The Hub Cool News

Bathtub Nash

Before there were sports-utes, there was the Nash Airflyte, or Bathtub Nash, which in the late 40s and early 50s was a favorite of outdoorsmen, reports Kit Kiefer in the New York Times (5/23/08). The Bathtub Nash — so-nicknamed because, well, it looks like an upside down bathtub on wheels — had “seats that turned into a reasonably comfortable double bed, living-room comfort for six adult riders, tornadic ventilation, maximum cruising range, capacious ashtrays, a bag-limit-size trunk and screens for the windows on those car-camping nights.” The car has long faded from the American landscape but it is not forgotten by Jim Dworschack, who says he “bought his first Nash — a 1948 Model 600 — at the age of 14 in 1968 and founded the Nash Car Club of America the next year.”

Today, Jim owns a “couple dozen” Nashes, in various stages of repair. But his interest is not limited to his status as a “born gearhead.” He drives his Nashes “unapologetically until snow flies,” saying, “I want to keep my fleet as reliable and functional as they were when they were new … And they don’t like salt. The rocker panels rust very easily.” He says his neighbors have gotten used to making way for him as he tools along, occupying his own lane plus about a quarter of the other side of the road, too. Jim says his interest in Nashes is probably genetic. “I don’t have a rational explanation,” he says. “A ’50 Nash was the family car, my dad liked it a lot, and I guess it rubbed off.”

Jim certainly is not typical of the Nash’s original target market of hunters and anglers. Its advertising was created by Ed Zern, author of a book called, “To Hell With Fishing.” Nash’s chairman, George Mason, persuaded Ed to “create Nash ads as entertaining as his books.” Ed gave the idea a whirl, writing “Thurberesque fables about judges, ducks, coyotes, beautiful blondes and Nashes (including Ogden Nash), and illustrated them with inkwash cartoons. Blissfully devoid of cheesecake, tail fins and empty-headed phrasemaking” the campaign “ran nine years” and “were among the best car ads of the ’50s.” Nash eventually morphed into American Motors Corp., the Nash plate was phased out, and in the late ’80s, AMC was acquired by Chrysler Corp., forming the Jeep-Eagle division. ~ Tim Manners, editor