Love of a lifetime: A 1948 Nash convertible

Sharon Thatcher Old Cars Weekly |

In 1948, with World War II material shortages fading into the history books, manufacturers like Nash were gearing up to satisfy pent-up demand for goods.

From design portfolios to reality came custom versions of the two-door Brougham and the four-door Slip Stream (fast-back) and Trunk Sedan.



The convertible top has been replaced, but little else
in this nicely preserved Nash. Some of the options
include a "Weather Eye Conditioned Air" system,
radio with floor-operated signal seeker, and 3-speed
overdrive, all of which are still fully operational. It
sports its original Strato Blue exterior with tan interior.

But also, for the first time since 1941, Nash offered a full-size convertible model, the Nash Ambassador two-door.

Because convertible production was limited to just 1,000 cars, Nash Motors allowed only one per major dealership. Eighteen-year-old Eugene Schlabaugh made sure his dad’s Warren, Ohio, dealership was one of them.

Schlabaugh became the car’s titled owner a year later, and he never gave it up until his death in the spring of 2009.

Pittsburgh auto dealer Russ Nairn then acquired the nicely preserved Nash. He is amazed by the car’s history and its terrific survivor-car condition, especially in light of the fact that it has surpassed the 100,000-mile mark.
“Eugene went into the service and spent time in Korea, then used the car to commute to and from Ft. Eustis, Va.,” Nairn said.

It continued to see regular use over the years.

“Upon his return to the Warren area after the service, [Schlabaugh] went to work at the dealership as a mechanic,” Nairn said. When Nash dealerships were dissolved, Schlabaugh and his brother Art opened their own service station.

The only major change Schlabaugh ever made to his Nash Ambassador was to install a more powerful engine. “When, in 1951, Nash started building the first American sports car — the Nash Healy Roadster with the Lemans Engine, twin carbs, etc. — Eugene had to have one for the convertible he loved,” Nairn said.

The six-cylinder engine with three-speed overdrive transmission served Schlabaugh faithfully for the next five decades.

“By today’s standards, it would not be considered a hot rod, but as Eugene cruised Route 66 in the ’60s, until the interstates of today, it is reported he cruised with the best of them and was very proud of his Nash convertible and all the history it possessed,” Nairn says.

“It served him well,” he adds. “It took him from coast to coast and everywhere in between, plus Canada.”
But just as the car provided great service to Schlabaugh, he provided great service to the car.

“If you look in this car and under it, where every grease fitting drips with grease, to the original upholstery that looks like a ’90s car, original paint, thin in spots, just attests to the patina this car drips with,” Nairn said. “The car drives just fantastic. Glass is perfect, wipers work like they did when new. Even the front mat is in great shape.”

To document his work, Schlabaugh started a logbook in 1960. “It covers every place the car went in its life from that point until late 2008,” Nairn said. “All oil changes were recorded, repairs … all mileage.”

As a Nash mechanic, Schlabaugh did some minor customization over the years, installing various switches and gauges. Instructions for the operation of everything is explained in his notes.

Although the Nash is a car that is special to Nairn, he is by profession a car dealer, and as such was looking for a new owner when Old Cars Weekly caught up with him at the 2009 Hershey Meet. But he is hoping it is someone who continues to preserve its survivor condition.

“Its lifelong owner… would certainly be thrilled to know it was preserved as he kept it,” he says.

“Drive it anywhere you want to go. Eugene Schlabaugh did his whole life.”

 


 

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