1954 Hudson Jet Liner 4-door sedan
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||202 cu in (3.3 L) I6|
|Wheelbase||105 inches (2,667 mm)|
|Length||180.7 in (4,590 mm)|
|Width||67 in (1,702 mm)|
|Height||62.8 in (1,595 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,650 lb (1,202 kg) 1953 base 4-door|
The Hudson Jet was a compact automobile produced by the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan during the 1953 and 1954 model years. The Jet was Hudson's response to the popular Nash Rambler, and Hudson, with its limited financial resources, chose to pursue a compact instead of refurbishing its line of full-size cars. However, the Jet failed to capture buyers as the Rambler had for Nash. Consequently, Hudson was forced to merge with Nash-Kelvinator (forming American Motors Corporation - AMC) because of the losses created by the Jet project and the falling sales of its senior line.
Early clay models of Hudson's new compact car carried the name "Bee" in keeping with the automaker's Wasp and Hornet models.
From the beginning, the Jet project was hampered by Hudson President A.E. Barit, 63 years old in 1953, who disregarded the suggestions of the company's stylists and other advisors. For example, Barit insisted that the compact-sized Jet offer full-size car amenities. While designers attempted to form a car that was lower, wider, and proportionally sleeker to the dimensions of a smaller compact car, Barit would not back away from features such as chair high seating for passengers, and a "tall" greenhouse with a ceiling that would allow riders to wear their hats while in the car. Barit also decided that the Jet's rear design would incorporate Oldsmobile-like high rear fender and small round tail light design. The design was further changed to accommodate the personal likes of Chicago, Illinois Hudson dealer Jim Moran, whose dealership became number one sales outlet for Hudson, accounting for about 5% of Hudson's total production. Moran fancied the 1952 Ford's wrap around rear window and roofline, and Barit ordered a similar design for the Jet. The final result was that the Jet's styling closely mimicked the larger 1952-1954 Ford in many respects. The strong unitized Monobuilt bodies for the Jet were produced by the Murray Corporation of Detroit. One of the reasons for outsourcing the production of bodies "was that Murray agreed to amortize the tooling costs over the production run, reducing the upfront investment" making the Jet possible because Hudson did not have enough resources to pay for the tooling costs.
The new small car was powered by Hudson's new inline L-head 202 cu in (3.3 L) straight-six engine that produced 104 horsepower (78 kW; 105 PS) at 4000 rpm and 158 pound force-feet (214 N·m) of torque @ 1600 rpm. Early Studebaker body development mule vehicles suffered damage because the engine produced so much torque. A "Twin-H power" version with two 1-bbl downdraft carburetors, aluminum cylinder head, and 8.0:1 compression ratio producing 114 hp (85 kW; 116 PS) was optional. The 202 CID engine was basically a reworking of Hudson's 1932 "3x4.5" 254 cu in (4.2 L) I8, less two cylinders, de-stroked and configured for full-pressure lubrication. It was a flathead design at a time when the rest of the industry was moving to overhead valves.
The Hudson Jet was unveiled in December 1952 at the Hotel Astor in New York City. Hudson was the only make fully committed to stock car racing, so both the founder of NASCAR, Bill France, Sr., and Hudson driver, Tim Flock, the Grand National champion, participated.  For the 1953 model year, the Jet was the only new nameplate among the domestic automakers. In its introductory year, the Jet was available in either Standard or Super-Jet trim levels, with two- and four-door sedan body styles. Unlike the fastback "step-down" bodied Hudson full-size cars, the Jet was designed as a three-box notchback.
When the Jet emerged for its introduction, it competed with the Henry J, Nash Rambler, and Willys Aero. It was shorter than the Henry J and the Willys Aero, as well as the narrowest and tallest of all four giving the Jet "a boxy look". Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine noted that the Jet has "much to recommend it" including "riding qualities [which] match more expensive models", good visibility, quiet operation, and more power than its competition for "excellent pickup and a high top speed". With its optional "Twin-H power", the Jet had more horsepower than any standard engine in the regular-sized Fords, Chevrolets, and Plymouth lines.
While the 1953 senior Hudsons continued to be based upon the 1948 step-down design, these cars looked sleeker than the smaller, slab-sided Jet models. Unlike the Nash Rambler, which offered premium body styles such as a station wagon, hardtop, and convertible, the Jet was available only in sedan form. Although the Hudson Jet had an advantage by being well appointed, it was priced higher than base-level full-sized Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth sedans.
Standard equipment was at a high level for an automobile of this era. These features included a heater, theft-proof locks, rotary door-latches, defroster vents, dual horns, full-wheel covers, ashtray, and a lighted ignition switch that were typical extras on the competing makes. While the inclusion of a passenger compartment heater as standard may be odd to present day car drivers, even the high-priced Cadillac still counted a passenger compartment heater as extra in 1953, at an option cost of US$199.
Total production in the U.S for the 1953 model year was 21,143.
The tea cup test
Hudson resorted to a variety of marketing ploys to get consumers interested in the Jet, including the "Tea Cup Test". This Fuel economy test utilized special kits comprising a glass cylinder, valves and rubber hoses that Hudson dealers attached to test cars. The glass cylinder was mounted to the inside of the front passenger door, with the hoses feeding into the engine's fuel line. An amount of gasoline equal to the amount held in a tea cup was added to the glass cylinder, and the car was driven away by a potential customer while a salesperson monitored the cylinder in an effort to prove how far a Jet could travel on that small amount of gasoline.
For 1954, the Jet received minor trim updates to its two- and four-door sedans. A new luxury model, the Jet-Liner was added making the Jet a three series model line. The Jet-Liner came with chrome trim around the windows and body side, gravel shields, as well as upgraded color-keyed vinyl interiors featuring foam rubber seat cushions.
Model year 1954 production in the U.S. of the Jet series was 14,224 units.
The $16 million cost to develop and tool up for the production of the Jet put Hudson into a precarious position. Without any funds to update the senior Hudson line, Barit convinced the Board that a merger into Nash-Kelvinator represented the best chance of protection for Hudson's stockholders. Barit hoped that the Jet would survive the merger as the resulting new American Motors Corporation focused on the niche market of selling smaller cars.
When the merger was completed and Barit assumed his seat on AMC's Board of Directors in 1954, the first Hudson model to terminate production was the Jet. Henceforth, Hudson dealers would have badge-engineered versions of Nash's Rambler and Metropolitan compacts to sell as Hudson products.
The Hudson Jet was fielded in the grueling Carrera Panamericana, described as the world's greatest road race. The 1953 race included Malcolm Eckart finishing in 53rd place, Segurs Chapultepec in 41st, and Enrique Paredes in 42nd, out of the 182 cars that started. Francisco Ramirez finished eighth in the Turismo Especial.
In drag racing, an Ike Smith–prepared Hudson Jet with a 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) "Twin H" 308 cu in (5.0 L) I6 Hornet engine ran consistent low-14-second times. The firewall required modification as the larger engine was not available from the factory, but the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) made exception to its rules for this car.
Automobile historian Richard M. Langworth has called the Jet "the car that torpedoed Hudson". While the negative effect of the Jet on the company's financial condition, it was also a time when market forces, including steel prices and labor costs, as well as the sales war between Ford and Chevrolet contributed to the demise of the smaller "independent" automakers such as Packard, Studebaker, and Willys.
The Jet served as the platform for a sleek two-passenger sporty coupé called the Italia. The Hudson Italia was designed by Frank Spring with the objective of using the body for the Hudson Jet, but Barit wanted a conventional automobile. The limited production Italia featured a body built by Carrozzeria Touring of Milano, with the Jet's standard drivetrain including the I6 engine producing 104 hp (78 kW; 105 PS). One prototype 4-door sedan was also built.
Hutson Jet Liner owners today are part of a small group who enjoy driving a dependable six passenger vehicle from one of the independent automakers. The most desirable collector cars are the 1954 Hudson Jet-Liner in either the two- or four-door sedan versions as these were the top-line offering in the car's second and final year.
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