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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.