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by Jay Traugott
This is what happens when a hot rod enthusiast gets their hands on a basic 1950s commuter car.
Nash Metropolitans and hot rods aren't really known for having much to do with one another. Their similarities usually start and finish with the fact they're both cars and that's about it. As we can see here with this small-block V8-powered 1961 Metropolitan, it's apparent that this is not strictly the case. But before we get to its dirty resume of upgrades, a little background historical information on the base car itself is required.
The subcompact UK-built Nash Metropolitan debuted in 1953 and from the start it was designed to offer American buyers an alternative to the near yacht-size cars of the time. Believe it or not, tailfins that were big enough to fit on a moon-bound rocket didn't appeal to everyone and Nash felt it was on to something different in building a small car. However, the now defunct automaker only intended for the Metropolitan to be a simple commuter car, something for simple errands and taking the kids to school. Basically, Nash felt there was a niche in the post-war market for families to buy a second car that wouldn't be intended for long road trips.
To give you an idea how small the Metropolitan was, its wheelbase was shorter than that of the original VW Beetle. Power, as can be expected for a commuter car, was also quite feeble with an Austin 1.2-liter straight-four engine mated to a three-speed slushbox that sent power to the rear wheels. Available as a hardtop or convertible, the Metropolitan was actually very fuel efficient. In 24 hour endurance tests conducted at the Raleigh Speedway in North Carolina in 1954, the car managed to return almost 42 miles per gallon. Another Metropolitan tested at the same track went for almost 1,500 miles during its endurance run without the need for a tune up.
That's just as impressive then as it is today. The car continued to gain popularity and Nash, now a part of the newly formed American Motors Corporation (AMC), kept the Metropolitan up to date with regular upgrades and new series. These included a new and more powerful engine, new exterior colors, an updated interior and various other cosmetic and mechanical improvements. By 1959, the Metropolitan trailed only the VW Beetle in total sales numbers for an imported car. By 1961, however, Metropolitan sales had declined and AMC, already producing its Rambler lineup, opted to stop importing the car.
Although people at the time never saw the car as a performance machine, hot rod enthusiasts today often look at things differently, and so we turn to this 1961 Nash Metropolitan, transformed from a grocery store wimp mobile into something gearheads would actually want. Swapping out the original engine, its builders installed a Chevy 436 cubic-inch small block V8 that supposedly produces 650 horsepower. The car has also undergone significant mechanical upgrades such as new front and rear ends, 4 wheel disc brakes, suspension work and a new automatic transmission. The interior also received a new tilt steering wheel, gauges and stereo.
Painted Torch Red with plenty of quality chrome work, there's only 2,400 miles on the odometer since completion. It was recently up for sale on eBay with a price of $45,000 but the auction ended without a buyer. More than likely, it'll soon be reposted. Although it may not be the car Nash originally intended to build, this particular Metropolitan has been turned into anything but a commuter car. A small-block V8 will always do the trick.