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Pete Atkin >> Words >> Driving At Mythical America
(Message started by: Pete Atkin on Today at 16:44)

Title: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Pete Atkin on Today at 16:44
As I was wittering on about Driving Through Mythical America before singing it last week at the Ravenswood, and particularly as I was saying that Clive had written it before he ever went to America himself, something occurred to me about the lyric which surprisingly I'd never thought of before (surprisingly because having been married to an American for some considerable time now you might have thought I'd be well tuned in to such things).  And, also surprisingly, given the number of U.S.-based MVs, I don't think it's ever cropped up here or in the previous MV discussions.  The thought was/is:  there's one bit of evidence in the lyric which gives away the fact that Clive hadn't been to America when he wrote it.  (I expect someone will now come up with something I hadn't thought of.....)


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 21:29
Hi Pete,

You really have got me thinking now.

One thing that has struck me is that four students would have found it awfully cramped in a Studebaker Golden Hawk, which, I believe, was a coupe with very cramped rear seating area. Not at all roomy enough to accommodate four students, I am told. Of course that may very well be why those students had to sell it.

There is another possibility that has occurred to me. I suspect that the Clive James who had been to America, and who has always had keen awareness of what the cultural products of any place he visits are called, would probably have spotted that what the students actually bought was a Nash Ambassador Sedan rather than Nash Ambassador Saloon, a sedan being American English for what we in British English call the saloon.

Of course, it may be that although Clive knew quite well that the Nash Ambassador was a sedan he chose to write saloon because it gave him a rhyme with raccoon. But that's to say that he was taking the easy way out in his rhyming, and, to be perfectly honest, I myself  have never found that line of thinking all that convincing. I don't think that Clive would sarcifice accuracy just for the sake of a rhyme. What  I'v always presumed is that, as a non-driver, he did not take too much time worrying about whether the saloon and sedan were the same thing or not.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Pete Atkin on 02.08.06 at 10:46
Yup, it's the saloon/sedan thing I was thinking of.   I have somewhere at the back of my mind an image -- maybe from a movie, but more probably from some TV show -- of an Englishman reporting the theft of his car in a small American town and the local policeman calling out to his colleague in great hilarity "Hey, we got a guy here says he drives a saloon!"

And you're right, I'm sure Clive would have equally content with sedan as a rhyme word --but I'm certainly not going to speculate on what the 'raccoon' line might have been.

(With regard to the crampedness of the Studebake Golden Hawk, the Nash Ambassador was itself (by American standards) tiny, as I remember it.  Wasn't it made, or at least marketed, here for a while under the Austin brand?   I'm sure I left my anorak aorund here somewhere.)


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Kevin Cryan on 02.08.06 at 21:48
I do not think that that the Nash Ambassador the students were driving  would have been all that small, but you can get some idea of its size from this photo of one of the last Ambassadors manufactured with Nash branding on it by clicking here (http://www.hubcapcafe.com/ocs/pages01/ramb5702.htm).

I can tell you that Austin never did manufacture the Ambassador. However, that is not the whole story. What you may be recalling is a Nash–Healey which was powered by a modified version of the Ambassador’s six cylinder engine. A good summary of that venture, and how it came about, is to be found here (http://www.amxfiles.com/amc/healey.html). The Healy in question was, of course, one Donald Healey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Healey) (3 July 1898 – 13 January 1988) who, in a wholly separate deal from the one he had with Nash, formed a partnership with Austin to produce the fondly-remembered Austin-Healey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin-Healey).

Al this very "anoraky" stuff may help to explain why you associated the Ambassador with Austin.

Kevin Cryan


Here  from is an extract from Wikipedia on the final years of the Nashe that gave me pause for thought:

Nash continued to use the Ambassador on its plushest models from 1949 to 1957. N-K President George Mason was an outspoken supporter of aerodynamics in car design, and the post war Ambassador is best remembered for its enclosed front wheels. When Nash rolled out its Airfylte body style, Ambassador sales enjoyed a significant gain by selling just four door and two door sedans in the 1949-1951 market place. The Airflyte's also featured fully reclining seats that could turn the car into vehicle capable of sleeping three adults, however this would also earn the dubious distinction of being the make-out automobile of choice for teenagers coming of age in the 1950s (my italics).

Had Clive done more research that we have been giving him credit for?


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Pete Atkin on 03.08.06 at 08:27
Aha!   Thanks, Kevin.  I bet that's it, the fold-down seat thing.  

(It was the Nash Metropolitan I was/must have been thinking of, the one that Austin made in the fifties, a tiny car, really, more like the NSU that was based on a mini-Chevy, or the Hillman Imp, or a Fiat Seicento.)

Phew, thank goodness that's sorted.


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Kevin Cryan on 03.08.06 at 10:22
There is a good photograph illustrating the  potted history of Nash Metropolitan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nash_Metropolitan) in Wikipedia.  Until reading it, I did not know that the Americans had gone for the smaller cars quite so early in the last century:

AMC* outsold Chrysler with their economical compact cars. The top sales year was for the Metropolitan was 1959, helping to spur on the introduction of the Big Three's** new compact models. (Wikipedia)

Incidentally the body for the Nash Metropolitan was produced at the Fisher Ludlow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_%26_Ludlow) plant based in Castle Bromwich near Birmingham, the plant which is now Jaguar’s main manufacturing site in the Midlands and the very plant to which I travel daily to earn what few crusts of bread I can.


*AMC (American Motor Corporation) was an American automobile company in 1954 by the merger of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history

**automakers: Ford, General Motors & DaimlerChrysler

Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Leslie Moss on 11.08.06 at 19:42
And while we're on the subject ... Name the musical in which the word "sedan" appears five times in succession.


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Andy Love on 12.08.06 at 00:29
<Name the musical in which the word "sedan" appears five times in succession. >

PMSL.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to use that one!


Title: Re: Driving At Mythical America
Post by Leslie Moss on 15.08.06 at 21:47

on 08/12/06 at 00:29:20, Andy Love wrote :
PMSL.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to use that one!


Now you're really rocking the boat Andy!

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