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.