1954 Hudson Jet

The 1954 Hudson Jets were essentially a repeat of the 1953s with more trim variations and a newly ribbed grille bar with a medallion in the center. There were now three series, with the new Jet-Liner topping the line.

Sales of the 1954 Hudson Jet lagged, contributing to the demise of the company.
Sales of the 1954 Hudson Jet lagged, contributing
to the demise of the company.

Starting around $2,050 and available as a two- or four-door sedan, the Jet-Liner had a beautiful pleated-vinyl interior with foam rubber seat cushions. Contrasting colors of red, blue, or green with cream were offered, and instrument panel colors were keyed accordingly.

On the outside, there was more chrome trim around the windows, gravel shields, and door-base moldings. The Super Jet series also wore some bodyside chrome, while the base series added a two-door Utility Sedan (with a folding trunk divider partition), and, in April, a price leader called the "Family Club Sedan."

Introduced at $1,475, but quickly raised to $1,621, the Family Club was the cheapest Jet ever. Like the Henry J, it was said to have been created for the millions of people who could never before afford a brand-new car. In fact, it was a desperate attempt to find buyers for the Jet, which was badly lagging in sales.

It had no exterior brightwork other than bumpers and hubcaps, rubber moldings around the windshield and backlight, cheap cloth upholstery, and rubber floor mats. Although it offered the usual range of drivetrains, it failed to relieve the accumulating deficit. A single Jet convertible was also built as an experiment; sales manager Virgil Boyd bought it for his son.

Through April 30,1954, when Hudson closed down as an independent company and joined Nash to form American Motors Corporation, it had lost $6.2 million on sales of only $28.7 million. Had the year continued at that pace, Hudson would have lost $18.6 million, almost double the 1953 record loss.

As it was, AMC didn't report separate Hudson results after the May 1 merger, but Hudson production continued in Detroit through October 29. Only 50,660 cars were built for the model run, and just 14,224 of those were Jets. For the next three years, all Hudsons would be based on Nashes and built in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after which the marque would disappear forever.

It's difficult to avoid the temptation of singling out one model as the reason for failure. The One Twenty did not sink Packard, nor indeed did the Packard Six, although the Six contributed; the Lark didn't condemn Studebaker; even the Henry J, as bad a product decision as it was, cannot be called the car that killed Kaiser. The Edsel was a marketing miscue, but hardly the catastrophe" it is often held to be; Ford was making record profits a couple years later. The Corvair or Vega meant nothing in the broad Chevrolet picture.

But if ever there was a single model that had a devastating effect on its maker, it was the Hudson Jet. Product-wise, it was almost exactly wrong. Its timing -- at the height of the horsepower race, with the public besotted by longer, lower, wider cars and V-8 engines, and General Motors and Ford virtually giving away their cars in a price war -- was almost guaranteed to make it a failure no matter how good it was -- and it wasn't that good.

It gobbled up $16 million in tooling expenses at a time when cash was needed to update Hudson's stock-in-trade, the big Hornets and Wasps, which hadn't seen a new body in seven years and desperately needed a modern V-8 to meet the competition.

Despite its good qualities, the Jet was not, in the end, the car those big Hudsons had been, not even a junior edition of them. Hudson, after all, was not a big company. Sixteen million meant a lot. There is no doubt at all that the firm should have put that money into a car with a proven market: a V-8 Hornet, for example.

The Jet finished Hudson, all right.

To find more information on the 1953-1954 Hudson Jet, including prices, models, and specifications, see the next page.

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