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1953-1954 Hudson Jet

Hudson Jet Mechanics

Twin H-Power, optional starting in mid-1952, had actually been on the Hudson shelf since 1944. Twin H-Power ended up making a considerable contribution to the Hudson Jet mechanics.

It consisted of a dual manifold and dual carburetors, providing a very even fuel-air mixture to the cylinders, which in a standard induction arrangement is not ideally suited to six-cylinder engines. It required only regular gas, and on the big Hudsons was a strong reply to the four-barrel carburetor, premium-fuel V-8s gaining in popularity.

On the Jet, it was in a class by itself. The best the 1953 compact competition could muster was 90 bhp, and though a handful of 1954 Aero-Willys cars were produced with 118-bhp Kaiser sixes, they were few and far between.

Jet buyers could tailor performance with a wide choice of rear axle ratios. Manual ratios were 4.10:1 standard, 4.27:1 for mountainous regions, and 3.31:1 for economy. With overdrive, 4.27:1 was standard, but 4.10:1 was available. Hydra-Matics had 3.54:1 standard, 3.31:1 optional. These ratios obviously influenced performance, but whatever the combination, results were well ahead of Rambler, Willys, or Henry J. Typical 0-60 times were 14 seconds, with one automatic Super Jet achieving 12.5. The standing quarter-mile was covered in 19-20 seconds and top speed came in at 95-100 mph.

Unfortunately, the Jet's readability wasn't up to its sprightly acceleration despite Hudson's boast of "the lowest center of gravity among American cars." Motor Trend said the inside front tire "seemed nearly off the ground" in a tight, 50-mph turn, and complained of excessive oscillation above 50 mph: "Bottoming, accompanied by three or four oscillations, occurred at 70 mph, and the front end felt nearly airborne. On sharp dips, full spring travel was reached at 50, and on very severe dips the Jet bottomed at 30 mph. ... To be a real threat, the Jet will need more than its excellent performance. ... A wider track plus heavier shocks would improve stability."

These criticisms were valid, but not intrinsic to the design, and could easily have been cleared up along the lines Motor Trend suggested. But no one could criticize the Jet's performance, or fault its basic engineering. Styling was another matter.

When top management and sales people get involved in automotive styling, the results often resemble Congress' efforts to legislate human behavior. The Jet's design parameters were set not by its engineers nor by Hudson's talented chief of design, Frank Spring, but by Hudson President A. Edward Barit. And therein lies a brief tale.

Barit's basic dimensions weren't bad. His model for the Jet project was Fiat's 1400, a well-designed sedan with a wheelbase and track almost identical to those Hudson came up with, and outstanding interior space utilization. At 105 inches, the Jet wheelbase was spacious compared to 100 for the Rambler and Henry J, offering ride and space advantages that Americans liked.

What killed the Jet was its height, which was out of proportion to its length and width. Former Hudson engineer J.J. Hartmeyer said this was dictated by Barit: "Frank Spring had wanted to drop the height, to get it down lower like the Mercedes. But Mr. Barit wanted those chair-high seats."

The Jet's high build couldn't help but create plenty of headroom, and with 58-inch-wide seats against only 67 inches overall width, it utilized 86 percent of its width for passengers. But Barit's seat specs gave it impossible proportions. Trying to design around these dimensions recalls the late Bill Mitchell's comment that styling a small car is like tailoring a dwarf.

In addition to Barit, the professionals at Hudson had to contend with Chicago dealer Jim Moran, who would often come to the Jefferson Avenue plant in Detroit to kibitz on styling matters. Roy D. Chapin, Jr., then in sales, later president of American Motors, recalled that "Moran was selling about five percent of Hudson output, 3,000 Hudsons a year; it was an unbelievable thing. One of his favorites was the 1952 Ford, [which Hudson had seen early enough to] determine the Jet roofline." The problem was that the Ford rode a 10-inch-longer wheelbase!

"The Jet originally had a small rear window in it," Hartmeyer added. "Ford came out with a wraparound window, and Mr. Barit and this Chicago dealer had us change to a wraparound. Pittsburgh Plate Glass said they could wrap it if we held the Ford curvature." Hudson did -- but again, that contour was meant for a much larger car.

Meanwhile, Ford had moved the fuel-filler cap behind the license plate for 1952, so the Jet placed it at the rear, too, but just to the left of the license plate and behind its own spring-loaded door. "Mr. Barit [also] wanted high fenders, and liked the round taillights of Oldsmobile," Hartmeyer recalled. The rear quarters of the production car thus ended up as high, slab-sided affairs, capped with little Oldsmobile-type taillights.

For more on the Jet's styling, continue on to the next page.

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