Hershey Lodge
11 - 12 October 2012
Lot 188

1929 Essex ‘The Challenger’ Boattail Speedabout


$88,000 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



Chassis No.

55 hp, 161.4 cu. in. inline L-head six-cylinder engine, three-speed sliding gear manual transmission with overdrive, semi-floating rear axle, and Bendix four-wheel mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 110.5 in.

• Reportedly one of five produced in 1929

• No-expenses-spared restoration in 2002

• Coachbuilt body by Biddle & Smart of Amesbury, Massachusetts

Essex production began in a former Studebaker plant, with the marque quickly establishing a foothold in the marketplace courtesy of several AAA records. Essex was early to recognize the growing interest in closed cars, offering America’s lowest-priced version starting in 1922. At $1,495, just $300 more than a touring model, one could purchase an Essex four-passenger coach. By 1925, the coach was priced five dollars less than the touring car and sold well, contributing significantly to Hudson being the third largest producer of American automobiles in 1929. In 1933, the Essex name was dropped in favor of a new model called the Terraplane.

Essex first offered its novel boattail Speedabout in 1927. After skipping the 1928 model year, the Speedabout returned for 1929. Hudson officially labeled the Essex for 1929 “Essex the Challenger,” not surprisingly, shortening it to Essex Challenger for 1930 and disappearing entirely thereafter. As noted by the coachbuilder’s tag on this example, aluminum bodies were built by Biddle & Smart of Amesbury, Massachusetts, with which Hudson had a volume production contract. A rumble seat was included, as was special gearing and an overdrive transmission, providing for an 80 mph top speed. As a specialty model starting at $965, production was limited, with just five known examples produced. Reportedly, the Speedabouts were built as show cars by Hudson to test the feasibility of volume production.

This sprightly Speedabout has benefited from a no-expense-spared body-off restoration and a complete mechanical rebuild by the Guild of Automotive Restorers, completed in 2002, for one of its executives. Painted a festive red and black with red belt line and matching black canvas top and red leather interior, this stunning roadster strikes quite a pose. It will no doubt be the star of the show wherever it appears, thanks to both its appearance and rarity.