Hudson designer Frank Spring (who left Murphy Coachbuilders in the 1930s to join Hudson) contracted with Carrozzeria Touring of Milan to build 25 production models of his dream sports car. Touring created a Superleggera coupe with an aluminum unibody built over a steel tub frame. Unique to the Italia were aircraft-style doors, custom bucket seats, Borrani knockoff wheels, air ducts in the body for brake cooling, and triple exhaust pipes that served as stop, brake and backup lights. Each car cost Hudson an amazing $28,000 to build, and they sold for $4,800. This car, body number 21, has had four owners. For the past 30 years it has remained in a private collection. The Pebble Beach-quality restoration was completed in 2012.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1955 Hudson Italia
Number Produced:26
Original List Price:$4,800
Tune Up Cost:$150
Engine Number Location:Upper right front side of block
Club Info:Hudson Car Club

This car, Lot 5035, sold for $396,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s sale at Scottsdale, AZ, on January 19, 2013.

Concept and dream cars have long been a stalwart of the automotive industry. Design ideas can be tested for public reaction and — more importantly — they bring people into the showroom to look at and hopefully drive home one of the more standard offerings.

Chrysler, under the direction of Virgil Exner, perfected this with their relationship with Ghia and produced a steady stream of concepts that were heavily promoted.

Hudson had caused a stir within the automotive industry in 1948 when they introduced the edgy “step-down” models. They made another big splash when they dominated NASCAR in the early 1950s. Still, Hudson was drastically losing market share to Nash. They desperately needed some excitement to recapture the public’s interest.

Lacking funding to create a new model, Hudson’s chief designer Frank Spring turned to Milan’s Carrozzeria Touring. A Hudson Jet was shipped to Italy and, based on Spring’s sketches, a new aluminum Superleggera body was formed over tubular framing. The dramatic result featured a wraparound windshield, doors that were cut 14 inches into the roof, and a stance that was 10 inches lower that the Jet.

Flashy — even in the 1950s

To say that the styling was flamboyant would be an understatement. Over the headlights, large V-shaped scoops supposedly cooled the brakes, but in reality the only thing they cooled was the top of the fender. The front bumper features an inverted “V” and on the rear fender, three stacked chrome tubes emerged from scalloped cutouts, and lights in the tips indicated brakes, turn signals and backup.

Reports vary as to the number of Italias that Hudson commissioned from Carrozzeria Touring. Some say 50, while others state 25 for homologation for entering the American Class of the Mexican La Carrera road race.

Regardless of the motive, 25 — plus a prototype — were built, and 21 are thought to have survived. Even at a cost of $4,800, dealers placed orders for 19 Italias in the fall of 1953, but the pending merger with American Motors brought an abrupt end to the project, and six of the Italias remained in Europe. They reportedly cost $28,000 to build, and no one at Hudson wanted to explain the project to the powers that be at the new American Motors Corporation.

Sales Manager Roy Chapin was ordered to “get rid of those cars.”

Back from corrosion hell

Racer Lance Reventlow originally bought the Italia sold at Barrett-Jackson. Reventlow took it to his Hawaii residence. He was killed a year later in a small-plane crash, and the car was subsequently acquired from a used-car lot and shipped to the East Coast. The consignor acquired it some 30 years ago, and he stated that the aluminum body was heavily corroded because of exposure to the moist Hawaiian climate.

The extensive restoration began several years ago, and the challenge was to reinforce the car’s notoriously weak midsection. The result is a restoration to an exceptional standard. Noted collector Don Williams, after viewing the Italia displayed in the Barrett-Jackson Salon Collection, found it flawless, which is certainly heavy praise. The consignor also had a special Italia rug created to accent the presentation.

A top-quality Italia

Even with so few Italias constructed, we have two others that have recently come to market as comparisons.

Worldwide, at their 2011 Auburn sale, sold 10022 for $352,000. It was a correct-but-older restoration that would need a respray, interior work and some brightwork to be comparable to the example offered by Barrett-Jackson.

RM, at their August 2012 Monterey sale, offered 10011, and it realized $265,000. It had been hastily restored, as the bumper had been cut to facilitate plating, the side spear was incorrect and the badges were incorrectly placed. It would be an expensive proposition indeed to bring either of these cars to the level of correctness and quality of restoration exhibited in our subject Italia.

As a result, this Hudson Italia was off the market by at least $50k–$75k, and the buyer went home with a screaming deal. ?

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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