By Ron Adams
On February 20, 1909, Joseph L. Hudson and eight other business men formed the Hudson Motor Car Company in Detroit, Michigan. They brought in Roy D. Chapin Sr. to organize the company. Chapin had automobile production experience while working for Ransom Olds. It was no surprise then that many of the first group of executives had also worked for Olds.
The goal was to produce a car that would sell for less than $1,000. The Model 20 was created with the understanding of that goal, and the first year 4,000 automobiles were sold, with slightly more than 4,500 sold in 1910. The early advertising emphasized that Hudson was relying on the experience of the automotive industry as a whole and not Hudson’s limited experience and development as a company.
The sales brochure for the Model 20 noted that a selling point for it was “We are making only one model — concentrating all our efforts on that Specializing in this way enables us to get along without an unusually large and expensive organization. This saving again goes into the quality of the car. Specializing always means superior excellence.”
Ted Fox of Brighton, Mich., brought his fine example of a Model 20 to the Celebration of Automobiles event in Indianapolis this past May. His Model 20 was equipped with all available options and exceeded the Hudson goal of creating an automobile for under a $1,000, by selling for $1,200 in 1910.
The engine is a vertical, four-cylinder, four-cycle that is water cooled and produces 20 hp. All the valves are located on the same side and are of a beveled seated, poppet design.
The options included a top, Hyatt Roller Bearing rear end, Prest-O-Lite tank for lights, windshield, magneto and a 25-gallon gas tank. The top added $40 and the Prest-O-Lite added another $25 to the cost of the Model 20. The wheels are 32 inches and made of second growth hickory.
Ted’s Model 20 was vehicle number 2097 and was first sold to a Doctor Atwell of North Canton, Ohio. The doctor was said to have driven the Model 20 to “deliver babies”. Dr. Atwell drove it until 1918, at which point it was placed into storage until 1940. In 1940 a friend of the Doctor, Art Friedmann, purchased the Model 20 for $42.50, which he felt was $2.50 more than what he should have paid.
After receiving a gray house paint job, the Model 20 was used primarily for car shows. In 1946 Art drove it to Detroit, Mich., for the Golden Jubilee. Since it was built at the Mack Avenue Plant, it was also a homecoming of sorts.
After it had been stored for eight years, Chapin found his prized Hudson in 1964. He continued to work with the owners on a sale until 1978, when he was finally able to acquire it. It took five years of renovation before it was completed in 1983. The renovation included the original leather seat backs, a restored engine with plenty of brass, and a red paint job that matched the rear end. Chapin has enjoyed his Model 20 and not had any trouble with it since the restoration.
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