2014 Detroit Autorama: Yes, But Why? 1939 Hudson Terraplane "Coupe?"

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
2014 detroit autorama yes but why 1939 hudson terraplane coupe

From this angle it almost makes visual sense. Almost. Full gallery here.

While the annual Detroit Autorama always features many outstanding examples of the automobile as art, there are usually at least one or two vehicles that vividly demonstrate that one’s technical skill (or the financial resources to pay someone with the requisite technical skills) can sometimes reach where one’s artistic talent or aesthetic taste fails to grasp. This Hudson Terraplane “coupe” based on a Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel pickup is without question an impressive build, and it drew some of the biggest crowds of any car at this year’s show. But then, bad traffic accidents draw lots of gawkers too.

I thought about interviewing the owner/designer, C. Kumar, but I decided that I would likely not be able to mask my feelings about the car’s aesthetics and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have to love your car to appreciate your own love for it and Mr. Kumar was visibly proud of his work, eager to point out its massive features, but I find his Terraplane visually disturbing. It’s monstrous in more than one meaning of the word. The nomenclature sets me off too. Terraplane? Hudson picked that name to evoke the mental image of flying over the ground. The only way this hulking thing is going to fly is if Kumar bolts in a Turbonique rocket Drag Axle.

An actual Hudson Terraplane Coupe. Can you spot the differences?

Also, how is this a coupe? Coupes usually don’t have banquette limousine-style seating in back. Coupes usually do have two doors. This does have two doors, but on the passenger side, with a third door for the driver’s ingress and egress. I suppose from the port side it could almost be a coupe, almost, if you squint, or just close your eyes and imagine. That would have the added advantage of not having to look at it. Perhaps the original Hudson Terraplane that gave up its soul to be reincarnated as this was originally a coupe.

Luke, I am your Terraplane.

The front end looks like some kind of insect or crustacean and the rear end has the look of Darth Vader’s helmet after multiple doses of anabolic steroids. In between is a verrrrry long roof, combining vintage Hudson sheetmetal with that of a modern Lincoln Town Car. That way the rear passengers can enjoy the former TC’s sunroof. I love long roofed cars, and from some angles you can get an idea what Kumar was going for, only instead of molding the two panels together into one smooth, continuous roofline, Kumar and his builder, Steve Lemiere, created a valley that runs from side to side across the car right in the middle of the roof. The net effect of that odd roofline is that it makes the very long and massive car look like it was indeed cobbled together from two different cars and now is starting to bend in half.

Even if I can’t stomach the car’s styling, I can admire the amount of work that went into it. The original Hudson body was lengthened by 4 feet and widened by a foot and a half. The running boards and rear fenders were lengthened and lowered as were the front fenders. The front suspension was relocated 12″ forward and the springs were replaced with air suspension. The rear suspension was converted to a four link setup, also with air suspension. The massive car was a massive undertaking and the build quality appears to be fine, so I have no problem praising Mr. Kumar for finishing what he set out to do, even if that goal was to build a massive, hideous car, with very strange proportions. In that sense, it’s a coherent concept (other than that incomprehensible channel in the roof) and for the most part the build seems true to that concept. It’s a well executed idea. I just don’t like the idea in the first place.

I don’t feel particularly comfortable slagging off someone’s car or sense of taste. I like outrageous ideas and outrageous things – see my reports from the Autorama about Al Grooms’ bassackwards midengined Ford F1 pickup rat rod and Tom Carrigan’s Allison V12 powered ’39 Chevy, and C. Kumar’s ’39 Hudson most definitely moves the needle on the outrageousmeter to the right. To be honest, though, I’d be hard pressed to explain precisely why I like Grooms’ and Carrigan’s projects but this one sets me off. Like Peter Himmelman asks, why do some people like peach ice cream?

Regardless of how it looks, a lot of work went into this.

Actually I can understand why some people like peach ice cream. It’s not my favorite, pistachio, but peach ice cream doesn’t taste particularly strangely. This Hudson is more like mincemeat flavored ice cream. Perhaps someone likes it but it’s not particularly to my taste.

Contrast and compare. You will be graded on spelling.

It looks even worse in three dimensions. If you care to, you can see the full gallery here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Join the conversation
3 of 34 comments
  • Relton Relton on Mar 26, 2014

    I'll have it at the Orphan Car show in Ypsilanti. It has been to every Orphan car show, 15+ years. If you're really dying to see it, you can come to my home in Ann Arbor. Give me a call at work, 248 576-0081. There's still enough ice in front of the garage that I can't get it out, but that should clear up soon. I do go out and look at it every now and then. Bob Elton

    • Ajla Ajla on Mar 26, 2014

      I don't live in MI anymore, but I've been to the Orphan Car show and seen your car a few times. It's also the only Terraplane I've ever read a "Road Test" for. Ronnie should definitely take you up on your offer if he has time.

  • Ron B. Ron B. on Mar 28, 2014

    I knew of a '38 terraplane Coupe In New Zealand back in the 60's .On a property next to the highway it slowly turned into a pile of rust over the years. Even that sad relic was better looking than this car with the muffin line in it's roof. The corrected version of Robert Johnsons song sounds pretty good too.. http://youtu.be/MykGQ4SnWnM

  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.