Automobiles of Amelia Island
14 March 2009
1954 Hudson Italia Coupe
To be auctioned on Saturday, March 14, 2009
Sold for $275,000
- Chassis no. 1T10011
Following the war, Detroit’s automobile manufacturers looked to Italy for inspiration in creating special cars that could provide design cues for the cars produced in their own styling studios. While the products of Chrysler’s joint ventures with Ghia are the best-known examples of this trend during the 1950s, even the small, independent marque Hudson followed this practice.
Hudson entered the postwar market in an enviable position and was the first manufacturer to market in 1948 with an all-new and radical design, the “Step Down” Commodore. Both passenger comfort and handling were aided by the rather low stance of the car, and with the introduction of the Hornet in 1951, Hudson ruled NASCAR competition for three consecutive years. A smaller companion model, the Jet, was introduced in 1953. While exploring design ideas for future models, Hudson chief designer Frank Spring made arrangements with Carrozzeria Touring of Milan to collaborate on the design for a new grand touring coupe. Mechanical components were conventional and based on the Jet, while Touring provided its renowned Superleggera (super light) bodywork, which used a framework of small steel tubes to support the body panels.
The car Spring and Touring created in 1953 was very dramatic and clearly bore the design influence of the newest jet airplanes. Fully ten inches lower than the already low standard Hudson models, the resulting Italia was advertised as being “styled like no other car that has preceded it”. Characteristically, Hudson also highlighted safety, “due to its extremely low center of gravity, its ‘Monobilt’ body-and-frame, and its cornering and braking ability.” Intended for larger-scale production, the Italia was initially built in a small series of 25 examples, plus one prototype coupe and one four-door model, the X-161. However, the Italia appeared at the very moment when Hudson entered its ultimate business crisis and merged with Nash. Actually, the deal was more of a takeover than a merger, and company management had little interest in a futuristic, Italian-bodied “halo car”, with a relatively high list price of $4,800.
This striking Italia, chassis number IT10011, is one of just 21 examples known to remain in existence. While it is believed by some authorities that the flamboyant Las Vegas-based entertainer Liberace may have once owned this very car, no corroborative evidence has currently been found. Today, the Italia displays a comprehensive cosmetic restoration, including a fresh exterior finish in the original and correct cream-yellow color, new brightwork and a new and correct red and tan interior, as well as a fully detailed dash panel and engine bay. The Italia is also offered complete with a large file of documentation and the current owner reports that it runs and drives exactly as it should.
Collector interest in the wonderful Italian custom-bodied cars of the 1950s is strong and continues to grow. This dramatic Hudson Italia continues to exemplify a long-lost era of automotive design and innovation, when even a small manufacturer like Hudson rivaled the Big Three. Whether used as a fitting show entry or as a tour and event car, the fortunate new owner of this Italia will certainly be in privileged company.
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