Rare Rides: A Microscopic American Motors Metropolitan From 1962
Recently, we featured a grandiose convertible Hudson once owned by actor and car enthusiast Steve McQueen. Today’s Rare Ride came originally from Nash, the other company which combined with Hudson to form American Motors.
Let’s get Metropolitan.
Like early Hudson, the Nash Motor Company focused on how to make cars more economical and affordable for the average consumer. Nash based the Metropolitan on ideas from its prior concept car, the NXI (Nash Experimental International). As the company had no delusions about the Metropolitan’s size, it was not marketed as a primary car. The intent was for the Metropolitan to take up the secondary space in the driveway, doing short errands around town. At the time, the term subcompact did not yet exist, so the Metropolitan was labeled as a compact or economy car.
With the design ready for market, the people at Nash first needed someone to build it. The automaker’s consumer studies showed that Americans were ready to purchase a small economy car — as long as it was very cheap. Accountants determined it would not be possible to build the Metropolitan domestically due to high labor costs. So they turned to an island to the east.
That’d be England. In 1952, Nash announced the selection Austin Motors to build the Metropolitan for them. It was a first in the industry: A car intended for the North American market was built overseas, then sold and serviced by Nash dealers. It was the very first captive import.
Metropolitans were available as hardtop coupes or convertibles and had a considerable standard features list considering the class of car. Nash put the car on sale in 1953 and immediately targeted its best prospective customer — women. Nash’s car for women beat Dodge and the La Femme to market by a year. Luxury, affordability, and personal transport were all highlighted as features of this all-new kind of car.
The revolutionary Metropolitan found favor with critics and customers alike. Through the next several years, the car went through three major revisions. The final Series IV started production early in 1959, adding an opening trunk to the Metropolitan for the first time. There were also vent windows at the front and the most advanced version of the Austin B-Series engine, which displaced 1.5 liters and produced a racy 55 horsepower. All Metropolitans had a three-speed manual, in addition to fuel economy that ranged between 30 and 39 miles per gallon — a very commendable figure in the Fifties.
1959 would prove the high point in the Metropolitan’s life, when it racked up over 22,000 sales. The only compact car which trumped it was the ever-present VW Beetle. Sales fell off quickly after that, as the aging Metropolitan faced steep competition from within its own showroom. AMC offered a Rambler American line that was larger, newer, and cost $100 more than the Metropolitan.
The company wound down production in 1961, when sales dropped to just 969 total units between the U.S. and Canada. A select remainder were sold as ’62 models; 420 in total.
That brings us to today’s Rare Ride — the last of the last in the Metropolitan’s history. A 1962 model in black and white, it isn’t perfect, but wears a nice diamond pattern interior. This Nash can be yours for $7,900.
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