Car Show Classic: 1954 Hudson Jet – A Torpedo In A Plain Beige Wrapper (Or Hudson’s Deadly Sin #1)

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This car, the infamous 1953-54 Hudson Jet, is one of the most reviled cars in history. Just like GM’s many Deadly Sins, this car hammered many nails into the coffin of it’s maker.  The Jet started development in 1950 after the success of the lower-priced Hudson Pacemaker, a slightly shorter and low-trim stepdown Hudson. With the increase in profits Hudson saw with the Pacemaker, Hudson decided to take a try at the compact market, a segment that the independents saw as a ray of hope from the onslaught of the Big Three. That turned out to be a tough nut to crack, but surely Hudson could. Thus was born the compact Jet.

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Ate Up With Motor has a typically excellent write-up on the Jet. The homework assignment version goes like this: Fiat’s 1400 sedan provided the initial inspiration for Hudson’s designer Frank Spring. It was representative of the European pontoon-style sedan of the post-war era, and offered good interior accommodations thanks to its upright body.

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No pictures are readily available, but Spring developed a design that was more flamboyant, had a lower roofline, and other details to make it visually interesting. But a very influential Hudson dealer in Chicago, Jim Moran, didn’t like it. He pushed hard for something that looked like the new 1952 Ford, and so that’s what the Jet ended up looking like: a shortened, dumpy Ford. Only one big problem: it cost almost 15% more than a Ford! Good luck with that.

 

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 The Jet was also sumptuously appointed for the day (in Super-Jet and Jetliner trims), with some standard features that were options for Cadillac in the day. It could be had with two transmission choices, A Hydramatic (which this car has) and a 3-speed column shift (with optional OD). At the time, it was the only car in its class available with an automatic transmission. Very luxurious indeed!

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It could be had with many industry firsts, such as the Hudson Twin-H-Power dual-carb setup which this car boasts. The Twin-H-Power setup was first seen on the Step-Down Hudson Hornet and led Hudson to many NASCAR victories in those early days of the sport, with its big 308 CID six. In the Jet, the smaller 202 CID six with Twin-H-Power setup produced 114 gross hp when accompanied with optional aluminum heads.

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This car woulda’ , shoulda’, coulda’ saved Hudson, if it looked as good as it intrinsically was. Intrinsically, it was amazing. With better brakes than most full-size cars of the day, it out-braked the (domestic) competition. It also was faster than the regular-size competition from Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth when new (if equipped with the Twin-H-Power setup).

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The Jet’s downfall was its styling, which could have been a lot more interesting. Jim Moran convinced the Hudson bosses to build a dumpy Ford, and so what they got was a boxy, homely, advanced failure.

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Now reflect on these facts and wonder “Did it have to be this bad?”