Doug Nash


January 19, 1942 to July 12, 2015

A name synonymous with winning

Douglas Edwin Nash, a legend in the auto racing world—as much for his skill behind the wheel of a drag racing car as his later development of high performance transmissions—passed away at home in Marathon, Florida on Sunday, July 12th, his beloved family at his side. Doug was 73.

unnamed (2)A soft-spoken, contemplative drag racer in the 1960’s, Doug was driven to understand every aspect of what constituted a winning car. He first drove the “Bronco Buster” and later moved to a Comet, which brought him to the attention of the Lincoln Mercury Racing Division. In 1966, Doug was given a factory experimental Comet and continued to win races and perform at an outstanding level.

His inventive mind led him to develop the industry’s first 4 and 5-speed racing transmissions with straight-cut spur gears and crash shifts. His engineering innovations were soon noticed by the General Motors Corporation, and he was awarded a contract to develop the 4-speed overdrive transmission used in the 1986 Corvette.

Above all a family man

Diane & Doug, together for 33 years

But Doug was about more than 8000-rpm dump-the-clutch drag racing starts and straight-cut spur gears. Above all a family man, he was a committed and loving father to daughter Noelle; devoted brother to Dan, and adoring husband and companion to Lesli Diane, his friend and wife of 33 years.  He also prized beyond belief his two grandchildren, Violet, 10, and Emmeline, 7.

Doug was born in Detroit, MI, on January 19, 1942, the first of three children of Walter, a Ford executive, and Thelma Nash. He attended Garden City High School, his love of cars and tinkering with engines already entrenched.

After his need for drag racing passed, Doug founded Doug Nash Equipment and Engineering, Inc. He began the company as a small shop doing prototype engine work in Detroit, MI. He moved the company to Franklin, TN, in 1976, and went from modifying engines to redesigning transmissions from the ground up. He ultimately relocated the company to Brentwood, TN, where he remained in business until he retired, and the Nashes moved from Tennessee to the Cayman Islands.

 Trans Am legends wanted Nash 5-speeds

Doug Nash Engineering & Equipment Inc. had a history of engineering achievements, including the 2×4 Conversion Kit (an after-market kit available to the public), and 4 and 5-speed transmissions for street use. It wasn’t just drag racers who wanted Doug’s transmissions; Trans Am legends demanded Nash 5-speeds for their race cars as well.

Doug Nash had become synonymous with two things: transmissions—and winning.

Whether dealing with Doug as a friend or in terms of his products, “He was known as just an all-around good guy!” Diane said, stressing her husband’s character and charm. She heard it countless times, so did his brother Dan. “Doug’s handshake or his word meant more than any contract a lawyer could put together.”

That Doug’s former employees stayed in contact with him and remained friends long after he retired is a testament to his personality, loyalty and warmth. Another oft-heard phrase about the man with the “unmistakable twinkle in his eye,” Diane said, was: “They don’t make them like Doug anymore.”

Doug’s father had the same twinkle, she said, so does his brother Dan.

 He loved animals and vintage model trains

Classic animal lovers, the Nashes had two dachshunds: Lucie lived for 18 years; Suzie for 17, and Doug doted on both. He also loved vintage model trains and was an avid collector of pre-WWII Lionel Trains, American Flyers and the like. He especially enjoyed hunting for them, whether on the Internet or on the road. “We traveled extensively in pursuit of old trains,” said Diane, who grew to love the hobby almost as much as her husband.  Doug displayed his collection on shelves wherever they lived.


The couple also loved to travel and fish, activities that continued after they retired in the Cayman Islands.

Dan and Diane Betty Nash

Dan and Diane Betty Nash

When the Nashes decided to move back to the states in 1992, they settled in the Florida Keys and started a boat rental business with Doug’s brother Dan and his wife Diane. Although his brother and his wife live in Belleville, MI, they wintered with the Nashes in Florida every year. The brothers, Diane said, were extraordinarily close, as are the two Dianes.

“I’m going to miss a really, truly great friend,” said Dan, who—like Doug’s wife—felt incapable of expressing the extent of his loss.

Lesli Diane cannot believe how lucky she is to have shared Doug’s life for more than three decades. “He was the best husband, partner, friend, anyone could have hoped for in their wildest dreams,” she said. “He treated all women as equals or better. Always respected their opinions.”


(L to R) Violet, Noelle, and Emmeline Smith

Doug, who passed away after a long and courageous fight with cancer, will be sorely missed by all who knew him, even by many who knew only of his automotive engineering genius.

Doug is survived by his wife, Lesli Diane Nash of Marathon, FL; daughter Noelle Lynn Smith and granddaughters Violet Anne and Emmeline Rose Smith of Hendersonville, TN; brother, Daniel L. and wife Diane B. Nash of Belleville, MI; sister, Darlene K. Ebanks and husband Ron of Dacula, GA, and a niece and nephew.

In his continuing quest to help and benefit others, Doug donated his body to science.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Doug Nash’s name to the American Cancer Society or—due to his love of animals—your local No-Kill Shelter.

As per Doug’s wishes, there will be no memorial service.


  1. Samantha Haywood

    Dear Noelle and Family,
    What a lovely description of an extraordinary man. I know you and your loved ones will miss him a great deal. What a gift, though , to have him in your life.
    May he rest in peace and may your remember that twinkle in his eye forever.

  2. Ron Whitson

    Doug Nash was an” EXTRAORDINARY man” to say the least, he was my Hero for many year; I was proud to be part of Doug’s Doug Nash Engineering shop on Ecorse Road in 1970. I enjoyed seeing Doug’s successes as he was able to accomplish so much in his life. The successes and difficulties did not change Doug Nash at all. He was the same fine, caring, human being as always, right up until he was gone from us.

  3. Kathy Lowrie

    Diane, you worked so tirelessly to get this written to everyone’s satisfaction. You are a trooper. Just happy to be there for you. Doug was lucky to have you!

  4. Candice Nelms

    You mean to tell me that this soft spoken good hearted loving man was the guy who innovated transmission speed! You guys were holding out on me! I will miss miss miss seeing him, sitting there reading the paper quietly, filling the room up with that quiet and contemplative calm. I will never forget his voice, or his eyes! Much love to you Diane for all of your loving efforts and work, and much love and grace to the Nash family.

  5. Marlene Sedlacek

    What a lovely testament to a wonderful man. He is definitely deserving of all these accolades. My heartfelt thoughts to all the family who loved him so much. I’m sure you blessed his life as he blessed yours

  6. Dean Mccann

    Dear Doug Nash Family,

    He was a very close friend and fellow racer. Having worked for and with Doug, he always had a kind word and friendly smile. His efforts left an everlasting impression on the auto world.
    We always enjoyed his company. Even though we did not visit a lot in the later years, we always knew he and his wife Diane were valued friends and we will miss him. Love – and stop in to see us, if possible.Ilene and Dean

  7. Jerry Puto

    Dear Doug Nash Family,
    I got to know Doug over the years working at my sister-in-laws house (Sally). We would talk over the fence or out front and became friends over the years. You might not know this but from time to time I helped feed the Iguanas because Cassie’s vacation coincided with yours a couple of times. When I heard he was diagnosed with cancer I felt just awful, he was always in my thoughts. I hope you find peace during this difficult time. You are in my prayers. Jerry

  8. Gerry (Nash) Moultine

    We are so sad to lose our cousin, Doug. Early on we shared family picnics on the Saginaw Bay at Caseville, Michigan. During the summer I was fortunate to visit the Nash home in Garden City. I always remember Doug in the garage with his feet sticking out from under a car. He was such a gentleman. The family connection was always important to him as he reached out to cousins and kept in touch throughout the years. We enjoyed our visit with you both in Marathon just a couple of months ago.
    Bless you all,

  9. Mark & Gylaine Gilmore - Oxford Ohio

    To say we were fortunate to meet Doug (and Lesli Diane, Dan & Diane) is one of the most extreme understatements we’ll ever make. In one of those once-in-a-lifetime chance events, Doug’s father Walter “Ed”, and Mark’s mother Melba Jean fell in love during their sunset years when meeting in an assisted living residence in Naples, FL. The extent of their deep affection for each other was so intense, an unofficial “marriage” ceremony ensued, complete with dachshund Maggie as ring-bearer. Their two years together was a blessing to all, and we learned firsthand where Doug got that unmistakable “twinkle” in his eye. That apple had not fallen far from the tree, and we came to love both men far more than we likely ever expressed. It is through tears we write this, and remember these two caring, gentle souls. This world is a better place for these men having been in it, our sense of loss profound.

  10. Jennie Bailey

    This loving tribute brought tears to my eyes. Doug will be sorely missed by all that knew him. I am so proud to have had the honor of working for DNE2. My fondest memories are within those walls. Doug treated all his employees with respect and true concern for their continued success.

    Jerry and I had the pleasure of traveling with Doug and Diane to the Cayman Islands for some much needed relaxation and deep sea fishing on the Bahari. What fond memories we have, and some great photos of Noelle when she was a young teen.

    Thanks so much for sharing part of Doug’s life with us all. Love and prayers go to Diane, Noelle and the girls, and all that called Doug part of their family.

  11. Janice and Vern Fanke

    Dear Diane and family,

    We were privileged to be Doug and Diane’s neighbors in Marathon for several years. During that time we came to know them well and love them both. Doug was a unique “one of a kind” man. There is a hole in the planet that will not be filled. He will be profoundly missed by many including us.

  12. TONY HAY

    i knew Doug since the early 70’s and really liked him a lot. We had several business dealings in the toy train hobby and both parties were satisfied.. i recall when I told my daughter he moved to Nashville, she said if his name was Knox, would he have moved to KNOXVILLE!! Blessings to you Diane throughm this tough time.

    Tony Hay

  13. Phyllis & Al Cody

    We are Mom and Dad to Diane when she became part of our family. Doug shortly followed. Their life together has been a diet that included good times and bad. They are very special people. Doug will be missed and we were blessed to be part of his life.

  14. David and Sally Manz

    Sally and I had the good fortune to be next door neighbors to Doug and Diane over probably 14 years. I can say with conviction that Doug Nash was an extraordinary individual and exemplified all the qualities in a man that we should emulate. Above all, he was humble. You would never, simply never hear Doug Nash talk about his accomplishments. Ever. He would talk about what interested him, but not himself. That is a rare gift. He was a great listener. He was a kind and gentle man. He had a self deprecating sense of humor. Another gift. Surely, he was a great boss, a mechanical genius, a and a great businessman, among other things. But most important, he was a great son, brother, husband and father. Those qualities live forever in the loved ones who will remember him forever and pass along the memories of an extraordinary person. Rest in peace, Doug.

  15. Milo Coleman

    A fierce competitor, an innovator, a great contributor to the sport of drag racing. His cars, his engineering vision on 5 speeds, his overdrives and his spirit make him one of a kind. Proud to be a friend. When drag racing talk runs high at my hobby shop, Doug’s name always comes up. He will be missed. Milo Coleman.

  16. Boyce Magli

    I was fortunate to be Doug’s Realtor from the his first small building in Franklin 39 years ago until he retired and he and Diane moved to the Caymans . Doug was an all around great guy and was such a pleasure to do business with and to know socially. He was thoughtful, honest, fair and a straight shooter. He never had to raise his voice to make a point. Although I have not seen Doug in the last few years, I think of him often. Every time I see one of his former employees, his name comes up with such fond memories. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. This world needs more people like Doug.

  17. George Thompson

    With our deepest sympathy! Memories! George AND Lynn Thompson

  18. Mark Kirby

    I was the third guy Doug hired in 1968 in Wayne Mich. The company was called Doug Nash Racing at that time and stayed with him until he went to Tennessee. Working with Doug were the best years of my life. He was a good friend, smart and had a great sense of humor. I learned a lot from him and will miss him very much.

  19. Patricia & Jim Sweeney

    Sorry we cannot be there with you at this time. Doug will be missed by Jim a CTN (certified train nut) we never got to make the connection, I was too late. Look forward to being with you in the future.
    Our Sympathy and Love
    Patricia and Jim

  20. Jeremy Bailey

    Diane and Noelle, I am so sorry to hear of Doug’s passing. I know that you both loved him dearly, and that the world is a lesser place without him. May your pain be comforted by the knowledge that he was well loved, and a man with a good heart. My deepest sympathies.


  21. Laura Harris

    Diane and I, many moons ago worked at Maryland Farms Country Club in Brentwood TN. Diane is my best friend/ sister. She lived with our family and quickly became family, daughter and sister to us.
    This is when we met Doug, a very kind, gentle man, who had a genuine smile for you always.
    Doug and Diane grew to became best friends and fell in love. Doug became a part of our family and we have so many amazing memories. My brother Matthew, who passed away at the age of 22 used to work for Doug. It was the best job you a young man, Matthew got to test drive the corvettes that Doug put his transmissions in.
    In 1986 my husband Larry, my daughter Katie who was 6 months and I went to visit Doug and Diane. It was so funny, I when I said Doug’s name, he said, “The Doug Nash.” I was, I don’t know, I know he has a transmission shop. That long ride from Maryland to Nashville Larry informed me of the living legend Doug was. I never knew, I just knew he was this great guy who treated Diane like gold and we loved him. Doug gave of a tour of his very large shop, knowing every person by name who worked there. Stopping to chat with them about how they are doing and their families.
    We went out to dinner that night at Doug’s favorite place to eat at that time, TGIF. It was such an enjoyable evening, lots of laughs and great conversation. Near the end of the night Larry asked for his autograph and he has it to this day in a scrap book.
    I have been blessed to have Doug in my life for over 30 years, with many wonderful memories. He will truly be missed and will forever stay in our hearts.
    I know he is in Heaven and my precious daughter Katie was there to greet him.
    Love you Doug

  22. Larry Harris

    I grew up watching NHRA Racing and Doug Nash was my Favorite. Even when he left Racing and started working on His own Transmissions I followed what vehicles and how Racing had changed with his Transmission. Then I got Married and later said we need to visit her sister and brother in law Doug Nash. I said the Doug Nash and she said I don’t know but he has a Transmission shop. We went to visit and it was a Huge Factory. Doug and Diane took us out to Dinner and I finally had to ask for his Autographe. Laura Brough Harris was not happy with me. He was a normal guy and didn’t act like a Racing Legend. He was my Hero when I was younger and my Brother in law when I grew up. I still have the Autographe. LOL. Doug you will be missed and Loved. Katie will be waiting to see her Uncle Doug.

  23. Cody Harris

    A legend left the world this week. The amazing Uncle Doug Nash. My Uncle invented several transmission types still in use today. The Corvette and many other cars wouldn’t exist as we know it without him. You would never know it if you met him though. The most humble man I have ever met. I love you Uncle Doug, RIP.

  24. Barbi Cali

    I had the privilege of meeting Doug just once and that was all it took… what a all around “cool” guy. I attended the birthday party of his sister in law and I heard how rarely he made this trip but he was there for her. I sat down at a table with him and we ordered drinks. I was freezing so when he said I’ll have a Irish coffee I thought heck heat sounds good. Baileys and Coffee right ?? I can handle that. Being a girl that doesn’t drink much how bad can that be… then Doug gave me a grin and told me he was impressed and how much he hated when the bar tenders didn’t know that a real Irish coffee was whiskey and coffee. I’d be lying if I didn’t mentally tell myself I royally messed up with that decision but I wasn’t going to let my new found buddy down. The little group of us sat for hours. I heard stories of how he met his wife of many years. I envied the way they responded to each other and hoped someday I’d find that kind of love and affection. I heard about story’s of places they visited, his success and failures in business and how much he loved his daughter and grandbabies. He mesmerized me in 1 evening. I drank that Irish coffee… as much as I could. He asked how it was and I mentioned I slowed down cause it was cold. He smiled and totally knew I was a rookie and offered to finish it for me as he told me I did good. Here’s to you Mr. Doug… I was honored to be the honorary 4th sister and your honorary sister in law. Ill be waiting to toast again with another Irish whiskey someday. xoxo Barbi

  25. althompson

    There will never be enough perfect words to describe my life long friend and school class mate. The best part is that I get to remember all the memories and shared stories. The hot rod stories of cruising Ford Road in the “54” Ford,cruising the Garden City High School parking lot and the excessive noise tickets. Horse shoes during school, auto shop, Spelling Bee Champ – 6th Grade, stamp collecting, the Detroit Drag Way, his famous journey in life and business and his family and wife Diane. What a perfect gentleman to know.

  26. Jeffery Scott Collins

    Well , I was saddened to leaner of Doug’s death today . I am in the racing engine building business , associated with Nascar. In 1996 I had a chance meeting with Doug ,needing a long vacation from the industry , I ended up in Marathon. Wanting to fish I looked up a boat rental business , from a local bait shop .Not knowing who I was talking with and signing some rental agreements . he ask what I did for work, I said, build race engines for Nascar teams . Looking down at his paper work the man sitting beside me with a white hat and a smoking pipe , said I was in the business a few years back too. Being in my mid 30,s ,I looked at him to try and recognize the face from my racing history. Until I looked down and saw his name , instantly I said your 5 speed Doug Nash , Yep I am , Wow ! here I am sitting beside a pioneer and a racing legend. There and then I met 2 great friends, just wish I could have spent more time with him,. God Bless you Diane and talk with you soon!

  27. Cora Slaughter

    Diane, something that helped me, and I would like to pass on to you. “Those we Love don’t go away, they walk beside us everyday. Unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, and still missed and very dear.” God Bless you and hope to see you soon. Love, Cora

  28. danny krueger

    I also worked for Doug in Michigan when I was 18 yrs old. I was the only person at that time with real long hair, so Doug and the crew gave me the nickname “Hippie.” It was one of the best jobs I ever had; Doug was the best boss I ever had. He never looked down on anybody, never in the years I worked for him. I never had another boss like him. What a great man. God bless you Doug. Mark Kirby. If you see this, get a hold of me on Facebook.

  29. Glenn Zubok

    When I was a kid I’d hang out in his garage on Barton St.
    and watch him work. He never told me I was in the way.

    He gave me an old pair of zomies. I thought, great, now all I need is a motor and a car. I think I mounted them on my bike.

  30. Meredith Shriver

    I was looking at web sites and found out Mr. Nash had passed. My old man worked for Mr. Nash in his machine shop as machinist in Franklin for several years. I showed him that he had passed and he was so sorry, as he liked Mr.Nash. He had give him a 5-speed transmission and a friend stored it for him. I was wondering if you all still built these and if it is possible I could get one for Nick for his birthday for his 86-Chevy truck. Could someone buy one? His name James (Nick) Daniel.

  31. david perry

    I worked for Doug 68-72, a truly gifted gentleman; I am thank to have known him.

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