By on March 22, 2019

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.

[Images: seller]

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20 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Microscopic American Motors Metropolitan From 1962...”

  • avatar

    Ahh, my first car. Paid $90 for a ’59(or 58) hardtop in white/yellow. Drove it home with the engine knocking loudly. My dad helped me (or rather I helped my dad) pull the engine and replace the bearings. Drive it to high school and everywhere. Was not a chick magnet. Mine had no trunk lid – that space was access via the rear seat back. I think the ’60 model was the first with a trunk lid.

    The car was a combination of the worst of US and British automobiles. Soft suspension with a ton of body roll, bench seat and poor electrical system. But I enjoyed it in its day, despite my friends having Chevelles and GTOs.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    nice write up ,didn’t know about this being the first captive import, certainly cooler than the Encore

  • avatar

    As a little boy in the 60s, my Neighbor, 3 doors down had one. The wife drove it. She was a war bride from Holland. She was very pretty. Had hairy armpits. Freaked me out.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In the very early 60’s our neighbours across the street and 4 doors down got a Metropolitan. They were the very first family in our subdivision to be a two car family. They were also the only visible minority family in our subdivision. The father was the only adult in our neighbourhood with a university education and the wife had her own business. So in reality, socially/economically/educationally they actually should/could have been living in a better neighbourhood.

      Thankfully my Old Man didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body, so I got to hang out at their place quite often.

      Coincidentally 45+ years later, when my widowed mother moved to a ‘retirement community’ they again were her neighbours, and were the first to welcome her to her new home.

  • avatar

    When I was a sophomore in college, one of the guys in my fraternity had one of these. On one occasion we went on a double date (remember those?) in his Metropolitan. Somehow, my date and I squeezed into the back seat, such as it was. As I recall, it was tight, very tight.

  • avatar

    When I was in high school our minister had a convertible. Cool little car. So little. Have to say the hardtop looks bit nicer.

  • avatar

    That is just a gorgeous, ’50s-elegant little roof. Wish it had full-cut wheel openings.

  • avatar

    When I lived in Denver, I knew two musicians, brothers, who owned one of
    these. One brother played drums, one played acoustic bass. And they
    could get every piece of their equipment in that car!

  • avatar

    We called them “Lois Lane cars” as kids because of the Superman TV show in which Lois Lane drove one

  • avatar

    LS SWAP!!

  • avatar

    This article could use some fettling but the mighty Metropolitan certainly was a smash hit until everyone who wanted one bought one then it died .

    It is a mash up of Austin A50/55 and other bits as like GM, Austin / BMC made use of many interchangeable parts making it easy to improve the car by simple parts swapping…..

    The coil spring front suspension had over 18″ of travel, the idea being to reduce the fore & aft pitching motion so prevalent in short wheel base cars at the time, road speeds for this little “Watch Charm Rolls Royce” were to de 45 MPH tops, why they had such a low final drive ratio of 4.22 .

    Modern gas shocks from a ’56 Chevy Sedan (rear) and Chrysler Cordoba (front) will put a halt to the pitching, wallowing and too soft ride .

    Disc brakes are another simple upgrade with MG Midget spindles, replace -one- bushing and the rest is straight bolt up, no need to replace the master cylinder even .

    The engine is the same one used in the early MGA so making it go fast is also dead easy and cheap to boot .

    In 1959 or 1960 I looked in a Rambler showroom and saw NEW Met, thought it was some sort of kiddie car and decided to own one some day ~ that day came in the 1990’s and I still have the third one I bought, it’s a great touring car as well as road rally car, needless to say I’ve peaked & tweaked the suspension and engine as well as fitting a Borg Warner M35 slushbox tranny from a 1980 Datsun B310 and a 3.72 final drive so it zips along @ 75 MPH easily and still gets 35 MPG .

    British cars in the early days had close to zero quality control, in fact they had very clever engineering solutions, making do with very good 1930’s technology . once you sorted the cars out they were always fun and engaging to drive .

    Those who don’t like British cars will never understand these, luckily the folks who bought them new or had them as first cars, tended to save them when they expired so the survival rate is still pretty good, less than 100,000 were made, they even made some right hand drive versions for the home market, they didn’t sell well so they were imported in 1962 and sold off at cost as Meter Maid Parking Enforcement cars, a few still survive .

    Lois Lane drove a 1949 Nash “Custom Convertible” ~ highly sought after by Hot Rodders these days, they destroy then into non driveable show cars and wonder why no one else likes them .


  • avatar

    I remember growing up someone around the neighborhood on the next street over had 3 of these, I always thought they were clown cars, you know to be driven in the Shriner parades!

  • avatar

    As a teenager, I had a neighbor that owned two Mets, and I helped him restore one of them. Before the trunklid was added to these, access to the trunk was gained by lowering the folding, lockable rear seatback.

  • avatar

    The 1st shop that I worked at in the early 1970s repaired anything, from school buses to Ferrari’s.
    Some customers were into what were then known as quirky or weird cars. We worked on several Metropolitan’s during the two years I was there. One came in on a tow truck as the engine needed an overhaul. While this job was in progress the car owner visited most every day to check the progress and admire his, new to him, Nash.
    Just as the Nash motor was being completed and ready to go out the door someone brought in a well used postal delivery 3 wheeler for repair, probably a Cushman Mailster.
    When the Metro owner saw this he immediately wanted to sell the Metro and get a 3 wheeler.

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