Curbside Classic: 1946 Hudson Pickup (with a surprise!)

(first posted 7/13/2012)     A couple weeks ago, on the way back from my monthly landfill run, I remembered that a local farmer was auctioning off some tractors and equipment. I made a short detour and spotted this beauty as I squeezed my rusty ’95 F-150 4×4 in between all the other farm trucks.

This wasn’t just any old Hudson, no sir! It was a 1946 Hudson Pickup – the next-to-last production year for these interesting vehicles.

Hudson offered light trucks well before WWII—in fact, their earliest trucks were privately built on Hudson car chassis starting around 1914, just in time for the Great War. They were mainly used as Hudson dealer service trucks and as ambulances and fire department support vehicles. Hudson didn’t manufacture its own offerings until 1929; what’s more, the company would be knocking at the door of another global conflict (1939) before their trucks would even carry the Hudson name.

The first true Hudson truck, the Dover, was referred to as a “commercial car,” and was built on the Essex car chassis. It could be had in panel delivery and pickup configurations. The Dover was renamed Essex in the early 1930s, when the platform was switched over to the Essex Terraplane chassis.

In 1934, Hudson again renamed their truck line, this time to Terraplane. The 1937 models went by a one-year-only name of Hudson-Terraplane; after that, the name was simply Hudson.

One particularly interesting variant I learned of is the clever Utility Coupe, introduced in 1937, which had a collapsible truck bed that could be stowed inside the trunk when not in use.

Hudson’s best known truck, the 3/4-ton Terraplane “Big Boy,” was introduced in 1937 on a stretched wheelbase of 124 inches (3,150 mm, or 1.36 VW Beetles).

Once again, I was unable to get a clear interior shot of our subject vehicle, so this one from the interwebs will have to stand in. Although Hudson never had really high production numbers, they offered as many as 19 different truck models at one point. The number shrank to 14 in 1939, 10 in 1940 and eight in 1941. Only two models were available in 1942 before all auto production was shut down for the war effort. The final ’46 and ’47 models were available only in the “Big Boy” configuration, although that name was not used on the post-war trucks.

Motivation for the ’46 model came from the 102-hp Hudson long-stroke, side-valve “Super Six” engine, which had a chrome alloy cylinder block. Unusual for trucks of this vintage (but likely due to its car heritage), it had a column-shifted, three-speed manual transmission with optional overdrive.

Sharp-eyed readers might have spotted something unusual lurking under the uptilted hood–and indeed, this truck has been refitted with the famous Hudson Hornet “Twin H-Power” engine. What a thing of beauty! Let’s linger here just a moment longer:

The Twin H-Power was good for up to 170 hp and over 260 lb.ft. of torque right out of the factory. Hudson claimed that Twin H-Power was the first use of a dual-carb, dual-manifold induction system on any American-made six. These engines could easily be tweaked to make over 200 hp!

With the switch from body-on-frame (BOF) to unitized construction in 1948, Hudson really had no good platform on which they could continue their pickup line. Apparently a prototype was built, but sadly, this unique body style—half car, half truck— wouldn’t be seen again until cars like the 1957 Ford Ranchero and Chevy’s El Camino came on the scene soon after. Come to think of it, doesn’t the Chevy SSR kind of favor the Hudson a little?

The owner told me he bought the truck a few years ago and restored it with the Hornet engine. He likes to drive it around locally “for folks to enjoy.” It’s not a babied car – there was plenty of patina to provide evidence of a vehicle still used on a fairly regular basis.

So here’s to the driver who’s still “prepared for a new and delightful adventure in ‘going places'” every time he heads out on the open road!