Category: Hudson

Hudson’s step-down styling was revolutionary. So why didn’t certain other carmakers use it? – Pat Foster @Hemmings

Hudson’s step-down styling was revolutionary. So why didn’t certain other carmakers use it? – Pat Foster @Hemmings


Not stepping down

In case you’re wondering, the title of today’s column is not about me stepping down from my position here at good old HCC. Rather, it has to do with the cars that never joined the “step-down” movement. In other words, it’s the handful of cars that never incorporated Hudson’s innovative step-down construction technique.

You’ll recall that Hudson’s first post-World War II complete redesign was for the 1948 model year. It included sedans, coupes, and a convertible, all boasting an aerodynamic body shape. The lines were long and flowing; however, the first thing you noticed is how low they were. To people of that era, it seemed impossible someone could sit inside the new Hudsons comfortably; surely your hat would get crushed and you’d have to drive stooped forward. But Hudson’s body and chassis engineers managed to achieve a low cabin with plenty of headroom. The trick they came up with was, essentially, to weld the floor panel to the underside of the chassis frame rails rather than the top. This allowed them to drop the seats several inches, which in turn meant the roofline could be lowered without loss of headroom.

It was a major styling coup. The new Hudsons were the lowest family cars in America by far, at a time when “longer, lower, wider” were considered big advantages.

One side benefit: Occupants felt safer because the impression they got upon entering the car was that they were stepping down into the chassis. They could imagine frame rails encircling them for safety. It was a comforting feeling.

But the most significant benefit was in handling—the new Hudson Step-Downs outhandled every other full-sized car on the road. This fact was soon noticed by stock car racers around the country and before you could say, “So long, sucker,” Hudsons were racking up race wins by the score.

So, it might seem strange that a handful of cars never switched over to step-down design, while one or two significant others eventually did, though years later than most. One latecomer was Rambler. When the company redesigned the Rambler line for 1956, it didn’t include a step-down floor, which was odd because it would have helped them offer even more room in what was the roomiest Rambler yet. I knew its designer, Ed Anderson, but never thought to ask him why that was; I wasn’t smart enough back then to think of it. That basic body remained in production through 1962. The 1963 models had a step-down floor.

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The Future of Sir Vival, A Safety-Minded Custom Hudson, Is Uncertain as Bellingham Auto Sales Closes Its Doors – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


In Bellingham, Massachusetts, the last active Hudson dealership in the world holds several treasures.”Right now, the place is like a landmark,” owner Ed Moore says in his thick R-obliterating accent. “We had to move the two-headed Hudson away from the corner when they were doing construction on the intersection, and everybody was asking when it was coming back.”

The most visible vehicle—ensconced behind one of the garage doors facing Mechanic Street—is a one-off Hudson-based safety car dubbed Sir Vival. Pretty soon, Moore will need to move it and everything else out of Bellingham Auto Sales before the wrecking ball comes for the garages

Moore’s connection to the corner of Mechanic and Maple Streets goes all the way back to his infancy, when his father, Donald, bought the single-room two-pump gas station there, added two rooms off the back, and moved his small family in while selling used cars on the side. In 1946, with postwar demand for cars off the charts, Donald did well enough that he felt comfortable taking a chance on a fledgling carmaker out of Buffalo and bought a Playboy Motors franchise. More than 700 other service-station owners did the same, and while their investments didn’t pan out as they’d envisioned, Bellingham Auto Sales fared better than most. Bellingham eventually owned as many as 11 of the 97 (or so) Playboys produced, including the prototype, final production car, and a demo car that Mrs. Moore drove. It also had the mahogany buck used to hammer out

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Reflecting on Hershey in the year of historic turmoil – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


Typically, at this time of year I start to gather my swap meet belongings and prepare for another trek to the famed AACA Eastern Fall Meet. Most everyone knows it simply as “Hershey,” adopted from the Pennsylvania town it has called home since its founding. I’d be giddy with child-like Christmas Eve anticipation, my backpack, parts books, and shop manuals stacked in the hallway, ready to load into the SUV, along with ample food and beverage, and a week’s worth of clothing and foot apparel fit for whatever Mother Nature had intended to throw at us. But the swap meet and car corral portion of the Fall Meet has been canceled for 2020, and as the days edge closer to the traditional meet week dates in early October, my usual elevated sense of anticipation has been replaced with a mood of somber reflection, of what Hershey has meant to me and my family, as the pandemic continues to cast its long, dark shadow that changed the 2020 meet.

I first got wind of Hershey during the early single-digit years of my existence. Both my parents were veterans of the meet by the time I entered their lives. Along with a few surviving photos—such as the one above, taken outside the original stadium when Dad was on the hunt for 1946 Hudson items—the tales, I have since learned, were typical of the era. Before departing, if rain was in the forecast (and it usually was), my parents would scoop up every used umbrella they could find for pennies on the dollar, and then sell the bent, tattered, and barely usable devices to saturated attendees in hours, raising enough cash to feed the gas tank for the trek home, and then some. Doubling the cost of the donuts they’d sell, on a daily basis, apparently, also deferred some of the travel expenses. These spur-of-the-moment, albeit brief, enterprises likely weren’t uncommon then, although I seem to recall a story involving an unused casket that was lugged down and sold at the meet; this demonstrated to me, even then, that the ability to sell anything at Hershey was not just a loosely spoken legend.

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Blue Collar Beauty – 1937 Hudson Terraplane – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


Classic Truck: 1937 Hudson Terraplane

Terraplane’s Cab Pickup Express might look a little too jaunty for the job site but, by 1937 standards, this was a stout light truck. If you glanced under the rear of a Series 70, and longer wheelbase Series 78 Terraplane commercial rig, you’d see a thick pair of leaf springs—15 leaves in both—that lent these trucks a hefty ¾-ton rating.

You’d also notice the sturdy “Double Drop 2-X” frame—it was the same design used in Terraplane (as well as Hudson) cars, but it looked purpose-built for hauling. A pair of boxed side rails—71/8 inches deep at their widest point between the axles—were tied together with a massive X-shaped member in the center and a smaller X-member in front. There were also three heavy-duty crossmembers, including a new one for the 1937 model year, added at the rear kickup. The Double Drop 2-X frame was riveted together, while the boxed sections of the rails were welded in place with 142 welds. For added rigidity, the vehicles’ floors were bolted to the frames at multiple points in what Terraplane called “Monobilt” construction.

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Two weeks’ punishment: Hudson-Terraplane’s Ruggedness Run – Daniel Strohl, Hemmings


Great Hudson story from Daniel featured in Hemmings some years ago.

Two weeks’ punishment: Hudson-Terraplane’s Ruggedness Run

The story highlights the trouble that manufacturers took to demonstrate the toughness and reliability of the their product to the general public.

This is how Hudson did it in 1934!

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Seeing in the New Year at the Phoenix Inn Hartley Wintney


Took a drive over to Hartley Wintney for the New Years Day meet at the Phoenix Inn, pretty well attended considering the weather wasn’t great. A good smattering of American cars, along with coffee and some decent grub was on offer!

Some nice vehicles included:

Hudson Super Six

Chrysler New Yorker

Ford Ranchero

Model A Coupe & Roadster


Plus a really cool Mercedes Hot Rod, not my normal thing, but very nice..

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