1951 Nash film Proof by Test: 9 Things NOT to do with your Nash

Ever thought about entering your vintage tub Nash in a dirt track competition? Does it take serious impulse control to keep from racing your Rambler Landau up Pikes Peak? Going slack jawed at the thought of going airborne with your Airflyte?

Well, snap out of it! Do you really want to make that call to Hagerty’s afterward? (Would they even believe your lame excuses?) NO!

Instead, check out this ridiculously rare 1951 Nash film, and watch some famous vintage maniacs destroy their Nashes all in the name of safety and reliability.

Proof by Test
was produced by Florez, Inc. They’re the folks who produced all of Nash’s dealer training material like these Nash Metropolitan filmstrips. (As far as I know they didn’t produce many films. In fact, this is the only Florez-made film that I own.)



So how does Nash tackle the formidable challenge of proving that their cars are safer, stronger, and more reliable?

1950 Carrera Panamericana
The original Carrera Panamericana was the most dangerous open road race in the world back in the 1950s. The Mexican government organized it to celebrate finishing something: its portion of the Pan-American Highway.

Organizers allowed anyone with a qualifying 5-seat, stock sedan to enter. That may be one reason the race was so dangerous. Anyone could drive in it. (In fact, a virtual unknown in an Oldsmobile 88 won the race!)
Nash #37
The Official NASCAR Pace Car
driven by NASCAR Daddy Bill France, Sr.


But the founder of NASCAR was no anonymous face. Bill France, Sr., entered the race with a Nash Ambassador. His partner was hot NASCAR driver Curtis Turner. (Incidentally, Turner was the only NASCAR driver to win driving a Nash Ambassador: the Charlotte 150 in April 1951). I love how the car was labeled as “the Official NASCAR Pace Car.” Nash was, indeed, a very early NASCAR sponsor, but zero-point-zero percent of classic car fans remember Nashes as race cars.
Nash #29
Car #29 driven by
José Antonio Solana & Javier Solana


The movie shows France and Turner waving at the newsreel camera, but Turner didn’t finish the race with France. In the 8th of 9 stages, he bought Roy Pat Conner’s Ambassador after Conner became too ill to continue driving. Turner finished the race in third place, but he was disqualified for breaking the rules by changing a car’s crew after the race had begun.
Nash #33
The steady hand of S. Santoyo,
who finished 36th


As France’s Ambassador barrels past the camera, the movie’s narrator exclaims, “And here’s the finish as Nash completes the 2,000-mile grind with flying colors!” These words are truth telling without a lot of truth revealing.

Fact is, France crashed the car, and it didn’t finish the race. Still, he and Turner drove the car back to the States and later raced it on dirt tracks that year.

Final note: Eight Nash Ambassadors were entered into the race. Three of them finished. One of them was driven by S. Santoyo, who finished 36th. For me, the most interesting Nash was Car #116 entered by The People’s Republic of China! It was driven by two Mexicans: Manuel Luz Meneses and José O’Farrill Larranoga. They finished in 39th place.

Pikes Peak
Who could have had a better name for driving up Pikes Peak than Floyd Clymer?
Floyd_Clymer

According to my online research, Floyd Clymed Pikes Peak on a 1916 Excelsior motorcycle, in a 1926 Oldsmobile, a 1947 Kaiser Special, a 1957 Metropolitan, a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, and god knows what else on wheels. Clymer was a relentless promoter and publisher who was always trying to get his name and face in print. He practically invented auto history journalism with his endless series of Historical Motor Scrapbooks back in the 1940s. He was publishing the yearly Indianapolis 500 scrapbook until the day he died in January 1970.

Clymer always seemed to be pitching some promotional angle related to cars, so it should be no surprise that he successfully convinced Nash to film him driving his 1950 Rambler Landau up Pikes Peak. I’m surprised he did it with the top up.

1950 Mobilgas Economy Run
Wish I could tell you more about this, but the film got chopped u--

Stock car racing
Although the film lurches into this section without any warning, there’s plenty of great footage of Herschel Buchanan racing his Nash Ambassador in the dirt.
Dirt track Nash
Herschel Buchanan at the wheel


Hudson always get the glory for winning early 1950s stock car races, but Nash was also on the track always plugging away. Buchanan won a lot of IMCA Stock Car races with his tub. Indeed, 1950 was one of his best years with Nash. According to Ultimateracing.com, he won 9 races and finished in second place four times.

Nash seems pretty justified in making their claims that “power, acceleration, and ability to maintain top speeds hour after hour enabled the Nash Airflyte to outdistance heavier, more expensive cars in dirt track competition.” At least for 1950.

Lucky Lee Lott and the Hell Drivers
There were a lot of stunt drivers back in Lee Lott’s day. Joie Chitwood smashed up Chevrolets. Aut Swenson destroyed Kaiser-Frazers. There was even another Lucky: Earl “Lucky” Teter, who mangled Plymouths (and died in one while doing a 150-foot jump in his last show before quitting to help the war effort in 1942).

Nash on 2 wheels
No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!

There is a great Jam Handy film dedicated to Joie Chitwood. There’s also this action-packed commercial featuring Aut Swenson’s drivers for Phillips 66 Tires. But there’s not that much good footage of Lucky Lee Lott. A few home movies at best.

However, when I saw this segment, I knew I had some really rare footage. Lucky Lee Lott swore by Nash and crashed with Nash throughout his entire career. The sequence in this film shows his hell drivers pulling off a lot of stunts. Two-wheel ramps. Criss-crossing two-wheel ramps. A broad jump. We even see Lee wreck a 1941 Nash and climb out of it unharmed while doing his trademark pose for the fairground audience.

My favorite move is the reverse slide skid. It’s a commonplace stunt in movies today, but I can’t imagine trying it with the automotive equivalent of a humpback whale. (Calm down, haters. I love the Airflytes! They are enablers for romantic activity. But let’s face it. They’re, um, bulbous.)

(BTW, if you want to see a good movie about hell drivers in general, check out Pete Koziell’s documentary Hell Drivers: America’s Original Crash Test Dummies. I wish I had this footage available when he made it.)

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As we park this baby in the garage, I have some common sense, whack-me-in-the-frontal-lobe-with-a-shovel tips for avoiding impending doom while driving a Nash Airflyte (Rambler, Statesman, or Ambassador):

  1. Don’t drive it in a dirt track race.
  2. Don’t drive it in the Carrera Panamericana race.
  3. Don’t drive it really fast up Pikes Peak.
  4. Don’t drive side-by-side with another Nash and go sideways on a two-wheel ramp. (You’ll end up looking like a typical highway pileup in an old CHiPs episode.)
  5. In fact, don’t do any kind of two-wheel ramp jump. Your masculinity is already secure. I affirm you in advance. You have nothing to prove.
  6. Don’t try to drive your Nash on two wheels. (See #5.)
  7. Don’t drive your Nash through a “blazing board wall” with another guy on the hood. (It’s not the kind of “Airflyte ride” you want to enjoy, especially if you’re the designated hood ornament.)
  8. Don’t try to create your own rollover accident. (You can do this in a newer car. Just keep texting.)
  9. Don’t do a reverse skid slide.

Just watch the movie instead, and save yourself the spinal cord compression surgery.


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Gone Autos Podcast #5: Donny Conn of The Playmates

Nash Rambler fans: listen and weep, weep. Here comes the true story of Beep Beep.

Donny Conn of the 1950's group The Playmates reveals to Gone Autos that his band's most famous song wasn't actually about a
Pasted Graphic
Rambler. (It was about the...sorry. I can't bend your frame like that. Better let Donny do it.)

Take a Sunday drive down Memory Lane with the radio on as Donny tells the story of The Playmates while Gone Autos brings you vintage Playmates music. And buckle up for a little mythbusting along the way.

This Gone Autos podcast is not a thing to scorn. In fact, it's our best one yet. Get it. You won't regret it.

Listen here.
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