Junkyard Gem: 1937 Hudson Terraplane


In the 15 years I’ve written about automotive history viewed through the lens of a car cemetery, the oldest vehicles I’ve documented are two 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedans (one of which I purchased). Oh, sure, I photographed older discarded engines, but 1941 was as far as I ventured for single car -specific junkyard features. So far, however, I’m four years past the junkyard, along with an 85-year-old Hudson who showed up at a yard in the Denver area a few months ago.

Naturally, I photographed this modified Terraplane using one of my many old film cameras, even though it was late-1980s-vintage Ansco rather than one of the New York camera company’s products more suited to mid -1930s. Perhaps the 1910 Ansco Dollar or the 1927 Ansco Memo is better.

Hudson made pickups in the 1930s, many of which were sold under the Essex brand, but this truck clearly started out as a regular Terraplane sedan. Someone hacked the rear body, then grafted on a pickup-cab rear window panel and bent roof sheetmetal over it to create a not too tight weather seal.

There is some less precise lumber work added to make a flatbed.

It appears that some type of wooden structure was added to the rear of the cab, although many decades of exposure to the elements rotted most of the wood to nothing.

If I had to guess, I would say that someone converted a truck during World War II, probably after the vehicle had damage to its rear. Trucks got a better ration of fuel than cars during the war, a huge incentive to destroy torches and jigsaws.

These ancient tires look like 1930s-1940s vintage, and they are as hard as cement after sitting in some Colorado field for what I guess is at least the past 75 years.

The original engine and transmission are still there. It’s a 212-cubic-inch (3.5-liter) flathead straight-six. The flathead six-cylinder was the most common type of engine used in American-made vehicles from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, and you could still buy new vehicles equipped with a flathead here until the 1964 model. year (several Dodge trucks made for The military use keep Chrysler flatheads in the early 1970s).

The regular ’37 Terraplane engine produced 101 horsepower, but this car got the optional Power Dome and its 107 horsepower.

This cylinder head is so cool so I have no choice but to remove it, buy it, and hang it on the wall of my garage. Let’s say I learned that 75 year old rodent poop makes very effective glue. I convinced the Pick Your Part cashiers that this type of cylinder head – which is a slab of steel with spark plug holes and water passages – is as big as a valve head cover, so they split the difference on the valve cover/ cylinder head price.

The Hudson Motor Company remained until 1954, when it merged with Nash to create the American Motors Corporation. Hudson-badged vehicles were built in 1957, after which AMC became all-in to the Rambler brand. You can imagine it vehicle truck as the corporate ancestor of Eagle Premier, which provided little DNA that is still alive in the current Charger and Challenger. You see, there isn’t much level of separation between a ’37 Hudson and cars you can buy new now!

The name Terraplane is best remembered today because of Robert Johnson’s deeply influential song in 1936, “Terraplane Blues.”

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