Double Take - 1957 MetropolitanTalk about small

The Metropolitan is one of those cars that would pop up now and then but never really spur me to do any research on. Well, my parents tipped me off about one that was local so I grabbed my camera and set out to get a closer look.

Funny thing is, this writeup isn’t focused on that particular car, but I’ll get to that in a moment. In doing the research for this post, I learned some interesting things about the tiny transport.

For example, I had no idea that earlier Metropolitan models bizarrely lack a major feature at the rear of the car. Think you know what it is?



A usual beginning
1950 Nash NXI conceptMany new models begin life as a concept car and in that regard the Metropolitan is no different. To the right is a picture of its humble beginnings.

It’s called the NXI (Nash Experimental International) concept and was being displayed at private showings as early as January 1950 to gauge reaction and potential demand.

The demand was there but it still took American Motors Corp. (AMC) president George Mason until the end of 1953 to get everything in order to produce the car. That task required a lot of international coordination.

Even though it was designed, engineered and marketed in America, and sold domestically through AMC’s Nash brand, its bodies and running gear, including engine, were products of England. In fact, they even handled all of the assembly before being loaded on boats and shipped to the states.

As a result, the car is billed as the first North American-only car to be entirely assembled in Europe.

An unusual encounter
Okay, so remember I mentioned the car that this post is about isn’t the car I initially set out to photograph? On that outing I needed to also stop by the local electronics store so I headed there first. In the parking lot of a nearby restaurant I coincidentally beheld another Metropolitan. A really clean example from 1957.

1957 Nash Metropolitan front fenderOne thing that should be made clear is that the Metropolitan for 1957 was called only that. From its first year, 1954, the car had been called the Nash Metropolitan. In 1955 Nash’s sister brand, Hudson, spawned a badge-engineered version by the same name (only the grille’s badge and steering wheel’s hub were different).

In 1958, the Metropolitan shed the Nash and Hudson prefixes becoming its own make and, from then on, was known simply as Metropolitan. These are the types of nuances only fans would be able to memorize.

Even more confusing, model years and updates didn’t always correspond so, from what I can tell, they are sort of difficult to categorize apart from their series numbers.

But back to my fortunate encounter. Not only was it cool that I’d had the chance run-in, but this red and white copy happened to be parked next to a couple of vehicles that were perfect for a size comparison. Take a look at the Metropolitan in the picture below, the Honda Civic to its left, and the Nissan Altima next over from that.

1957 Metropolitan size compare

By chance, all three were two-door models, with rear seats. (Yes, the Metropolitan has a rear bench; although, I think it only seats one kid. Sideways. Honestly.) But look at the size differences.

The middle car, the Civic, is a compact but it looked positively full sized next to the Met which made the Altima look like a land yacht.

Continued on page 2, below.

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