May 22, 2009
1946 Hudson pickup. Click image to enlarge
Review and photo by Bill Vance
Hudson is a name not usually associated with trucks. From the founding of the Hudson Motor Car Company in Detroit in 1909, sponsored by department store magnate Joseph L. Hudson, to the nameplate’s demise in 1957 under American Motors Corporation, Hudsons were known as speedy, well built, mid-market cars.
Surprisingly, Hudson also built light trucks for almost 20 years, although never in large numbers. The best remembered Hudson trucks were the handsome 1946 and 1947 pickups produced right after the Second World War.
The first Hudson trucks were privately built using car chassis’, and began appearing at about the beginning of the First World War in 1914. They were used as Hudson dealer service trucks and in public service applications like ambulances and fire department support vehicles. In spite of their apparent ruggedness and utility, Hudson didn’t formally enter the truck market until 1929, and wouldn’t carry the Hudson name for another decade.
The first series production Hudson truck, also called a commercial car, was a light hauler called the Dover based on Hudson’s Essex car chassis. Dovers were offered in such configurations as panel deliveries and pickups. The Dover truck became the Essex in the early 1930s, now based on the Essex Terraplane car platform.
For 1934 the Essex name was discontinued, and Hudson’s trucks now became Terraplanes until 1937, when they became Hudson-Terraplanes for one year. The Terraplane name was then discontinued in both cars and trucks, and the trucks carried Hudson badges.
In 1937, Hudson introduced what would be its best known truck, the three-quarter ton Terraplane “Big Boy” pickup with a wheelbase stretched from the usual (2,972 mm (117 in.) to 3,150 mm (124 in.). In spite of low production, Hudson offered a dizzying array of models, some 19 in all. This was reduced to 14 in 1939, 10 in 1940, and eight in 1941.
During the 1930s Hudson and others offered an unusual kind of commercial application that was a combination car and truck. Hudson introduced its version called the utility coupe in 1937.
The utility coupe was an ingenious vehicle that could serve as a car or truck. At its heart was a pickup-type cargo box, complete with tailgate, that slid out of the trunk like a bureau drawer. When pulled all the way out it provided carrying capacity up to eight feet (2,438 mm) long. When the utility coupe was not required to act as a truck, the box telescoped back into the trunk, and with the lid closed it looked like a normal car. It was built until 1942.
Hudson’s 1942 offerings consisted of just two pickup trucks, the 2,946 mm (116 in.) wheelbase regular model, and the 3,251 mm (128 in.) wheelbase Big Boy. The Second World War stopped civilian automotive production from 1942 to 1945, and when it resumed, Hudson’s post-war pickup was the 3/4-ton Big Boy, although it was no longer called that.