The Nash Ambassador was produced from 1932 through 1957. When Nash merged with Hudson Motors in 1954, the Ambassador name was continued, though it was now known as the AMC Ambassador. The name persisted until 1974.
The Ambassador was Nash's top-of-the-line offering when first introduced. These vehicles were outfitted with fine upholstery and luxury amenities. The base price was set at $2,090. In 1929 Nash offered a nine-passenger limousine which became their most expensive vehicle at the time, displacing the title from the Ambassador. The limousine held this title until 1934.
In 1930 the Nash was given an eight-cylinder engine, replacing the previous six-cylinder unit. By 1932 the Nash Ambassador Eight had become its own model range offered in a variety of body styles and riding on either a 133-inch or 142-inch wheelbase. Their reputation for quality and durability continued. The early 1930's was a difficult time for almost every automobile manufacturer. The Great Depression bankrupted most companies. GM and Nash were the only companies to make a profit in 1932.
In 1934 the Nash was offered only in four-door sedan body styles. The following year a two-door sedan was added to the model lineup. The Ambassador Eight now rested upon a 125-inch wheelbase.
Nash acquired the Kelvinator Corporation in 1937. George W. Mason was chosen by Charlie Nash to become the President of the newly formed Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. This was the same year that coupes and convertibles were returned to the Ambassador line-up.
In 1941 all Nash automobiles were Ambassadors and offered in a variety of body styles. Short and long wheelbase sizes were available.
From 1942 through 1945, the production of Nash automobiles, and all other vehicles, was suspended during the World War II efforts. When production resumed the Nash Ambassador was no longer offered. The new top-of-the-line offering was now the Ambassador Six.
The Ambassador was giving styling improvements to attract new buyers in the post-war era. They featured enclosed front wheels, luxurious amenities, and aerodynamic styling.
The Nash was restyled again in 1952. It would last until 1957 when the company merged with Hudson and became known as AMC. The wrap-around windshield design and new front-end ensemble were but a few of the changes. The wheel cover hiding the front wheels was shortened, revealing more of the tires. The buyer had the opportunity to purchase the car with an eight-cylinder engine. The V8 was a Packard unit and was mated to an Ultra-Matic automatic gearbox, also of Packard's design.
Pininfarina was commissioned to create a version of the Ambassador for 1952. The resulting product was known as the Golden Anniversary Pininfarina Nash.
In an effort to stimulate sales, the 1956 and 1957 Nash automobiles were offered in a variety of two- and three-tone color schemes. For 1957 the headlights came equipped in 'quad' headlight configuration. They were the first cars to have this feature.
When the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation formed with Hudson Motors in January of 1954 they formed the American Motor Corporation, more commonly known as AMC. During this time, the sales from the Rambler provided the most income for the company. Sales of the Ambassador, however, were not very favorable. The Hudson and Nash brand name was no longer used after 1958.
The Rambler would continue as a standalone make of American Motors. The public associated the Rambler name with 'compact' and 'economy'. Senior management decided that the Ambassador name, having a long tradition, would continue to persist, though it would ride on the coattails of the Rambler popularity.
The Ambassador of 1958, marketed as the Ambassador V8 by Rambler, shared the basic design of the Rebel V8 and the Rambler Six. On the front of the car, though a little confusing, was the name Rambler Ambassador. The Ambassador was long and wide, riding on a 117-inch wheelbase. It was offered as a four-door sedan, four-door hardtop sedan, four-door pillared station wagon, and hardtop station wagon. Trim levels were available which allowed a level of uniqueness. The 'Super' trim level, for example, featured painted side trim. The 'Custom' trim level was given silver anodized aluminum panels on sedans and vinyl wood-grain panels on station wagons.
After 1960 the Ambassador was no longer offered with the hardtop station wagon or hardtop sedan.
Edmund Anderson restyled the front end of the Ambassador in 1961, giving it a new front-end ensemble consisting of the redesigned grille, fenders, and headlights. This was done to distinguish the car from the rest of the vehicles on the road at the time and to further distance itself from the lower-priced Rambler series. Unfortunately, the public did not agree with the design, and sales reflected their discontent.
For 1962 the Ambassador and the rest of the AMC line-up were restyled. The Ambassador now lay on a 112-inch wheelbase. Changes followed throughout the next few years, including minor trim changes and options. The AMC philosophy that the public wanted smaller, economical cars still influenced their vehicles and design. But by 1965 this idea was beginning to fade as AMC was beginning to believe that they could move up-market and take on the larger auto-makers in the mainstream market.
The first step in convincing the public that they could compete was to phase out the Rambler, their symbol of compact and economy. The Ambassador was re-badged as a product of AMC, rather than bearing the Rambler name. There were three trim levels available on the Ambassador, the 880, 990, and DPL. In 1967 AMC introduced the restyled Ambassador which now sat on a long, 118-inch wheelbase and was targeted at the luxury car segment. 1260 examples of the convertible were offered; this would be its final year.
The gamble to move into a new market was not a success and ushered in financial difficulties for American Motors. The company struggled to improve its products and regain firm financial footing.
In 1968 AMC became the first automaker to make air conditioning standard in their cars. The work done by their Kelvinator division had aided in making this milestone a reality. This separated their products from what other manufacturers were offering. Rolls-Royce was the only other marque to offer their products with AC as standard equipment. Ordering the cars without AC was still an option; it was seen as a 'delete option' and the buyer would be giving a credit to the base price.
The Ambassador was restyled in 1969. Part of that re-design was a longer, 122-inch wheelbase. This allowed for larger engines under the hood and more interior room for its occupants. The trunk room expanded and now could accommodate much more luggage. Minor changes followed in the following years, though AMC stuck with their philosophy of 'Timeless Design' rather than incremental improvements.
In 1972 they did something to reinforce their commitment to quality - they introduced the 'Buyer Protection Plan.' This not only guaranteed to the buyer of a quality product, but motivated AMC to re-examine their design, development, and production methods. AMC introduced new quality controls into their processes and demanded higher quality from their suppliers. Engineering improvements were implemented.
The US Government had been introducing new regulations. The public and insurance agencies were demanding safety improvements in all vehicles. Part of these concerns was the ever-increasing muscle cars which were becoming lighter and faster. This, compounded with the impending Arab Oil Embargo of the early 1970's sent auto-manufacturers scrambling to introduce compact and fuel-efficient vehicles. The Ambassador found itself in the unpopular spectrum of the market. Its large V8 engines were not kind at the fuel pump.
A new Ambassador had been in the works for a number of years and in 1973 was introduced as a 1974 model. It was available only as a four-door sedan and station wagon. The two-door hardtop had ceased in 1973. The Ambassador was even bigger than before, growing by seven inches. Part of this growth was due to the new safety features, such as the five-mph bumpers. The interior was redesigned, a larger fuel tank was added, and sound insulation was installed to control exterior noise.
When the fuel crisis was in full swing, the sales of the Ambassador plummeted. By June of 1974, the Ambassador's name was discontinued. It had been in service for 42 years.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006