1954 Hudson Italia

It seemed that in the early 1950s whenever American car manufacturers felt that their
sales were slipping away they turned to Italy for some fresh ideas. In 1954, not only did
Chrysler look to Ghia for some fresh design ideas with their GS 1 Ghia Coupe but
Hudson’s chief stylist Frank Spring also used the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Touring,
for a short run of special cars.

The Italia was really identical to the 1953 Hudson Jet in its mechanicals but had its own
unique body and interior fit-out. It has been suggested that this American interest in
European car design and styling grew out of an increase in interest and demand for
European car concepts by US soldiers when they returned from Europe after World War II.

Hudson’s first attempt to rejuvenate sales saw them introduce a small car – the Hudson
Jet – in an attempt to mimic the success of the Nash Rambler. However, financial
problems as well as top management’s outmoded policies ensured that the new Hudson
Jet was boxy and sold poorly.

The Hudson Jet had many advancements including an aluminium body, wraparound
windscreen, doors that cut into the roof area by 356 mm to enable ease of entry and exit
as well as body-hugging leather and vinyl bucket seats. It was powered by Hudson’s 3.2-
litre L-head si- cylinder engine that developed 85 kW and had a three-speed manual
column-shift transmission. The main competitor to Nash’s Rambler in the compact market
failed miserably eventually causing Hudson’s financial demise.

Frank Spring was very upset by the way management had spoilt his new design and
threatened to leave Hudson. By way of placating him management agreed to allow him to
investigate the use of an Italian coachbuilder to develop a sports car concept which would
enable them to test public reaction to more radical styling designs for future use.

Frank worked with Touring Body Works of Milan using the Jet chassis and running gear.
The resulting all-aluminium bodied prototype was ready to display in dealerships by the
end of 1953. Following an enthusiastic response Hudson commissioned a short run of
special cars.

The finished car appropriately named ‘Italia’ was quite different from the conservative Jet.
It sat 254 mm lower than the Jet. Over the headlights, the front mudguards featured
scoops to duct cooling air to the front brakes. The front bumper bar featured a large
inverted ‘V’ that partially hid the front grille. At the rear, quarter scoops also cooled the rear
brakes and tail lights, indicator lights and reversing lights emerged from long tubes set into
the rear quarter panels.

The cars high selling price, together with Hudson’s desire to remain an independent
marque, spelled the end of the Italia after only 25 cars were produced. Hudson and Nash
merged in May 1954.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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