Northwest NEWS

October 28, 2002

Features

Ambassador and 'King of the Road' - Mayor-for-Life's 1934 Nash takes second place at elite car show

Nash.jpg Judge for the Concours d’ Elegance, an elite car show held each year in Pebble Beach, California, offers congratulations to Terry Jarvis and his wife, Cherry.
     By Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Writer
   In the 1930s, the car would have been described as a "killer-diller" and the "cat's meow." And the car's owner? He would have been a "hep cat." And though the slang words used in the 30s have drifted into the past, many of the cars driven during that decade haven't.
   Car enthusiasts like local businessman Terry Jarvis, continue to appreciate their flowing stylish look. Jarvis especially appreciated the look of the 1934 Nash Ambassador and recently restored one from the frame up.
   He explains, "We took it apart to the last nut and bolt and rebuilt every single part on the car. It's better now than when it first came off the assembly line."
   The process took 14 months, a short period of time as most car restoration projects can take as long as three to four years to complete.
   Fully restored, the 8-cylinder, 4-door sedan gleams, even on an overcast day. Its glossy dark "Brewster" green paint and polished chrome grill, horns and fenders glisten, dust free, whether the sun shines or not. It exudes an aura of romance and nostalgia, looking like a fancy luxury car straight out of the novel, "The Great Gatsby."
   "This is the largest Nash ever made," says Jarvis, a man locally known as the Grace Mayor-for-Life and as the owner of Vintage Auto Parts on Hwy. 9. "This model competes with Packard, Cadillac and Pierce Arrow," he says and goes on to tell a little of its beginnings.
   The Nash Company commissioned a prominent art deco designer to create a new styling when the car's body was in the design stage. "He designed the car to show speed in motion and called it 'Speed Stream Styling,'" he says. With the new styling, speed lines were embossed on the fenders, hood, headlamps and running boards. Says Jarvis, "It looks like the car is just dashing down the road." He adds, "The early 30s were the heart of the art deco movement of automotive styling."
   Other unique features include engine controls operated by cables and pulleys and a twin ignition system. "Which means 16 spark plugs," Jarvis clarifies.
   In addition it has two white-walled side mount spare tires, window shades, wood-grain window garnishes and a back seat footrest. It has a look that commands attention, but so does its horn.
   Speaking with authority, the car's horn has the forceful presence of a diesel locomotive barreling down the tracks.
   It didn't need to sound its horn, though, to grab the attention of judges at an elite car show last summer.
   They were taking careful note of it, along with the throngs of people who attended the show to view the vintage dream cars. Called Concours d' Elegance and held in Pebble Beach, Calif., the exclusive show doesn't take car entries lightly.
   Says Jarvis, "To be able to be in the show, you have to be invited, submit pictures and be passed on by a board."
   Historic glamour machines like a 1928 Bugatti Murphy Roadster owned by comedian Jay Leno, as well as other vintage luxury cars owned by actors Charles Bronson and Nicholas Cage, were scrutinized for submission right along with Jarvis' Nash.
   Jarvis and his wife, Cherry, were pleased when they learned they had an invitation to the show but were even more pleased when their Nash Ambassador won second place in the Closed Classic category.
   The judges look for accurate historic detailing, and Jarvis' Nash Ambassador has details right down to its handcrafted chrome moldings and its buffed wood-grain dashboard.
   "Down to the original wooden vanities and unique pull shades," adds Jarvis. "Also, it has new upholstery made of imported English broadcloth—just like the original."
   When most people hear the word "Nash," they immediately think of the Ramblers that resembled bloated bathtubs and moved along roads with the speed of a slug during the 50s and 60s. A classy vehicle with sleek styling doesn't come to their minds. Jarvis says that people seem taken aback when they first glance at his car.
   "The typical comment is, 'My gosh! I never knew Nash made a car like that.'"
   He explains why the car intrigues him and says, "I like the big classic cars of the 30s because of their styling and sheer size."
   It was his propensity for big 30's cars that prompted him to begin a search for the Nash Ambassador several years ago. Jarvis knew his hunt wouldn't be easy.
   Only 3,000 Nash Ambassador models were manufactured in 1934. "Also, there are only six of these cars registered in all car clubs in the U.S.," he says.
   But he struck gold when a man in San Francisco spotted his ad and phoned him. The man said he had the very car Jarvis was looking for, stating the car had been actively collecting dust in his garage for the past 30 years.
   Once Jarvis heard the car was for sale, he was packing. "I jumped on an airplane and was right down there," he says.
   When asked to describe the typical Nash Ambassador customer back in 1934, Jarvis responds, "The customer for this was very high end — and right in the heart of the depression."
   During that dark period, the idea of owning a Nash Ambassador was a fantasy for the jobless millions who stood in bread lines waiting for Salvation Army volunteers to serve them a bowl of cabbage soup.
   Today under different economic circumstances, the Nash Ambassador continues to seem like a fantasy in a world dominated by Hondas and SU's. Jarvis says it draws a lot of smiles.
   "We get a lot of high fives and thumbs up from passers-by," Jarvis says, stating he has plans in the near future to take the car on a road trip through Montana and up into Canada. In the summer of 2003, he'll take it to a National Nash Convention in Mt. Vernon, Wash.
   Then, its show days will end, but it will continue to have a special place of honor. Jarvis explains, "After that, it will be a Town of Grace staff car."
   In 1930's terms that means everything will be "jake" (very fine) in the town of Grace.