Jewel of the junkyard: 1937 Hudson Terraplane

In the 15 years that I have been write about automobile history seen through car graveyard lensthe oldest vehicles I documented were two 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedans (including an I ended up buying). Oh sure I have photographed scrapped even older machines, but 1941 was as far as I’d ventured for single-car specific heist features. To date, however, I have spent four more years in the junkyard past, with an 85-year-old Hudson who showed up at a Denver-area yard a few months ago.

Naturally I photographed this highly modified Terraplane with one of my many old film camerasalthough this is a vintage Ansco from the late 1980s rather than one of the New York camera company’s products more appropriate to the mid-1930s. Possibly the 1910 Ansco dollar or the 1927 Ansco Memo Would have been better.

Hudson made pickups in the 1930smany of which were sold under the Essex brand, but this truck clearly started life as a regular Terraplane sedan. Someone hacked the rear bodywork, then grafted onto a pickup truck cab rear window panel and bent the roof sheet metal down to create a not-so-tight seal.

There is some not so precise woodwork added to make a tray.

It appears that some sort of wooden structure has been added to the back of the cabin, although several decades of exposure to the elements have rotted much of the wood.

If I had to guess, I’d say someone converted the truck during WWII, possibly after the car sustained damage to its rear bodywork. Trucks had better gas rations than cars during the wara great incentive to break out the torches and saws.

These old tires appear to be 1930s-1940s vintage, and they’re rock hard after sitting in a field in Colorado for what I’m guessing is at least the last 75 years.

The original engine and transmission were still present. It is a 212 cubic inches (3.5 liters) flat head straight-six. The flat-six was the most common type of engine used in American-built cars from the late 1930s through the early 1950s, and you could still buy new cars equipped with flatheads here until the 1964 model year (some military-built Dodge trucks retained Chrysler flatheads until 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 looked so cool that I had no choice but to pull it out, buy it and hang it on my garage wall. Let’s just say I learned that sun-baked 75-year-old rodent poop makes a very effective adhesive. I was able to convince the cashiers at Pick Your Part that this type of cylinder head – which is just an iron plate with spark plug holes and water passages – matches the valve cover as well as the head , so they split the difference on the valve cover / cylinder heads price.

The Hudson Motor Company remained until 1954 when it merged with Nash to create the American Motors Corporation. Hudson badged vehicles were built until 1957after which AMC went all-in the Rambler brand. You could think of that car truck as the corporate ancestor of the Eagle Premier, which provided some of the DNA that still lives on in today’s Chargers and Challengers. You see, there aren’t that many degrees of separation between a ’37 Hudson and cars you can buy new right now!

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