Junkyard Find: 1951 Nash Airflyte

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Why does a car need wheel openings in the front fenders, anyway? The Nash Airflyte, aka the “Bathtub Nash,” proved that long, low, and wide (and a postwar American car-buying public starved for anything with four wheels and an engine) would move the iron off the showroom floor in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’ve been thinking about building an Airflyte-based project car lately, so I returned to the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard to do some window shopping.

It turned out that the yard’s owner wants to keep this ’51 for himself, so I had to content myself with shooting photos instead of wheeling and dealing for a purchase. Fortunately, I’d brought the DSLR and a 25mm lens instead of my usual battered point-and-shoot, so these shots are a little sharper than what you’ll get in most Junkyard Finds.

The days of the flathead six as the standard powerplant for full-sized American cars were coming to an end by 1951, with just about all the Detroit major players working on (or, in the case of Cadillac and Oldsmobile, delivering) overhead-valve V8s.

Through the dust, you can just make out the gorgeous font used for the speedometer numbers.

AM radios were ungodly expensive options in this era, and you had to wait quite a while for the tubes to warm up before you could listen to Ike Turner singing the first-ever rock-and-roll song.

I’m a little disappointed that this car is unavailable, but I’ve got about a thousand more to choose from in this yard.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Allan850glt Allan850glt on Mar 14, 2014

    These early fifties Nashes look pretty sedate when compared to, say the final years, '56-'57 when they opened up the front wheel wells and gave them some real V-8 power! I myself prefer the final years but these earlier models, albeit somewhat unconventional, were pretty cleanly designed cars. I have to wonder how high you had to get that sucker up in the air to change a tire?? Scary! Your jack fails or something goes awry and unless you've got some reallllly quick reflexes, you're gonna lose a limb! I don't get how one would consider a Hudson a step-down in comparison though. Especially considering the eventual H-N merger to AMC and they eventually became "Hashes"..

  • Dneely Dneely on May 14, 2014

    My Dad bought two Statesmen in1951. He and my mother went from Seattle to Kenosh and bought two of them. THey towed one back to Seattle behind the other. Fearing the Korean War would result in difficulty finding parts he put one on blocks in Seattle. We finally put it to use in about 1962 or 1963. Over the years we collecte another 2 for parts and I think nostalgia. I still have 3 of them. Two have been garaged since about 1966. THese were the straight 6 with a 3 on the tree and an overdrive. We made several trips using the folding seats as beds. I have many stories. My dad was so happy when we bought a house on a hill so he could use the hill to start it. THe heater had no fan so you had to be moving to get heat and the wipers were vacuum powered so going over the mountains was a series of speed and back off the gas so the wipers would operate. In about 1965 we towed a 1926 Model T on the back of a 1927 Model T truck from Dallas Tx. over the mountains to Seattle. That trip permenantly printed the smell of brakes into my brain. We were quite a site. Kinf of like the Clampets moving to Beverly hills. Is there a way to put photos on this forum site?

  • Jonathan IMO the hatchback sedans like the Audi A5 Sportback, the Kia Stinger, and the already gone Buick Sportback are the answer to SUVs. The A5 and the AWD version of the Stinger being the better overall option IMO. I drive the A5, and love the depth and size of the trunk space as well as the low lift over. I've yet to find anything I need to carry that I can't, although I admit I don't carry things like drywall, building materials, etc. However, add in the fun to drive handling characteristics, there's almost no SUV that compares.
  • C-b65792653 I'm starting to wonder about Elon....again!!I see a parallel with Henry Ford who was the wealthiest industrialist at one time. Henry went off on a tangent with the peace ship for WWI, Ford TriMotor, invasive social engineering, etc. Once the economy went bad, the focus fell back to cars. Elon became one of the wealthiest industrialist in the 21st century. Then he went off with the space venture, boring holes in the ground venture, "X" (formerly Twitter), etc, etc, etc. Once Tesla hit a plateau and he realized his EVs were a commodity, he too is focused on his primary money making machine. Yet, I feel Elon is over reacting. Down sizing is the nature of the beast in the auto industry; you can't get around that. But hacking the Super Charger division is like cutting off your own leg. IIRC, GM and Ford were scheduled to sign on to the exclusive Tesla charging format. That would have doubled or tripled his charging opportunity. I wonder what those at the Renaissance Center and the Glass House are thinking now. As alluded to, there's blood in the water and other charging companies will fill the void. I believe other nations have standardized EV charging (EU & China). Elon had the chance to have his charging system as the default in North America. Now, he's dropped the ball. He's lost considerable influence on what the standardized format will eventually be. Tremendous opportunity lost. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos I never used winter tires, and the last two decades I am driving almost only rear wheel drive cars, half of them in MI. I always bought all season tires for them, but the diff between touring and non touring flavors never came up. Does it make even the smallest bit of difference? (I will not read the lengthy article because I believe it does not).
  • Lou_BC ???
  • Lou_BC Mustang sedan? 4 doors? A quarterhorse?Ford nomenclature will become:F Series - Pickups Raptor - performance division Bronco - 4x4 SUV/CUVExplorer - police fleetsMustang- cars