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Ref # 395
1955 Hudson Italia Coupe



• Just four owners from new and one of only 26 examples produced
• Complete, concours-level restoration
• Advanced styling, Coachwork by Touring, and reliable Hudson mechanicals

201.5 cid inline six-cylinder engine, 114 HP, two dual-barrel carburetors, three-speed manual transmission, independent coil spring front and leaf spring rear suspension, four-wheel drum brakes; wheelbase: 105"

Hudson, like most auto manufacturers, spent some time during World War II mulling ideas for its postwar automobiles. Hudson, unlike most of its competitors, was further along with its ideas when the government released manufacturers to resume building civilian automobiles. Being smaller, it also was more agile than its major competitors, and was prepared to stake its future on a daring and complete redesign. Like Studebaker, Hudson gambled on a dramatic new 1948 model, conceived and executed from a new perspective and setting a benchmark that sent Ford, GM, and Chrysler designers back to their drawing boards.
Hudson’s 1948 Super Six and Commodore models featured an innovative development of Hudson’s “Monobilt” semi-unit construction combined with a massive perimeter frame which passed outside the passenger compartment and the rear wheels. The passenger footwells dropped inside the frame, lowering the car’s center of gravity, and earning these distinctive Hudsons the description “stepdown.” With the stepdown’s lower center of gravity and reduced body height, Hudsons handled better than anything on the market.
With some attention the Super Six became the Hornet in 1952, and Hornets with Hudson’s “Twin-H” dual carburetor package ruled NASCAR and AAA stock car racing circuits for the next three years. The competition, however, quickly caught up with high compression V-8 engines and the smaller, boxy Hudson Jet introduced in 1954 offered no hope of keeping Hudsons at the forefront of competition. It was the advent of the Jet, management’s selection of the worst choice of three competing design proposals, that led Hudson’s chief body engineer Frank Spring to suggest a lightweight, streamlined coupé as a way of prolonging Hudson’s strategy of building recognition through competition. It was aimed at the Carrera Panamericana, where Marshall Teague had just scored a remarkable sixth overall in a Hornet.
Conceived by Spring, an engineer and idea man, and rendered in general concept by Art Kibiger and his small Hudson design staff, Hudson had no hope of economically constructing such a complete but limited production redesign and needed twenty-five copies to be eligible for the Carrera Panamericana. They turned to Carrozzeria Touring in Italy to take concept to reality. Touring soon received a complete Hudson Jet, cut off the blocky Jet body (no doubt thankfully) and proceeded to create a sleek, streamlined interpretation of the concept laid down by Spring and the Hudson designers.
Executed in aluminum for light weight, the special was called “Super Jet” and contained a number of original features. Its design was highlighted by a number of inverted vee motifs derived from Hudson’s longtime “white vee” emblem. The theme was introduced by the large inverted vee grille integrated guard and front bumper, and immediately reinforced by raked vee-shaped air intakes atop the headlights which led to front brake cooling ducts. The leading edges of the skirted rear fenders were defined by another set of brake cooling ducts close behind the doors. Contemporary Touring designs for the later high performance Pegaso Z-102 and Alfa Romeo “Type 55” design study utilized similar themes and features.
Three chrome tubes at the rear of the fenders contained the taillights. A wraparound windshield blended with steeply sloped side windows on doors that extended into the roof for easier entry. Centerlock Borrani wire wheels were contemporary, attractive, and suited to the “Super Jet’s” intended competition use.
Inside, Spring included very advanced anatomically shaped seats with two-piece backrests and air vents fed from a bladder in the seat cushion that forced puffs of cool air to the driver’s and passenger’s backs. Seat belts, at the time nearly unprecedented in a series-built automobile, were specified as standard equipment by Spring, an accomplished pilot. The design retained the Jet’s stepdown footwells but the Touring designers added even more depth to them to complement the low roof design, 11” lower than the Jet. Spring also specified unusual flow-through ventilation with three vent slots above the rear window to exhaust cabin air into the low pressure area behind the roof. Power comes from a 202 cubic inch Jet six with Twin-H carburetion that produces 115 brake horsepower and drives through Hudson’s smooth-shifting three-speed manual transmission .
The “Super Jet” was quickly approved by Hudson and 25 knocked down Jets were shipped to Touring where a production line was improvised to create the series-produced versions now designated the Hudson “Italia.” Introduced to the public at the Detroit Auto Show in December 1953, production did not begin until August 1954, months after Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors and only a few months before the last Detroit-built Hudson left the line in October. Although the Italia was orphaned even as first deliveries were being made they have become appreciated by generations following for their creativity and the abundance of details that make them distinctly, freshly different from their contemporaries.
Worldwide Auctioneers is proud to offer one of the finest Hudson Italias extant. It was acquired from long-term California storage several years ago by the third generation of a family of Hudson enthusiasts and active Hudson club member who is only the third owner of this Italia from new. A comprehensive restoration was begun by Hudson specialists, the Appenzeller Brothers in Milford, Indiana, with constant supervision and advice from the owner. Completed in August of 2014, this Hudson stands as the most correct and accurate example known.
Finished in “Italian Cream,” the interior is upholstered in red and cream leather with the correct wrinkle-finish dashboard as delivered by Carrozzeria Touring. The owner describes the body as “straighter than new” and the paint as “beyond perfect.” The engine compartment is crisp, fresh, and like new.
The Hudson Italia is emblematic of what Hudson designer Frank Spring and his small staff of designers and modelers might have accomplished had Hudson management been more daring. Trading on the unparalleled competition accomplishments of the Hudson Hornet in the early Fifties, it is pleasingly presented in carefully matched colors and materials that complement the dramatic features of Touring’s coachwork. The Italia also is the only example of Touring coachwork on a U.S. manufacturer’s chassis. It is a singular application of the Milanese coachbuilder’s skill that is important in the postwar evolution of coachwork design and production. The current owner describes its effect upon onlookers as “like candy.”

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