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Gas Crisis Cruisers

Pump Prices Don't Stop These

John Gunnell - June 25, 2014 11:36 AM

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1953 Nash-Healey roadster.

Courtesy of John Gunnell
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1953 Nash-Healey roadster.

Courtesy of John Gunnell
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“Lois Lane” style Nash Rambler Landau Convertible.

Courtesy of John Gunnell
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1961 Nash Metropolitan 1800 convertible.

Courtesy of John Gunnell

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      Don’t get “freaked out” when you see gasoline selling for over $4 per gallon. There are plenty of classic American cars that you can drive to shows and car club events on just a few gallons of gas.
     Some vintage high-miles vehicles are midget-size cars like the AeroWillys, but there are others like the Nash-Healey that provide leg-stretching room and a place to store luggage. An $80,000 Nash-Healey may seem like a pricey alternative to your Lincoln-Continental, but if gas prices keep climbing, won’t the values of such cars increase, too? If so, they will be a good financial investment and you’ll save hundreds of dollars in gas each year.
     If you tow your collector car, you can buy a Crosley and get rid of your one-ton “dualie” pickup and 20-foot car hauler. A mini pickup and a 14-foot trailer will suffice. Again, you’ll save at the pump and see the car appreciate.
     Another option is a mid-size minicar like a Henry J that combines roominess and a little more cruising power in a package that will accommodate you nicely and let you keep up with modern traffic when cruising the highway.
     So, perk up Chicken Little . . . the hobby will go on, even if you’re forced to downsize a bit. Here’s a half-dozen Gas Crisis Cruisers that can help you avoid gas pump paranoia.

1951-1954 Nash-Healey: Sports car builder Donald Healey traveled to America to see if GM would supply engines for his Healey. On the QEII, he bumped into George Mason who said Nash would do it if GM didn’t.  The result was a fabulous large sports car with Nash running gear and Italian coachwork that was manufactured in England. With its 125- or 135hp Nash Ambassador six and three-speed overdrive gearbox, this multi-national rarity can run down the road at brisk speeds while delivering up to 28 mpg.

1951-1954 Henry J: Named after industrialist Henry J. Kaiser (remember “quilted” aluminum foil?), the Henry J was the least bashful Kaiser-Fraser automobile. It came with a Willys-supplied F-head four or six. Kaiser claimed that the 100-in. wheelbase coupe could hold five adults and go 25 miles on a gallon of fuel. In 1953, a Henry J won the Mobilgas Economy run.

1952-1955 Aero Willys: This was an early American compact car with scaled-down big-car styling and a 104-inch wheelbase. The first engines offered were the same used in the Henry J. The four-cylinder model was capable of 35 mpg. In 1954, a 226.2-cid L-head six was added. The line included two-door wagons and sedans and a four-door sedan, but the Eagle and Bermuda hardtops are the snazzy models collectors like best.

1953-1954 Hudson Jet: A cool American compact that looked like a shrunken Ford, the Jet rode a 105-inch wheelbase and used a 202-cid L-head six for power. Sales were slow and fancy Jetliner and Family Sedan models were added in 1954 to move the cars out. A twin-carb performance engine was optional. Reportedly, Jets could go 31 mpg. To sell them, Hudson had a “Teacup Test” that showed how far a Jet could travel on the amount of gas that fit in a teacup.

1950-1956 Nash Rambler: It was immortalized by the Rock N’ Roll song “Beep-Beep!” A 172.6-cid 82-hp six and three-speed manual gearbox were standard. Overdrive was extra. With overdrive, owners reported up to 25 mpg. The most collectible model in the Landau convertible with its roll-up top.

1954-1959 Nash Metropolitan: Derived from the Nash NXI show car, the cute little “Metro” was a well-equipped automobile powered by a four-cylinder Austin engine. It was built in England and sold by Nash and Hudson dealers in America (the Hudson version had appropriate badging). Owners reported good fuel economy in the 27-39 mpg range. If you can get by with two seats, the Metropolitan is a highly-collected car that you’ll enjoy driving – especially when you drive past the gas station. 

 

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