Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sleek 1949 - 1950 Nash "Uniscope" Gauge Pod Rocks My Dream Custom Interior

For a company that gave us the "upside-down bathtub" design in automotive engineering, and went out with a whimper before the 1960's, the Nash Automobile Company gave us some interesting quirks, and even a couple of creations of long-lasting impact.

One of the neatest was this short-lived experiment in gauge display design. Instead of an array of instruments splayed across the dash, Nash decided to bundle them together, wrap them in a flattened-oval pod, and stick the whole contraption on the steering column.

1950 Nash Uniscope Gauge Cluster

And so the "Uniscope" was born. 
Rarely do gauge panels or clusters get the big and detailed advertising treatment, but this one deserved it. There was this ad for women who, what with this being 1949, obviously needed tempering of their advanced technology fears...

And special instructions for everybody else as well, for the 1949, and then the 1950 versions...

They were made by Stewart Warner (of course), and originally set up on the 6 volt current. Probably the most confusing aspect of the sets is that they are similar, but still markedly different. They are usually (and haphazardly) identified interchangeably, so lets clear those differences up.

First off, the face color for the 1949 set is black.

The pod surrounding it is an olive-green. Also notice the number graphics; the 1949 model used double numbers.

The 1950 Nash set came with a light gold face.

The surround was black, and the mini gauges were darker in color, like a dark olive. They used single digits for MPH markers.

Now here's something I did for one of my sets. That 1949 black face is so striking, I went with it and re-painted the housing an inky black. Talk about sharp!

Beyond that, the pods themselves were a different shape. The 1949 was longer than the 1950 housing.

1949 Nash Pod

1950 Nash Pod

 They both sat on a "cradle", a long steel perch, and they both had similar wire loom openings underneath.

 And here's the real stickler, for those who have the idea of using this in a custom; that bracket that the pod rests in is very seldom sold with the pod. There's a gauge set on Ebay right now for $750 (ridiculous price, imo) that DOESN'T include the mounting bracket. Added to this obstacle is that the two years are not interchangeable, so you better have the right one.
 It's curious as to why you don't see the brackets more often. They weren't molded to the steering column, they were attached with two screws and fairly simple to remove.

 I've also seen jerry-rigged holders, like this...

 I'm not sure if that was a home-made dash mount, or some J.C. Whitney accessory. Somebody obviously wanted it perched on their dash pretty bad, and rigged it up.

But that shouldn't stop you from using what was definitely one of the sleekest dash set-ups to come down the pike. It was planted in various hot rods and show cars in the late-1950's and early-1960's, like this beauty from 1961 with chromed (!) dual pods...

From the 1961 Custom Cars Annual magazine

And this shot from the X-2000 Vortex Show Car ...

From "20 Top Customs", Hot Rod Technical Library, 1961
Here's the Charles Martz custom from 1952, with the cleanest dash possible...

Of all the things that Nash will be remembered for, this better be on the damned list. It was a bold and innovative endeavor, and it was one thing that put it in that pantheon of successful and creative car design risks. 

Sure, to some Philistines it looked like a flattened egg, but to me, looking at that inner-lit round cluster, I was transported away, imagining that I was peering into the casing of a B-17 fuel wing-tank, straddling my pilot's yoke as I cruised through the purple dark night on the highway....
If you ever one across one, grab it! They're like the Tiffany Eggs of car gauges; they only made so many, and it won't be long until the last one is gone for good. 
Hopefully into my cockpit.

1 comment:

  1. my compliments! You have two of them? Furthermore, I compliment your collection!

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