Torq-O Podcast #12: Dr. Charles Hyde on Nash, Hudson and AMC

Torq-O has a holiday gift for you: a brand new podcast!

STORIED book cover
Nash, Hudson, and AMC fans will love this podcast (our last one!) with Dr. Charles K. Hyde, the author of Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson and American Motors.

Hyde is the only guy I know of who has actually done a swan dive into the surviving corporate records of Nash, Hudson, and AMC. Listen in as he provides an objective historical perspective on three of our favorite orphan car companies.

Plus, Torq-O delivers three impossible-to-find radio commercials.

It’s 65 minutes of orphan car bliss. It’s our longest podcast ever, and it’s just for you. Happy holidays, orphan car fans!
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Hudson Jet at Ateupwithmotor.com

June is turning out to be the month of the Jet.

I just found Aaron Severson’s article about the history of the Hudson Jet over at his site Ateupwithmotor.com. It’s very thorough and comprehensive. I love the little callout box about the Italia. It reminded me of the video that Torq-O published a few months ago on YouTube.



Why don’t the classic car magazines hire this guy? He’s writing the kind of stuff they love to publish. He would be a perfect fit for Collectible Automobile. He has a web site. They don’t. They have a magazine. He doesn’t.

Aaron, I have to put my Editor hat on. Forgive me. Everything in your article is great, but. like Bob Stevens’ article about the Hudson Jet convertible in Cars & Parts, I felt there was too much context up front. Maybe it’s just me, but I really wanted to start reading about the Jet almost right away instead of getting the total backstory on Hudson up to 1952.

My feeling is that people who come to sites like yours and mine already know the basic history of a particular brand. Articles like yours promise details, and I would get to the details sooner rather than later. Feel free to disagree. (As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m more interested in the craft of a story rather than the facts, which I consider dry and disinteresting unless they support a stronger dramatic narrative.)

Keep the good stuff coming! (I’m only here to suggest ways to make things better. And to shamelessly cross promote my own content.)
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1949-57 Nash Ambassadors in Collectible Automobile

Patrick Foster definitely knows his Nashes. He writes a compact history of Nash’s full-size car in the August 2010 issue of Collectible Automobile (Anyone know how/if/when they’ll ever get a web site?).

Normally, I would slam the article as another car history that reads like a book report: all facts and very little human interest. Indeed, my eyes started spinning when I saw the overwhelming number of prices, model year changes, and trim variations. It gets so overwhelming.

But I have to cut Foster some slack. He slipped in a little bit of human interest with the story about how Nash Vice-President Meade Moore sabotaged stylist Ed Anderson’s design for the 1952 Golden Airfltye Ambassador, because Moore held a grudge for anyone who took the job that he felt his son was entitled to.

(Foster has always been partial to Ed Anderson and led a renewal of interest in Anderson back from the time he published his book American Motors, the Last Independent. I’m sure he’s responsible for anyone at all remembering Anderson’s contributions to Nash and AMC.)

Foster was probably given an assignment and a word count. It’s hard to tell the human story of product creation when you have so much to say and so little space in which to say it.

Nevertheless, if you want a tight, concise story about the postwar Nash Ambassador, Foster’s article is a great place to start. He boils it down and fits it in. You’ll find a lavish display of pictures, including many from Foster’s own impressive archive.

In fact, there are so many pictures of Ambassadors in the article, that I’ll bet half of the Nash Car Club’s members are name-checked in the photos!

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1964 Pontiac Banshee prototype in Cars & Parts

Another Archetypal Prototype story from Cars & Parts (July 2010)!

I’ve already laid the foundation for the Archetypal Prototype story when I wrote earlier about Bob Stevens’ story on the 1954 Hudson Jet convertible prototype. In the very same issue, Cars & Parts published a variant on the story: the concept car.

Concept cars were often styling exercises created by enthusiastic designers, engineers, or both. Often, when the company is done with them, they’re forgotten, rescued by a heroic employee, used as a daily driver, sold to/restored by an avid collector, and admired/envied forever after.

In this case, writer Jon G. Robinson tells the tale of the 1964 Pontiac Banshee, a concept car with a lot of styling cues that later showed up on the 1967 Pontiac Firebird, the 1968 Corvette, and the 1968 Opal GT.

Along with nice, detailed photography, it really helps when you can talk to the guy who really helped to make the car happen. In this article, the Heroic Employee was Bill Collins. (I’ll say it again: direct quotes from the people who lived the story will always trump whatever historians write later about the subject. Robinson does right when he gets out of the way and lets Collins tell the story.”)

Although it’s not explicitly stated in the article, the Banshee that Robinson writes about is a convertible. There’s another one that’s for sale by Lenny Napoli. Check out the video below (and ignore the slightly scary female narrator).



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1929 De Soto in Cars & Parts

Cars & Parts writer Dave Duricy dared me not to read his column The Chryslerist in the July 2010 issue. Like the build quality of a Yugo, I failed miserably.

It’s a good article with a lot of historical information packed onto one page. I also like direct quotes from somebody who was there when the car was new. Quotes help to avoid the dreaded Book Report Syndrome.

I like these kinds of articles, but as with all cars up to about 1930, I found myself wanting to feel what it’s like to drive one of these pre-war jalopies. I wonder how this article could have played out as a video.

Maybe short one-pagers like this would be a good way to expand the Cars & Parts brand by creating short videos about the cars that could accompany the print articles. After all, magazines won’t be the exclusive outlet for classic car stories forever. Once the Hemmings Geezer Generation is eating tapioca in a nursing home, younger classic car fans will demand content that appeals to them in their preferred medium or media.

Just a little burst of cognitive speed there.

P.S. Nice Vance Packard reference at the end of the article, Dave.
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One more thing about the Hudson Jet convertible story

It’s a great cover story (Cars & Parts, July 2010). You don’t often read about Hudson prototypes, and it’s nice to see something positive about the Jet, the car that sank Hudson.

However, it seems to me that writer Bob Stevens buried the lead. It seems like he spent a lo-o-o-o-o-ong time setting up the story. I love auto history, but the story might have been more engaging if the history of the Jet had been arranged in graphic sidebars. That way, Stevens could have told us about the Jet convertible prototype much more quickly. After all, that’s the story that the magazine’s cover promises us.

Also, I would have loved some quotes from Virgil Boyd, an actual historical figure in the story. Oral history is almost always more engaging than historian history. It’s more authentic. (Full biased disclosure: I videotaped an interview with Virgil Boyd at his home in Sedona, AZ, in 2000. I wish I’d known about the Hudson convertible. I would’ve grilled him about it.)

However, once Stevens gets to the prototype’s story, I thought it was a great read. Kudos to Cars & Parts for a great Archetypal Prototype story. Joseph Campbell would be very proud.
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Some Hudson Jet convertible video

While I was writing the Archetypal Prototype story, I did a little surfing on the web. For those of you who thought they were getting some news about an absolutely unique Hudson Jet convertible, my apologies.

As penance, I offer you this YouTube video, which shows the Jet convertible’s unique motorized top in action.

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The Hudson Jet convertible is the latest Archetypal Prototype story.

I love stories about orphan car prototypes. They’re the rarest of the rare, because they often read like heroic epics.

The prototype was made in the dying days of Belly Up Motors. One courageous Oskar Schindler-type executive whisked it away before it could be crushed or destroyed. It was a daily driver for years until it vanished. Its absence gives storytellers enough time to give birth to a legend. It’s very name could only be uttered in hushed whispers at national meets and parts swaps.

Then one unexpected day, the prototype emerges. Weathered. Rusted. A battered chassis compared to the mythic Chariot of the Gods as immortalized by the epic storytellers (aka marque historians).

One courageous Belly Up fan outbids all others to acquire the prototype and works tirelessly to restore it to Religious Icon status. Against all odds, he triumphs. The prototype once again proudly sits atop the Turntable of Glory inspiring awe, reverence, and envy among the collectors who were outbid when they had their chance at the auction.

The End (until an earthquake/fire/flood damages the facility where the prototype is restored. Then the Belly Up fan has to heroically struggle yet again to restore the car.)

I wrote that little Archetypal Prototype Story after reading Bob Stevens’ article about the only Hudson Jet convertible built. Look for it in the July 2010 issue of Cars & Parts.

Stevens’ excellent story is more than auto history. It’s genre nonfiction. I’ve read this story over and over. Replace Hudson Jet with Nash Metropolitan station wagon or Packard Panther Daytona. Replace Hudson uber-collector Ed Souers with Joe Bortz. I’ve heard this story many times with different details. And every story is entertaining.

I hope Cars & Parts writes more Archetypal Prototype stories. What other types of genre classic car stories do YOU like to read?
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AMC's Paddle in Hemmings Motor News

I love it when someone zooms in on a particular detail of a classic car and finds a great story to tell.

the_paddle
Jim Donnelly does it with, of all things, AMC’s door handles in the July 2010 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

AMC fans call the door handle, which was mounted flush with the door surface, The Paddle. AMC used it from 1968 until The End of Days in 1987. Apparently Chrysler used it too, because it was cheap, stylish, and effective.

Small design feature. Short story. Well done.
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1938-40 Studebaker Commander in Collectible Automobile

Raymond Loewy’s designs always grab your attention. From his freshening of Hupmobile in the early 1930’s to his work on the Studebaker Avanti, Loewy’s work (or at least the work of his associates) is always a joy to look at.

The article about his first effort for Studebaker in the June 2010 issue of Collectible Automobile is good, but what struck me most was how similar the front end of the Studebaker Commander is to the Nash Ambassador of the same era.

Tall hood. Narrow nose. Two electric-razor grills flanking the nose.

For everyone who complains that the “cars all look alike these days,” wake up! They’ve always looked alike!*
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