What is it that makes certain cars more collectible than others? Certainly the car’s condition, its documentation, and any unusual factory options can affect a car’s value. However, I think the most important factor is rarity. The less common a car is, the more valuable it becomes.
Sometimes car manufacturers deliberately make small runs of cars, ensuring that they will become instant collectibles. Take a look at some recently produced exotic cars and their prices:
Lexus LF-A Supercar – 500 units – $375,000 each
Aston Martin One-77 – 77 units – $1,000,000 each
Lamborghini Veneno – 3 units – $3,000,000 each
It boggles my mind that automakers can produce a run of $1 or $3 million dollars cars and have no trouble selling all of them. However, it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when automakers had a hard time finding buyers for hyper-expensive cars. One of the first manufacturers to create a ridiculously high-priced supercar was none other than the Hudson Motor Company.
Hudson was an American car manufacturer from 1909 through 1957. The company started off with a bang by making affordable cars for working class folks. By 1929 they were the 3rd largest US automaker behind Ford and Chevrolet, producing 300,000 cars that year. Like other manufacturing companies, Hudson was ordered to help with the war effort when the US entered World War II in 1942.
It was after the war that the Hudson engine started to slow down. The company saw a lot of their sales being taken away by the “Big Three” (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler). Those guys could afford to redesign their cars every year whereas smaller companies like Hudson could not. Hudson sales declined severely during 1951-1953.
Hudson needed to do something dramatic. They wanted a car that would get the attention of the press and win back their customers. They took one of their popular models, the Hudson Jet, and sent it to Italy where it received all new sheet metal courtesy of Carrozzeria Touring. The car that came back would enter production as the Hudson Italia.
The Italia featured a number of high-tech features that were dramatically ahead of its time. The car’s “step down” design made its overall height almost 9 inches lower than the Jet, giving it a very low-slung and sporty look. The front end had V-shaped air ducts to cool the front brakes while the rear had a unique 3-pipe configuration on each side that housed the exhaust, stop lamps, and reverse lamps. The entire body of the car was made of strong and lightweight aluminum, which was expensive and not commonly used at the time.
Driver amenities included a wrap-around panoramic windshield and a flow-through system that brought fresh air into the passenger cabin. There were bucket seats in the front made of 3 different types of foam for maximum comfort. The car even came with a radio – something which was still optional on Cadillacs at that time. The Italia also boasted safety features like a non-reflective dashboard and seatbelts as standard equipment (seatbelts weren’t required by Federal law until 1968).
Hudson sent out the press release for the Italia in 1953 and waited for the orders to roll in. Unfortunately, the flood turned out to be a trickle and Hudson only received a handful of orders for their new car. The cash-strapped company merged with fellow independent automaker Nash-Kelvinator in January 1954 and renamed itself American Motors Corporation (AMC).
In spite of its advanced features, the Italia had a few drawbacks. Its trunk could only be accessed from the inside, which was a bit awkward. Dealers were disappointed that the car – which was basically just a re-bodied Hudson Jet – did not have the more powerful Hudson Hornet engine. Finally, each car cost a reported $28,000 dollars to build – a fantastic fortune was lost on each one made. The Hudson Italia went on sale for $4,800 dollars – about 120% more than a Cadillac.
It should come as no surprise that Hudson didn’t end up building very many Italias, especially once AMC took over. In fact, only 26 of these magnificent cars were ever produced and just 21 known to exist today. To put this in perspective, there are more Ferrari 250 GTOs in the world than Hudson Italias! These are very, very rare vehicles – probably among the rarest mass-produced cars in history. I can’t believe I saw one!
The Italia was the car that was supposed to save Hudson, but in the end, its advanced features and sporty styling were not enough to overcome the car’s obscene price tag and win back its former customers from the Big Three.
This particular car sold at the 2013 Barrett-Jackson auction for an impressive $396,000! I only wish I had taken more pictures of this incredible car when I saw it!