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Free Vin Check, Get Vehicle History Report, Free Car History, Used Car History, Auto History, Free Vehicle History, VIN Number Check, Car History, Lemon, Check - Car History Year 1954

Car History Year 1954
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 00:08:42 UTC
Topic: Cars

A ten year, $50 billion expansion program of the US highway system was announced by Vice-President Richard Nixon, and General Motors produced its 50 millionth car (a Chevrolet) on November 23rd at Flint, Michigan, which was paraded through the city streets in front of huge crowds.

Not all production was on the grand scale, however. There were, in the 'fifties, as now, a number of brave souls who were willing to go it alone in pursuit of a dream, of perfection, or simply of fat profits. Some weird and wonderful cars were produced, among them the Gaylord, the Kaiser Darrin and the Nash-Healey. The last named was the product of a collaboration between George Mason and Donald Healey. Mason came from Kelvinator electrical appliances and arrived at Nash just before World War II and, in 1945, followed Charles W. Nash himself as president. Healey was an urbane Englishman, amateur engineer and racing driver who dreamed of producing his own sportscars. The two of them met on the liner Queen Elizabeth, bound for New York. They immediately hit it off and, by the time the ship had docked, had agreed to explore the possibility of building sportscar to Healey's specifications, based on the engine of the Ambassador six. This was a robust, up-to-date, six-cylinder, overhead-valve unit that formed a good starting point for Healey's tuning genius. Reprofiled camshafts were fitted, along with British SU carburetors and a high-compression, aluminum cylinder head. The result was an output of 125 bhp @ 4,000 rpm. This engine was mated to a three-speed Nash manual transmission with Borg-Warner overdrive. Fitted with competition bodywork, the result was the first of many Euro-American hybrids that would, in time, include such legendary automobiles as the Jensen, the Bristol, the AC, the Gordon-Keeble, the De Tomaso and the Facel-Vega. Healey ran the new car, effectively untested, in the gruelling Italian Mille-Miglia - a thousand miles of often dusty, public roads that were only closed on the day of the race. He finished and was placed ninth in class. Two cars were entered in the Le Mans 24 hour race and were creditably placed also. For the production car, a British company called Panelcraft built bodies in aluminum, based on Healey's own designs, and assembly was carried out by Healey's own company. The car was badged as a Nash but the styling was unmistakably English, it was exhibited at the annual motor Shows in London and Paris and production began in the middle of 1950. The cars were slow in coming - at the rate of about 10 a week - and expensive, at $4,063. They got Nash a lot of publicity but Mason wasn't happy with the styling. He engaged the Italian master coachbuilder Pinin Farina to submit a new design which incorporated a curved, one-piece windshield, inboard headlights and an altogether more curvaceous, typically Italian, line. The Italian-styled, 1952 model sold for $5,688 and production increased to 150 cars for the year. Healey continued to expose the car to competition and it continued to perform successfully, despite his wrecking a coupe in the '52 Mille Miglia. The '52 Le Mans race was a real triumph, as cars entered by Jaguar and Aston Martin fell by the wayside, the Nash-Heaiey stormed on to finish third overall behind two works Mercedes Benzs, having averaged better than 90 mph. 163 cars were sold in 1953, including a longer-wheelbase coupe named the Le Mans in honor of their remarkable achievement. In 1954 the roadster was dropped and the Le Mans coupe was restyled. Less than 100 were built before production was abandoned. Nash had been selling the cars for around half what it cost to produce them. just over 500 examples of this labor-of-love were produced. The rugged and reliable Nash-Healey was a truly great sportscar by any standards. Another great automobile that never made it into the big league was the Kaiser-Darrin. Like the Nash-Heaiey, it was the product of a collaboration between an auto manufacturer and a designer with a dream, but in this case the relationship was a lot more stormy.
Howard "Dutch" Darrin had resigned from Kaiser-Fraser, claiming that his original designs had been changed without reference to him. He returned, to design the '51 Kaiser, and then walked out again when an alternative design to his was selected for the Henry J. He retreated to his studio in California to work on a sportscar design based on the Henry J. chassis -without reference to Kaiser. This resulted, understandably, in a blazing row, when his plans were uncovered, but the beauty of the design won Kaiser over. The car was a long, low two-seater, with a three-position convertible top and unique, sliding doors. The lines of the body were beautifully proportioned and the only possible question as to its beauty was in the very small, fan-shaped radiator grille set high in the center of the front panel. The body was to built in fiber-glass and be powered - or rather under-powered - by a 90hp version of the Willys six-cylinder engine. The interior fittings were of a high standard and the instrumentation was extremely comprehensive for the period. Although the hood was good, the sliding doors turned out to be a drag: it was impossible to stop them rattling and they didn't open very wide so getting in and out wasn't easy, particularly for anyone wearing a skirt. As cars like this were supposed to appeal to skirt-wearers, this was a distinct drawback. The other great drawback was the performance of the Willys motor. Cars like this are meant to be swift but the Kaiser-Damn was, frankly, pedestrian, compared to a Corvette, even with the stovebolt six. A supercharger was added to boost output to 125 hp but that motor still wasn't going to set the world on fire. Kaiser-Willys had ceased production before 500 cars had been completed. Darrin bought out the last hundred or so bodies and fitted them with 300 hp Cadillac V8s, providing them - too late, alas - with the level of performance their elegant design had always promised but never delivered. He sold the cars, for $4,350 each, through his own Los Angeles dealership. A few of these last. Cadiliac-powered cars were actually taken racing, with limited success, proving that had a credible power-plant been fitted in the first place, the car might have been a winner. 1954 was a year of unlikely couplings. Apart from the Nash-Healey and the Kaiser-Darrin, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio and a jazz festival took place in Newport, Rhode Island, for the first time. Among other doomed designs that year were an atomic-powered locomotive, courtesy of the University of Utah. Dwight Eisenhower announced a plan to modernize the nation's highways with the costs being borne by both state and federal government. The New York State Thruway was opened, running 559 miles from New York to Buffalo - and Mercedes Benz introduced the first car with fuel-injection -the 300SL. Within a couple of years, this innovation would be helping to boost the performance of American cars, being fitted as an option to the Corvette in '57. Otherwise, the main thrust of mainstream auto design in the United States was in the styling department. The '54 - '56 run of Cadillacs would be the last to bear the flowing coachwork that harked back to the 'forty-nines. The fin was itching to burst free of the fender line and the dagmars were already swelling ripely from the front bumper: the shape of things to come. Specification NASH HEALEY Engine Cast iron block - 6 Cylinders in line Displacement 252.6 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.50x4.38ins. Horsepower 135 Body styles Convertible roadster; Le Mans coupe No. of seats 2 Weight (lbs) 2,750 Ibs-2,990 Ibs Price $5,688 Produced 506 (total from '51 - '55)     Specification KAISER-DARRIN Engine Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line Displacement 161 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.13x3.5 ins. Horsepower 90 Body styles Roadster No. of seats 2 Weight (lbs) 2,175lbs Price $3,668 Produced 435     Specification CADILLAC ELDORADO Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 331 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.81 x 3.63 ins. Horsepower 230 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 4,815 Ibs Price $5,738 Produced 2,150  

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