The appeal of the Frazer-Nash

[Peter J. Robertson-Rodger has just purchased another Frazer-Nash and here explains why he finds these cars – which share with the old-school Bentleys the distinction of being in perhaps greater demand now than before the war – quite irresistible. – Ed.]

There are few, I feel, who would deny that ‘Nash ownership is a habit easily formed, which, if left unchecked, can very soon become a cult. For a time you think you can take it or leave it alone, but in the end it gets you. A ‘Nash definitely leaves its mark on a man; anyone who has mended a chain in the dark in evening clothes, or, having discarded his hood (in deference to his social obligations as a ‘Nash owner), endeavoured to explain its absence to “The Boss” when she is passing biting comments on being caught in such a car in a sleet storm in mid-June, can never be quite the same man again.

But such hazards notwithstanding, one’s memories of ‘Nashes, mellowed by time and with the more awful moments either forgotten or remembered with a smile, are uplifting in the extreme. Carried along on a flood of such memories, I became a ‘Nash owner again a few months ago and re-acquaintance with the make prompted these musings. My introduction to Frazer-Nash motoring was by way of a 1927 model with the Anzani engine, which I had around 1934-5. No little love and expense was lavished upon this most pleasant car, and it was used for many thousands of miles for business purposes. Incredible though it seems now, I once went for a Month’s “commercial travelling” in midwinter without returning to base, experienced no trouble at all and turned up at each destination complete with bowler hat, brief case and elegantly creased trousers, a feat of which I have always been rather proud.

The car was eventually parted with after a rather amazing mishap. A man driving a one-horse buggy emerged with astounding suddenness from a blind turning, and I hit the cart, quite gently. After a brief, but rhetorically satisfying, interview with the half-wit, I found, to my utter confusion, that the entire front end of the ‘Nash had fallen off and both front wheels were lying flat on the ground. The works, when informed of the trifling misadventure, told me with disarming frankness that “that often happens.” So the ‘Nash was exchanged for a Type 34 B.M.W., a wonderfully satisfactory car, which still serves me faithfully. But the car had left its mark on me. I knew this was so, because the idea of having a ‘Nash again visited me regularly, usually about the vernal equinox, just as other people get afflicted With the desire to possess Grand Prix Bugattis “in full touring trim.” So, reasoning that after the War the pound would be worth about half a dollar, but that a car would still be worth what it is now, I acquired my present ‘Nash, and resumed for a few hundred miles the enjoyable manner of going about that I had missed for so long.

This car, MV 176, has had about as sheltered a life as a car could desire. Sprung on the world in October, 1931, it changed hands the following year and remained with its new owner, a Mr. Ingman, until the end of last year. Mr. Ingman was an enthusiastic owner and effected many alterations and improvements. Thus one finds that new front and back axles of later type were fitted, while in 1934 a new Meadows engine of current specification was installed, nearly everything about the car being in most excellent condition.

I am unaware what model it is – around this time the Frazer-Nash range was rather complicated, the cars somehow evolving rapidly from the semi-cyclecar stage, but not having attained the more “civilised” and therefore heavier bodywork and knick-knacks which came later. As an example, the frame weaves about, depends greatly on the engine to keep it together, and if a foolhardy mortal can be persuaded to occupy the sort of hip bath which does duty as a “rear compartment,” the hand brake tends to bind. But, on the whole, it is probably about the best type of ‘Nash one could buy, being doubly blessed with old-type lightness and a late-type engine. Additional refinements are improved shock absorbers and Nitralloy-lined brake drums.

A certain amount of work was put in after taking delivery, including a re-spray and the fitting of new chains. The performance seems excellent, and the car runs up to over 80 m.p.h. on the current issue of smelly hydro-carbons with little complaint, while a carefully conducted fuel-consumption test returned the remarkable figure of 36.5 m.p.g. Naturally, the handling is almost beyond praise, and Sam Clutton and I had an amusing morning proving this to our mutual joy on ice and snowbound roads in the recent past. The delight of really high-geared steering, requiring the conductor to merely lean on the wheel, and the wonderful sense of certain control it gives, is a blessing for which I am completely willing to sacrifice some of the so-called “amenities” of supposedly more modern designs. If only the designers of some of the bulbous monstrosities recently foisted upon an apparently receptive public could be persuaded, or compelled, to drive a ‘Nash for a few days, and then one of their own creations, could one dare hope for an improvement in controllability, visibility and general safety?

Pondering the design of the car as a whole one is impressed anew with the complete common sense of the structure, down to the smallest detail. There is no compromise; the designers were prepared to stand or fall by their convictions. To attain their end they have gone from A direct to B, instead of via C, D, E and F, saving complication, manufacturing costs and weight. A simple example comes to mind: the method of seat adjustment. Instead of the usual complicated system of levers, holes and runners, which inevitably get clogged up and cease to work satisfactorily, the seats in my car are slotted to run on two threaded studs which project upwards from the floorboards, the seat being held in the desired position by two wing nuts. Q, so to speak, E. D.

Taken by and large, this further experience of the Frazer-Nash has left me amazed that they should have so far declined in popularity that their manufacture had almost ceased at the outbreak of war. It seems a dreadful indication of the trend of future events. I know the design, by “modern” standards, is out of date. I know that super-streamlined, ultra-efficient, self-changing, independently-sprung, plastic-bodied motor-cars are the conveyances of the future, cars indeed that will almost think for you. Perhaps mine may be a voice crying in the wilderness, but is it too much to hope that, amongst all these glories, one manufacturer will continue to market a nice simple, tough, unadorned sports car, with an engine you can feel working, springing that is beneficial to the liver and a complete absence of automatic electrical whatnots?

If there is, I hope his products may closely resemble the Frazer-Nash.