In 1950, the Nash Motor Corporation, one of the leading independent US auto manufacturers, decided to test public reaction to a new small car they were considering putting into production. This was a revolutionary concept in those days of big gas guzzlers.They issued a questionnaire pamphlet called a "surview" showing pictures of a prototype concept car, based on a design by independent auto designer William Flajole, with a reply-paid envelope for people to return their opinion on the car. Quite an innovative strategy for the time.
Following various design modifications, the first Metropolitans rolled off the Longbridge production line in October 1953, and went on sale in the US in the spring of 1954. Early versions were fitted with a 1200cc engine and are recognisable by a "floating bar" grille, and separate body colours for body and roof. None of these early cars were released on the home (UK) market - the entire production until 1957 was for export only.
By the time the first Mets arrived in America, Nash had merged with another independent auto maker, Hudson. Mets were badged as either Nashes or Hudsons, depending upon which dealer sold them.
When the Met was released on the home UK market, in 1957, it had already earned millions of vital export dollars for the British car industry. The engine had been upgraded to the proven BMC "B" series 1500cc unit used in a wide variety of other BMC cars, which had a power output of around 55bhp, giving quite a lively performance in such a light-bodied car. The car was not known as a Nash in the UK though it is sometimes wrongly referred to as such. UK-supplied cars are correctly described as Austin Metropolitans, though they bear no Austin badging.
The above picture shows the later version, with two-tone body colour separated by a stainless steel side strip, and the "mesh" type front grille.
The Metropolitan continued in production virtually unaltered until 1961, a long time considering that annual body styling changes were the norm in those days.
Today the Metropolitan is a rare sight on British roads, although they continue to be plentiful in North America, the true source of the inspiration for this remarkable little car.
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