Many automobile brands were named after their inventors. Studebaker, Packard, Duesenberg, Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Buick, Willys and Nash are some of the names that come to mind. But what about Hudson?
According to "The History of Hudson," by Don Butler, Joseph L. Hudson didn't have much interest in automobiles. He had amassed his fortune with the Hudson department stores, found mostly in the Detroit area. However, he was talked into investing most of the necessary startup capital, $100,000 (about $2.5 million in today's dollars) and agreed to have the car and the car company, of which he was president, called Hudson.
The company's first car, built in 1909, was the right-hand drive Hudson Twenty, priced at $900. It broke an industry record by selling more than 4,000 cars the first year. According to Butler, the new Hudson had three things in common with the Model T Ford -- four cylinders, a 20-horsepower engine, and a 100-inch wheelbase. But the Hudson was heavier, faster and more durable and only cost about $75 more than the Ford, plus it had the look of a much more expensive car.
Of course, to prove your worth in the car biz, you had to build a racer. In 1909, the company also built the Hudson Express and entered it in a 24-hour marathon. In that time frame, it went 706 grueling miles and beat the second-place car by 55 laps. Hudson Motor Co. was on the way to success.
About 15 years ago, a fellow member of the Hudson Club from North Carolina called Orinda resident Mark Maxson about this particular 1924 Hudson. It had been restored in about 1970 by a retired Greyhound bus driver.
"On a business trip to North Carolina," Maxson said, "I stopped in to see the car, and got it started, but there were things that needed to be repaired. I tried to buy the car, but the owner didn't want to sell it. Three or four years later, she called me back and I bought it for $10,000."
The old Hudson was trucked out to Orinda for about $1,000 and placed in the care of Maxson's friend Bill Nichols. A collector himself, Nichols spent about six months working on the engine and drive train until it purred like the proverbial kitten.
By the time Maxson's 1924 Hudson Super-Six Touring Sedan was built, Hudson Motor Co. was the sixth-largest auto manufacturer in the country, selling 133,950 vehicles in one year. At Hudson's peak in 1929, the company sold 300,000 vehicles. The last Hudson was built in 1957.
"The 288.6 c.i. Super-Six engine was built from 1916 to 1928 with only minor modifications," Maxson said, "and this car sold for about $1,500" ($19,900 in today's dollars).
Some of Hudson's automotive firsts included a dual braking system, a balanced crankshaft, and dashboard oil-pressure and generator warning lights. Another unique feature is an easy-to-read oil gauge under the hood that indicates the oil level in the crankcase.
The Hudson of the 1920s was pretty fast as well as dependable, according to Maxson.
"During Prohibition, a favorite vehicle of rum runners was the Hudson, and typically they would cut the back out so they could better carry their booze," he said.
Hudson was popular with law enforcement, too, including the San Francisco Police Department.
"The color of the car is not period correct," Maxson said. "The cars all came with a dark blue body with black fenders. The retired bus driver painted the car green with black fenders and coincidentally the state of California had license plates the exact same color of green for just that one year, 1924."
The owner was able to acquire legal 1924 license plates for his Hudson.
Maxson had to have the top replaced professionally at a cost of about $3,000, but other than the top, transportation costs, a radiator core, and other minor items, his total investment is about $15,000. "Hudsons today are not worth a lot of money like a Packard or Pierce-Arrow," Maxson said. "This Hudson might be worth $30,000 today, while a Packard or Pierce-Arrow in similar condition might be worth $100,000."
His Hudson is a seven-passenger vehicle that includes two jump seats between the front and rear seats.
"The car has sort of been adopted by the city of Orinda," Maxson said. "I've driven the City Council in the Fourth of July parade for 10 years, and the mayor has expressed interest in being driven through the new Caldecott Tunnel when completed and across the new span of the Bay Bridge in my Hudson."
At one time, Maxson owned five different 1924 Hudson models. However, it seems, in some households there's a balance between keeping a wife happy and the number of 1924 Hudson vehicles one can own at the same time. At the Maxson house, that number apparently is now one.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contract David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.