- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

In the three years after World War II, Nash built exactly 1,000 wood-trimmed Ambassador Suburban models, principally to entice prospective customers into the dealership.

One of those cars was purchased by the owner of a liquor store on Connecticut Avenue, Northwest. That is where young Dave Blum saw it as he rode past on his bicycle delivering the Daily News newspaper. “I marvelled at the car with wood doors,” Mr. Blum now recalls. One day he stopped for a closer examination of the Nash. The owner of the car must have seen him and came out and asked, “Hey kid, do you want to wash it?”

Mr. Blum remembers that he was soon in the throes of washing the object of his affection. He observed how the water would drain off the beautiful contours of the Nash. Altogether, that was a day to remember, and remember he did — for 60 years.

At an antique car show in the spring of 2007 he was recounting his Nash experience when a friend told him that he knew the location of such a car and that it was for sale. In the summer of 2007, Mr. Blum, accompanied by a friend who was well acquainted with wood-bodied station wagons, drove over the Bay Bridge to Stillpond, Md., where, in a barn that appeared to be on the verge of collapsing, he found a 1947 Nash Ambassador Suburban painted Canterbury Gray Light. The wood was covered with dirt and grime but, according to his friend, it was original wood and was in very good shape under years of dust.

Mr. Blum learned that the car was about to go to an estate auction but he could become the owner if he agreed to a “buy it now” price. He did and came back later to collect his prize. He understands that the previous owner had purchased the car in 1960. The last service sticker found on the car was dated Nov. 10, 1961 and the odometer at that time read 61,000 miles. “I think the car was always in that area,” he says, “but I can’t prove it.”

The 6.50x15-inch tires still were inflated but Mr. Blum says it took five men to push the 4,664-pound Nash out of the barn and into position to be winched onto a trailer. “It was a very scary moment,” Mr. Blum says. There sat his car, not running and covered with dust. He thought, “What did I just do?”

In July 2007, the Nash was hauled away on its 121-inch wheelbase to a garage in Virginia where the 234.8-cubic-inch, six-cylinder valve-in-head engine was removed. Mr. Blum says the garage technicians got it running but there was a knock in the engine so new rings and bearings were installed. The car had not been started in five years.

When returned to like-new condition, the 112-horsepower engine requires six quarts of oil, 17 quarts of coolant and the fuel tank can hold 20 gallons of gasoline. The three-speed manual transmission needed no work.

While one shop replaced the windlacing around the doors and reupholstered the front and back seats with leather, another shop refinished the mahogany and ash woodwork. “The wood was refinished for protection,” Mr. Blum says. The metal part of the car had been repainted once but was in need of another repainting so that was done in the original color. Happily, there was no rust found on the car.

“There were no real surprises,” a relieved Mr. Blum says, “which was a surprise itself.” The 17-foot, 4.5-inch-long Nash has a lot of stainless steel trim which was polished. “A lot of the chrome trim was replated,” Mr. Blum says. Because the car had been inactive for such a long period, the brakes and wheel cylinders were replaced.

A unique feature of the car is the fact it can be used as a camper. The back seat can be folded down behind the front seat and a thin wooden platform with hinges fits into place creating a foundation for a mattress. With your feet in the trunk you can slumber with your head just behind the front seat. Mr. Blum considers himself fortunate to have the window screens that fit into the window openings in the rear doors. He has yet to locate a fitted mattress so he currently displays his car with a foam rubber unit.

Sales literature for the 1947 Nash includes “Accessories for your motoring pleasure” such as:

Clock.

Mirror.

AM radio.

Spotlight.

Fog lights.

Cigarette lighter.

“There weren’t many accessories,” Mr. Blum notes. He says the radio had a foot control tuning feature where the driver could change radio stations via a button on the floor.

Nash advertising stressed the fact that Nash owners had no need to look up lodging sites because they carried their bed with them.

When new the big Nash had a base price of $2,227. At more than 75 inches wide, it was quite spacious. The car stands more than 69 inches tall.

Records indicate that 175 such models were manufactured in 1946. The total in 1947 increased to 595 and trailing off in 1948 only 130 were built. The combined three-year total amounted to an even 1,000.

The two-spoke steering wheel has a horn ring on the bottom half so it won’t interfere with the driver’s view of the 120 mph speedometer. In the center of the dashboard are the controls for the “Weather Eye Conditioned Air.” There was no air conditioning as we know it, only various air vents to control the flow of air into the cabin.

On May 10, 2008 Mr. Blum declared his Nash Ambassador Suburban was “done enough.” “What isn’t done,” he says, “can be finished later.” It had be in various shops almost 10 months and was ready to go.

“It’s ready to be enjoyed now,” Mr. Blum said.

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