"Sabrina" our 1953 Nash-Healey LeMans Coupe
Until February 2013, I had never seen a Nash-Healey coupe in the flesh, but I knew I wanted one. These very special cars are extremely rare, and I'd been searching for several years for the right one to show up.
Finally, after much impatient waiting, "our" Nash-Healey materialized on an eBay search on a Friday in February. The car was located in Santa Monica, at a long-established classic car dealer. I called up and had a long conversation with Neil Jaffe, owner of Chequered Flag, Intl, and a right proper Brit. After much questioning, I was convinced that the car he had was the right one for us. That Sunday I was on a plane to LAX, met Neil who was kind enough to open his shop on that day, and struck a deal right on the spot. Neil arranged the enclosed shipping back to Austin, and amazingly the car was in our driveway the following Thursday.
As is always the case with our purchases, even cars purported to be 'restored" (this particular car had won first in class at the National NCAA show back in 2004), there is always much work to be done. Sabrina had all the elements for greatness, but was definitely a little rough around the edges. Slowly but surely though, she's coming around. Every bit of chrome is being replated, all the wiring will be replaced with a new, period correct harness, the engine compartment has been brought back to sparking shape, and the car just drives like a dream.
The Nash-Healey is the result of a unusual collaboration between George Mason, then-CEO of Nash Motors, and Donald Healey of Austin Healey fame, as well as noted Italian auto body fabricator Batista "Pinin" Farina.
Nash sent their standard power train, consisting of an overhead valve 252 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine and 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive, to England, where Healey designed and machined a special aluminum head compatible with a pair of British SU carburetors. The power train was installed in a Healey designed and manufactured chassis, featuring cast aluminum leading-edge front suspension, and aluminum hood (bonnet) and trunk (boot) lids.
This completed chassis was then shipped to Carrozzeria PininFarina in Turin, Italy where Italian craftsmen hand-built each of the Pininfarina-designed bodies (Pininfarina also designed the early 50's Nash Ambassador and Statesman models, elements of which appear in the Nash Healey).
Once assembly was completed, the entire vehicle was then shipped back to the US where each was sold in American Nash dealerships.
Our particular coupe, a unique design built only in 1953, is one of just 62 coupes of this design ever built (a 1954 model, with different roofline, was produced in a quantity of about 90).
These cars were almost prohibitively expensive for their times. Because of all the cross-Atlantic transportation, the sticker price of these cars was $5,908, while the new Corvette came in at $3,513! In spite of that, rumors are that Nash lost some $9,000 on each of the cars they sold!
The "LeMans" moniker was attached after the Nash-Healeys had some surprising successes in the racing world, competing in 4 consecutive LeMans races, as well as an Italian Mille Miglia. In fact, in 1952 the Nash-Healey finished 3rd overall at Lemans, beating out several Ferraris and Aston Martins, and trailing only two factory Mercedes 300SLs.
This car is just a pleasure to drive. The cabin offers incredible legroom.. even my 6'2" frame can't fully reach the pedals with the seats in the far aft position! Steering is precise and nimble for a car of this vintage, and that solid Nash engine will cruise along at 80 all day long.
Although Nash-Healey is not a household name, nor recognizable vehicle, we're just thrilled to be caretakers of this magnificent vehicle (which came to us, indirectly, from the original owners), and feel that it is the crown jewel of our modest collection!