1937 Hudson Terraplane Utility Coupe - $29,900
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  • Overview & History
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Part business coupe and part pickup truck, it could do jobs that no other vehicle could.

It’s hard to picture how much the world has changed since this 1937 Hudson Terraplane Utility Coupe was built, but things like affordable mass air travel, highways, reliable phone networks, and yes, the internet, have completely transformed how business gets done. Today if you need something you drive to a superstore or log on to a website and buy it to have it delivered. But in 1937, there were products out there that people didn’t even know they needed and technology was evolving at a rather rapid pace. Enter the traveling salesman, a hardworking fellow who would log thousands of miles on the road and talk to hundreds of people a week, hoping to introduce them to something new and miraculous. And the very best way to make that introduction was to show them the item in question and let them keep it once the transaction was done. That meant carrying a few widgets with you, along with your personal gear and maybe even a passenger now and then. Pickup trucks were still crude and slow machines, SUVs were barely a glimmer in some engineer’s eye, and regular cars weren’t quite up to the task.

Enter the Hudson Terraplane Utility Coupe. Part business coupe and part pickup truck, it could do jobs that no other vehicle could. Fast and comfortable for long hauls across the country, but with the same carrying capacity as a half-ton pickup. A slide-out bed in the trunk made it easy to carry big or long items or to reach your wares stored in the back. The engine was the most powerful in its class, yet thrifty enough to be affordable to operate. And it was stylish enough that all your customers would believe that you were really good at your job. For the era, this was a fantastic tool for a very challenging job.

This particular Utility Coupe has been in the same family for nearly 50 years, passing from father to son several years ago. It was restored in the early 1980s, so it isn’t fresh, but by the car’s current condition you can see that it was extremely high-quality work. The gray paint is just the right color for a low-key salesman’s vehicle, letting the extremely handsome bodywork do the talking. The stunning waterfall grille that tapers to a point is pure art-deco, while the skirted fenders in the back were an easily identifiable styling touch that made the Hudson stand out. The business coupe has great proportions, with a long hood and rounded deck, and those big pontoon fenders really do look awesome. Despite the age of the restoration, it is holding up beautifully, with a soft shine on the paint that seems entirely appropriate and a bright red pinstripe to add a little zest. It does not appear to have ever been a rusty car and there’s no evidence of cut-rate workmanship anywhere on it. The doors close with authority, the hood is easy to latch, and the unique trunk lid swings open on well-oiled hinges and stays there thanks to two heavy-duty props. Chrome details add an upscale feel and the bumpers, grille, and emblems are in very good condition—it appears that most of the grille is stainless steel, so it’ll be easy to maintain for years to come. The only real demerit are the door handles, which hang down due to weak springs, but that’s an easy enough fix.

The beautiful interior is correctly restored as well, offering cozy accommodations for two. Tan broadcloth with simple vertical stitching looks period-appropriate, and while there’s some very minor wear, none of it detracts from the appeal of this Hudson. Controls are familiar, with a big steering wheel and long shifter controlling a 3-speed manual gearbox, and the gauges are all clustered in the center of the dash. You’ll note the unique speedometer begins at about the one o’clock position and rotates clockwise, and this might be one of the earliest uses of warning lights in place of gauges—both oil pressure and generator output use unique warnings (the generator lights up “NOT” to show GENERATOR “NOT” CHARGING). It also includes an accessory Hudson heater/defroster unit that surely worked well on chilly drives and the spare tire is stowed behind the driver’s seat to maximize trunk capacity.

Perhaps the car’s most notable feature, however, is the roll-out pickup bed in the massive trunk. Open the lid and grab the two handles, rotating them inward, and the bed slides out on roller bearings and locks into position. Those heavy-duty prop rods on the lid will hold it in position while you drive, or the entire deck lid can be quickly and easily removed to transport large items. Slide it back in and you have a standard business coupe with a nice-sized trunk where everything is easy to reach. You’ll note there’s exactly zero rust in any of the critical areas, particularly at the rear of the trunk opening and ahead of the bed where issues would be common.

The engine is a 212 cubic inch inline-6 that was well-regarded for its reliability and torque. It’s tidy under the hood, if not detailed for show, and all the original components are in place, from the horn to the voltage regulator to the unique side-mounted water jacket. Corporate silver engine enamel makes it look bright and thanks to a recent tune-up, it starts easily and runs quite well. It likes some choke when it’s cold and it takes a while to warm up thanks to a gigantic radiator, but once it’s fully warm, you’ll be pleased with the turbine-smooth engine’s performance. It was rebuilt during the ‘80s restoration and has some driving on it, but this is a proven tour car that repeatedly made long highway journeys to shows, traveling hundreds of miles in a day without issue. It isn’t cosmetically perfect but mechanically it’s rugged.

The Utility Coupe was still designed as a commercial vehicle, so it used rigid axles and leaf springs all around to give it a ½-ton load capacity. Up front, the kingpins have just been replaced and the brakes have been recently serviced with new wheel cylinders. Hudson’s oil-bath cork clutch works properly, although it’s a little chattery when it’s cold and you should store it with the clutch disengaged (don’t worry, we’ll show you how to do it) so it doesn’t stick. Otherwise, the 3-speed manual transmission shifts cleanly and with 4.11 gears in back, it feels quick around town and pulls effortlessly in high gear without a lot of shifting needed. Braking and ride quality are about what you’d expect for the era, certainly better than any old truck you’ve driven, and you can see that the floors are in exemplary shape with no rust or patchwork in its past. Steel wheels carry correct hubcaps and trim rings for a bit of an upscale look, and it sits on 6.00-16 Denman wide whites of indeterminate age.

Extras include an owner’s manual and jack assembly.

We know that Hudson enthusiasts are passionate about their cars, and we’d wager that few of them have seen a Utility Coupe in person. This one is a great combination of functionality and appearance, a great older restoration that presents quite well, and it will always attract a crowd when you open up the trunk. And just imagine the looks you’ll get at Home Depot when you load it up with your latest project! Unusual, attractive, easy to drive, and rare, those are all the ingredients of a great collector car. Call today!

Harwood Motors welcomes and encourages personal or professional inspections of any vehicle prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1937 Hudson Terraplane Utility Coupe
Price: $29,900
Stock Number: 116065
Mileage: 12,866
VIN: 702954
Engine: 212 cubic inch inline-6
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 4.1100000000000003
Wheelbase: 117 inches
Wheels: 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: 6.00-16 Denman whitewall
Exterior Color: Gray
Interior Color: Tan cloth
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