Tuesday, February 9, 2010

1954 Hudson Super Jet

"This compact, new kind of car brings Hornet-like performance, luxury and safety to the lowest price field."

The short-lived Jet was Hudson's failed attempt to participate in America's compact car market with bad timing and bad styling.

Hudson's success with the famous "Step-Down" cars diminished in the early 50s, when the styling-craze kicked off, and annual styling changes became an inevitable sales instrument. Hudson's "Step-Down" body wasn't flexible enough for a major restyling, and in result, the sales plummeted.

At the same time, some "compact" cars like the Rambler or Frazer's Henry J emerged on the market, and had initial sales success. Inspired by this, Hudson's president A. E. Barit ordered the development of the compact Hudson Jet, but despite very promising early designs, the outcome was a stubby, slab-sided car, which wasn't very pretty. In a time when "longer and lower" was the key to success, the Jet's styling and proportions were just not right.

When the Jet was introduced in 1953, America's compact car market had turned out to be already saturated, and there was no more room for another contender. Hudson had lost a lot of money in the development of the Jet, and with a tight budget finally had to merge with Nash-Kelvinator in 1954 to become American Motors. One condition of Nash President George Mason for this merger was that the Jet had to go. After just 21.143 cars in 1953, and 14.224 in 1954, the production of the Jet was stopped at the moment when the costs for tooling were amortized.

The low production numbers make the Jet a valuable rarity today. It took us a fair bit of time to come across one in Cuba, and to our surprise its owner knew exactly about the value of his car. "Mira," he told us. "My carro looks bad, but it runs well, and it's worth more than any Chevy you can find."

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