Pininfarina Nash Rambler Palm Beach Coupe
During the mid-1950s, Pinin Farina had been experimenting with various "jet-age" themes. The influence of American car design, combined with aerodynamic and technical innovations, inspired Pinin Farina to create some spectacular designs that would pay tribute to the exciting new aerospace technology.
This dramatic theme first appeared in the PF 200, a Lancia with a similar Pinin Farina design which debuted in 1953. In the years that followed, the instantly recognizable circular intake and tubular volumes could be found on a handful of custom bodies that graced everything from Cadillac to Maserati chassis. Several of these PF 200-style cars participated in the contemporary European Concours d'Elegance, often finding great success.
The car in this gallery is a one-off, Nash Rambler based, coupe, named Palm Beach. The Pinin Farina concept was created as a replacement for the Nash-Healey and intended not just as a "dream car" with little hope of reaching the road, but constructed so that it could be introduced to the market in a short period of time.
Although founded on contemporary Nash components, Pinin Farina took a very different approach to construction than did the Americans. Rather than the standard, unitized body, a ladder-type chassis and box-section side members were fabricated and equipped with Nash suspension, engine, gearbox and brake parts. Once the details of the chassis were put to rest, Pinin Farina got to work on the shape. A more unique characteristic of the Palm Beach is that it possesses extraordinarily graceful proportions for such a small car. Ordinarily, on a car of this scale – roughly the size of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta – it is hard to cut a lithe, sporting outline, but here Pinin Farina succeeded, creating a light form and appearance. Not only did the car look trim, compared to the Nash-Healey it was an absolute featherweight.
The front of the car bears a low, sloping hood that transforms into a jet-like oval air-intake, horizontally split flanking vents and covered headlamps. As the profile gently tapers to the tail, one finds gracefully wrapped front and rear window glass, sculpted tailfins, chromed bumper caps, and stylized Rambler "R" emblems - the only hint of a connection with the production Nash Rambler. Between the outward curing fins is a beautifully sculpted rear cowl with two bubbles that exaggerate the two-seat nature of the Nash.
When completed, the Palm Beach was finished in a luminous metallic emerald green paint with a light silver top, dazzling brightwork, specially designed wheel discs and tall whitewall tires. An absolute gem of a car, the petite scale and intricate details made the one-off Nash a sight to behold.
The Palm Beach was prominently displayed on Pinin Farina's stand at the Turin Auto Show alongside the Alfa Romeo Super Flow I and the Lancia America. It was shown at other European venues throughout 1956 before making its American debut at the Henry Ford Museum in spring 1957.
By the time that the beautiful Palm Beach arrived stateside, AMC had terminated the Nash and Hudson nameplate, ending any prospect for the beautiful Pinin Farina show car to enter production. That did not stop the American spectators from falling in love with the little car. One observer in Dearborn was heard to remark, “If AMC would only produce that job, there’d be hundreds of us buying American again.” During the following year, the Palm Beach received enthusiastic coverage in a number of American automotive publications including Motor Trend, who, in August 1957, placed the Palm Beach on the cover and devoted several pages to an analysis of the project.
Once the elegant Palm Beach had finished its tour of duty, it was obtained by the Chairman and CEO of American Motors, Roy Chapin Jr., with whom it stayed for a number of years. Eventually Joe Bortz of Highland Park, Illinois, acquired it for his rapidly expanding collection of 1950's Dream Cars. The Nash was still in remarkably original condition when owned by Mr. Bortz, however, it had been repainted silver and, by the 1990s, was starting to display some cosmetic needs. In this guise, it was displayed on occasion and was again the subject of several magazine articles.
In 2007, a California collector, the late Mr. Jacques Harguindeguy, acquired the Palm Beach and immediately embarked on a concours-quality restoration with the goal of returning the Palm Beach to its show-stand appearance and presenting the car at Pebble Beach. Sadly, Mr. Harguindeguy passed away before he could see the restoration completed, however, his family displayed the car on the lawn in his honor in 2009. Placed in the Postwar Touring class, the Palm Beach presented itself beautifully and attracted much attention throughout the show. Shortly after the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Pinin Farina Nash was displayed at the 2009 Niello Concours at Serrano where it was awarded the “Hot Italian Award” for its sleek, continental coachwork. Today, the Palm Beach looks just as it did when it was on the prestigious Pinin Farina stand and remains a lasting tribute to one of the most fascinating automotive partnerships of the 1950s.