If you don’t think automakers listen to the buying public, listen to this. In 1950 and 51, Nash Motors conducted in-depth research into what were then referred to as “economy” cars. Not having the Internet to conduct instant surveys, they sent out 250,000 questionnaires with the title “Does America Want the Economy Car?” Explaining that Nash wasn’t tooling up for such a car, they asked the public to be as honest as possible in answering the question—and many took them up on it. The results proved interesting. The questionnaires they got back showed enthusiastic support for a “baby” Nash (remember that Nash already was making the compact Nash Rambler). And, Nash also discovered that there was no particular prejudice against an imported product.
Realizing that the competition for such a car would be the $1000 used car, and further realizing they would not be able to make a car at that price domestically, Nash went with two British firms to make their new, smaller car—based on Nash’s design (that borrowed heavily from the Pininfarina-styled big Nashes). Fisher and Ludlow, Ltd. would make the bodies, and Austin Motor Co. would provide the 30-mpg, in-line four. Introduced in 1954, the hardtop Metropolitan sold for $1,445 and the convertible for $1,469 p.o.e. Metropolitans were produced virtually unchanged until 1960, when the introduction of the Ford Falcon, Chevy Corvair, and Plymouth Valiant, made the little car’s future precarious. Sales of leftover stock went through 1962 (853 were sold in 1961, and 412 in 1962). Nash simply took the leftover cars from the year before and reissued the certificate of origin for the following year. This resulted in some 1960 cars having a later serial number than some 1962s. A grand total of 94,986 Metropolitans were produced, 1959 being the best year, with 22,209 units sold. Today, fans of the “little car that could” abound. Nash’s bold, innovative approach to the compact car, at a time when gas was as cheap as water and “bigger is better” was the automotive byword, proved that there was a place for smaller cars on the automotive landscape.
I've always considered Nash’s little Metropolitan to be one of the cutest cars ever produced—not ugly-cute, like the VW Beetle, but smiley-face-button cute. Highway 61 has done a convertible version of the 1959 model that offers a lot of detail in a 1:18 (which seems to be a characteristic of Highway 61 images) and at a good price. I have several images of the Metro in 1:64 and 1:24 scale, but this is the first convertible version I've seen. H-61 provides a hard, textured plastic top-up top, and a soft plastic top-down boot. With the top off, you’ll note that the upholstery bears the classic Metro hound’s tooth/stripe pattern. The passenger compartment detailing is well done, with a glove box and vent windows that open, and movable sun visors. In addition, all the seatbacks fold down (a fold-down rear seat was standard in a Metro, due to the fact that an opening trunk wasn’t available until 1959—the year of this image). When you do lift the trunk lid, you’ll find a “carpeted” floor, as well as a jack and lug wrench. The spare is mounted outside, Continental-style, and is modeled by H-61 with its soft cover on—including a 1959 Michigan license plate bearing the designation SM-6021 (a second plate can be found under the front bumper). The two side doors open on car-style hinges. Under-hood detailing is excellent, right down to the hood prop, and the tiny Austin engine’s features can be clearly seen. Exterior detailing hasn’t been overlooked either. The antenna can be raised and lowered. The windshield wipers, door and trunk handles, moldings, window frames, bumpers, badges, and light bezels are all separate, chromed items, and all the light lenses are separate, clear-plastic items. Inexplicably, the trunk hinges are merely raised, painted items. How much harder would it have been to make them separate, chromed parts as well? The two-tone paint job is appropriately glossy and carefully applied. It’s almost unnecessary to mention this, as even the cheapest images usually have above average paint jobs. The wheels look realistic with their wide, white-wall tires, valve stems, and baby moon hubcaps bearing stylized “M” logos. Undercarriage detailing is intricate as well. H61 uses an approach to small tubing on the undercarriage that’s worth noting. They mold fine ridges into the plastic and delicately paint them in silver. It looks like metal lines were run and it made me check closely to verify that, in fact, they weren’t. As with their other images, Highway 61 provides its characteristic, rounded front display case (contained inside the outer box), plus its version of the FM-style inspection tool, literature, and a polishing cloth in a separate plastic bag taped to the back of the case. They also include a pamphlet containing Nash Metropolitan advertising literature and pics—a nice touch of nostalgia. Overall, H61 has given us a fine rendition of the tiny Metropolitan. If you’re a fan of the “mighty mite” Metro, this image will do the trick for you, even if you collect in the 1:24 scale.
Nash, near the end of its life as an independent car company (it merged with Hudson in 1954, becoming part of American Motors Corp.) proved, in the middle of the 1950s, that America would embrace a compact, economy car. Every time you look at a what we call a sub-compact car today—thinking that the rising price of gas caused them to be produced—remember that the pint-sized Metro existed at a time when gas was cheap and the behemoths of the 50’s surrounded it on the highways of its day.