Nash car event celebrates Cortland roots

SYCAMORE — Many people don’t know that one of America’s most famous and successful car manufacturers was born in rural Cortland. It’s something Matt Woodstrup is hoping to change.

“I’m trying to get a marker put up on (highway) 38 where Charles Nash was born,” the Sycamore car enthusiast said. “There’s no recognition of him. I’ll have to go through the state. Politics and people with money are what we need.”

“It’s an excellent idea and I think he should pursue it,” said Jim Wheary, Nash’s great-grandson.

Wheary said Nash, who was born June 6, 1864, and died in 1948, was basically abandoned and forced to work as an indentured servant and then as a shepherd in Michigan when he was still a boy.

After driving a motorized car in 1897, Nash became interested in the budding auto industry. Through hard work and common sense, he was hired as the general manager of General Motors. In 1916, Wheary said, Nash bought out the Jeffrey Motor Co. for $8 million and renamed it the Nash Motor Co. A year later,the first car bearing his name was produced in Kenosha, Wis. In 1954, the company merged with the Hudson Motor Car Co. to form American Motors.

Nash is credited with many innovations, including heating and ventilating systems, air conditioning, reclining seats, seat belts, convertible beds, the first compact car, and the conveyor belt system.

Woodstrup organized a Nash Car History Show on Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Sycamore History Museum. He expected 28 vehicles, but more than 40 ended up on display.

Woodstrup is an employee of Shaw Media, the parent company of The MidWeek.

The oldest vehicle on display was a 1902 Nash Rambler displayed by Mike Spangler and Cheryl Samuel of Jefferson County, Wis.

Woodstrup first heard about Nash from Dan Loper, a Janesville man who has been researching Nash for 10 years.

“I knew he was born in DeKalb County, but I didn’t know where,” Loper said.

Loper said his family bought their first Nash in 1948 and stuck to it.

“I never bought a bad one,” he said.

Michelle Donahoe, executive director of the history museum, said it was nice to hold a car show with a connection to local history. The event may be repeated next year, she said.

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