Bad guys drove Nashes?
My bedtime OTR listening lately has been detective shows, such as Philip Marlowe
or Jack Webb's pre-Dragnet characters.
Plain realism was the goal of the classic detective story, yet one unreal oddity stands out in all of these: the bad guys always drive a Nash. This may have started with Chandler, because it's definitely a constant in his stories in book form.
But it just doesn't make sense.
First problem: sometimes the bad guy is driving a Nash convertible, sometimes a sedan, sometimes a coupe. Obviously a writer wants a little variety, but Nash was exactly the wrong choice for variety. Nash made only a handful of convertibles and coupes in the '40s
and none at all in the '50s. From '49
through the end of the marque in '57,
the big Nash came only in sedan form.
Second problem: Nash had all the wrong qualities for a criminal. Nashes of that era were reliable, roomy, economical, and technically interesting, but they were not
flashy or fast. A safety-minded family man would buy a Nash; an engineer, architect or professor would enjoy a Nash.
Your garden-variety thief, then as now, would drive whatever he could buy or steal. His preference was the Ford V8. Light and fast. Your Mafia type, then as now, wanted his wealth and power to be instantly recognizable, which meant a Caddy or Packard.
Surely the detective writers understood these facts. Was it "product placement"? Not likely. Who would pay to have their product associated with criminals?
It's a puzzle.
Early '50s TV cop shows often had both
the cops and the criminals driving Nashes, which makes more sense as a product placement. But it's still wrong. Cops mostly drove Fords in that era, for the same reasons that crooks stole Fords. Common, easy to repair, and fast. In the late '50s and especially the '60s, some cops switched to Dodges, which had become the best combination of speed, handling and cost.