1941-1947 Hudson


"Symphonic Styling begins with brilliantly modern new design," said the 1941 Hudson's brochure, "... bodies that are 5 1/2 inches longer, a full 2 inches lower, and roomier than ever." This might have confused many car shoppers, because, from the front at least, the 1941s looked much like the previous year's cars.

Hudson Image Gallery

The Hudson Commodore Eight debuted in 1941.
The Hudson Commodore Eight debuted in 1941.
See more pictures of Hudson cars.

The 1940 Hudson had looked strikingly new. A broad grille of seven horizontal louvers spanned from fender to fender, and the fenders themselves were an outgrowth of the body, not bulbous lumps connected to the body by a catwalk as on General Motors' cars. A sharp crease headlined the prow, on a hood hinged to open from the rear, a Hudson feature introduced the previous year.

A fully-independent, coil spring front suspension replaced 1939's leaf-sprung beam axle, though it must be said that Hudson's had been no ordinary beam axle: with characteristic Hudson thoroughness it had featured radius arms in addition to the semi-elliptic springs and, in 1939, added a stabilizer bar that Hudson called "Auto-Poise."

This latter device linked one front wheel to the other with a torsion bar, an arrangement that was to become commonplace a few years later but was a Hudson exclusive at the time. Hudson boasted "Center Point steering," which used an idler arm mounted in the middle of the front cross-member and two "half tie rods."

A close look, however, proved the newness of the 1940 Hudsons to be deceptive. The fresh appearance was really only a nose job on the 1939 bodies, albeit a clever one. Hudson's own advertising played up the illusion by highlighting the nose and hiding the rest of the car in shadows.

And the front suspension was the only significant mechanical change, though wheelbases grew on bottom- and top-of-the-line cars, and transmissions were redesigned for "side shift" operation from the column linkage (1939 gearboxes having been converted "top loaders," with cable-and-rod actuation).

The 1940 Hudson, then, was a very evolutionary venture into the new decade. In fact, Hudson engineering and styling had nearly always been evolutionary, in large measure due to the company's perennial paucity of cash. While the firm had enjoyed the status of third best sales in the industry in 1929, the 1930s had been a bit of a roller coaster. Red ink showed up in 1931, and lasted -- but for three years of modest profits in 1935-1937 -- until 1940.

From the rear, differences between the 1940 and 1941 Hudsons were more obvious.
From the rear, differences between the 1940 and
1941 Hudson were more obvious.

Thus the six- and eight-cylinder engines had much in common; both were lineal descendants of the Essex six of 1924, a much-maligned powerplant whose deficient lubrication often caused bearing failure while running downhill. However, many years of incremental engineering had made the engines reliable, including their "splash" lubrication -- and Hudson eights would splash until they left production at the end of 1952. Hudson's forte was metallurgy, and the company's chrome alloy cylinder blocks were nearly indestructible.

A number of mechanical features were unique to Hudson, and interestingly so:

  • Chief engineer Stuart Baits had been badly injured in an accident while testing Hudson's new hydraulic brakes. Vowing never to allow such failure again, Baits designed the "Double Safe" system that automatically activated the mechanical emergency brakes on the rear wheels if the brake pedal sank below a certain limit.

  • Almost from the beginning, Hudson had used a cork-faced clutch, which ran in oil. It was uncommonly smooth, and quite reliable.

  • Followers of other makes found Hudson's door locks strange. Instead of pushing the inside lock buttons down to lock the doors as in other cars, Hudson owners pulled theirs up. The reason for this anomaly was amazingly simple: It's much harder to break into a car by pushing the button down with a coat hanger than to pull it up.

If the 1940 Hudson had been a new-looking old car, the 1941 was a familiar new car -- almost too familiar. From the front, it took an expert to tell a 1941 Hudson from a 1940: Two additional grille bars and revised hood trim were the only obvious changes.

The parts manuals tell a different and more dramatic story. Only the front fenders interchange with the earlier cars. Moreover, from the cowl back, the 1941 Hudsons were undeniably all new, longer and lower, with a pleasing "bustle" where the 1940 cars had a holdover 1930s fastback theme.

For more on the 1941 Hudson models, continue on to the next page.

For more information on cars, see:

1941 Hudson Models

The 1941 Hudson models mirrored the range of the year before, though wheelbases in each series were three inches longer.

The 1941 Hudson Super Six station wagon had distinctive wood paneling.
The 1941 Hudson Super Six station wagon had
distinctive wood paneling.

The basic car was the Hudson Six, or Model 10, on a 116-inch wheelbase. The Six came in two subseries. The Traveler, Model 10T, started at $695, only a few dollars more than the cheapest Ford and less expensive than any Chevrolet or Plymouth, and included a three-passenger coupe, a five-passenger club coupe, a two-door sedan, and a four-door sedan.

The Deluxe, essentially a better trimmed Traveler, was about $70 more expensive, model for model, which put it head-to-head with the Ford Super Deluxe and Chevrolet Special Deluxe. It was available in all the same body styles as the Traveler, and added a convertible (which Hudson called a "Convertible Sedan," though it was actually a two-door convertible coupe). The convertible could be had with or without rear quarter windows; if fitted, they went up and down with the power top.

Commercial cars were a bit of a mixed bag. Most of these were part of the Six series, designated 10C. Styles included a Utility Coupe, with a box inside the trunk (not a sliding box as on earlier Terraplanes), a Utility Coach two-door sedan with readily removable rear seat, a half-ton pickup, a cab and chassis, and the nearly forgotten All-Purpose Delivery, a boxy "stand-and-drive" unit aimed at the bread and milk trade.

Standard engine for the Six series was the small version of Hudson's venerable side-valve six-cylinder engine. Its "economy" 175-cubic-inch displacement was achieved by cutting 7/8 inch from the stroke of the Super Six engine, which could be substituted as an option.

There were two other series of six-cylinder cars, both on a 121-inch wheel-base. The Model 11 Super Six was the bread-and-butter model, and the Model 12 Commodore Six its more expensive sibling. Super Sixes came as two- and four-door sedans, a club coupe, a convertible, and an attractive Cantrell wood-bodied station wagon. Commodore Sixes also had a three-passenger coupe, but no wagon.

These cars used the 212-cid "3 × 5" engine that debuted in 1934 to power Hudson-built Terraplanes. For 1941 it offered 102 bhp when equipped with a dual-throat carburetor; a single-barrel version fitted to some of the commercial cars produced 98 horses.

Hudson's eight was essentially a Super Six with two extra cylinders, though the stroke was shortened by half an inch, resulting in 254 cubic inches of displacement. The eight developed 128 bhp.

This 1941 Hudson Commodore Eight shows off the two-door convertible body style
This 1941 Hudson Commodore Eight shows off
the two-door convertible body style.

Commodore Eights came in three series and two wheelbases. Models 14 and 15 on the 121-inch platform, and Model 17 with 128 inches. Model 14 cars came as two- and four-door sedans, three-passenger and club coupes, a convertible, and a station wagon. Model 15 Commodore Custom Eights came only as three- and four-passenger coupes. Model 17 Commodore Custom Eight sedans were sold in six- and eight-passenger versions.

The 128-inch wheelbase also was home to the six-cylinder "Big Boy" commercial series. The Model 18P sedan and Carry-All were eight-passenger models, the latter having removable rear seats for enlarged cargo capacity. The Model 18C trucks appeared as a three-quarter-ton pickup and a chassis with cab. All used the 98-bhp version of the 212-cid engine.

Continue on to the next page to read about the 1941 Hudson's symphonic styling.

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1941 Hudson's Symphonic Styling

The 1941 Hudson's "Symphonic Styling" referred not only to the body (which had "lines that flow in unbroken harmony from front to modish new rear"), but more particularly to "a wide choice of interior color combinations that harmonize with exterior colors ... at no extra cost."

All 1941 Hudsons offered Symphonic Styling, which coordinated interior and exterior colors.
All 1941 Hudsons offered Symphonic Styling,
which coordinated interior and exterior colors.

Common practice, at least in the low- and medium-price range, had been to use a common denominator cloth interior in closed cars, a gray or brown hue that would compliment (or at least not clash with) any of the exterior colors. For 1941, though, Hudson headlined "interiors that harmonize with exterior colors," thereby completing the musical metaphor.

The Model 10 Six cars had two choices of interior fabric; a gray-stripe cloth that was used in cars with gray or blue paint, and a tan-stripe cloth that went with black, green, tan, maroon, bronze, or red cars. Supers and Commodores, both sixes and eights, used the same gray and tan fabrics, but added a green interior for use with black or green cars.

Several two-tone paint combinations were available at extra cost, with the lighter hue on the roof and greenhouse area.

The quieter, new three-speed synchromesh transmission could be ordered with an automatic vacuum clutch that was repackaged for 1941 as Vacumotive Drive. Optional on the cars, Vacumotive was standard on the All-Purpose Delivery route van, which was new for the year.

Running boards were standard on the 1941 Hudson Commodore Six convertible.
Running boards were standard on the 1941 Hudson
Commodore Six convertible.

Other accessories for 1941 Hudsons included conveniences like an electric clock for the glove box door, a cigarette lighter, and the Weather-Master heater. Directional signals, a $13.75 option, were operated with a steering-column mounted push button. The signals flashed the front fender lamps and tailights, the fender lamps themselves being a separate $10.90 item except on Commodores, which had them as standard equipment.

Three radios were available, an inexpensive manually tuned "Junior," the "Deluxe" with push-button tuning, and the eight-tube superheterodyne "Custom" model. Any radio could have a vacuum-operated antenna for an additional $6.50. Running boards, standard on Commodores, could be ordered on other cars at extra cost.

An ironic accessory was the set of "Deluxe" seat covers, made of the "best grade fibre matting." These were "colored to harmonize with all 1941 interiors," the better to cover up the "wide selection of interior colors," apparently.

Hudson did not preserve many prewar production records, so it's impossible to tell how many of any particular model were produced. Most widely quoted are calendar year shipments, which include export cars. For 1941 there were 79,529 shipments, of which 812 were commercials. One source cites model year output as 82,051 sixes and 9718 eights.

Follow Hudson's evolution through the next model year by continuing to the next page.

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1942 Hudson

The 1942 Hudson models bowed on September 1, 1941. Basically updated 1941s, they featured a more delicate five-louver grille and reshaped fenders, the rears having much smaller wheel openings.

This 1942 Hudson Commodore Custom Eight featured plenty of brightwork.
This 1942 Hudson Commodore Custom Eight
featured plenty of brightwork.

The new Hudsons had much more brightwork than their predecessors, with all series adding lower body trim and hash marks on each fender. Running boards were hidden under flared extension panels attached to the bottom of the doors and bodysides. The lower trim hid the resulting joint line.

Model offerings were nearly the same as those of 1941. The Traveler name was dropped; the entry-level cars simply were called "Six." There was no Commodore Eight wagon, and the top-of-the-line Commodores -- the Custom Eights -- were reduced to a three-passenger coupe, a club coupe, and an eight-passenger sedan. The latter was the lone passenger car offering on the 128-inch wheelbase. Commercial cars were severely curtailed. Model series numbers jumped from the teens to the twenties, but maintained their relative positions.

Engine choices were the same as in 1941, but there was important news in the transmission department.

Since General Motors' Hydra-Matic transmission had been a success when introduced on the 1940 Oldsmobile and 1941 Cadillac, pressure was on all automakers to come up with some sort of automatic or assisted shifting. Chrysler banked on Fluid Drive, and Ford squandered precious resources on the calamitous Liquamatic transmission for 1942 Lincolns and Mercurys. Hudson's attempt in the shiftless market was Drive-Master, which combined the Vacumotive clutch with a servo-operated transmission.

With Drive-Master engaged, the driver needed only to select the high gear position and step on the gas. The car would accelerate to 25 mph (actually in second gear), at which point releasing the accelerator would effect a shift to high. Unlike other shifters, though, Hudson's had three modes: Drive-Master, Vacumotive, and Off. Thus, one could have "automatic" shifting and clutching, automated clutching only, or fully manual gear selection.

Most of the 1942 Hudsons were produced before the government ordered brightwork to be covered.
Most of the 1942 Hudsons were produced before
the government ordered brightwork to be covered.

Only one radio was offered in 1942, because, as Hudson said, it was "so amazingly advanced we don't think you'd be satisfied with anything else." Along with automatic volume control it featured a floor-mounted push button to make station changing easy for the driver.

In the wake of America's entry into World War II in December 1941, the government decreed that, beginning January 1, 1942, automobile brightwork was to be limited to bumpers and bumper guards. Other trim could remain, but had to be painted or covered over.

Hudsons had a lot of chrome to cover, but, the bulk of the 40,661 model year production run having already occurred, not many were so modified. "Blackout" Hudsons are rare today; just 5,463 vehicles (including 67 commercials) left the assembly line in the calendar year before production ceased on February 5.

Although prices and production had been controlled by the War Production Board since mid-1941, increases due to changes in materials were allowed -- and there were plenty of changes dictated by war requirements. Hudson's 1942 prices rose nearly 20 percent over 1941, ranging from $828 to $1,451 at introduction, but still in the Ford to Oldsmobile range.

Hudson plants were hardly idle during the war. The company had contracts for Oerhkon anti-aircraft guns, aircraft parts, and the Invader barge engine, an ohv six-cylinder Hall-Scott design of some 998 cubic inches and 264 horsepower.

While these war efforts did turn a profit for Hudson, it was not a windfall; some $4 million over three years on contracts worth over $400 million. Still, this gave the company a jump start in the pocketbook when it came time to resume auto manufacture as government proscriptions were lifted.

Continue to the next page to learn about Hudson's post-war automotive offerings.

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1945, 1946, 1947 Hudson

The 1945, 1946, and 1947 Hudson models marked the company's return to auto production after the end of World War II.

The 1946 Hudson lineup was little-changed from prewar models.
The 1946 Hudson lineup was little-changed
from prewar models.

The first postwar Hudson -- a Super Six; eight-cylinder production would be delayed until late in the model year -- left the line on August 30, 1945. These cars were little changed from their prewar "Symphonic" siblings.

Sheet metal alterations were nil, and the most noticeable appearance change was an indented grille, the work of designer Art Kibinger. On two-tone cars the combinations were reversed, with the darker color now on top, the chrome belt molding became the color divider, and the trunk was painted the same color as the roof. Interiors were limited to a single, different hue per series, however.

The 1946 Hudson passenger car line was simplified: There was now but one wheelbase of 121 inches, and four series -- two if you neglect the engine variations.

Super Sixes came as two- and four-door sedans, the former called a Brougham (a name earlier used by Hudson to describe premium four-door cars), a three-passenger coupe, a club coupe, and a Convertible Brougham (how could one company get so much mileage out of the name "Brougham"?). The Commodore Six and the Super Eight each came in a four-door sedan and a club coupe; the Commodore Eight had these two styles plus a convertible.

The commercial line was further reined in, with only three-quarter ton pickups being built after the war, some 3,000 a year in 1946 and 1947. These were the only 128-inch wheelbase Hudsons cataloged. A few station wagons were assembled for use at the factory to make deliveries, transport personnel, and bus the company ball team, but the model was absent from the catalog.

Prices started at $1,481 for the three-passenger Super Six coupe, a factor not solely due to postwar inflation. Hudson now was well out of Ford and Chevrolet territory; in 1946 that kind of money in a coupe would fetch a Mercury or six-cylinder Oldsmobile.

Mechanically, the 1946 Hudsons owed practically everything to the 1942s. The demise of the entry-level Six series took with it the 92-horse 175-cid engine, but the large six and the eight continued in their prewar guises. The same range of transmissions also was offered.

If the 1946 makeover had been modest, 1947's was almost trivial. One needed to be really sharp-eyed to tell the 1947s from their predecessors. The medallion on the hood was given a flared housing, a new emblem was added to the trunk lid, and the front bumper guards were spaced further apart.

Models and body styles were exactly the same as those of the previous year, but prices rose some seven to 12 percent, depending on the model. Inflation was in high gear.

The seller's market meant that anyone who could build cars could sell them, which partly explains Hudson's abandonment of the low-priced field. Building cars was easier said than done, of course, for to build cars one needed both materials and labor. Neither was free nor assured, but Hudson did quite well, delivering 91,626 1946 cars and 92,083 in 1947. These numbers exclude commercials, whose production, as noted, was fairly minuscule.

The 1946 Hudson lineup was little-changed from prewar models.
The 1947 Hudson was the last of the Symphonic era.

All automakers had trotted out holdover or transitional models after the war while the design and engineering teams finished the wholly new designs that had been barely started during the conflict. Interestingly the independent automakers beat the "Big Three" to market with new models, in some cases by several years.

Studebaker was first to jump the gun, with Loewy-designed streamlined cars for their 1947 lineup. Packard's turn came in 1948, though their "Pregnant Elephant" line might have made some wish it hadn't.

Hudson, too, had been working on new concepts during the war. Art Kibinger had designed and modeled a two-passenger "Sportster" in 1942, and this led to some larger, perimeter-framed concepts in the next few years. After two years of more or less normal automotive operation, Hudson's new design was ready.

On December 7, 1947, the "Symphonic" Hudsons gave way to the all-new "Step-down" models at nationwide public showings, and Hudson Motor Car Company headed into a new era of fame and fortune -- for a while.

For more information on cars, see:

1941-1947 Hudson Models, Prices, Production

Hudson entered 1941 with bigger, more modern bodies for its range of six- and eight-cylinder cars and trucks. Due to World War II, they were forced to soldier on for quite a while until the firm could spring a real surprise. Find models, prices, and production for 1941-1947 Hudsons in the following chart.

1941-1947 Hudson Models, Prices, Production

1941 Hudsons:

Series 10T Six Traveler (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,790
$695
--
club coupe
2,840
788
--
2d sedan
2,850
765
--
4d sedan
2,900
793
--
Total Traveler


--
Series 10P Six Deluxe (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,840
801
--
club coupe
2,895
848
--
2d sedan
2,900
822
--
4d sedan
2,950
856
--
2d Convertible Sedan
2,980
1,063
--
Total Deluxe


--
Series 11 Super Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,935
881
--
club coupe
2,980
936
--
2d sedan
3,000
901
--
4d sedan
3,050
932
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,125
1,156
--
4d station wagon
3,315
1,297
--
Total Super Six


--
Series 12 Commodore Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
3,000
935
--
club coupe
3,045
997
--
2d sedan
3,050
966
--
4d sedan
3,100
994
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,160
1,204
--
Total Commodore Six


--
Series 14 Commodore Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
3,135
978
--
club coupe
3,210
1,040
--
2d sedan
3,210
1,003
--
4d sedan
3,260
1,035
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,350
1,254
--
4d station wagon
3,400
1,383
--
Total Commodore Eight


--
Series 15 Commodore Custom Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
3,185
1,064
--
club coupe
3,235
1,127
--
Series 17 Commodore Custom Eight (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
4d sedan
3,400
1,232
--
4d sedan, 8P
3,440
1,438
--
Total Commodore Custom Eight


--
Series 10C Commercial Cars (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
Utility Coupe, 3P
2,900
721
--
Utility Coach 2d sedan
2,825
781
--
pickup
2,910
723
--
chassis & cab
2,575
687
--
All-Purpose Delivery van
3,121
1,117
--
Total Commercial Cars


--
Series 18P Big Boy (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
Carry-All 4d sedan, 8P
3,165
1,025
--
4d sedan, 8P
3,155
1,154
--
Series 18C Big Boy (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
pickup
3,050
775
--
cab & chassis
2,670
736
--
Total Big Boy


--
Total 1941 Hudson


91,7691

1942 Hudsons:

Series 20T Six (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,795
$893
--
club coupe
2,845
965
--
2d sedan
2,895
945
--
4d sedan
2,940
973
--
Total Six


--
Series 20P Six Deluxe (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, eP
2,845
981
--
club coupe
2,900
1,034
--
2d sedan
2,935
1,012
--
4d sedan
2,975
1,045
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,140
1,292
--
Total Deluxe


--
Series 21 Super Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,950
1,102
--
club coupe
3,010
1,159
--
2d sedan
3,035
1,132
--
4d sedan
3,080
1,162
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,200
1,414
--
4d station wagon
3,315
1,486
--
Total Super Six


--
Series 22 Commodore Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,995
1,176
--
club coupe
3,090
1,239
--
2d sedan
3,090
1,216
--
4d sedan
3,145
1,246
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,280
1,481
--
Total Commodore Six


--
Series 24 Commodore Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
3,130
1,220
--
club coupe
3,205
1,282
--
2d sedan
3,230
1,252
--
4d sedan
3,280
1,291
--
2d Convertible Sedan
3,400
1,533
--
Total Commodore Eight


--
Series 25 Commodore Custom Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
3,160
1,318
--
club coupe
3,235
1,380
--
Series 27 Commodore Custom Eight (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
4d sedan, 8P
3,395
1,510
--
Total Commodore Custom Eight


--
Series 20C Commercial Cars (wb 116)
Weight
Price
Production
Utility Coupe, 3P
2,900
922
--
Utility Coach 2d sedan
2,905
962
--
pickup
2,910
907
--
Total Commercial Cars


--
Series 28C Big Boy (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
pickup
3,040
960
--
Total 1942 Hudson


40,6612

1946 Hudsons:

Series 51 Super Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,950
$1,481
--
club coupe
3,015
1,553
--
Brougham 2d sedan
3,030
1,511
--
4d sedan
3,085
1,555
--
Convertible Brougham
3,195
1,879
--
Total Super Six


61,787
Series 53 Super Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,065
1,664
--
4d sedan
3,235
1,668
--
Total Super Eight


3,961
Series 52 Commodore Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,065
1,693
--
4d sedan
3,150
1,699
--
Total Commodore Six


17,685
Series 54 Commodore Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,235
1,760
--
4d sedan
3,305
1,774
--
Convertible Brougham
3,410
2,050
--
Total Commodore Eight


8,193
Series 58 Commercial (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
pickup
3,500
1,522
3,374
Total 1946 Hudson


95,000

1947 Hudsons:

Series 171 Super Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
coupe, 3P
2,795
$1,628
--
club coupe
3,040
1,744
--
Brougham 2d sedan
3,055
1,704
--
4d sedan
3,110
1,749
--
Convertible Brougham
3,220
2,021
--
Total Super Six


49,276
Series 173 Super Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,210
1,855
--
4d sedan
3,260
1,862
--
Total Super Eight


5,076
Series 172 Commodore Six (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,090
1,887
--
4d sedan
3,175
1,896
--
Total Commodore Six


25,138
Series 174 Commodore Eight (wb 121)
Weight
Price
Production
club coupe
3,260
1,955
--
4d sedan
3,330
1,972
--
Convertible Brougham
3,435
2,196
--
Total Commodore Eight


12,593
Series 178 Commercial (wb 128)
Weight
Price
Production
pickup
3,500
1,675
2,917
Total 1947 Hudson


95,000

1Includes 82,051 six-cylinder and 9,178 eight-cylinder models.
2Includes 34,069 six-cylinder and 6,592 eight-cylinder models.
Sources: Encyclopedia of American Cars 1940-1970, by Richard M. Langworth and the Editors of Consumer Guide®, Publications International, Ltd., 1980; History of Hudson, by Donald Butler, Crestline Publishing Co., 1982; Production Figure Book for U.S. Cars, by Jerry Heasley, Motorbooks International, 1977.

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