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Flight of Fancy - 1936 Hudson Terraplane

Terraplane is a name that grabs your attention. Those who remember high school Latin know that "terra" means "ground," so what we have here is a plane on earth.

The Hudson Motor Car Co. of Detroit, Michigan, produced the Terraplane for only seven years, from 1932 through 1938. When the vehicle was introduced in July 1932, the company made sure people would take notice. The event featured nationally known aviatrix Amelia Earhart who christened the vehicle and presented it to Orville Wright who used it as his personal car.

Company literature describes the truck as the "3/4-ton Cab Pickup Express." It is evident that the front portion of the vehicle is borrowed from its car sibling. Compared to its '30s competitors, the Hudson's cab roof is not as tall and is lower in the front.

The designers incorporated many interesting elements into the machine. For example, steel storage lockers extend from front to rear along the bed sides. They could be unbolted and removed if the primary load required more space.

The unique engine contains an oiling system that delivers oil in direct ratio to the engine speed. The so-called Duo-Flo oiling system cools the oil as it circulates through the engine, immediately starts lubricating at engine start, and gives instant lubrication even in sub-zero temperatures or when the truck is on a steep grade.

Duo-Automatic hydraulic brakes supply superior vehicle stopping. Period literature explains the brakes are "the first hydraulics that give you the extra safety of a reserve braking system that takes hold automatically in emergencies."

Parts of the power train are advanced beyond their years. The clutch is described as possessing the smoothest action ever. The pressure plate is fabricated of forged steel instead of cast iron. The transmission gears are made of electric furnace steel, and there is a multiple thrust bearing between the main stem gear and the main shaft. The rear axle is exceptionally strong and heavy and can carry a constant load of 124 horsepower.

The original power train on this 1936 Hudson is still in place. The 212ci, straight six engine sports three main bearings and is topped with a single-barrel Carter carburetor. The engine has to push the vehicle's 2,800-pound weight with a modest 88hp. The truck's owner, Scott White, said, "The transmission is a three-speed, non-synchro manual unit with the rear end originally having a 4.56:1 gear ratio. With that ratio the top speed was only 45 mph, so I changed it, and the top speed went up."

Scott, who is a professional restorer, has returned the 1936 Terraplane to a condition that takes your breath away. His wife Linda encouraged him to buy the pickup, and he took the project from there. The level of restoration required in the four-year project can be measured by the condition of the vehicle when it was acquired in 2006. "The truck had been sitting in a basement for many years," said Scott. "It earlier had been used as an automotive garage parts truck."

The cab has a wooden frame and about ten percent of the wood needed to be replaced. Assistance in the restoration came from Ed Boggs, who performed body and old-school lead work, and bed work by Blackburn's Fabrication.

The steel wheels have small moon-style hubcaps, and the tires are Goodyear reproduction 16-inch models. The grille and headlight rims are stainless steel, while everything else is chrome, according to Scott. This beautifully restored 1936 Terraplane embodies style and grace and, like some trucks designed today, it seems too nice to use the bed to carry dirty, gritty loads.

Scott had a problem matching the original paint colors of the truck. "Antique Ivory, one of the ivory two-tone colors that I used, was not standard, but it was available by special order for 1936. The other two colors, Mandalay Ivory and Lake Maroon, were standard. I was working off 1936 paint chip charts, so the colors might not be exact, but they are very close." Excellent paint mixing help was supplied by Mike Edgington and Jason Wilhelm at the local DuPont store.

"No reference that I have found defines exactly how many of these trucks were built," said John O'Halloran, archivist for the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Club. "I think there are at least three dozen of the trucks of all years known to exist. I also think there are about a dozen 1932–38 Terraplanes in the club."

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