Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Touring
Having left Pasadena’s famed Murphy Coachbuilders to lead Hudson’s new styling department in 1931, Frank Spring fostered a remarkable culture of creativity over the next quarter-century. A perfect case in point was the development and acclaimed launch of Hudson’s low, sleek, and comfortable “Step Down” 1948 models. Long considered one of the finest expressions of automotive form and function, Hudson’s all-new postwar model line beat the “Big Three” to market and thoroughly dominated stock car racing’s formative years.
Debuting for 1953, Hudson’s new compact Jet formed the basis for a special offshoot developed by Spring to test public response to advanced styling concepts that might grace future Hudson models. Dubbed Italia, the Continental-inspired GT featured leading-edge exterior cues with a particularly attractive interior treatment, including split-back bucket seats with safety belts, a wrinkle-finished dash, and a rear luggage shelf. Borrani wire-spoke wheels and wide whitewall tires added further appeal. Complete Jets were shipped to Milan’s renowned Carrozzeria Touring, stripped of most bodywork, and clothed in its patented superleggera coachwork with small- diameter steel tubes supporting lightweight hand-formed aluminum panels. The Jet’s inline six was fitted with twin carburetors and its three-speed manual transmission was retained. Despite brisk demand, Italia production halted in the wake of the Hudson-Nash merger at a generally agreed 25 examples plus the prototype and four-door X-161.
This wonderful 1954 Hudson Italia is the third production car of the series and the fourth built in total. It was sold new to its first owner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, although little more of that ownership is known. Carl Laska, the second owner, acquired the Italia during the early 1980s, retaining the car until 1996 when he sold it to Art Healey of New York. The consignor purchased the Italia in 2005 and, in 2009, he commissioned its complete restoration, performed to concours-level standards by Bob Lorkowski’s multiple award-winning L’Cars Automotive Specialties.
As a complete car, with the hand-built Touring superleggera body largely sound, the Italia was completely stripped, repaired as required, and prepared for paint with particular attention paid to the door gaps and panel fit. Photographs of a completely original Italia from a well-known collector provided excellent references of authenticity. Using a spectrometer, a small preserved sample of the original finish was analyzed and the correct paint custom mixed. Since the original wraparound-style windshield was delaminating, a replacement was sourced but found to suffer the same condition, requiring production of a completely new unit. The Italia’s unique interior and exterior trim items were painstakingly restored and refinished to match.
The interior, including the unique two- tone split-back bucket seats, early-style seat belts, and rear luggage shelf, was completely and painstakingly stripped, rebuilt, and reupholstered using authentic and carefully selected materials. The well-fitted carpeting and textured wrinkle-finished dash, containing restored instruments, are particularly striking and provide the interior with a beautifully integrated look.
All mechanical systems were inspected and restored, and the electrical wiring was properly replaced. The Italia’s low-mileage engine was fully inspected, with the bearings and internal parts found to be in good order; consequently, engine work was limited to crankshaft polishing, a valve job, and installation of a new cylinder-head gasket. The three-speed manual gearbox was inspected and overhauled in similar fashion. The engine bay was fully detailed to original appearance with proper components and finishes, including the smart engine-turned underside surface of the hood and the trim panels surrounding the upper engine- compartment opening.
Following completion in 2010, the Italia was invited to form part of the “Postwar American Chassis with Special Body” class at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. There, it placed a creditable Second in Class, and then in 2012, the Italia was shown at Ohio’s Glenmoor Gathering. Beautifully restored and presented, this extremely rare 1954 Hudson Italia remains both a unique coachbuilt Italian-American hybrid and a fascinating touchstone to one of the most innovative and independent automobile manufacturers of the postwar era.