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by Jay Traugott
One of the best California only roadsters you'll ever see.
Having a car that was once owned by a celebrity is always a cool thing. Depending on whom that famous person is/was their former ride can often be worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars (think Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, etc). But you don't have to always be extremely wealthy to be able to own a unique car that had a famous owner. Take this 1953 Nash-Healey Roadster once owned by undefeated Light Heavyweight World Boxing Champion Archie Moore.
The brand itself is also quite special in its own right. Produced only from 1951 until 1954, the car was the result of a partnership between the CEO of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation, George W. Mason, and British automaker Donald Healey. The two coincidently met on a boat heading back to the UK. Healey was in the U.S. in an effort to buy V8s from Cadillac because he wanted to increase production of the Healey Silverstone. After Cadillac turned down his request, he and Mason decided to go into business together. Mason, a trained engineer and businessman, was earlier appointed by Charles Nash (founder of Nash Motors) as his successor.
By 1951, Nash Motors was supplying Donald Healey with inline-six engines and three-speed manual transmissions. Power output was also increased by Healey's team and the new car's chassis was simply a widened and reinforced version of the Healey Silverstone. The body was made from aluminum and the prototype debuted at the 1950 Paris Motor Show and the production version debuted in 1951. In 1952, the car was restyled by Pininfarina and the new bodies were built in Turin, Italy. The following year saw the coupe version arrive. The car also participated in motorsport events such as Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.
Other famous owners of the brand included golfer Sam Sneed and singer/producer Dick Powell. By 1954, however, the situation on the ground for both companies changed. Nash became a part of AMC and Healey turned their attention to the new Austin-Healey 100. In addition, the cost of international shipping was quite high and upcoming competition from other automakers, such as the V8 Ford Thunderbird, resulted in Nash-Healey production ending entirely. Which brings us to this wonderful find on eBay Motors. This particular 1953 Nash-Healey was owned by Archie Moore for over 40 years.
In addition to his boxing career, Moore was also an actor and a civil rights activist. For people like us, however, he was also a car guy and fond of exotic machinery. After Moore bought his Nash-Healey, he sent it on to legendary car customers George and Sam Barris. The brothers took a far simpler approach this time around and just toned down the busy chrome trim up front and replaced the interior upholstery. Besides from this exterior style change, Moore also had some solid taste in engines. A few years after buying the car, Moore had a 1967 Ford 302 cu. in. V8 installed and ditched the standard inline-six.
Although the Alpine White paint is very old, it's still in pretty good condition throughout, despite from a few imperfections and chips in some places. However, some the car's original finish, a golden bronze, is still visible under the hood. The seller recommends restoring the car to this original color. Most of the interior gauges still work and even the original steering wheel features an adjustable column. The Barris upholstery was replaced in 2007 but the owner used it as a pattern and had it replicated. He also added a full Tonneau cover to protect the interior from the sun and rain.
Overall, this one-of-a-kind roadster is in fabulous shape and doesn't require a restoration; it's ready to go as is if the new owner wants to keep it that way. As of this writing, the current bid was just under $20k, but the reserve hadn't been met yet. With just 7,717 miles on the odometer, Archie Moore's Barris-customized 1953 Nash-Healey is an absolute gem. Pictures courtesy of californiaclassix.