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1951 Nash Cooper, Superman on Wheels

1951 Nash Cooper, Superman on Wheels


For Dennis Varni a casual drive is called the Carerra Panamerica Race. Look up America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and yup, that’s another one of Dennis’ cars along with several Pebble Beach Trophy winners. There’s a lot of dust covering two prime species of really fast silver Mercedes Benz sitting in the front garage, hmm.  You’ve never heard of a Nash Cooper have you? 1951 Nash Airflyte with a MINI Copper S drivetrain. Doesn’t sound familiar? That’s not too surprising because there are only two of them out there.  This Nash Cooper looks like Clark Kent and goes like Superman after Lex Luthor poked him somewhere that was inadvisable.

Dennis has had a 47 year run with an incredibly tolerant wife named Kathy. Both well remembered the 1950s televised black and white episodes of Superman where reporter Lois Lane drove a Nash Airflyte Convertible while associate Jimmy Olson drove the photography gear-laden Airflyte Wagon.  A tempting Airflyte Wagon shell had been on a dog-eared advertising page for way too much money for a while. A phone call, “going to auction next week?” To avoid hefty import duties would the seller deliver it from Alberta to storage in Montana? Yes, sold.

Walking about at the end of the 2013 Amelia Island Show a ratty looking Airflyte Wagon with “Daily Planet” door placard putted by, Dennis started to sprint. Dennis learned that the owner, Richard Biggs, is an artist who restores historically significant pottery. “Can I open the door?” “What the hell? MINI seats and dashboard, wow!” No, actually, this was “an Airflyte Wagon

Beautiful Roadster and yup, that’s another one of Dennis’ cars along with several Pebble Beach Trophy winners. There’s a lot of dust covering two prime species of really fast silver Mercedes Benz sitting in the front garage, hmm.  You’ve never heard of a Nash Cooper have you? 1951 Nash Airflyte with a MINI Copper S drivetrain. Doesn’t sound familiar? That’s not too surprising because there are only two of them out there.  This Nash Cooper looks like Clark Kent and goes like Superman after Lex Luthor poked him somewhere that was inadvisable.

Dennis has had a 47 year run with an incredibly tolerant wife named Kathy. Both well remembered the 1950s televised black and white episodes of Superman where reporter Lois Lane drove a Nash Airflyte Convertible while associate Jimmy Olson drove the photography gear-laden Airflyte Wagon.  A tempting Airflyte Wagon shell had been on a dog-eared advertising page for way too much money for a while. A phone call, “going to auction next week?” To avoid hefty import duties would the seller deliver it from Alberta to storage in Montana? Yes, sold.

Walking about at the end of the 2013 Amelia Island Show a ratty looking Airflyte Wagon with “Daily Planet” door placard putted by, Dennis started to sprint. Dennis learned that the owner, Richard Biggs, is an artist who restores historically significant pottery. “Can I open the door?” “What the hell? MINI seats and dashboard, wow!” No, actually, this was “an Airflyte Wagon dropped two inches down over a MINI Cooper S with the exact same wheelbase.” Dennis opened the hood, it just looked right, “this is brilliant Richard, you have this dialed in.” Richard had it dialed in. Eighteen inches had been added to the rear of the MINI. Ever the perfectionist, Richard still had the templates he had made to fit all the parts required to make the conversion look factory spot on.

Dennis asked Richard several times, would he build one for him?  As they became friends Richard conceded - “but you can’t push me.” A buy in from Kathy would be needed, so a plan to visit old houses and seacoast haunts was hatched with the Nash Cooper to be picked up at Hertz at the airport, surprise! But the plan didn’t pan out. Low mileage salvage MINI Cooper automatics with tan interiors were scarce on the ground. Plus there was another issue - choose an artist and wait, no other option. But in April 2014 the deed was done. Richard Perry had designed the Coca Cola bottle and the lovely 1952 Nash Airflyte from hood ornament to spacious little body, and it was lovely, but it was no road burner.  The Nash Copper was not only elegant it was right on the money at 200 pounds lighter than the MINI Cooper it was based upon. Dennis flew out to North Carolina, filled the tank and did a 72 hour ear-to-ear grin blitz to California.  You have heard about people who think outside of the box? Dennis never found the box and it appears that he has not missed out.