Nash Airflyte – 1949

When you design a car with the help of a wind tunnel, ‘Airflyte’ might seem like a good name for the result. Nash-Kelvinator certainly thought so, for that’s what engineering boss Nils ‘Wally’ Wahlberg christened their 1949 model, which represented the first radical design advance after World War ІІ.

It was as though every manufacturer was singing from the same song sheet (the one warbling the praises of streamlined World War ІІ aircraft), for most opted for the ‘inverted bathtub’ look for 1949. Even so, no other offering was more strikingly different from anything that had gone before than the Airflyte, which was wide and low with smoothly rounded contours. The slab-sided design involved flat wings that enclosed the wheels, further improving an already impressive drag coefficient. The end product was a roomy car that was both comfortable and quiet.

The comfort dimension was emphasized by an interior finish that allowed the passenger compartment to be dubbed the ‘Super Lounge’. Design was uncluttered to match the sleek exterior, with instruments mounted in a Uniѕcope pod atop the steering column. The front seats could even be laid back to create a bed for three (don’t ask). Two models shared identical styling – the 600 (later Statesman) and Ambassador. There was little variety of body style, with just two-and four-door sedans on offer, though buyers could choose between Super, Super Special and Custom trim level. The public loved this advanced machine, which lifted Nash production to levels never seen before (or subsequently), with profits to match.

Strangely, the bathtub design-though all the rage with most major car соmpaniеs as the 1940s turned into the 1950s – lasted barely two years. The Airflyte was no exception, being completely redesigned for 1952 and acquiring a fancy new name – the Golden Airflyte.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1949 (until 1951)

ENGINE:

2.8 l (171 cid) (600/Statesman); 3.8 l (232 cid) (Ambassador) Straight Six

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 89 mph (13 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 17.4 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The first thing anyone who drives an Airflyte today discovers is that enclosed wheels can only swivel so far, resulting in a very wide turning circle and difficulty in negotiating hairpin bends – and salesmen in 1949 even had a job persuading would-be buyers that flat tires could be changed.

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