Hudson Italia Coupe by Touring

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Italia Coupe by Touring





During the early-1950s, Hudson began several product development programs that included the Hornet, a six-cylinder engine, the Jet, and the project that became the Italia. The management at Hudson Motors sought the publicity that Chrysler received from their work with Ghia and the resulting show cars. The Hudson Italia concept was to replicate the notoriety of concept cars such as the Chrysler Ghia Specials (1951–1953). The original idea "was to create a fast, sporty car, based on the hotfooted Hudson Hornet" and also for competition in the Carrera Panamericana. A flagship European-inspired experimental sports coupe that might rival Corvette or the then-new Thunderbird. The objective was to increase the Hudson's brand recognition and gauge public reaction styling ideas.

Lacking sufficient capital to develop a new model, Hudson reached an agreement for a prototype to be built in Milan by Carrozzeria Touring. A complete Hudson Jet was shipped to Italy. A new body design, based on sketches by Frank Spring, was formed over a steel tubular frame. This unibody system of aluminum panels was known as superleggera (equivalent to “very lightweight” in Italian), and "was expensive and fairly revolutionary in its day." The work done by Carrozzeria Touring was under the supervision of Spring and Hudson's vice-president, Stuart Baits. The Italia (coupes and one four-door prototype[) was the only project that Carrozzeria Touring undertook for a U.S. automaker.

This car first appeared under the "Super Jet" name and featured numerous advancements including its aluminum body, wraparound windshield (reminiscent of the 1953 Corvette), doors that cut 14 inches (356 mm) into the roof (also called aircraft doors) for easier entry and exit. In part because of Hudson's "step-down" floorpan, which dated to 1948, the Italia was 9 in (229 mm) lower than the Jet, but shared its 105 in (2,667 mm) wheelbase. The prototype also featured Borrani chrome wire wheels and its column mounted three-speed transmission included an overdrive unit.

While styling for the Jet was conservative, the Italia was anything but. The Italia was 10 inches (254 mm) lower than a Jet. Over the headlights, the front fenders featured "V" shaped scoops, ducting cooling air to the front brakes, but they really only vent "the underside of the fender and the top of the tire." The front bumper sported a large inverted "V" (the trademark Hudson triangle, inverted) in the center that angled up and overlapped the grille work. Rear quarter scoops cooled the rear brakes. In the back of the car, the tail, directional, and back-up lamps tipped the ends of three stacked chrome tubes per side, emerging from scalloped cut-outs in the rear quarter panels. The production models did not receive overdrive, the instrument panel was different, and a combination of leather-and-vinyl upholstery was used.

The Italia featured a radio (not yet standard equipment even on Cadillacs), form-fitting bucket seats made from foam rubber three different densities for maximum comfort covered in red and white leather, featuring reclining backrests made up of two contoured bolsters, one for the shoulders and one for the lower back. The seats were firmer at the lower back than the upper and between the two cushions was air space so "the seats actually 'breathed' through the motion of the passengers." A non-reflecting dash was finished in red, with bright red deep-pile Italian carpet, all contrasting with the "Italian Cream" exterior color. Even red leather seat belts were incorporated as they were just beginning to appear as standard equipment that was pioneered by Nash but attached only to the seats themselves. Flow-through ventilation, usually credited as a General Motors innovation, feeding through a cowl vent (just becoming usual in 1950s U.S. cars), was also standard.

The Italia was powered by Hudson's "Twin H" 202 cu in (3.3 L) L-head straight 6, with higher (8:1) compression and dual one-barrel (single choke) downdraft carburetors, producing 114 hp (85 kW; 116 PS) and all were equipped with a 3-speed manual transmission with a column-mounted gear shift lever. The cars featured drum brakes front and rear. The trunk was accessible only from inside the car as part of a large luggage platform behind the seats with straps to hold cargo and lockable storage compartments on either side of the platform.

Hudson commissioned Carrozzeria Touring to build what is believed to have been a total of 50 cars, and sent the needed "Super Jet" components to Italy. Despite lower labor costs in Italy.

Hudson dealers began taking orders on September 23, 1953, but the response was lukewarm with only 18 or 19 firm orders. The Italia's price was high and dealers were disappointed that the more powerful Hornet engine was not offered. Less expensive were the $4,721 Nash-Healey, the $3,668 Kaiser Darrin, and the $3,523 Chevrolet Corvette.

On January 14, 1954, Hudson Motors and Nash-Kelvinator Corporation announced a merger to form American Motors Corporation (AMC). Hudson's prospects as a stand-alone independent marque ended with full consolidation under AMC by May 1954. The newly formed automaker sent letters to all Hudson dealers announcing a deadline for pre-paid orders from customers for the cars assembled in Italy. However, "orphan" branded cars, such as the Nash and Hudson, were shunned by customers and depreciated quickly. Orders for the Italia were almost nonexistent and AMC committed to have only another 15 Italias built.

Most of the Italias were sold to the eccentric customers in Southern California. Twenty-one of the 26 Italia's have been accounted for. The missing five cars carry serial numbers 5 through 10, with two in this group were located in Europe, thus leading to speculation that these early cars were never delivered to the U.S. Contemporary reports indicated that the cars were sold in Europe.

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