Hudson: The Car That Started in a U of M Frat House by Alan Naldrett

Hudson: The Car That Started in a U of M Frat House

by Alan Naldrett, author of Lost Car Companies of Detroit


1.jpgThe Hudson Motor Company was one of the most famous and most beloved of the now-defunct automobile companies. Maybe this is because of the Cars movie by Pixel Productions, where a Hudson Hornet was one of the main characters. Its popularity was such that even before the movie, Hudson Clubs could be founded all over the United States and Canada after the company’s exit from the auto stage.

The Hudson Motor Company began when Roy Chapin, Howard Coffin, and Roscoe Jackson met at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house at the University of Michigan. Chapin took a ride in an Oldsmobile and decided that making cars was what he wanted to do. He got his friends Howard and Roscoe interested in designing autos and forming an auto company. They designed autos for the E.R. Thomas Co. and the Chalmers Motor Company before they formed  their own company, the Hudson Motor Company, named for a big investor, J.L. Hudson of department store fame.

Hudson-Twenty.jpgThe first car designed was the Hudson “Twenty” which achieved the goal of Chapin and friends to design a reliable car for under $1,000. It was built in the factory at Mack Avenue and Beaufait St. in Detroit that was formerly used to build the Aerocar. The Hudson Twenty was successful, propelling the new company to continue manufacturing automobiles. They eventually became the number three automaker, behind General Motors and Ford, overtaking Nash, Packard, Cole, Franklin, and the myriad other auto companies producing autos at the time.

Hudson-Motor-Co.jpgIn 1913, the Hudson Motor Co. moved to a large, Albert Kahn-designed factory at Jefferson Avenue and Connor St. in Detroit. The year 1916 saw the Hudson Super Six come out (it had six cylinders) and set a new land speed record of 102.5 miles per hour. Later the same year it set a record for climbing Colorado’s Pikes Peak in eighteen minutes and twenty-five seconds. The Super Six kept Hudson a top-selling company for over a decade.  The company later achieved success with the Special Six, the Essex, the Wasp, and the Terraplane. Surviving the Great Depression, the Hudson factories converted to war production during World War II.

After the war, in 1946 Hudson brought out the Hudson Hornet, a very successful model. But by the 1950s, it was becoming harder for the smaller car companies. When Hudson brought out the less-than-successful, compact car the Jet, and the sporty Italia, which lost a lot of money, they decided to merge with the Nash -Kelvinator company. They became the American Motor Company, AMC, in 1954. The Hudson nameplate was used until 1957. AMC eventually was purchased by Chrysler in 1986.




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