The success of the 1954 Hudson Italia was mixed. The first 1954 Hudson Italia made the rounds of the major automobile shows in the U.S., and some of the European salons as well. In January 1954, it was exhibited at the International Sports Car Show.
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Though the Italia had originally been envisioned as using the Hudson Hornet 308-cid engine, it received the Jet's 202-cid L-head six with Twin H-Power.
AMC later claimed in a press release that more than 5,000,000 people saw the Italia on exhibit. The evidence indicates, however, that -- for whatever reason -- it failed to generate as much excitement as its builders had anticipated.
Motor Trend Magazine mentioned the Italia in its November 1953 Spotlight on Detroit column, calling it "a possible new version of the Jet in future years."
MT said that "it's capable of taking the 160 or 170 bhp Hornet engine. The Italia will do well over 100 mph. It has never been extended, but with the proper gearing, it should be capable of doing close to 120, considerably higher with the Hornet engine."
Earlier, on September 23, 1953, Norman VanDerzee, Hudson's vice-president for sales, issued a letter to Hudson dealers announcing the Italia, along with an order form for those interested in ordering one.
Response was lukewarm, partly because the $4,800 price was a stiff one by 1953 standards (a Cadillac Sixty-Two Coupe de Ville started at $3,995), and evidently only 18 or 19 firm orders resulted from the offer. Reportedly, some dealers were disappointed that the Hornet engine hadn't been used.
Nevertheless, in early December 1953 an agreement was made with Carrozzeria Touring, calling for 25 more Jets to be shipped to Italy, there to be reincarnated as Italias. The cost to Hudson of the conversion was $2,300 per car.
Then, on August 12, 1954, it was announced that the Italia was in limited production. The bulletin went on to declare that "orders from dealers far exceed planned production of the Italia." To call that statement a gross exaggeration is to put the matter politely. It would be more accurate to describe it as a flat untruth.
"Production" Italias differed from the prototype in only a few respects. Overdrive, for example, was omitted, the instrument panel was different, and combination leather-and-vinyl upholstery was used.
The trunk was accessible only from inside the car, an inconvenient arrangement, though the large luggage platform behind the seats, complete with straps to hold cargo in place, mitigated that somewhat. So did lockable storage compartments on either side of the platform.
Go on to the next page to learn about the legacy of the 1954 Hudson Italia.
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