Our latest Find of the Week is a classic coupe that has been called America's first subcompact car: the Nash Metropolitan, a nifty little vehicle from a company that has distant links to one of today's best-known North American makers of SUVs. While it was designed by American automaker Nash, its British construction and the use of Austin engines lent it an international flavour.
Founded in 1916, Nash Motors later merged with the Kelvinator Appliance Company to become Nash-Kelvinator, and that operation acquired the Hudson Motor Car Company in 1954. The new corporate entity was called American Motors Corporation (AMC), a company that would go on to produce vehicles like the Pacer, the Gremlin, and the Javelin muscle car.
In 1970, AMC bought the Jeep brand, and it was under their stewardship that Jeep introduced the original Cherokee, a compact SUV that helped bring utility vehicles into the mainstream. In 1987 Chrysler scooped up AMC, largely because it wanted the money-making Jeep brand.
Back to the Metropolitan: The rear-mounted spare tire draws attention away from the fact that in early examples of the car, which began production in 1954, the trunk could only be accessed by folding the rear seats. Meanwhile, the front seats lacked seat adjustments, and there was no glove box door. The 1.2L engine in those early cars made 42 hp and, despite its small size, the Metropolitan and its column-shift three-speed transmission needed about 30 seconds to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standing start.
According to Classic Car History, the Metropolitan came standard with electric windshield wipers, a map light and a cigarette lighter, items that were options on most cars in the mid-1950s.
A Series 2 model introduced in 1956 got updated exterior styling and a more sophisticated Austin engine that made 52 hp.
The 1960 model we're featuring this week is from the third and final series, which entered production in 1958. By this point, the Metropolitan had gained a 55-hp engine, a glove box door, trunk lid, seat adjusters and window vents. One design aspect that remained constant throughout the Metropolitan's run were its shallow fenders, which apparently limited the range of the car's steering.
The two-tone colour scheme of this car appears to have been common in late-model Metropolitans, and we appreciate how that is carried through to the interior.
This example has its original AM radio, but a subsequent owner mounted a modern stereo head unit under the glove box. Where push-button engine starters are common today, the Metropolitan instead sports a starter next to the ignition switch marked "pull." Similar controls to the left of the steering wheel include one marked "heater" and a couple of unidentified plungers, at least one of which we presume is for the headlights.
Our seller hasn't provided many details, but says the car is currently located in St. Janvier, Quebec, just outside of Montreal, despite the British Columbia plates shown in the photos. In the ad, the seller also says they have owned the car for about 15 years, but the phone number in the ad is associated with a used-car dealer in St. Janvier.
An odometer reading of 65,405 km suggests the car was at one point used regularly, but it shows well in the photos, and the seller claims their Metropolitan is "numbers matching," which suggests its engine and transmission are the ones that were installed in the car at the factory.
We don't know what a nicely maintained Metropolitan is worth in the classic-car marketplace, but this one is offered at about $10,500. We suspect that nicely sorted (but not flawless) examples of other small cars of the same era, like the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle, would command similar money. However, Nash Metropolitan production totaled about 95,000 vehicles, so we think our latest Find of the Week is an opportunity to own a classic more rare than those contemporary compacts.