Tag: Hudson

Did Ute Know? The first car-based pickup was not a Chevy – Ronnie Schreiber @Hagerty

Did Ute Know? The first car-based pickup was not a Chevy – Ronnie Schreiber @Hagerty


For a group that likes to call themselves car people, automotive enthusiasts have an odd affection for cars that look like trucks: The Chevrolet El Camino, the Ford Ranchero, and the Subaru Brat.

Whatever you call these oddities—car-truck, truck-car, cowboy Cadillac, ute—it’s tempting to say that they trace their lineage back to Henry Ford and the 1917 Model TT truck. Though early Ford cars and trucks are obviously related, the TT was a purpose-built utility vehicle with a more substantial frame and drivetrain. Typically, car-based trucks have gone in the other direction, borrowing their mechanicals from automobiles, not trucks, and tilting the utility/luxury balance more towards the latter.

So, if not the Model TT, which vehicle is the true founder of the car-truck line?

1924 Model TT stake bed Ford

Since I haven’t done a Marianas Trench–level dive into the subject, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that it was independent automakers Studebaker and Hudson that first introduced actual car-based pickup trucks to the American market. However, I believe that the 1937–39 Studebaker Coupe Express and the 1941–47 Hudson Cab Pick-up (including the 3/4 ton “Big Boy” models) are among the very first American vehicles that combined pickups’ cargo beds with the styling, sheetmetal, and mechanical componentry of those brands’ passenger cars.

Introduced for the 1937 model year, the Coupe Express was based on the Studebaker Dictator. In case you’re wondering why Studebaker would choose a model name associated with despots, the Dictator nameplate was introduced in 1927, before Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Stalin had solidified the word’s modern connotations. If the branding scheme is now awkward, it was at least coherent: Dictator was the entry-level Studebaker, below the midrange Commander and flagship President.

Power was supplied by Studebaker’s larger, 218-cubic-inch (3.6 liter) L-head inline six-cylinder producing 86 horsepower, driving through a three-speed manual transmission, with an optional Borg-Warner overdrive available. Typical passenger-car options like radios, heaters, and turn signals were available. You could even choose from two different styles of steel wheels. (Yes, young Padawan, things like heaters and turn signals were not always standard equipment, let alone air conditioning. Before the 1976 Honda Accord, cars were very much priced à la carte.) About 3000 units of the introductory Coupe Express were sold. Advertising touted the “passenger-car comfort and style … combined with useful business body types.”

For the 1938 model year, the cab of the Coupe Express was updated to reflect styling changes on the passenger cars. In this case, styling alterations made the vehicle more practical: They allowed for a slightly longer cargo bed, which featured a sharp-looking, backwards-sloped tailgate. Despite the styling changes, sales dropped by almost two-thirds to around 1200 trucks. Again, the 1939 models were restyled to reflect Studebaker’s cars, but sales of the utes dropped even more, to just about 1000 units. The Coupe Express was discontinued to be replaced in 1941 by a 1/2 ton model of Studebaker’s more conventional M-Series pickup in 1941.

Hudson, on the other hand, never developed a dedicated truck line. You could well argue that all of Hudson’s pickup trucks, in fact all of its light commercial vehicles, were car-based. This wasn’t a bad thing, since Hudson’s automobiles were regarded as robustly overbuilt; perhaps they were suited well for the task of being car-truck hybrids.

In 1929 Hudson’s Dover truck brand started selling a line of commercial vehicles based on the parent company’s Essex automobiles, equipped with pickup beds, side-express bodies, or custom bodies made by the Hercules company in Kentucky. The United States Postal Service was a major customer, buying 500 of the car-based trucks, presumably for mail delivery. One of those postal utes, shown below, long resided at the Hostetler Hudson Museum in Shipshewana, Indiana, which closed in 2018.

1929 Hudson Essex Dover US Mail Truck Flickr | Joe Ross

Hudson also sold those same vehicles under the Essex brand, with slight changes. In 1932, a new line of pickups and sedan deliveries were offered, based on the Terraplane. With the Great Depression going on, sales were modest and peaked at about 8000 units in 1937.

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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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Cars and Coffee @Richard Edmonds Auctions Chippenham


Took a trip over to the well known auctioneers Richard Edmonds at Chippenham for a cars and coffee/breakfast event.

Nice turn out of cars and is usual those from the other side of the pond are featured here.

Stunning 1938 Packard One Twenty Convertible

Followed by another convertible, this time a 1916 Hudson

And for good measure a well used but clearly loved Model A Tudor

Something more modern a 2002 Ford F150 Lightning

Also some nice Petrolania

Looking forward to the next auction which is in October

Check here for information

The Demise of the Nash Metropolitan – Pat Foster @Hemmings


What killed the Met?

Remember how you felt the first time you saw a Nash Metropolitan? Well of course you do — it would be almost impossible not to. Tiny, quirky… the little car seemed like a joke, right? But that’s not how it was viewed when it first arrived on the market. When it debuted in March of 1954, it was well-received by the motoring press, which praised its design, ride, and fuel economy, as well as its styling. It was also well-received by the public, who flocked to Nash showrooms and bought up every Met in stock. After May of that same year, the little Met was also available in a Hudson version, becoming the first Hudson model to be created from a rebadged Nash.

By the end of the year, the newly formed American Motors realized it had a minor hit on its hands (the company never expected it to be a major hit) and asked Austin in the U.K. to increase production to meet demand. In mid-1956, the debut of a new two-tone “zig/zag” paint job and larger 1,500-cc engine sparked renewed interest. In fact, that year the little Nash was America’s number-two selling imported car!

So, what happened? How did a car that was doing so well become a failure? Its best sales year was 1959, when 14,959 were retailed in the U.S. But sales turned downward in 1960 and from there dropped like a stone. The final model year was 1962 and many (probably most) of the units sold were leftovers from 1961 or earlier.

American Motors had an unusual system for determining the Metropolitan’s model year. On whatever date the new models were announced each year, any new, unsold Mets still in stock at dealerships or in factory inventory automatically became the new year’s model. That’s why you sometimes find Metropolitans that are registered as, say “1961” models with a lower serial number than a 1959 or 1960 model, simply because that particular car sat on a dealer’s lot for a while, a couple of years or more in some cases. The situation does cause some confusion with collectors, but it was designed to avoid having to discount the prior year’s inventory. This policy was maintained even when fairly significant product changes took place, such as 1956 when the new two-tone color scheme and large engine debuted, and 1959 when the vent windows and opening trunk first appeared

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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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Beaulieu International Autojumble 2017


Took a trip down to Beaulieu for the 2017 International Autojumble which was as always well attended with plenty of visitors from outside these shores displaying their wares.

Didn’t get what I really wanted, but I did pick up a few tools and perused the Car Corral and the parking are for the onsite Bonham’s auction which you can see in the gallery.

It appears these type of events are what is keeping Beaulieu going as the museum is falling behind the likes of the Haynes and  the British Motor Museum, (Gaydon), offerings, which is a real shame.

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There were  a number of interesting and varied American vehicles:

  • Replica Lincoln of the year & model of the one JFK was assassinated in
  • Rare 1930 Viking four door deluxe sedan
  • 1948 Nash 600 Super two door coupe for sale at £8950
  • Beautifully restored Cadillac convertible in the Bonham’s auction parking area
  • Partially completed Hudson project car
  • Nicely restored 1950’s Willy’s Jeep
  • Some nice Mustangs new & old

Classic Car Show Popham Airfield UK May 2nd 2016


We took our annual jaunt to the classic car show at Popham Airfield which is a 40 minute drive from where we live. The weather outlook wasn’t great and impacted the turnout a little, but in the end the weather was pretty good, and the American attendance was of a good quality and a reasonable quantity. My favourite was a lovely blue 1947 Hudson Pickup

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