Flashy, practical, and flat out cool: Nash cars shine at Saturday show in Oregon

This 1932 Nash 1096 Ambassador 4-door sedan, owned by the Lentz family of Tratford, Pennsylvania, was one of the vintage cars at the Nashional Car Show, held at the Stronghold Camp & Retreat Center on Saturday, June 29, 2024.

OREGON — When the skies cleared Saturday, it was “shinetime” for 50 Nash cars at the Stronghold Camp & Retreat Center.

The 2024 “Grand Nashional,” hosted by the Upper Mississippi River Region of the Nash Car Club of America, featured models spanning six decades of the iconic, independent car line.

Known for the “Little Nash Rambler,” Saturday’s event showed Nash newbies that the vehicles were way, way more than that.

Take, for instance, James Beymer’s 1957 Rambler Rebel.

“I owned one while I was in college,” said Beymer pointing to his spiffy, two-toned Rebel. “It was the second fastest production car from 0-60 seconds, beat only by the fuel-injected Corvette, by one-half second. It was a hot rod. I whipped every Ford and Chevy I came across. I loved it.”

Beymer, of Henryella, Oklahoma, bought another Rebel in 2008 and took four years to restore it. “I did everything except the upholstery,” Beymer said. “There were 1,500 made and they were all the same color.”

There were only three options offered, Beymer said, with his Rebel coming equipped with all three, including air conditioning, indicated by a little metal badge on the driver’s door.

He brought his Rebel to the show in Illinois in a trailer. “I don’t drive it very far,” Beymer said. “My car is 610 out of the 1,500 made and there are only 25 left and only 12 have been restored.”

Parked right next to Beymer, was Charlie and Maggie Wilson’s almost identical 1957 Rebel – same color, but no AC. But they drove their Rebel to the Nashional all the way from their home in Canton, Ohio.

“This is our vacation car,” said Charlie. “For most years when we are going somewhere we are going in the Rebel. We’ve been to New York City and Boston.”

Charlie bought the restored Rebel in Spokane, Washington in 1993. “We drove it into the back of a Ryder rental truck and drove it home,” Charlie said. “The previous owner didn’t think we could drive it back home, but I think we could have.”

The Rebel is powered by a V8 engine and averages between 11-12 miles on the road, Charlie said.

In an artsy flashback to 1952 was Tom and Lisa VandeWettering’s Nash Healey Roadster – a pearl-colored beauty with sleek, cool lines, and big round headlights.

“There are only two of these in Wisconsin,” said Tom, a sixth-generation dairy farmer from Greenleaf, Wisconsin. “There was only 500 of them made. They were made to race at LeMans.”

LeMans is a 24-hour endurance-focused sports car race held annually near the town of Le Mans, France. VandeWettering’s Healey is a three-speed with overdrive powered by an in-line 6-cylinder engine with dual carburetors.

The Nash Healey was designed by Donald Healey, a British sports car builder, and George Mason, president of Nash-Kelvinator.

Tom and Lisa bought their car two years ago in California. “We bought it from a family who had owned it since 1958,” said Lisa. “When we left with it they said you are like one of our kids now.”

Tom said the former elderly owner, also named Tom, sold it because he didn’t feel comfortable driving it any longer. He had named the car “Dollybelle,” a name the VandeWetterings are keeping.

“He named it and we kept the name,” said Lisa. “It was meant to be.”

A Healey recently sold for $149,000. “It really is art,” said Tom.

In a contrast in design and price, sitting next to the Healey, was Bill and Pam Sturgeon’s 1961 Nash Metropolitan coupe – the little Nash “Met,” known for its frugality and petiteness.

“Here we have the most expensive [Healey] and the most economical [Metropolitan],” said Tom.

The Healey sold new for $6,200 while the Met’s MSRP was $1,673.

That variety of design and functionality was evident at the show.

Nash vehicles were built in Kenosha, Wisconsin, starting in 1916 and carry the name of Charles Williams Nash, who was born in Cortland, Illinois, in 1864. Nash was the fifth president for General Motors before forming Nash Motors in 1916.

Nash Motors existed from 1917 to 1954, when the company merged with American Motors Co.

The oldest Nash at the show was a 1918, 683 Cloverleaf, owned by Reggie and Cindi Nash (yes Nash) from Richmond, Virginia.

“I bought the car 50 years ago in Philadelphia,” said Reggie. “It was originally sold by Conrad Brothers in Scranton, Pennsylvania.”

Saturday’s show also included big touring cars, coupes, large Ambassador models, and representing a more recent AMC line – a mighty green 1972 Gremlin, owned by Matt Woodstrup of Sycamore.

Organizers also welcomed other makes and models to join in the show and Jim and Dawn Somers of Lindenwood, Illinois obliged by bringing their 1911 Austin model 45HP. The large touring beauty was purchased by WM. R. Somers at the Chicago Auto Show on May 29, 1911, and has remained in the family for 113 years.

Jim Dworschack, of Soldiers, Wisconsin, and founder of the Nash Car Club of America, drove his 1926 Nash 165 miles to Saturday’s event. “It was a very nice drive,” he said.

He praised the Oregon-area effort in helping stage this year’s event. “We had so much cooperation from the city, park district, and of course Stronghold,” he said. “The Oregon Chamber helped direct us to area attractions. Everyone seemed to like the area.”

On Friday, some club members drove to Nash’s family farm on Route 38 before visiting the Ellwood House Museum, built for barbed wire entrepreneur Isaac Ellwood in DeKalb and the Reagan Home in Dixon before heading to the lodge at White Pines State Park.

Dworschack said the “Nashional” is held in a different location each year, but may come back to Oregon. “We have a history of moving around around, but it is certainly possible,” he said.

This 1921 Nash Touring 6, owned by Trevot Carr, of Sharon, Wisconsin, took part in the Nashional Car Show, held at the Stronghold Camp & Retreat Center, held on Saturday, June 29, 2024.
Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.