1951 Nash film Proof by Test: 9 Things NOT to do with your Nash

Ever thought about entering your vintage tub Nash in a dirt track competition? Does it take serious impulse control to keep from racing your Rambler Landau up Pikes Peak? Going slack jawed at the thought of going airborne with your Airflyte?

Well, snap out of it! Do you really want to make that call to Hagerty’s afterward? (Would they even believe your lame excuses?) NO!

Instead, check out this ridiculously rare 1951 Nash film, and watch some famous vintage maniacs destroy their Nashes all in the name of safety and reliability.

Proof by Test
was produced by Florez, Inc. They’re the folks who produced all of Nash’s dealer training material like these Nash Metropolitan filmstrips. (As far as I know they didn’t produce many films. In fact, this is the only Florez-made film that I own.)

So how does Nash tackle the formidable challenge of proving that their cars are safer, stronger, and more reliable?

1950 Carrera Panamericana
The original Carrera Panamericana was the most dangerous open road race in the world back in the 1950s. The Mexican government organized it to celebrate finishing something: its portion of the Pan-American Highway.

Organizers allowed anyone with a qualifying 5-seat, stock sedan to enter. That may be one reason the race was so dangerous. Anyone could drive in it. (In fact, a virtual unknown in an Oldsmobile 88 won the race!)
Nash #37
The Official NASCAR Pace Car
driven by NASCAR Daddy Bill France, Sr.

But the founder of NASCAR was no anonymous face. Bill France, Sr., entered the race with a Nash Ambassador. His partner was hot NASCAR driver Curtis Turner. (Incidentally, Turner was the only NASCAR driver to win driving a Nash Ambassador: the Charlotte 150 in April 1951). I love how the car was labeled as “the Official NASCAR Pace Car.” Nash was, indeed, a very early NASCAR sponsor, but zero-point-zero percent of classic car fans remember Nashes as race cars.
Nash #29
Car #29 driven by
José Antonio Solana & Javier Solana

The movie shows France and Turner waving at the newsreel camera, but Turner didn’t finish the race with France. In the 8th of 9 stages, he bought Roy Pat Conner’s Ambassador after Conner became too ill to continue driving. Turner finished the race in third place, but he was disqualified for breaking the rules by changing a car’s crew after the race had begun.
Nash #33
The steady hand of S. Santoyo,
who finished 36th

As France’s Ambassador barrels past the camera, the movie’s narrator exclaims, “And here’s the finish as Nash completes the 2,000-mile grind with flying colors!” These words are truth telling without a lot of truth revealing.

Fact is, France crashed the car, and it didn’t finish the race. Still, he and Turner drove the car back to the States and later raced it on dirt tracks that year.

Final note: Eight Nash Ambassadors were entered into the race. Three of them finished. One of them was driven by S. Santoyo, who finished 36th. For me, the most interesting Nash was Car #116 entered by The People’s Republic of China! It was driven by two Mexicans: Manuel Luz Meneses and José O’Farrill Larranoga. They finished in 39th place.

Pikes Peak
Who could have had a better name for driving up Pikes Peak than Floyd Clymer?

According to my online research, Floyd Clymed Pikes Peak on a 1916 Excelsior motorcycle, in a 1926 Oldsmobile, a 1947 Kaiser Special, a 1957 Metropolitan, a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, and god knows what else on wheels. Clymer was a relentless promoter and publisher who was always trying to get his name and face in print. He practically invented auto history journalism with his endless series of Historical Motor Scrapbooks back in the 1940s. He was publishing the yearly Indianapolis 500 scrapbook until the day he died in January 1970.

Clymer always seemed to be pitching some promotional angle related to cars, so it should be no surprise that he successfully convinced Nash to film him driving his 1950 Rambler Landau up Pikes Peak. I’m surprised he did it with the top up.

1950 Mobilgas Economy Run
Wish I could tell you more about this, but the film got chopped u--

Stock car racing
Although the film lurches into this section without any warning, there’s plenty of great footage of Herschel Buchanan racing his Nash Ambassador in the dirt.
Dirt track Nash
Herschel Buchanan at the wheel

Hudson always get the glory for winning early 1950s stock car races, but Nash was also on the track always plugging away. Buchanan won a lot of IMCA Stock Car races with his tub. Indeed, 1950 was one of his best years with Nash. According to Ultimateracing.com, he won 9 races and finished in second place four times.

Nash seems pretty justified in making their claims that “power, acceleration, and ability to maintain top speeds hour after hour enabled the Nash Airflyte to outdistance heavier, more expensive cars in dirt track competition.” At least for 1950.

Lucky Lee Lott and the Hell Drivers
There were a lot of stunt drivers back in Lee Lott’s day. Joie Chitwood smashed up Chevrolets. Aut Swenson destroyed Kaiser-Frazers. There was even another Lucky: Earl “Lucky” Teter, who mangled Plymouths (and died in one while doing a 150-foot jump in his last show before quitting to help the war effort in 1942).

Nash on 2 wheels

There is a great Jam Handy film dedicated to Joie Chitwood. There’s also this action-packed commercial featuring Aut Swenson’s drivers for Phillips 66 Tires. But there’s not that much good footage of Lucky Lee Lott. A few home movies at best.

However, when I saw this segment, I knew I had some really rare footage. Lucky Lee Lott swore by Nash and crashed with Nash throughout his entire career. The sequence in this film shows his hell drivers pulling off a lot of stunts. Two-wheel ramps. Criss-crossing two-wheel ramps. A broad jump. We even see Lee wreck a 1941 Nash and climb out of it unharmed while doing his trademark pose for the fairground audience.

My favorite move is the reverse slide skid. It’s a commonplace stunt in movies today, but I can’t imagine trying it with the automotive equivalent of a humpback whale. (Calm down, haters. I love the Airflytes! They are enablers for romantic activity. But let’s face it. They’re, um, bulbous.)

(BTW, if you want to see a good movie about hell drivers in general, check out Pete Koziell’s documentary Hell Drivers: America’s Original Crash Test Dummies. I wish I had this footage available when he made it.)


As we park this baby in the garage, I have some common sense, whack-me-in-the-frontal-lobe-with-a-shovel tips for avoiding impending doom while driving a Nash Airflyte (Rambler, Statesman, or Ambassador):

  1. Don’t drive it in a dirt track race.
  2. Don’t drive it in the Carrera Panamericana race.
  3. Don’t drive it really fast up Pikes Peak.
  4. Don’t drive side-by-side with another Nash and go sideways on a two-wheel ramp. (You’ll end up looking like a typical highway pileup in an old CHiPs episode.)
  5. In fact, don’t do any kind of two-wheel ramp jump. Your masculinity is already secure. I affirm you in advance. You have nothing to prove.
  6. Don’t try to drive your Nash on two wheels. (See #5.)
  7. Don’t drive your Nash through a “blazing board wall” with another guy on the hood. (It’s not the kind of “Airflyte ride” you want to enjoy, especially if you’re the designated hood ornament.)
  8. Don’t try to create your own rollover accident. (You can do this in a newer car. Just keep texting.)
  9. Don’t do a reverse skid slide.

Just watch the movie instead, and save yourself the spinal cord compression surgery.


Gone Autos Podcast #8: Tim Dye, extreme Pontiac collector

Tim Dye is a self-professed Extreme Collector. It’s on the cover of his book The Extreme Collector #1: Pontiac-Oakland Memorabilia.

Tim i
s a well-known Pontiac automobilia expert, and he earned that title by amassing an incredible collection that spans from the Pontiac Buggy Co. of the early 1900s through the Oakland Motor Car Company years to the end of the Pontiac Division of GM in 2009.

But what’s the difference between collectors like Tim and the hot messes you see on reality TV shows like Hoarders?

I think the major difference is that Tim has done the most important thing with his collection: he’s sharing it. He wrote a gorgeous book featuring dozens of items from his collection. And then he started a museum devoted to it.

Tim is my guest on Gone Autos Podcast #8. You can listen to it here, or download it to your iPod through iTunes.

(If you listen to this podcast through iTunes, please leave us a review. We’d love to hear your feedback. Plus, your reviews can help our iTunes ranking, which encourages us to bring you more podcasts like this one.)


My contribution: if you’ve listened to my previous podcasts or read a few of my blog posts, you know that I collect vintage car radio commercials, especially orphan brands. So I threw a few of my own Pontiac collectibles into the audio gumbo.

The first is a 1935 radio spot featuring America’s Ace of Aces, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. This recording is mega-rare and was
35 Pontiac label-side 1
distributed on a 33 1/3 RPM record at the dawn of radio commercial distribution. It would have been very expensive to distribute commercials this way, especially during The Great Depression. Only large companies like carmakers could have afforded it.

The record itself is notable, because it features two tracks that have X marks scratched throughout. I always wondered why, so I sacrificed a turntable needle to play those tracks. In between jumps, skips, and loud, rude noises caused by the needle dancing over those Xes, I learned that those tracks were mistakes. Captain Eddie would flub a line, and they would stop.

These days, you would simply erase those tracks. But back in the 1930s, the track was recorded live, all at once. The cutting needle was recording onto a master as Captain Eddie spoke into the mic. Since there was no erasing, all they could do was scratch X marks into the botched tracks to give DJs a clue about which tracks to play or avoid. I’ve never seen another recording from that era quite like it.

The second radio spot is really recognizable to 1960s Pontiac fans. The Breakaway jingle by Steve Karmen was a huge hit and was later used as the basis for a dance track in Britain.
69 Pontiac-Side 2

You can see from the label the jingle was recorded in several different styles. They’re all really entertaining to listen to even today. The music is so good that Steve Karmen took the song and recorded a pop version with soul singer Jimmy Radcliffe doing the vocals. Exact same music but with vocals and no Pontiac name check.

(I think Tim Dye would appreciate my geeky analysis of my own collectibles. We’re all alike that way.)

Eydie & Plymouth: her career climax?

Sadly, Eydie Gorme left us for that great gig in the sky on Saturday, August 10th.

She was a great vocal stylist. Together with her husband Steve Lawrence, she was half of the ultimate über-lounge nightclub act.

But what does this have to do with orphan cars? Well, nothing, I guess. I don’t know what I was thinking by bringing it up. I blame my cronut addiction. I blame it on the bossa nova. I blame it….WAIT A MINUTE!