The Adventures Continue

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This is a car for...SUPERMAN!!

By Lou Koza

Batman has the Batmobile, the Green Hornet has the Black Beauty, Mike Mercury has Supercar and the Dukes of Hazzard boys have The General Lee. It may not travel with atomic batteries to power, or shield from gun fire, fly in the air or submerge to deep fathoms of the oceans, or even a simple jump across a disabled bridge. But after all, we are talking about Superman and his car doesn't necessarily need to have all the gadgets. Just fast enough to fool Lois into thinking it's the real reason he beat her to all the scoops. For many years fans of the Adventures of Superman have been intrigued by the Nash-Healey sports car driven by Clark Kent, aka Superman. I often imagine Clark at the wheel, with his wide smile, Lois sitting beside him as they tool down a country road for a Sunday afternoon leisure drive. The subject of the 1953 Nash-Healey sports car first came up in Jim Nolt's TAC issue no. 4 in 1990. There I wrote in to Jim's Letter's Worth Reading Again..., identifying the name and model of the car. The community of TV Superman fans have from time to time discussed the car at great length at Dave Shutz's The Friendly Adventures of Superman discussion-board. In 1993, Nick-at-Nite featured a series of commercials with TV Superman information to go along with its programming of the series. Viewers may remember "The Jimmy Olsen Workout" and a commercial giving attention to Clark Kent's Nash-Healey sports car.

It had been long thought the Nash-Healey featured in the Adventures of Superman was owned by George Reeves and that perhaps the car was a gift to him from Toni Mannix. It was not. It does seems more plausible the sports car Toni purchased for George was a Jaguar. It was in the Jaguar George had his unfortunate accident on April 8th, 1959, while failing to negotiate a turn on Benedict Canyon Drive near Easton (Approx. 3/4 of a mile from George home).

We have learned the car driven by George was actually owned by another Hollywood celebrity. The current owner along with a renowned Nash-Healey expert (owner of 81 N-H's) ran the vehicle identification number (VIN) and confirmed the original owner was actor Dick Powell. Mr. Powell used this car in a film titled Susan Slept Here, released in 1954 by RKO Radio Pictures. Side note: Look for Herb Vigran in this film. According to the owner the car was loaned at times to the studio by Mr. Powell. Probably for whatever the going rate was.

And so what can we tell you about Clark Kent's 1953 Nash-Healey? Well, first of all the car was not treated very well after the series ended. According to the owner the car was owned by a number of people who drove it as one typically would a sports car, hard and fast. Eventually the car found itself in Ohio, in bad condition where the current owner made the final purchase.

When Jim Nolt first notified me the car still existed I couldn't believe it. Jim had been contacted by the owner who after seeing the Nash-Healey paper cutout provided by our own Rich Taylor for TAC's web-site. And so, who is this owner? Jeff Wells from Grand Rapids, Michigan. In Jeff 's own words, here is his e-mail to Jim:

Hi Jim,
Yep, I own the car that was used in the Superman series. Clark drove it in four episodes. It was owned by Dick Powell originally. Leonard McGrady, the Nash Healey expert from Aberdeen, Maryland has verified the number.

I've owned it for about 18 years. I saw the car for sale in Hemmings probably 10 years before I bought it, but the condition described and the price being asked scared me off. It was listed as the Superman car. When I saw it the second time in Hemmings, it wasn't. When I called the guy, he told me the story about how it was purchased from the Dick Powell estate in 1963, then eventually traded to a guy in Ohio for an airplane. When I was restoring it, I found a business card folded in quarters under the dash to apparently stop a squeak. I called the man on the card who claimed to have owned it for about 7 years, from 1964 to 1971. He was surprised to hear from me. Said he always wondered what happened to the car.
17 years ago, the body and all components were completely dissasembled and professionally restored by Walt Huyck of Sand Lake, Michigan, a very talented bodyman for many years until his retirement about 12 years ago. The leather was custom dyed and grained. Upholstery and top were returned to original by Dave Johnson of Grand Rapids before he retired several years ago. I did quite a bit of work including putting in a new wiring harness, tracking down as many original parts as possible and making the ones I couldn't find, and doing a lot of research. Authenticity was faithfully observed. I've been restoring and playing with cars for over 30 years. Don't have as much time as I did, but I still sneak out into the garage from time to time.

Now, it needs a little paint touch up, but it's still very nice. I've never had it started, although the engine was rebuilt when it was restored. I have several other cars, and it just kept getting pushed to the back burners. It has been a very trying and difficult restoration, but the result was worthwhile. It's a piece of history.

I used to watch Superman and wonder what that car was when I was about 8 years old! Never dreamed I'd own it someday.

I'm attaching a couple of pics (see one below) I carry with me in my wallet. They were taken probably 10 years ago but still represent it pretty well.


Thanks for asking!
Jeff.


February 27, 2006

 

 

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