Thanks in part to its recessed floors, which had been a feature of Hudson's original Step-Down design, the 1954 Hudson Italia stood nearly nine inches lower than the Hudson Jet from which it was derived. Let's consider more details of the production of the 1954 Hudson Italia.
Styling features included a one-piece, wraparound windshield with vertical "A" pillars. "Jet stacks" -- three ersatz exhaust pipes -- emerged from each rear fender.
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The Italia sported triple exhausts on both sides.
Sometimes derisively known as "organ pipes," the chrome-plated tubes appear somewhat gimmicky by modern standards, but at least they served the practical purpose of housing the tail, stop, and back-up lights. And no one could deny that they attracted a lot of attention.
Doors were cut deeply into the roof in the interest of easy entry and egress. Frank Spring had first used this device at Murphy's, back in 1931, on the prototype Peerless Sixteen. One might have expected occupants to get drenched when the doors were opened during a rainstorm, but such was not the case because gutters effectively drained the water away.
Other features of the Italia included the familiar Hudson triangle, appearing this time in inverted form on the front bumper. Air scoops above the headlamps directed cooling air to the front brake drums. Rear drums received similar treatment, thanks to intakes built into the leading edge of the rear fenders.
Meanwhile, flow-through ventilation provided occupants with a constant supply of fresh air, entering through a cowl vent and exiting via dual slots above the rear window. Sporty chrome wire wheels were supplied by Carlo Borrani.
The Italia was finished, appropriately, in Italian Cream, and its interior incorporated some more of Spring's advanced thinking, including a non-reflecting dash finished in red. Bright red Italian deep-pile carpeting covered the floor, while individual "anatomical" seats for the driver and passenger were upholstered in red-and-white leather.
The reclining backrests were made up of two contoured bolsters, one for the shoulders, one for the lower back.
The foam rubber for bolsters and squab was supplied in three different densities for maximum comfort. Even seatbelts were standard issue. This was a very advanced idea in mid-1953, when the prototype Italia was built.
Unfortunately, however, the belts were anchored to the seat itself, rather than to the frame, which meant -- as author Mike Lamm has observed -- that "about all they're good for is to hold up your pants."
Mechanically, of course, the Italia was pure Hudson Jet. The engine was a flathead six, with an unusual 1.58:1 stroke/bore ratio. The long-stroke design was admittedly anachronistic, particularly at a time when most manufacturers were adopting the over-square configuration.
But as editor John Bond pointed out, it enabled Hudson to use a higher compression ratio than would otherwise have been feasible with the L-head layout.
Equipped with "Twin H-Power" -- a high-compression (8.0:1) cylinder head and two single-barrel downdraft carburetors -- the engine was rated at 114 horsepower. This actually provided the Italia with a slightly better power-to-weight ratio than the fabled Hudson Hornet. The prototype's transmission was a three-speed, column-mounted manual with overdrive.
Go on to the next page to learn about the success of the 1954 Hudson Italia.
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