Who doesn’t remember the movie “Sabrina” with the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn? Every frame of the film was a masterpiece, and the chic two-seater roadster, on which the brilliant Humphrey Bogart brought the heroine home, became the epitome of a classic car.
In the post-war years, no American automobile company had a sports coupe or roadster in its range. The sports vehicles brought in single copies had a British origin and were in great demand among the wealthy public. It was clear that the market niche needed to be filled urgently. After quick and fruitful negotiations, Briton Donald Healy and Nash President George Mason agreed to start joint production of sports vehicles. By the fall of 1950, a prototype was ready, presented to the public at an auto show in Paris, and in December, Donald Healy’s company began producing new items. In total, Donald Healey Motor Company manufactured and shipped 36 Nash-Healeys to the American market in December, and 68 more in the first quarter of 1951.
Symbolically, the idea of producing a transatlantic British-American Nash-Healey model originated in the very heart of the Atlantic. It happened on board the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner, where Nash-Kelvinator Corporation President George Mason and British sports vehicle manufacturer Donald Healy met. Mason was returning from Europe intending to develop several European-style roadsters, and Healy was on his way to the US to arrange for powerful Cadillac V8 engines. Mason hinted that if the deal did not go through, he could provide good 6-cylinder powertrains in return. As a result in 1950, the first Nash motors and transmissions arrived at the Healey plant in Warwick. Healy installed them on his Silverstone racing vehicle and sent the resulting prototype at the 24 Hours of Le Mans the same year. Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton finished 4th which was a surprise for Healy, taking into account that 29 out of 66 crews finished that race. After, the issue of creating a sports vehicle was practically resolved. In 1951, the serial Nash-Healey returned to Le Mans, which came 6th overall and 4th in its class. Another merit of Nash-Healey was participation as a pace vehicle in the grueling 1951 Carrera Panamericana marathon.
The roadster received an in-line six-cylinder engine from the Nash Ambassador model with a displacement of 3.8 liters, with an aluminum cylinder head and two SU carburetors. The return of the motor in this form was 125 hp. In addition to the engine itself, the delivery set included a three-speed manual gearbox Borg-Warner with overdrive. Nash-Healey received leather upholstery for a two-seat interior, an adjustable steering wheel, and an original design of the side windows. To reduce weight, they were made of plexiglass and spring-loaded. They fell inward with a light touch of the hand and then fixed with a chrome clip. The automobile turned out to be expensive – in 1951 they asked for about 4 thousand dollars for it – for this money you could buy a chic Cadillac. The news of the new British-American roadster quickly spread around the world. And here Mason was lucky with another companion – the famous Italian designer Battista “Pinin” Farina. Coincidentally, at the same time, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation was already working with the Pininfarina studio on the design of the main product – refrigerators. After learning about the creation of the Nash-Healey roadster, Farina offered Mason his services in creating a new body for the model. The proposal of the venerable designer was accepted by Mason. Thus began a new stage in the history of the brand Nash-Healey. A third element appeared in the logistics of the process – a body factory in Turin. The mechanical components were shipped to the UK, where the finished chassis was assembled. Then they went to Italy, where bodies were installed on them. After the final assembly, the finished roadsters were transported back to the USA for sale through the Nash dealer network for $4,063. Interestingly, it was planned to sell in Europe, but the high cost made the manufacturers abandon this idea. In the first year, 104 first-generation Nash-Healeys were built. It became the first post-war mass-produced sports vehicle in the US market.
Source: Beverly Hills Car Club
The new model quickly found its fans among both amateurs and professional racers around the world. In its four years of production, both coupes and convertibles won numerous awards in various racing competitions, including finishing 4th overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1951.
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