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1954 Hudson Italia

Development of the 1954 Hudson Italia
Apparently, the original idea behind the development of the 1954 Hudson Italia was to create a fast, sporty car, based on the hotfooted Hudson Hornet. At least 25 examples were to be built, reportedly in order to qualify for the Carrera Panamericana, the famed -- and bloody -- Mexican Road Race.

1954 hudson italia bumper
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The "praying mantis" front bumper on the 1965 Hudson Italia received negative reviews.

Nothing came of that proposal, however, and although 26 Italias were eventually produced (including the prototype), they were based on the Jet chassis, rather than on the full-sized Hornet.

A word about Hudson styling in general, and that of the Jet in particular, may be in order here. Since 1931, Hudson's director of styling had been the talented Frank Spring, formerly general manager of the famed Pasadena coach-building firm of Walter M. Murphy.

Spring was a man of advanced ideas, as demonstrated by the 1948 Hudson Step-Down design with its recessed floors and low profile. But the man who signed the checks was Hudson's president, Abraham Edward Barit. And Barit, who evidently didn't think much of the Step-Down concept, was -- like Chrysler's K.T. Keller -- a man of little imagination and no talent whatsoever when it came to styling.

There was more than a little European influence in the original styling proposal that Frank Spring had developed for the compact Hudson Jet. Features included rounded lines, sloping hood and rear deck, door openings cut into the roof, and "eyebrow" vents atop the headlights.

Instead, Barit and the rest of the company hierarchy insisted on a design that was clearly inspired by the 1952 Ford, though the Ford's excellent proportions were completely lost in the translation, as were most of Spring's original design features. In the end, although the Jet was 28 inches shorter and 10.5 inches narrower than the Hornet, it stood nearly an inch taller than the larger car.

The result was an ungainly, boxy, top-heavy-appearing automobile that may have appealed to Barit, but to almost no one else. And to make matters worse, the Jet ended up costing about $250 more than the full-size Chevrolet.

But to return to the Italia. To have produced even a couple dozen cars in the United States would not have been feasible, because labor costs were prohibitive. And to tool up for series production of the little coupe was out of the question, for having poured $12 million into developing and marketing the Jet, Hudson simply didn't have the money.

At Italy's Carrozzeria Touring, however, labor was cheap, overhead low. With little investment, limited numbers of Italias could be hammered out by hand.

So an agreement was reached whereby a prototype would be built in Milan. The design was based upon sketches by Frank Spring, and developed by Touring under the supervision of Spring and vice-president Stuart Baits.

A complete Hudson Jet was shipped to Italy. There, most of the superstructure was jettisoned and a new aluminum body was formed over tubular framing. The cost to Hudson was said to be an incredibly low $28,000.

Go on to the next page to learn about the production of the 1954 Hudson Italia.

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