1957 NASH METROPOLITAN On loan from Marc Merkle, Lake Luzerne, NY
This Nash Metropolitan truly illustrates the concept of “Remade in America.” Through hard work, Mark converted a disassembled, rusty relic into a bright, two-tone beauty that attracts attention everywhere it is driven or displayed.
“The car was a ‘basket case’ which literally came home in many boxes, some of which contained parts for both this car and another,” recalls Merkle. “I didn’t know right away which parts went with this car, so I started sorting them all out and eventually completed the restoration completely on my own. While the quality may not be up to concours level, I’m proud of my accomplishment.”
Merkle had purchased the car, along with a ’54 Metropolitan, from a Hudson Falls resident who had intended to use the parts to restore one of them but never found time to tackle the daunting project.
“Once I got it done, I was at a car show and met two other gentlemen who had owned the car before him and both had the same story,” recalled Merkle with a broad smile of accomplishment. “It was time consuming. I started it in 2006 and tried to work on it for at least a half-hour every day. I finally finished it 3 ½ years later!
“When I was growing up, my dad told me about these funny cars that looked like they had fender skirts on the front wheels and were extremely small. I found him one in Clifton Park and he purchased it, which is how I got started. I guess I love the cars because they are unusual and they catch looks wherever you go.”
Now 52, Merkle says he has played with cars since holding his first Matchbox car but has never had any formal training in the field. He is entirely self-taught but certainly does great work. Take his engine rebuild as an example.
“The engine that was in the car when I got it was not rebuildable. The pistons were seized so tightly in the cylinders that I could not move them even with a 12-lb sledge hammer. This one came from another Metropolitan I bought for parts and only needed new rings and bearings. It’s the same as an MG A 1500, so all parts are readily available. The only difference is that the Met uses a single, very small carburetor where the MG A uses dual carburetors. It’s a 1500 cc engine, rebuilt to factory specs, and is rated at 55 hp.”
Merkle says his Metropolitan, a car “very much ahead of its time,” gets over 40 mpg and cruises beautifully at 55 mph. And while the gearing makes it unsuitable for the Northway, he says “roads like Route 9 are very comfortable for them.”
A true “basket case,” the car was so rusted that the doors sagged and would not close and the floor was gone entirely. But after countless hours of cutting, forming and welding, the car was ready for Mark to apply the paint and finish it off with new upholstery and a custom dash.
“The dash had the old tube-type AM radio, which did not work, so I decided on an aftermarket dash with a modern AM/FM radio/CD player and new gauges so I can see what’s going on. I also converted from a generator to a GM alternator to make it more roadworthy. I know there is a feeling out there that the dash on a classic car should not be modified, but I have the original that could be put back in if I want to somewhere down the road.”
With two restored Metropolitans and two more waiting for work, Merkle calls this car “the nicest I have, but each one I do gets a little better. I love to drive the Mets and it’s a blast when my wife and I each take one to a show. Most people have never seen one, let alone two, and we have a collection of trophies we’ve picked up over the years.
“People ask about the car’s value but I’m not as interested in that as I am in preserving a piece of history, something most people would have sent to the crusher. I’ve had Mustangs, Chevelles, Impala Super Sports and Dodge Chargers and none have brought the enjoyment I get from owning something that’s so unusual. Some Metropolitans have sold at Barrett-Jackson in the $25,000 range but I’m interested in enjoying the cars, not in making money from them.
“If you want to go to the store for bread or milk and need to do it in a hurry, do not drive a Metropolitan! Everyone who sees the car wants to talk to you about it, even police officers who have pulled me over just to find out what the car is. They are a blast to drive around town, which is, after all, what ‘Metropolitan’ means!”