Once a year, when it came time to travel to the family reunion, Lawrence Henderson pulled his black 1949 Nash 600 Super from its garage, dusted it off, drove there and back, washed it down, then drove it back into the garage to await next year’s reunion.
“He just didn’t drive it,” said Clyde Henderson, Lawrence’s nephew. “Maybe once it a while he took it out in the summer for a drive around town, but he had another car, an old Chevrolet, that he drove most of the time.”
Whether he bought it intending to preserve it, Clyde couldn’t say, but Lawrence’s efforts have led to perhaps the world’s finest and lowest-mileage unrestored Airflyte Nash, chassis number K280520, which will head to auction next week.
As Clyde Henderson describes him, his uncle was not a man of extravagant means. He worked briefly as a mechanic before going to work as a roofer in his hometown of Grafton, West Virginia. He mowed lawns in the summer and didn’t say much about the Nash.
“It was before my time when he got it, so I don’t know why he bought it or why he didn’t drive it much,” Clyde said. “All I really remember is that it came from the dealer with paper like shopping bag paper on the inside of the doors, and he never took it off, it just fell off on its own over time.”
While not a particularly rare car – Nash built more 600 Super four-door sedans that year, 54,800, than any other trim and bodystyle – the black sedan that Lawrence Henderson bought new featured the same streamlined fastback body styling, skirted front and rear fenders, and Unibody construction that distinguished the company’s first all-new design since before World War II. The 600’s 82hp 172.6-cu.in. six-cylinder engine didn’t win many races like the larger Ambassador’s 115hp 235-cu.in. six-cylinder did, but combined with the compact car’s sub-3,000-pound weight it could return 25 miles to the gallon.
That means Lawrence Henderson filled the 20-gallon tank of the 600 no more than 12 times in putting about 5,600 miles on the odometer during the 35 years he owned the car.
After his death in 1984, Lawrence left the car to his brother, who in turn left it and a few other collector cars – three Chevrolets and a Ford Model A – to Clyde.
Clyde held on to the five until about 2005, when he admitted to himself that they weren’t getting out of the garage much. “I hated seeing them do nothing, so I got rid of them all,” he said.
In all those years, the only deterioration Clyde ever noted was a bit of staining below the backlite where the rubber seal around the glass had leaked. Other than that, the 600 remained as his uncle kept it.
In the years since Clyde sold the Nash, it has moved to California, where, according to the Gooding & Co. description of the car, it has remained in pristine condition, still wearing its original Goodyear Super Cushion bias-ply tires.
Gooding’s pre-auction estimate for the car, which will cross the block March 9 at its Amelia Island auction, ranges from $35,000 to $45,000. For more information about Gooding’s Amelia Island auction, visit GoodingCo.com.