Someone Gave Me A Free Nash Metropolitan In Los Angeles, So I Guess I Have To Move There Now (Updated)

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Sunova bitch! I thought I could delay this. For years, I’ve been telling my friends that I plan to move “any day now,” and for years, I just amassed one new vehicle after the other. Winter after winter blew by, and I remained in Troy, Michigan, surrounded by cheap junkers. But then, last month, I fell into what, in retrospect, I now know was clearly a trap. “Fwd: Met & Morris Minor JUNKYARD BOUND SOON!” read the subject line. I clicked it immediately.

“Before long I will call Pick-A-Part and have them tow both cars away,” read the first line, referencing an old Nash Metropolitan and Morris Minor. “Both need work, both have clear Ca. titles and current tags in my name,” the email went on.

“NO ONE WANTS TO WORK ON THEM AT ANY PRICE so it’s time to junk them both,” Nate, the sender, continued. “Sad but I’m physically unable anymore and I’m also broke, barely making my monthly nut anymore so everything has to go dirt cheap or free before I wind up in the street.”

“Please help me get rid of these two cars, need to be towed out.”

This email had, of course, come to be by way of Chief Vehicle Hoarding-Enabler and Autopian cofounder Jason Beauregard Torchinsky IV, which is why I should have known this whole thing was a trap:Screen Shot 2022 07 21 At 6.27.23 Pm

Jason’s lovable gearhead buddy Tom had forwarded Nate’s note our way, and sent along the two photos above. Here’s a closer look:

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[Editor’s Note: I regret nothing. – JT]

I, being a thoughtful man (read: not a fool) was not about to just let a free Nash Metropolitan — and a rare one with a trunk lid (many Metropolitans had none, so you accessed stuff in the trunk via the front two doors) — just whiz by without at least seeing what was what. I talked to Nate, and he told me that he really just wanted his beloved Met to go to a good home. After all, he’d enjoyed years of just blasting that thing around LA at high speeds. Check out how this Met looks with the paint all shined up:

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Anyway, I sent Nate a few articles of mine, namely the ones about me daily-driving a 1965 Plymouth Valiant for an entire winter, and about driving a 1948 Willys CJ-2A and a 1976 Postal Jeep from Michigan to the off-road trails of Moab, Utah, and Nate ate that stuff up, replying:

Wow David ;

You’re obviously the person to save my Met, I hope you’ll find if fun and rewarding, I did and drove it hard for well over a decade all over the South West .

The DJ-5 and CJ-2a threads were great .

Please save the Morris Minor too….

The Morris Minor, by the way, is an awesome little British Economy car from a similar era as the Nash, and appears to just need to be put back together; the body looks solid:

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Jason’s friend Tom decided to take on that project, bless him, though I have to admit that I have quite a bit of work ahead of me, too. “I rebuilt the engine about 35,000 miles ago, std. Bore,.” he texted me. “New pistons etc but didn’t replace the .030/030 crankshaft. It was fine until I bumped the distributor, gave it too much timing advance, then I flew across the Arizona desert and beat the rods to death.”

He told me he has a standard crankshaft that goes with the vehicle, and even gave instructions on how to install it — instructions that make the rather tedious job actually sound rather easy:

“Engine and transmission come out together from below, separate tranny, flip engine, replace crankshaft (is in the car) and all bearings and thrust shims, button it back up and good to go.”

Not at all daunted, and actually rather keen to get wrenching on this little thing, I called up my team out at Galpin Ford, since the company is located only 20 minutes from Nate. Beau Boeckmann, the man behind The Autopian’s existence, and his VP Jeff graciously agreed to store my project car, and Jeff organized the pickup. He sent a flatbed to Nate’s house; Nate send me a few photos of the pickup operation, noting that he had lots of spare parts in the car, including a bolt of fabric to reupholster the door-cards. He also made mention of the keychain, which he’s apparently rather proud of, and. included photos of other Nash memorabilia:

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It’s clear to me that this Nash wasn’t just a car to Nate, who told me all about the many parts he’s put into this car over the years, including new brakes, a new electronic ignition, and a newly de-rusted fuel tank. The little 1950s car represented a glorious era in this man’s life, and though I haven’t spoken with Nate enough to fully understand what that era was, I do plan to get this little machine back on the road as my primary LA daily driver. And I’m giving Nate a ride as soon as I do.
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Right now, the car sits on the Galpin property somewhere. I’m going to be getting a first look at it in August, when I fly west for Pebble Beach, an event for which I have far, far too many redneck tendencies. Eventually, I’ll be flying west permanently, and this little Nash will be my commuter. I’m actually quite thrilled that Nate gave me this car (I plan to give him some money for it, as I can’t take something this cool for free), because I’d actually been looking for a small car for Los Angeles. Fuel prices there are absurd, and none of my current vehicles do better than about 15 MPG in the city.

Right around the time Jason notified me of this incredible Met, I’d sent him a listing for a King Midget, arguably the U.S.’s first-ever microcar. With a top speed of only 50, it’d be a sacrifice, no doubt, but at 50 MPG, it’d make cruising around LA somewhat affordable. Highway jaunts, though, would be a problem.

This Nash, though, ticks all the boxes. Its little 1.5-liter “B-Series” four-banger from British automaker Austin will do 35 MPG in the city and over 30 on the highway. And I do mean “highway,” because though the car had a top speed of 75 mph, and though most Metropolitan owners will tell you that that’s rather ambitious given the three-speed and 4.22:1 rear axle ratio, Nate swapped his rear diff for a 3.73:1 gearset, meaning the car can apparently drive 75 “all day,” per Nate. Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics tested the earlier 1.2-liter A-Series engine-equipped Metropolitan, and fuel economy was as high as 40 at lower steady speeds and closer to 30 around 60 or 65, so I believe Nate’s fuel economy claims.

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There’s so much more about the unibody Nash Metropolitan that I need to tell you; in many ways, it offered incredible features that you might not have expected in an economy car from the mid 1950s; I’ll get to that later once I actually get to sit in the car and experience its glory. I’m excited.

The move to LA? I can’t say I’m that excited about that. I’m ready to leave Detroit (even though I do love it and its incredible car culture), as it’s been nine years already, my army-brat nature is telling me to move on, and I have no family nearby. But I do have concerns about LA — cost of living, truly accessible car culture, the homeless population (I’m not worried about them, I’m worried for them), the time difference from the east coast, traffic, etc. But the fact is, being close to our west coast team will yield tangible benefits that will help The Autopian grow as a business, and that’s where my head has to be right now. I’m just glad I’ve got a little, moderately-broken 1950s economy car ready to show me around.

Completely unrelated: Does anyone in Michigan have a giant pole barn ideal for storing Jeeps (on the cheap)?

Update: Somehow — and I don’t know how this happened — I only just realized that Nate had, somehow, swapped in an automatic transmission. How that wasn’t clear to me when I bought this is beyond me. Obviously, Nash never offered an auto in a Metropolitan, and swapping one into such a small package seemed very unlikely, but here we are: That’s a PRNDL on the floor. I’m not a fan of automatics, so I’m likely either going to swap this back or have to part ways with it. Bummer! But pretty hilarious that I’m only now learning about it! 

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141 Responses

  1. I’m glad to see David joining the illustrious ranks of Weird Al, Paul Reubens, and They Might Be Giants, as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO5iUDBK7TA

    When I was a teenager growing up in North Carolina I noticed my neighbor’s house had a fairly-complete Metropolitan hidden in the back yard under a dense mat of kudzu and cane-berry, with a small tree growing out from underneath the front end. I knocked on the door (I’d never met him before) and a hairy, shirtless man wearing a greasy trucker hat and yellow measuring-tape suspenders answered the door. He told me it ran perfectly when parked fifteen years ago and offered to sell it to me for 50 bucks. I excitedly went to tell my Dad about my terrific opportunity, but Pops said there was no way in hell I was dragging that heap onto his property.

    I’m still mad all these years later about missing out on the opportunity to get my soft, youthful knuckles ripped and dirty with a non-running snake-infested rustbucket Anglo/American-hybrid orphan car of dubious provenance. David, if you ever decide to sell this one on to another microcar-loving weirdo, I’ll happily hop on a bus from Oregon to CA, pick it up, and drive it all the way back.

  2. It’s going to really require some serious mileage on my XJ for you and I to go wheeling together now. 3,000 miles, no doors: probably I could at least get an Autopian article out of it.

    You’ll just have to come visit Mercedes, then living in your house, and we can all go trolling junkyards for rust.

  3. If you move to LA, you can be best buds with Jay Leno. He’s sometimes seen at the Toluca Lake Bob’s Big Boy Friday night classic car enthusiast meetup — a weekly event you might enjoy as well.

  4. Tracy, let me get this straight:

    – You love rusty junk and remain surrounded by it. (This is not a pejorative; I love it too.)

    – You have already run afoul of local code enforcement because of this love.

    – You want a home that can accommodate your rusty junk with a minimum of civil interference.

    – Much of your rusty junk will have a bitch of a time getting tagged in states with stringent emissions laws.

    And you want to move to… CALIFORNIA?!?

    Listen, I know you’re the same guy who drove a rust-eating postal Jeep all the way to Moab and back, but have you really, really thought this through? I mean, Arizona and New Mexico and Nevada are all RIGHT THERE, as well as texas, florida, and a dozen other states that took all these boxes. California? Really? Please consider all the ramifications of California. Please. You might be volunteering to have this love of rusty junk legislated right out of your life.

  5. I have already shared my thoughts on why moving to Cali is bad for you. But, you need clearly need to see for yourself, so I wish you the best. As for the swapped in automatic: you may want to give it a chance. I’m pretty sure it was done to deal with LA traffic. I love manuals as well, but there is no way I would commute in LA with one. If I lived near the canyons, and it was a weekend car, that’s a different story.

  6. Three things:

    1. I actually got a little emotional looking at the photos of the car being picked up. This vehicle was clearly loved intensely, and I am sure Nate is very relieved knowing it will live on.

    2. The Metropolitan will always instinctively be “the car Weird Al drove in UHF” to me.

    3. If you’re brave/crazy, during rush hour(s), several of the LA freeways are so packed you’d be lucky to hit 35 mph, so the King Midget’s top speed of 50 might actually be sufficient.

  7. One of my dad’s best friends bought a Metropolitan in high school, wasnt a Nash or Hudson, one of the later ones when it became its own marque as the Metropolitan 1500. Apparently, got made fun of a lot for it, and stuck it up on blocks under a tarp in his parents’ side yard when he went away to Vietnam, and it sat there for several years. Until the 1973 oil embargo hit, took it down, put on fresh tires, and fired it right up and drove it again for the next several years, until Pennsylvania road salt finally ate it alway. 30mpg in the early ’70s from an old timey carburetored engine was kind of a big deal, even VW Beetles were only around 25mpg in daily use around town

  8. L.A. is a great place, ocean/desert/mountains, they haven’t totally screwed it up yet (forget what you read), maybe look into the Santa Clarita area to be close to Galpin and some amazing drives as well. That Metro (how quaint) will get you eaten alive on the freeways so forget that part.

  9. As a long time lurker and fan, welcome potentially to California.

    – Traffic is scheisse especially during summer months when everyone is both working and traveling for holiday.
    – When traffic isn’t painful, the California 65 is about 80 so watch out for those fast drivers or keep to the right except when passing.
    – CARB check isn’t necessarily bad if you know the right stations. Have an 85 380SL and 90 420SEL to keep on the road and later on a ethanol tuned WRX. Plus like everyone is saying, any gas powered before 75 is SMOG exempt and any diesel before 97 is exempt.
    – Fuel is still cheaper than Europe and E85 is usually $2-3 cheaper than regular pump gas.
    – Most of our freeways are gratis but they are slowly turning HOV lanes into turnpike lanes. 2+ or 3+ is still free but if you are a single driver and want slightly more fluid traffic, get a transponder.
    – Us motorcycle enthusiasts love lane splitting since it’s deliciously legal and cuts down on the hellish commute so look twice and save a life. You’ll see a mix of ATGATT riders and SQUIDs, then the usual cruiser crowd.
    – You’ll find affordable property way out in the ‘burbs. Think Riverside or San Bernadino counties. I’d avoid the top of LA County (Apple Valley, Palmdale). Very interesting crowd and you don’t want things disappeared.
    – If you want 4 seasons move up to the mountains (Big Bear and surrounding communities), California doesn’t salt so you won’t get that delicious FEO2 unless you park it next to the beach.
    – Gobs of trails and maintained fire roads to explore, and good salt flats and tracks to go really fast on. I do all of it in my WRX.
    – There’s a nice German embassy in the heart of LA and the staff there is excellent. When I renew my passport, everyone is kind in the German way and helpful.
    – Tons of cars and coffee meets, track days, sponsored car meets and a very interesting automotive sub culture.
    – Crime isn’t as bad as the news outlets make it. LA is the second most populous city and 2nd largest metro area in the nation.
    – Lastly for now, bring some weather with you. 22 years of drought sucks.

  10. Well shit. You should organize another meetup/woodward cruise before you go! I sadly missed the last one, and I really have no excuse. Pretty sure we’re within spitting distance of each other, me and my daughter saw you out and about awhile back and she commented on your j10.

    Just give us a bit more heads up this time 😛

  11. David, I understand you needing to move to Commiefornia for business reasons. I lived in Sacramento 1979-1982, before PCS to Bitburg.
    I won’t repeat all the valid reasons not to move there, but I’m wondering about your trip to Oz, and the Great Autopian Shitbox ‘Round the World Challenge. What with the move and all.
    PS: You and Jay Leno should definitely meet.

  12. Sell, don’t store. Paying storage is a suckers game. By the time you pay for the storage, and deal with all the rodent damage (and there WILL be much rodent damage), you could just buy better vehicles when you’re ready to actually use them.

  13. B-Series engines have all sorts of upgrade options. Aluminium cross-flow head. Or, swap it for a O-series (or perhaps K-Series) with fuel injection. I think the bottom ends are compatible, so this isn’t difficult.

  14. Saw a nicely done Met that would deal nicely with freeway traffic. It had a 426 Hemi with GMC 8-71 poking through the hood. Massive slicks, bulletproof drivetrain, very well constructed. Handling might be a bit challenging to the inexperienced, but the vastly improved acceleration would solve the merging problem as long as you could keep the front wheels ahead of the rears. I think you should.

  15. So let me get this straight, you’ll have shitboxes in three separate places now? You clearly need to buy something weird and shitty in NC with Torch too right? I really like the two new vehicles? I feel like they are miles better than the swiss cheese jeeps you acquire but I’ll ask the question I have asked before. Instead of buying more shitboxes, why not make the EV FC Jeep you said you were going to do? Or the multi-continental XJ (I think) you said you were going to take around the world? You have absolute car/project A.D.D.

    You need to practice saying ‘no thanks’ more often. I want to read more stories on your two big projects mentioned above. Like I said, I like these two new cars but learn to say ‘no thanks’. These cars seem like something your comrades Torch or Mercedes might be more interested in. I love your articles but man stop increasing the fleet of shitboxes. Pretend it’s the 80’s again and just say no.

  16. It may be hard to let go, but sell your whole Michigan fleet, you’ll collect much more “Rust Free” stuff on the west coast that you’ll eventually forget about those rusty ones. I can’t believe the rusty stuff I went through the trouble to save in Michigan only to find there is so much better stuff (and bigger variety, and obscurity) after moving west.

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