The company looked into building a full lineup of trucks
Would Nash-Kelvinator have done better if World War II never happened? Conventional histories have usually said the American independent automakers were helped by that conflict, not hurt. That’s because the independents were awarded lucrative contracts for war materiel that gave them decent profits while enabling them to vastly improve their tools, machinery, and production facilities. That certainly was the case with Willys-Overland, winner of the Jeep contract along with a mountain of other war work. Willys was an insignificant company in the 1930s, but by the end of the war, it had completely modernized its factory and machinery. It also gained the one automotive product— Jeep —that it could sell without worrying about competition.
Studebaker and Hudson also made out well in the war; Packard less so because it took on very difficult and costly production jobs that probably weren’t as profitable as they should have been. Nash did pretty well, even though it kept its profit margin on war work very low, out of a sense of patriotism.
One unhappy result of the war, which arose in the postwar automotive market, proved both a curse and a blessing: Postwar demand for new cars soared to stratospheric heights, and that’s when all the independents, Nash included, were able to make tremendous profits that helped build up their capital reserves and strengthen their balance sheets. So, it’s true the 1940s were very profitable years for the Little Five.
But a result of all that demand was that some new automotive introductions were delayed and finally cancelled because the automakers couldn’t acquire enough parts and components to build enough of the cars they already had, let alone some new product. Willys, for example, had an all-new car ready to introduce in 1946 but was never able to produce it due to a lack of steel, components, and materials.
But in my opinion, Nash was hurt the most. The company, eager to grow its sales volume, investigated the pickup market and decided the time was ripe to enter. Using the front clip from a Nash sedan, company engineers developed a great-looking pickup that was both roomy and solid. It was built on a Nash convertible frame and featured an amply proportioned pickup body; it would have been a great addition to the truck market. In early 1946, Nash was reported to be developing three truck models: 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-1/2-ton jobs. A March 1947 press release said the new trucks would soon go into production. However, by November 1948 the company reluctantly concluded that the truck project had to be postponed indefinitely