Butternut Yellow/Gloss Black fenders with Hickory Wooden
Older restoration that shows quite well
Four-cylinder engine (50hp) with three-speed manual gearbox
Black leather interior
Running and driving
This car is an older restoration and is powered by an inline
four-cylinder powerplant displacing over 50 horsepower. A
three-speed manual transmission transfers power to the rear wheels.
Stopping becomes courtesy of rear wheel mechanical brakes. This
vehicle is appointed in a light yellow livery with a black
interior, both in good condition considering the age of
restoration. This is one of the very few Speedsters built!
The Hudson Motor Car Company was founded in Detroit in 1909 with
the financial backing of department store magnate Joseph L. Hudson.
It established a reputation for quality cars which gradually grew
more expensive. To broaden its market share, in 1919 Hudson
introduced a new light car called the Essex, named after an English
county in the hope of giving it a little extra cachet.
The name wasn't the only English influence. The Essex's
four-cylinder engine had "European type" dimensions, meaning a
small cylinder bore (favoured in Europe for tax purposes) of 85.7
mm (3.375 in.) and a long stroke of 127 mm (5.0 in.). It displaced
2.9 litres. A further unusual feature was an F-head design with the
intake valves in the cylinder head and the exhaust valves in the
With 55 horsepower, in an era when the Ford Model T had only 20,
the Essex was quite fast. It soon established numerous speed and
endurance records including a marathon 50 hours in Cincinnati
covering a distance of 4,890 km (3,037 mi) at an average speed of
97.81 km/h (60.75 mph).
The Essex had Hudson's traditional "wet" clutch with holes in the
clutch plate into which round cork disks were inserted. They were
heat and pressure treated to stay in place. It ran in an oil bath
and was smooth and effective if the oil level was maintained.
With over 20,000 first year sales the new Essex sold well, although
not in the Ford Model T league. Then in 1921, Essex made a
pioneering move by offering a two-door closed coach body style
priced at only $1,495. While this was $300 more than an open model
Essex, it was still reasonable compared with other closed cars.
The price of the coach would be reduced to $1,245 in 1922, and
ultimately to $895 in 1925, five dollars lower than an equivalent
closed car. Although competitors derided the Essex coach as "a
packing crate on wheels," it was exactly what the market wanted. It
prompted General Motors's legendary executive Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.,
to remark: "Nothing like that had ever been seen before in the
automobile industry, and the Essex coach had a considerable
The moderately priced Essex coach led a revolution. Up to 1925,
open cars had predominated, but after that year more closed cars
were sold and open cars gradually shrank to a permanently small
percentage of the market.
For 1924 the Essex abandoned the four in favour of a small "high
speed" six, again with a "European" bore and stroke of only 66.67
by 101.6 mm (2.625 by 4.0 in.), and displacement of 2.13
It was "high speed" out of necessity because the Essex had a
truck-like rear axle ratio of 5.6:1, which made the poor little
long-stroke six spin 3,700 revolutions per minute. And its 28
horsepower was pretty anaemic compared with the lusty four, so it
lacked considerably in performance.
Since the Essex six paled before the four's speed, Essex decided to
launch a sportier model to give the marque some sparkle. This was
the 1927 Speedster, which unfortunately was a Speedster in name
only. John Bond of Road & Track wrote that the Essex could reach
just 55 mph, and "for 3 minutes only."
Essex decided to get more serious about sportiness, and in 1929
introduced the boat-tailed Speedabout that lived up to its name.
With the six now up to 2.6 litres (160 cu in.) and 55 horsepower it
gave the Speedabout some 70 mph, and a claimed "60 mph (96 km/h)
This cruising ability was made possible by an unusual transmission
in which second gear was an overdrive with a higher ratio than high
gear. The technique was to start off in first, shift to third, and
then back to second. Although unorthodox, it saved the engine from
high rpm. The overdrive second eased the strain, but the car was
actually faster in high where its 113 km/h (70 mph) required 4,000
The Essex engine had another unusual characteristic in that its
counterweights were bolted onto the crankshaft, rather than cast
with it as were others. It was a long time Hudson feature.
Unfortunately the Speedabout's introduction was soon overshadowed
by the stock market crash and the Great Depression. The result was
that few, reportedly only five, were built, making it one of the
rarest of cars.
The Depression saw Essex sales plunge so in 1932 Hudson launched
the Essex Terraplane model with its six-cylinder engine now up to
3.5 litres (212 cu in.) and 90 horsepower. Its performance rivalled
the newly introduced Ford V8. The Terraplane name became so popular
that the Essex designation was discontinued after the 1933 models
and another interesting nameplate slid into history.