Nash-Healeys we had ever seen. Following Frenchy’s passing in 2007, the Nash went to his friend Brian Hoyt. Mr. Hoyt is the proprietor of Perfect Reflections - the world-renowned, Pebble Beach-winning restoration shop and Ferrari specialist.
In honor of his friend, Brian restored the Nash-Healey to an incredibly high standard. The level of attention lavished upon this car can be seen in the precise fit of the doors and panels, the superbly straight black paint, and the exquisitely finished interior. In spite of the time and careful mileage accrued since its restoration, the fact remains that this is one of the finest Nash-Healeys in existence. According to sources in the Nash Healey club, the removable hardtop fitted to this car is the only known survivor of three prototypes produced in steel by a small California coachbuilding shop, under contract with Nash Motors. The top never made it to production, despite it looking undeniably smart on this roadster, and requiring no modifications to fit. With its striking black livery, matching restored hard top, black wall Firestone tires, red-painted wheels, and optional wire wheel covers, this car looks as though it was teleported from a 1950s Detroit Auto Show.
Beautiful red leather contrasts with the paint with striking effect. Finely trimmed leather door panels, quality red carpets, and a red headliner in the hardtop present in excellent condition. The leather upholstery shows some slight creasing and character from use. Original switches and controls are in place in the body-color dash, which also houses the original factory radio. In addition to the steel top, a restored canvas soft top stows behind the seats in its original location. Additional features include side curtains for both tops, original jack, quilted spare wheel cover, and factory heater.
High on style and with respectable performance, the Nash-Healey beat Ford to the punch in the creation of the Personal Sports Car. This example retains its original, numbers-matching inline-six cylinder engine, complete with all of its essential original components, backed by a 3-speed manual with overdrive. With all of its Healey-specific performance parts, the six produced 135 horsepower. Over time, many of these cars had the cheaper cast-iron cylinder head from the Ambassador swapped in place of the original aluminum head, making original specification engines such as this quite a rare sight. In addition to the original alloy head, this car has the correct dual-Carter YH carburetor setup on the original manifold and the engine compartment is highly detailed with correct labels and markings.
The Nash Healey was a truly international effort, with input from some of the greatest names in motoring history. Few Nash-Healeys survived so complete and correct, and fewer still have been restored to such a high standard with little regard to cost. Beautiful in every respect, and with the added cachet of wearing the only known factory hard top, this marvelous example will surely be welcome in any collection and will reward its next owner with many miles of motoring in impeccable style.