As we have seen many times here on the pages of The Old Motor, not only did the Great Depression affect the citizens of the United States and those in many other countries, but it also threatened the very existence of the automakers. Hudson sales had fallen by eighty percent from the record-setting years at the end of the Roaring Twenties. By 1932 sales of medium and high-priced cars had slowed down to a trickle across the land.
Hudson’s solution to the problem was to introduce the Essex Terraplane, a lightweight new car that was an excellent value. It combined a responsive 193 c.i.d. 70-h.p. six-cylinder engine with a short 106-inch wheelbase chassis and lightweight bodywork. It sold for between $425 for the Roadster to $590 for the Sport Sedan.
- Earhart christening No. 1, Orville Wright’s Terraplane – Photo MotorCities National Heritage Area.
In an article in the Automotive Industries Magazine, July 23, 1932 issue, the details of the introduction ceremony seen above were found. At the event Amelia Earhart christened the first car off of the assembly line, Orville Wright’s new 1932 Essex Terraplane. The ceremonies were held on July 21, on a stage setup in a field next to the Hudson factory in Detroit, Michigan.
The tooling up of the new assembly line at the plant, and the start of production provided employment to more than a thousand Detroit autoworkers at one of the toughest times the city had ever seen. It also provided Hudson dealers with a fresh new car that they could sell to survive during the deepest part of the Depression. The dealers and their drivers arrived in 300 Pullman cars at the Detroit train station from locations all across America and Canada.
Immediately after Earhart christened the new car, one of the largest drive-aways in the history of Detroit occurred. Hudson dealers in attendance from forty states, along with their helpers left in the two thousand cars seen parked (below) next to the stage. Hundreds of Detroit policeman guided the cars on a highly publicized parade that took them through the heart of the City before they left town.
- Two thousand Terraplanes at the Hudson factory, ready for the drive away – Photo Douglas Westfall.
At the same time similar events were staged in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, and in Tilbury, Ontario, the home of Hudson Motor Car Co. Ltd. of Canada. We found the link to the British Pathe video (below) thanks to reader Rolande Angled, titled: Earhart Christens New Terraplane Launching New Auto Prosperity Drive, which shows the entire event.
In it, you will see and hear Earhart, Chairman Roy D. Chapin and Hudson President W.J. McAneeny at the ceremonies and witness the drive-away and parade. Below the video, you can find complete details of the new car in the Automotive Industries Magazine, July 23, 1932 issue.
The image at the top of the post of a Terraplane was taken in Springfield, Massachusetts at a promotional endurance run. This was during the 1933 model year as an optional eight-cylinder engine was made available that one year only. The dealer who staged this, Harrington-Hudson, cleverly sold advertising on the car to attract attention and help pay the costs involved. The photo is courtesy of Richard Bolt.
Full details and illustrations of the Essex Terraplane models can be found below in – Hudson Zooms Into Low-Price Field With Essex Terraplane by Athel F. Denham. The article originates from the Automotive Industries Magazine, July 23, 1932 issue.