Possibly the most marketable aspect of the 1954-1955 Hudson Italia was that it was, of course, Italian -- a good thing to be in those days of fascination with Pinin Farina and his ilk.
Built out of sheet aluminum by Carrozzeria Touring, the Italia took shape in what Ed Barit's son remembered as "a hole-in-the-wall operation down a narrow Torino side street, with a sort of production line snaking through a series of old dilapidated buildings." Now that's Italian!
Announced in August 1953, the Hudson Italia prototype toured car shows and dealerships and received a warm reception along the way. With the exception of its trick taillights, built into triple sets of external dummy exhaust pipes, and the "praying mantis" front bumper, it was a good, clean design, bristling with interesting features: esoteric, unexpected, aircraft-inspired, and unlike anything else on the market.
Hudson commissioned a run of 25 "production" Hudson Italias and priced them at $4,350. At this price (a 1954 Cadillac started at $3,838), initial enthusiasm waned, and factory sources state that only 19 orders were received. Some Hudson collectors say this was actually a figure for initial deliveries, since many potential buyers tried to order Italias at the rime and were turned away by dealers, who thought of it as a one-off pipe dream.
High price combined with lackluster performance (despite the aluminum body, it weighed over 2,700 pounds) to severely hamper the Hudson Italia's appeal. But Hudson never put much faith in it as a sales weapon; its real purpose was to act as an advance product for future Hudson passenger cars.
One of these, called X-161 (Spring's 161st experimental prototype) was a four-door derivation with the Hornet engine; it delivered good if not blinding performance. Hindsight is cheap, but many now believe that Hudson should have launched the X-161 instead of the Jet in 1953 -- that it would have sold much better than the Jet did.
Roy Chapin sums up the Hudson Italia and X-161 project this way: "Of course, today it is dated -- but it's still a terrific exercise in automotive design. Again, the problem was much the same with the other Hudsons. It was a very costly car to make and couldn't command the price you had to get for it -- coupled with the fact that the decision was made to put nothing but a six-cylinder engine in it."
Keep reading to learn about the specifications of the 1954-1955 Hudson Italia.