The New York Times features a collectors item – a 1950s car designed for outdoor sporty types to sleep in. The journalist spent the night in an antique S.U.V. — a Nash Airflyte, or ”Bathtub Nash” to the initiated.
In the early 1950s it was the vehicle of choice for outdoorsmen, with seats that turned into a reasonably comfortable double bed.
“And,” says the Times “” it was among the first vehicles to pose this question: Why bother buying a second home, when you can set one on four wheels and take it with you wherever you go?
The paper interviews Jim Dworschack, who bought his first Nash — a 1948 Model 600 — age 14. He became a consulting engineer,based in an off-grid cabin outside Soldiers Grove in southwestern Wisconsin.
Taking a Nash fishing is the time-capsule equivalent of taking a Land Rover rock-hopping. Fishing and hunting were the main outdoor activities of the 1950s, and an outdoor vehicle’s main task was ferrying anglers or hunters and their gear to where the fish or game was. The Bathtub Nash did a lot of that hauling back then, and threw in a George Petty-designed hood ornament for a total cost of around $2,500.
The front bench was a sofa and the back seats easy chairs. The seating position encouraged the sensation that the driver and the scenery were being projected in Panavision, and that any minute Spencer Tracy might turn around from the driver’s seat and ask, ”Everything O.K. back there?”
With a Bathtub Nash, stopping for the night was simplicity itself: turn down the nearest two-track rut of a road, unload the grub, start a fire, make dinner, fold down the seats, slide the screens over the windows, then sleep tight. Extra blankets were a must, not because of the early-morning chill but because, as Mr. Dworschack said, ”You need to alleviate some of the irregularities.” In other words, the back seat goes uphill, the back of the front seat goes downhill, and watch out for the ravines in the middle. The Nash folks knew what they were doing when they offered mattresses that fit over the seats.
If Nash ads can be believed, late sleepers often kept snoozing in the passenger-side bed while a driver tooled down the road. Doctors were told the convertible bed made the Nash a mini-ambulance, a lifesaver. Undertakers got the same spiel, minus the lifesaving.
Surviving Nashes are often hot-rodded or customized, a trend that caused Mr. Dworschack to lament the fading away of his favorite car.