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Kulp on Cars: Relative Motion

by Sam Kulp

My good friend and mechanic loves old Mopar Muscle cars.  Stuff like old Dodge Chargers and Plymouth Barracudas, the kind of cars that would do a burnout to and from the grocery store if you wanted them to. So when I saw what his newest project car was, I thought he finally ingested more carbon monoxide than his handlebar moustache could filter out.

It was a 1958 Nash Metropolitan, a tiny yellow British thing that I had never heard of in my life. It was built by Nash as the “second car of the family.” The drop-your-kids-off-at-school car. The I-probably-shouldn’t-take-the-hudson-because-it-gets-2-mpg car. It was one of America’s few small economy cars, and it seemed to do the trick; Motor Trend’s reported 27.4 to upwards to almost 40 mpg.

Sitting in the Metro, you understand truly what a small car is. Compacts like Ford Fiestas look like full-sized sedans next to it, and SUVs might pass for military vehicles. I wouldn’t want to imagine the horror of taking this in traffic with semis around me. It was so light that if one passed the metro it would probably blow it away. Every time I would rest an elbow or hand on it, the suspension threatened to collapse. But if it’s lighter then that means it would go faster, ish, right?

Define “fast?” accounting for all the cars ever made, most if not all modern cars are fast. My Ford Focus can get to sixty from the light in about 7 seconds if I get the shifts right. In today’s world, that’s about average. Tesla’s new model S P100d can do the deed in under 2 seconds. So, to be kind, I’ll compare the little Nash relative to the machines it CAN compete with.

When Road and Track clocked the same-year VW beetle’s 0-60 time at a somnambulant 39.2 seconds. The Nash could do the same job in HALF the time. Blistering, if you ask me. The Nash’s engine pumped 40 pub-crawling British horsepower. That was 4 more than the Volkswagen at the time and, even more impressively, twice the amount of horses that my dad’s lawn mower can produce.

I cannot wait to drive such a lovely machine.

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