Hudson Jet grounded by sky-high price

Let me position the 1953 Hudson Jet for you.

It was a smallish American car, with dimensions about the same as the 1956 FE Holden. 

At a time when so-called “independent” car makers in the USA were starting to feel the economic squeeze, as Ford, Chrysler and GM engaged in a price war to ensure their market share, the boss of Hudson, A E Barit, authorised $16 million to develop the Jet.

Even by GM’s standards, that was a significant investment in a market segment in which American buyers had shown little interest.

Who wanted a small car when you could have a bigger, longer lower car?

For Hudson, it was money the cash poor company did not have.

Had Barit been smarter, he would have spent money on developing a much-needed OHV V8 engine and a styling refresh of his full-sized car range. 

Anyway, the basis of the car was solid. 

It had a 202 cubic inch/3.3 litre six as standard, ensuring it had a power to weight ratio equal to larger more powerful cars.

The transmission on offer was a three-speed manual with or without overdrive and GM’s four-speed HydraMatic.

So far, so good. 

But, then it all went wrong.

Barit, and Hudson’s most successful dealer, the Chicago-based Jim Moran, micro-managed the styling. 

Barit wanted the car to be tall enough so that occupants could wear a hat when travelling. 

Moran liked the 1952 Ford and convinced Barit that the Jet’s styling ought to follow the Ford design themes.

That’s why the Jet is tall, narrow and looks like a shrunken ’52 Ford.

To make up for the smallish dimensions, the Jet’s brochure featured downsized people to make the car appear larger.

No one was fooled when they saw one on the showroom floor.

To compound the styling and size problem, Barit and his gang decided to price it almost the same as a full-sized Chevrolet. 

Go figure that decision. 

Surprise, surprise, no one bought it.

Only 33,376 were sold in two years and Hudson lost $10 million in 1953.

When the profitless Hudson was taken over by American Motors (AMC) in 1954, AMC already has its successful compact car, the Rambler.

AMC’s new CEO, George Romney decided that there was no room in the line up for a slow-selling dowdy compact, so the Jet was grounded.

Barit resigned from the AMC board in 1956. 

After leading AMC to much success, Romney left the auto industry and was elected Governor of Michigan.

He is the father of US Republication politician and former Presidential hopeful. Mitt Romney.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


CHECKOUT: Cartoon-like Nash a hit with the Yanks

CHECKOUT: Prince wasn’t game to part with his Lagonda

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *