The 1954 Hudson Italia: An Italian-American Dream Machine

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Side View
1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Nathan Deremer ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

In the world of classic automobiles, the 1954 Hudson Italia stands out as a symbol of innovation and style. Recently, a notable example of this rare model, the first production Italia, designated IT-10001, was sold at RM Sotheby’s auction in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a remarkable $495,000 USD. This sale marks a significant moment in automotive history, offering a glimpse into the unique legacy of the Hudson Italia.

The Genesis of the Hudson Italia

The Hudson Italia emerged from a collaboration between Hudson Motor Car Company’s styling chief, Frank Spring, and the renowned Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, Italy. After World War II, Hudson had found success with its advanced “step-down” models like the Hornet. However, the subsequent release of the compact Jet in 1953 didn’t meet market expectations, leading to this groundbreaking Italian-American partnership.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Front Side

Design and Production

The Italia was based on the Hudson Jet but transformed into a dream car with sleek, hand-formed bodywork. It featured a sporty interior with specially designed reclining front bucket seats, and a powertrain consisting of a Hudson twin-carbureted inline-six engine and a three-speed overdrive transmission. The Italia wasn’t just a showpiece; it represented a blend of American engineering and Italian design flair.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Engine

Limited to just 25 production models and one prototype, each retailing for $4,800, the Italia unfortunately became a financial burden for Hudson. By the time of its release, Hudson had merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors, but even this couldn’t salvage the Italia’s commercial viability. Hudson reportedly lost money on each unit produced.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Interior

IT-10001: The First Production Model

The car sold at RM Sotheby’s, chassis number 259254, holds the distinction of being the first production Italia. Initially used as a show car across the United States and Canada, it has a storied history. Its first private owner, Earl Armstrong from Santa Barbara, California, made several modifications, including replacing the original Hudson powertrain with a Buick V-8 and automatic transmission.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Chassis Number

In 1980, the car found its second owner, who restored it to its factory specifications, including refitting the correct-type Hudson engine and transmission. The restoration maintained a gentle patina, with a cream exterior over a red and white interior. Notably, this Italia either never had a serial number plate or lost it before Armstrong’s acquisition. It also lacks a Carrozzeria Touring body number plate, a unique aspect of this particular vehicle.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Interior Dashboard

A Legacy Preserved

The nephew of the second owner, after inheriting it, consigned the car for auction. Of the 26 Italias originally built, only 21 are known to survive, making each a valuable piece of automotive history. The IT-10001, however, stands out for its status as the first production chassis and its short ownership chain.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Front Side View

Included with the sale were a substantial history file, correspondence with its first owner and AMC, and copies of Hudson memos offering insights into the development and release of this ambitious Italian-American machine.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Rear Side

Conclusion

The sale of the 1954 Hudson Italia IT-10001 is not just a transaction of a rare car; it’s a celebration of a unique piece of automotive history. This car embodies a bold experiment in design and engineering, a testament to the era’s ambition and creativity. For car enthusiasts and historians alike, the story of the Hudson Italia, particularly this first production model, continues to captivate and inspire.

1954 Hudson Italia by Touring Front Side

Source:

RM Sotheby’s

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