For many years now car people have embraced the “Dare To Be Different” slogan, made mainstream by Hot Rod Magazine a while back. The basic premise is; Why have a car just like everyone else? When walking around a cruise-in or car show, those vehicles that stick out from the crowd usually draw the most attention....in part because there isn’t anything else like it in attendance. Of course the second part of that equation is the idea also has to be well executed, or you just wind up with an oddball that draws people in much the same way a sideshow act in the circus does. Dan Zapico’s latest ride, a 1951 Nash Rambler Wagon, gets both parts right. It is certainly different (how many have you seen around?), and it is also well executed. That is why when he was offered the car in a trade, he went ahead and pulled the trigger.
Though we don’t know who the original builder was, quite a bit of work went into making this Nash Wagon what you see today. To start with, the original frame was replaced with a Chevy S-10 unit, complete with the S-10 factory front suspension and steering box. The rear suspension is also stock S-10, giving the car a great ride. Also, since all the brakes and such are S-10 items, you can get parts easily if needed. A 350 Chevy engine was then installed, replacing the original 82 horsepower 6-cylinder engine. A very unique air cleaner assembly tops the 4-barrel carb, and other dress-up items add some flash to the engine compartment. Shifting duties are handled by a 700R4 overdrive automatic for great highway cruising.
The body received its share of changes, starting with being nosed and decked, plus the door handles removed. The exhaust exits through the body just in front of the rear tires, with stylized openings. The headlights were smoothed, eliminating the ring surrounding the opening, and the turn signals located directly below were flush mounted. The grill is a custom unit, and was placed inside a smoothed and molded grill shell. The stock cowl vent was removed, and the bumpers were also taken off, though “nerf bar” style decorative units were added directly to the body. The low rolled lip line of the body was accentuated with aftermarket chrome trim, and a unique “cove” was also added to the side of the car using aftermarket trim molding. This lent itself perfectly to a two-tone paint job, which was done in a laid-back brown and caramel combination. Add to that a set of American Racing Torque Thrust II mag wheels tucked up into the small wheel wells, and a low stance, and the exterior takes on a nice hot rod look.
Inside you’ll find a bench seat with a flip-down center arm rest, plus two-tone brown and tan vinyl upholstery. White faced gauges replace the stock ones in the original openings, with the speedometer front and center, a tach in the top center of the dash, plus units below it to monitor fuel, oil pressure, water temperature and volts. There is a bench rear seat, and a small cargo area all the way in the back - though with the small dimensions of the car don’t expect to pack much into that space.
Dan is a retired Ford Motor Company engineer, and with nearly 50 years of hot rod experience under his belt he has owned a wide variety of cars. He always seems to be buying, selling and trading....but the one constant seems to be that he loves something unique. I’d say this 1951 Nash Rambler Wagon certainly fits the bill, and when you see the onlookers it attracts at car shows and cruise-ins there is no doubt that others appreciate its “Dare To Be Different” approach. CN