Featured: Original Barn-Find Nash Becomes Daily Driver

Original Barn-Find Nash Becomes Daily Driver

By Yoav Gilad
February 3, 2014

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious

The term ‘barn-find’ carries a certain cachet for good reason—it’s a bit like hitting the lottery. Imagine peering inside a decrepit building in the country only to see a flash of chrome reflecting a narrow sliver of light. It might be a tiller’s blade that’s held its polish or some other rusty farm implement that hasn’t decayed completely. But, what if…?

In this case, that “what if” turned out to be a 1949 Nash Ambassador Super Special. It was bought new in 1949 by Mr. Frank R. Miller, a farmer from eastern Washington and it seems that Frank primarily drove it around his farm because there were grass stains on the hubcaps and a layer of dried mud underneath, which actually may have prevented the frame from rusting over time. Shortly after Frank died in 1960, the car was parked in the back of a barn—until discovered underneath sheets about a year ago by his nephew who inherited the estate.

The original paperwork including dealer receipts was still inside the Nash along with some 1960s newspapers, original jack, spare tire, and keys. And, Frank’s comb and brush were still in the glovebox. Mr. Garm Beall, the new owner, says he’ll never remove those last two.

He purchased the car from Frank’s nephew having only seen a couple of photos from the estate sale, with no idea what a rich, storied marque Nash was. Like many, Garm had only heard of the Nash Metropolitan. But unlike the diminutive Metro, this Nash is just over 201 inches long (5.1 meters) and is powered by a 3.8L straight-six producing about 112hp. The Ambassador’s most interesting feature though, is that the seats recline flat, effectively turning the interior into a bed. Intended for car-camping, it quickly gained a following among teenagers who had less wholesome intentions.

None of that really mattered to Garm as he just fell for the sculpted, aerodynamic form. And it is remarkable that such an original car is so complete and in such good shape after being forgotten for so long. It still sports the original spark plug wires, mohair interior, and fog lights. After the brakes were rebuilt for safety and the fuel system flushed out, the Ambassador didn’t just run, it drove! Following 50 years of sitting!

After Garm got the car down to Southern California, he restored the wheels, put on new whitewalls, and got all the lights working. Since then he’s been driving it to work and around town, the big Nash never failing to start and run strong every time. Now that it’s been saved from an anonymous death in a Washington barn all it needs is to be driven and frequent polishing for the ample chrome.

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Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith(@fb_1043682525)
2 years ago

What matters most is that it is DRIVEN DAILY! It’s driven, used, and, enjoyed, as it’s makers intended. Not hidden away as an “investment”. The most important thing to remember, I.J.A.C. – It’s Just A Car. If it breaks, or, gets into an accident, it can be fixed, parts can be replaced. If you’re afraid to drive it, sell it to somebody who isn’t!

Randy Starkie
Randy Starkie(@vector)
7 years ago

What a great find. These were around when I was a kid. At the time it was one of those cars that you hoped your dad didn’t buy and embarrass you in front of your friends. The neighbor had one and I awoke one morning to see it upside down beside the road. He had run it off the road and rolled it down a bridge abutment the night before.

Garm Beall
Garm Beall(@fb_685134823)
7 years ago

Thanks everyone for the kind words. Yoav and Josh, you did a great job of accurately representing the old Nash. This bodystyle is called “bathtub” or “tub” Nashes, to answer Jim’s question. Seat belts were an option (!) the following year (1950), so I did add the ones shown. Should I remove the dealer-installed seat covers to reveal the original upholstery?

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant(@mgcam)
7 years ago

Love these old bathtub Nashes, the details on this car are simply incredible, the NASH lettering on the foglights and the reverse light to the uniscope “dash” which really isn’t a dash at all. The rear view on this car is art and the owner is obviously enjoying himself. It’s not a particularly valuable car, but thank goodness there are still people around who find beauty and value in cars that aren’t and use them.
Well done Mr. Beall and some very nice, honest photography Josh. Beautiful…

Jim Bair
Jim Bair(@5280jb)
7 years ago

Great to see the big girl out stretching her legs again! Wasn’t there a Nash model referred to as a “Bathtub Nash?”

PS: I may have unknowingly driven by this car resting in its barn back in college when I would make the trek across the state between home and school.

Gary Groce
Gary Groce(@groceg)
7 years ago

That’s WONDERFUL…..As much as appreciate a #1 restoration, this is how I love to find them and KEEP them.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
7 years ago

Great story and interesting car. Nice to see it being preserved and used rather than restored and not driven.

Bradley Price
Bradley Price(@fb_100003028226242)
7 years ago

Finally a “barn find” car that is actually preserved rather than neglected. Just beautiful!

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

Thanks for the article and thank you guys for bringing this beauty back to life for all of us to enjoy. I personally felt that Nash was always a underrated brand here in America and I’m glad you guys chose to bring this one to life. Nash president George Mason was a huge supporter of aerodynamics which is why he used wind tunnel testing during world war 2. I believe it really shows in these beautiful Nash Ambassador:)

Brandon Hupka
Brandon Hupka(@bdhupka)
7 years ago

Beautiful lines on that car. I’m glad to see it has a good home.

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa(@genovevo)
7 years ago

That’s the spirit Garm! If it’s running, and running well, drive it!