- Popular lightweight model from Hudson
- “Land flying,” popularized by Amelia Earhart
- Last of the Essex brand
“I christen thee Essex Terraplane.” Thus spoke Amelia Earhart, the famed aviatrix, as she smashed a bottle of champagne on Hudson’s innovative new model on 21 July 1932. “Land Flying, that’s what Terraplane is!” said the press release, invoking the aviation themes conjured up by Charles Lindberg’s 1927 single-handed transatlantic flight and Ms. Earhart’s own solo crossing that May.
Essex was Hudson’s lower-priced companion car and had promptly proved itself by outselling its parent and excelled by reaching third place in sales for 1929. Alas, the competition was getting tougher and the Great Depression deeper. The key component for Terraplane was lightness. A narrow track was selected in order to use less steel, thereby keeping weight down. The chassis itself had a cruciform architecture, with the internal crosses perforated by large holes. The result was a weight of barely 2,000 pounds, a full 700 less than its Essex forebear. Helpful, too, was Hudson’s advanced metallurgy, which allowed thin wall casting long before the major manufacturers took it on. The engine was the same 173-cubic-inch L-head six from the Essex, but Terraplane’s leanness gave it extra pep.
This 1933 Model KU Terraplane Deluxe Six was acquired by the Merrick Auto Museum in 1993. Prior owners include renowned collector Zach Brinkerhoff of Denver, Colorado. The recipient of a 1,200-hour-plus restoration, it presents well with ochre body and brown fenders. Upholstery is pleated brown cloth, and the instrument panel combines body color with wood-grained panels. Silver wire-spoke wheels carry 5.25-18 blackwall tires. The spare is mounted at the rear.
Terraplane sold nearly 40,000 cars for 1933, after which the old Essex model was discontinued and its name dropped from the Terraplane brand. Short-lived as it may have been, the concept of “land flying” still stands true.