When Robert Sennett takes his '37 Nash Lafayette to car shows, he hears every imaginable guess as to the identity of the stylish two-door sedan. Most folks have no clue, but every once in a while, the person guessing will be right. Something tells us Robert likes having an unusual street rod that falls outside the general categories.
Nash Motors purchased Lafayette Motors in the mid-'20s, and used the name from 1934 until 1940. For the first three years, it was marketed as its own separate lower-priced marque. The '37 Lafayette was the first to be sold under the parent marque as the Nash Lafayette 400, retaining its position as the company's economy model. One of those now desirable cars, this two-door sedan, was originally sold in the nation's newest state of Arizona, where it remained until three years ago, when Robert bought it. The original 1937 Arizona license plate was still in place, and the original factory brochure was still with the car.
Robert can sidestep the wrath of hardcore Nash restorers with the fact that his milestone '37 had already been modified into a resto rod by that time. The sedan was finished, the body was straight, and the modifications to the drivetrain and suspension were well done, but, to Robert's bewilderment, most of the added mechanical components were worn-out parts from the junkyard, and the interior upholstery was unacceptably shabby. He went through the entire car, replacing and rebuilding everything that needed it: The frontend was replaced with a Mustang II suspension, the engine compartment was treated to a fresh-out-of-the-crate Chevrolet small-block paired with a TH350 transmission, the interior was completely recovered, tires and wheels were swapped out, and a list of other upgrades was made.
The buildup required that familiar combination of lots of hard work, lots of time, and lots of money. We'll let you judge for yourselves whether or not Robert succeeded in turning a poorly built project into a show-stopping, one-of-a-kind resto rod worthy of the raw material's rare heritage. It might tip the judging in Robert's favor if we told you he drives the car as often as possible, cruising on the streets of Southern California or taking it to car shows where he typically comes home with a trophy. The Lafayette has even transported a few brides and grooms in local weddings. In most cases, the happy couple had no clue what kind of car they were riding in, but they knew it was cool, beautiful, and unusual-and they were absolutely right.
'37 Nash Lafayette 400 Sedan
The 'rails are the originals from when this car rolled out of the Wisconsin plant 70 years ago. The previous owner had added a junkyard front clip, which Robert replaced with a Mustang II independent front suspension. Beyond that, upgrades are limited to the front and rear gas shocks, '78 GM steering, power brakes, and '79 Lincoln 8-inch rear with 3.00:1 gears.
DrivetrainA brand-new crate 350 was dropped between the fenders during the rebuild. The small-block, breathing through a single Holley 4V carburetor, was installed by Speed Merchant in Walnut, California. The engine is backed up by a '78 Turbo 350 automatic and the Lincoln rear.
Wheels & TiresRobert was careful about choosing just the right rolling stock. The wide whitewall radials from Coker were an easy decision for a regularly driven resto rod. There were a lot more options for the rims, but these 15-inch Chrysler Style wires from Wheel Vintiques definitely look right.
Body & PaintA lifetime in Arizona protected the original two-door sedan body from a lot of ordinary deterioration, and any necessary bodywork on the car had already been done by the time Robert took possession. The sheetmetal was kept stock, including the trim pieces-harder than it sounds when you're talking about a limited-production body style with virtually no aftermarket support. Lloyd Auto Body in Ontario, California, shot the pale yellow paint.
InteriorOld and new styles were combined in the interior, where Ron Mangus upholstered the six-way-power Chevrolet split bench seat, using a combination of tan leather and cloth. A custom panel was added below the stock dash for vents, the Auto Air Specialist air conditioning system, and the Pioneer sound system. A Grant banjo-style steering wheel was added to the tilt shift column.