Rambler: 50 years of fond memories

By Kevin Ball -
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OLD MEMORIES: Jeff and Christine Percy, of Masterton, with their 1956 Nash Rambler.
OLD MEMORIES: Jeff and Christine Percy, of Masterton, with their 1956 Nash Rambler.

I guess we've all had the experience of a song that sticks in the memory and plays continuously. They're called earworms, and they can drive you nuts.

My latest one started the day we went on a Vintage Car Club outing to White Rock Station, and Jeff and Christine Percy, of Masterton, turned up in a 1956 Nash Rambler.

Now there's a name that takes you back. Remember the song about a dude driving along in his Cadillac and a fellow in a little Nash Rambler trying to pass him ... "beep, beep, beep, beep, his horn went beep, beep, beep".

I simply had to check it out, and in so doing came across a love story 50 years old and counting.

Let's go back a bit. The Nash Rambler was produced by the Nash Motors division of Nash -Kelvinator Corporation from 1950 to 1954. In 1954, Nash-Kelvinator merged with Hudson to form American Motors Corporation (AMC). The Nash Rambler was then built by AMC from 1955.

The Nash Rambler is widely acknowledged to be the first successful modern American compact car.

The 1956 model had a six-cylinder engine. A V8 model was added in 1957.

The 1956 cars were converted to right-hand drive (somewhat crudely because some minor controls had to be operated by the passenger!) and shipped to NZ. Later models were assembled in Australia.

Jeff Percy's first job was as a spraypainter with Lennie Miller (whose sons are still in the trade). He moved to Austin dealer WFCA, in the parts department, and then Wright Stephenson, when that firm bought WFCA out. After doing his military training he joined his father at Kuripuni Motors as a panelbeater/painter.

Jeff's owned dozens of cars, notable early ones being a Ford 10 convertible and a Ford Mainline ute. He traded that in on his first Nash Rambler. "It was different, I just liked it," he recalls. The CCD (Come Closer Darling) bench seat in the front particularly appealed, as did the comfortable ride, aided by dual overdrives (a low-gear manual and high-gear electric). "It was a beautiful cruiser," Jeff recalls.

He had known Christine since she was 9 and when she was a teenager they started going out together. On one occasion, suitably chaperoned of course, four of them travelled as far as The Chateau, sleeping four in a row on the folded-down seats. They did their courting in the Nash Rambler, and it was happy memories of those times that came to the fore when Jeff spotted the current car on Trade Me. He had to have it, so it joined a couple of moderns, a pair of campers (one big, one small), a vintage Vauxhall and Christine's Dad's A40 Devon in the family stable.

And when Jeff and Christine's Golden Wedding rolls around (it's coming up; they got engaged 50 years ago) no prizes for guessing what they'll take to the road in.

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