Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Hupmobile Cars Work


The Hupmobile 222F Coupe was one of many Hupp cars that had the style and power to compete with cars of the era, but it was still ill-received by the public.
The Hupmobile 222F Coupe was one of many Hupp cars that had the style and power to compete with cars of the era, but it was still ill-received by the public.

Robert C. Hupp was an engineer who worked with Ransom Eli Olds and Henry Ford before setting up his own car company in November 1909. His first product, developed with help from several colleagues he hired away from Olds, was the Model 20, a little 16.9-horsepower four-cylinder job on an 86-inch wheelbase. Hupp priced it at a modest $750, a full $75 below Ford's recently introduced Model T. With features like high-tension magneto and two-speed sliding-gear transmission, this first Hupmobile garnered 1618 sales. By 1913, Hupp production was over 12,000.

Hupp left in a huff during 1911 (his next venture would be the unsuccessful RCH), but Hupp Motor Car Company prospered through the Teens and '20s. A straight-eight debuted in 1925, and six-cylinder models replaced fours in 1926. By that point the firm had inked a favorable contract with the Murray Body Corporation, and the considerable talents of its chief designer, Amos Northup, were evident by 1928 in Hupp's stylish new Century line of Sixes and Eights. Buyers responded, and registrations that year totaled some 55,500.

But that would be the peak, and Hupp never built more than 9500 cars a year after 1932. Though its post-1933 "Aero­dynamic" cars were among the better examples of period streamlining, the public didn't go for them. As a result, Hupp closed down midway through 1936, reopened to produce a handful of 1937-38 cars, then struggled on without much success into 1939.

After a second straight year of healthy sales, Hupp volume plunged to 22,183 for 1930. That year's line began with the six-cylinder S, a six-model line with 111-inch wheelbase and a 70-bhp, 211.6-cubic-inch engine. Prices were $995-$1160, which made it a medium-priced car. Then came three straight-eight series designated C, H, and U, which were assembled in Detroit; the S was produced in Cleveland at the former Chandler plant that Hupp had acquired. The S and C were Hupp's bread-and-butter cars. The latter mounted a 121-inch chassis and carried a 268.6-cid engine with 100 bhp. H and U used a larger 365.6-cid eight with 133 bhp and included some luxurious limousines on a 137-inch wheelbase.

The next year brought more of the same, plus a new L-series Century Eight with a 90-bhp 240.2-cid engine. A two-door ­victoria, one of the most-handsome Hupps ever, arrived in the U-Series, and freewheeling was a sales point across the line. With the Depression exerting its death grip, Hupp flew buyers to Detroit and Cleveland to help stimulate orders, but sales remained sluggish at 17,456 for the model year.

For 1932, Hupp series codes indicated model year and wheelbase. That year's B-216 thus rode a 116-inch wheelbase; it also carried a new 75-bhp 228.1-cid engine. Hupp now secured the services of designer Raymond Loewy, who styled the eight-cylinder F-222 and I-226 with tire-hugging, cycle-type fenders; Vee'd radiators; sloped windshields; and chrome wheel discs. Fs had 250.7- or 261.5-cid engines with about 95 bhp. A 103-bhp, 279.9-cid unit powered the I-models. These graceful, handsome cars (issued after a brief run of "first-series" '31 carry-overs) won many awards for Loewy but few sales for Hupp, and production dropped again, this time to just under 10,500.

The 1933 Hupps were essentially '32 reruns, with a more-sloping grille the most obvious visual change. The 250 eight departed, while the 279 engine was bored out to 303.2 cid and 109 bhp for the I-326. Expanding the line were a cycle-fendered Six, the K-321, plus a cheaper K-321A with stationary hood louvers and single windshield wiper and taillight. But none of this helped, and Hupp's total volume dropped to just 7316.

For more on defunct American cars, see: