Ben Harper must have been one very determined individual, as he prepared and converted this 1913 Hudson on the third floor of a U.S. Navy warehouse in San Francisco. To get the car up to the third floor of the building, he tied a rope to the front axle of the car and used the mechanism of the freight elevator to pull the car up the three flights and back down again after completion.
It appears that Harper left the chassis of the Hudson relatively stock when the special was constructed. Changes that can be seen are: the of fitting smaller diameter wheels, rims and tires, rear frame horns were fitted to replace the top spring, along with a radiator and shell off of another car from the period. The hood, cowl and seats were constructed of sheet metal as were most other racing car bodies at the time. The gas tank appears to have also been from another car similar large car.
After completion, the car was used in a road race in Southern California and then with some sort of sponsorship by the Coast Tire Company, Harper and his brother in law W. S. Allen, drove the car from San Francisco, to New York City and back. The car with Harper behind the wheel, is shown above and below in enlargeable detailed photos. The photo was taken out in front of Hudson headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.
From The Hudson Triangle, November 1, 1921, caption for the (above) photo: The home of the Hudson, in the course of a year, is a mecca for a great many interesting people. Ben Harper, of San Francisco, sitting in a rebuilt Hudson of 1913 vintage, with a mileage of 264,000 miles. This car Harper drove across the continent to New York in 6 days, 9 hours running time, stopping in to visit the factory on the return trip found here.
Tom Harper mentioned that on the trip back west before stopping at the Hudson factory, there was a problem with a connecting rod and piston which had to be removed. The pair then continued on the journey to the factory and there in a gesture of thanks, Hudson installed another engine in the car before they completed the journey back to the west coast.
It is not known if Hudson assisted them on the trip, but there may have been some sort of an arrangement either beforehand or later on, as we will see Ben Harper in an Essex S-X racing car (made by Hudson) with director and actor Mack Sennet. Harper ran that car in the Los Angeles area, including at the Beverly Hills board track.
The photo above shows the type of road conditions that were common on the roads back in 1921, when the pair made their journey in the Hudson.
Photos (above) left to right: Harper and Allen with the car in Oakland at some point before the race, Harper posing in the car at his home which was on 16 th. Ave. in San Francisco, and the car also at Harpers home with another car behind it that also appears to be a racing car.
Full details of the Hudson construction can be found above in a four page article in the August 1, 1912 issue of The Automobile (above), introducing the new 1913 Hudson Model 54 six-cylinder. This is the same chassis that was used by Ben Harper to construct his coast to coast car some seven years later.
A Coast Tire Co. store is shown above in and unknown location in California. The photo by Claude C. “”Pop”” Laval, is dated September 29, 1921, and is courtesy of the Fresno County Public Library and Calisphere.
Photos (above) left to right: details of the Coast Tire Co. formed in 1919, an advertisement from Nov. 1922, and a photo of the new plant which was constructed right next to the Chevrolet assembly plant in Oakland, CA.
In the period between 1923 and 1924 the company went into receivership and in subsequent investigations by the courts, several executives were convicted of fraud under California Blue Skies Securities Laws and sentenced to prison terms. The company was then reorganized as the Coast Tire and Rubber Co. and was in business at least until the early 1930’s. In 1935 the former factory of the Coast Tire and Rubber Company taken over by the Pacific Tire and Rubber Company, organized by C. P. Turner, of Los Angeles, as reported at the time in Rubber Age magazine.
This story will be continued soon along with a photo of an Essex S-K racer that Ben Harper raced at the Beverly Hills board track. If you can find any information of either of these cars or more information on Ben Harper please send us a comment.
The photos of Harper’s car are courtesy of Tom Robinson Harper who is his grandson. Harper is a third generation racer and one of the most accomplished stunt men in the county. He also races a 360 sprint car one of the California sprint car racing circuits. Harper would like to build a replica of his Grandfathers car, so if any of our readers knows the whereabouts of a restorable 1913 Hudson chassis please send us a message.