Don’t be surprised if a cream-colored, sporty-looking '50s-era car begins showing up at more and more prestigious car shows and high-end auctions in the coming years. In fact, this part American and part Italian car, the Hudson Italia, has already made an appearance at the distinguished Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, as well as being a featured car at a Barrett-Jackson auction. Its unique style and limited production makes it a valuable asset at any car show, and it will likely soon be an "A" list collector car.
In the late '40s, Hudson introduced an innovative step down chassis design that lowered their cars center of gravity, giving them the edge on the NASCAR track. The Fabulous Hudson Hornet became the dominating race car, besting the big-name cars from Ford and GM. Unfortunately, the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" premise had not yet fully materialized, and Hudson Motor Car Company needed to make a media splash to draw a broader base of prospective customers to its showrooms. Actually, the company was in deep financial trouble, partly because its cars, although well-built, weren't keeping up with the styling trends of the day. So, in 1954, the Hudson Italia was introduced as a "Hail Mary" effort to save the faltering car company. Essentially a concept vehicle, it was to go directly into production as the company's halo car. To save on manufacturing costs, it was decided to use the existing chassis of the company’s Jet model. The chassis was shipped to Italy, and a handmade aluminum body was fitted to the Jet running gear. The finished cars were then shipped back to the US. The benefit of this Italian connection was twofold -- lower labor costs and the infusion of new styling for Hudson's show car.
Unfortunately, the Hudson Italia didn't achieve its primary mission of saving the Hudson Motor Car Company, and within a year, the company merged with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation to form American Motors. Following the merger, the company's direction was strictly smaller economy cars, leaving no room for a car like the flamboyant Hudson Italia.
Handcrafted by Carrozzeria Touring in Italy, the flowing design of the Hudson Italia is unmistakably European. It's a two-seater sports car that was a contemporary of the Corvette and the soon-to-be-released Thunderbird. The Italia had a low roof line, due to the inherent step-down design of the Jet chassis, giving it a more sporty appearance. But, the most distinguishing features are the fender air scoops above each headlight, the aircraft-type doors recessed into the roof of the car, and the three chrome pipes at the rear containing the taillight, brake light, and backup light. Under the hood, you'll find a rather unimpressive straight-6, with twin H-power, which was standard for Hudsons of the day. This prompted some owners to modify their cars with V8 engine upgrades. And although there were other aftermarket changes, all original cars had cream-colored exteriors and red leather and white accented interiors.
The Hudson Italia has all the characteristics that make it a must-have vehicle for any serious collector. First and foremost, only 21 of the 26 that were produced are known to still exist. Secondly, it has a compelling story, which involved international players and a much-admired car company that was struggling to survive in a very competitive market. And lastly, even today it's a show car with an exciting, eye-catching design.
Despite the cheaper labor costs in Italy, the Hudson Italia proved to be a relatively expensive car in 1954 with MSRP of $4,800. This was almost $1000 higher than other American luxury/sport cars of the day. For decades, Italias were only a footnote when chronicling the history of the Hudson and the creativity of the '50s. However, this has changed in recent years, as collectors have rediscovered this unique sports car. As its desirability has increased, so have the prices collectors are willing to pay. Here are the Hudson Italia's average sales values, since 1985.
These statistics suggest that it's anyone's guess as to how high the price will go for the Hudson Italia. If the value of another special car, the 1948 Tucker, is any indication of the Hudson's potential desirability, $1 million or more would not be out of the question. After all, if scarcity is any gauge of value, almost twice as many Tuckers were built as Hudson Italias, and Preston Tucker's Torpedoes have already passed the $2 million mark. If you're looking for a good investment in classic cars, perhaps the Hudson should be high on your collector list.
Reference material from Hemmings and Wild About Cars.