The 1950s were a difficult time globally as all nations suffered from the apocalypse created by World War II, which ended in 1945. Most car manufacturers had stopped production and started to manufacture weapons for vehicles intended for the defense of their respective countries. Ford Motor Company began producing combat aircraft at its factories for the United States Air Force. Eventually things looked up and America saw its very first sports car.
The 1953 Nash-Healey Le Mans coupe was the result of collaboration between Nash-Kelvinator CEO George Mason and Donald Healey when they were founding Nash-Healy. The vehicle had a sleek body design by Pininfarina, and the car achieved notable status as one of the first post-war sports cars sold in America.
The historical manufacture of the coupe
The vehicle was only produced from 1951 to 1954 and sold in limited units. Finding one of these vehicles on the street is like finding a needle in a haystack. More than half a century ago, the vehicle cost around $6,000, which was huge considering the critical global economy. To make matters worse, the company was losing nearly $9,000 on each vehicle sold, because demand for these vehicles was so low that the operation could not be scaled to generate revenue. Currently, that sum is around $60,000. In the production cycle of 4 years, only 506 models were built, and the survival rate of these cars is currently less than 10%, which means that around 50 of these vehicles can still be found in working order. In 1953 Nash launched a coupe version of the Roadster based on the Nash Ambassador and the vehicle was named the “Le Mans” sports car which is the iconic 24 racing car. The car’s design was done by Italian design house Pininfarina, responsible for making some of the best car models the world has ever seen. The design of Nash-Healey Le Mans Coupé is inspired by Ferrari and Mercedes.
A powerful machine
The original plan was to fit the car with a big American V8, but the company settled for a big inline-6 engine that produced 125 HP. It might not seem like much right now, but in 1950 it was good power for anything on the streets. The engine was an upgraded version of the Ambassador’s straight-6. The differences were that Le Mans Coupé had a different aluminum camshaft and cylinder head, which resulted in an increased compression ratio. The vehicle was also capable of reaching a top speed of 90 MPH. Donald Healey designed the aluminum-bodied convertible, but instead of making the car bodies himself, he decided outsource it and get it back for the final assembly. This production process was complicated and resulted in increased costs and expenses. However, when Pininfarina decided to join the project, it ultimately meant that only the vehicle body was imported and exported from three different countries before reaching its end buyer. The coupe’s design was eye-catching as its headlights integrated into the grille and the vehicle’s long wheelbase, along with a sloping roof and the two-seat layout, made it a very standard design at the time.
A classic and elegant interior
The interior of the vehicle was basic by today’s standards, but back then it came with a cigarette lighter and an ashtray characteristic of the equipment. Although these features are not found on most modern cars, but in 1950 it was a sign of luxury in a vehicle. The car also had other functional elements like a tachometer with an integrated oil and fuel gauge. The speedometer was placed on the other side of the steering wheel, and the steering wheel itself was very interesting as it had a concentric double circle design finished in wood and aluminum with three spokes, with a stunning gauge cluster finish which made it look like a Swiss watch. The turn signal integration was also a novel feature, as most vehicles used stock indicators; Le Mans used a stock that moved just left and right, and it was placed on the far left of the dash. The trunk of the vehicle was generous and featured a full size alloy wheel, a nice thing to have.
The 1953 Nash-Healey Le Mans coupe was an incredible vehicle, and historic too, being the first American sports car. Studies indicate that if Nash-Healey had kept production costs low and made the car affordable enough, there could have been several of these vehicles even today.
Sources – Hemmings, Motorious, Supercars
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