By on March 25, 2014

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?

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.

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.

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

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34 Comments on “2014 Detroit Autorama: Yes, But Why? 1939 Hudson Terraplane “Coupe?”...”

  • avatar

    Holy rear overhang, Batman! I think I could fit my Miata in the trunk.

  • avatar

    I hate it with a passion just on the grounds that there’s maybe two or three ’37 Terraplanes left in existence, and to take one of them and turn it into this abomination is criminal. Having put it on a Dodge truck chassis possibly means it was in too poor a shape for ground up restoration? Fine, save what parts are salvageable an use them to save another Terraplane.

    There’s too damn many customs being done by lazy-ass owners who can’t be bothered to research how the car was actually built, and are too determined to have the ego-gratification of turning out an “original creation” (yeah, right, there hasn’t been a original creation in hot-rodding in decades) instead.

    And there’s way too few restorations going on anymore. It seems like, if you can’t have the finished car worth at least six figures at Barrat-Jackson, nobody wants to take the time and effort to restore a car to original specs anymore.

    Gimmie forty years ago when antique cars were restored, and hot rods were told to get the hell off the field.

    • 0 avatar

      I also dislike this vehicle, but certainly not for the same reasons as you. I’m sure you wouldn’t set foot in the Autorama at all just on principle, Syke. It is a hot rod show.

      You’re wrong about hotrodders and customizers being lazy, nostaligic for an idealized past or having a big ego (though those things may be true to differing degrees about a lot of people). Not everybody is interested in preserving history, they just like to build cool stuff, and most importantly they are doing something that they enjoy. Something that doesn’t happen to meet your approval of how they should spend their time and money.

      I am almost as close as you will find to someone who has some combination of skill, time, money and interest to take a fairly plebeian car with not much reproduction parts available and restore it to like-new condition… and even I disagree with your attitude. Stop preaching already!

  • avatar

    The best thing I can say about this is that it would likely be the most unique trailer-towing vehicle at the campground or boat launch.

    Got a chuckle from the last line of the plaque: “Custom console with heat ducks”. Quack, quack.

  • avatar

    Well … I’m gonna have to disagree here ! On one hand .. I’m not in love with this …. but on the other … well … damn if I don’t like it . The French term ‘ Jolie Laide ‘ [ dont get yer shorts up in a knot .. it means Ugly/Beautiful ] fits this to a tee . Sure its OTT … more than a bit insane and most definitely irreverent . But in truth … isn’t that the very definition of Hot Rods n’ Customs ? If so then this is insane in the very best of ways


    As to Mr Syke and his little rant .. first off … deal with it … second … Hate to burst yer insular bubble but quality custom builders such as Steve Moal etc put more work into their cars than 99% of your much loved restorers not to mention 250% more creativity of which restorers have absolutely none … and to quote the late great Big Sid Biberman … the master of all things Vincent [ yeah I’m a bonafide VOC member Mr Sykes ] ;

    ” Stock is a Can of Beans on a Shelf ”

    If its ‘ grocery store ‘ dull as dried bones , restored stock yer wanting Grumpy Sykes .. for sykes sake … look elsewhere … but don’t go dumping your prejudices on the likes of me … and stay the hell off what is now OUR field! The likes of you and your xenophobic insular attitudes aren’t welcome much of anywhere anymore in case you haven’t noticed and good riddance ! … So again … deal with it !

    Lazy assed indeed ! Try you haven’t got a clue what in the ____ you’re talking about !

    • 0 avatar

      gtrslngr – – –

      Agreed. Very astute analysis. “Jolie Laide” indeed.
      There is something very attracting about this vehicle, while yet not attractive.
      It does have a fascination, at any rate.
      Couldn’t stop looking at it.


  • avatar

    Thumbs up – buff out that crease in the middle and get a continuous roofline front-to-back and it’s a really nicely executed homage at 150% zoom. Bigger tires might help.

  • avatar

    @ gtrslngr….I don’t know if your new here at TTAC. If you are? Welcome aboard.

    The “Best and the Brightest” as we call ourselves, have evolved over the years. We have gone through several moderators, and EIC’s. The original founder had a zero tolerance policy. Another EIC had his own agenda. Both of them were quick with the “Ban Button”

    Today, we more or less, police ourselves. You could say, that we have agreed, to disagree.

    In this particular debate, I find myself agreeing with “syke”. I think it is sinfull to have destroyed that old Hudson. That’s not to say, I don’t admire and respect, the work, and creativity that went in to that old car.

    I would much rather see that old Hudson with the some patina, a few rips and tears, with all of its original running gear and trim correct.

    That’s just my opinion, many would disagree.

    At the end of it all, were all enthusiasts here. We just got different tastes.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi mikey – – –

      You said, “The “Best and the Brightest” as we call ourselves…” I’m not sure that we started that.
      It may have been an epithet concocted by the TTAC staff.
      According to my former employer, I was likely not the B&B of much of anything…(^_^)..


  • avatar

    “if you squint, or just close your eyes and imagine. That would have the added advantage of not having to look at it.”
    I’d love to see this level of vitriol aimed at an OEM again. It’s not like they don’t occasionally earn it. Aiming this at some Rodder who’s dream is (to both my eyes) ugly as all get out seems gutless on the site Farago built.

    • 0 avatar


      As I said in the post, I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone just because their taste differs from mine. I tried to find a nuanced perspective that was fair to the designer and builder. If I didn’t find that note, that’s my failure as a writer.

      You agree that it’s not a pretty car. Should we only write about the things that appeal to us? As for being gutless, they put the car on display at the biggest custom car show in the world. If you put something out in public like that, you’re going to have to hear what people think about it. Why bother with awards like the Ridler? Someone who loses may get their feelings hurt. The high level custom and hot rod world is not youth soccer or today’s educational system. You don’t get a trophy just for showing up and you don’t get partial credit for bad work.

      So far I’ve written about 11 cars and trucks at this year’s Autorama. I had nothing negative to say about 10 of them and even in this one I went out of my way to be complimentary about the scope and quality of the build despite that fact that I think it’s hideous.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost all my posts are complementary of TTAC writers (you and y’all earn it). I agree the car deserves derision and really wish the means and motivation had been matched by a more deserving vision. I even admire the industrial strength, we’ll expressed displeasure. I just wish we could have seen such well worded chastisement directed at a certain drop top Nissan or something instead of this one off abomination. Gutless was an over reach on my part. I apologize for it.

        • 0 avatar

          No harm, no foul. Apology accepted. The thing is, saying that the Nissan Cross Cabriolet is odd looking is something that just about every car writer has said, so I wouldn’t be contributing anything to the discussion.

          However, since you asked for comments on OEMs, I think that Toyota’s recent concept cars, the FT-1 that might be the next Supra and their fuel cell concept try a bit too hard to show that Toyota isn’t boring, but then I’ve never been a huge fan of Japanese styling. Nakamura-san at Nissan has done some nice cars (and some odd ones, see above, the Juke and the Cube) but I’ve usually preferred the cars that come out of the Japanese companies’ California styling studios to the work they do at home.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    I just don’t like it.

    It looks bloated and disjointed.

    Most of the car grew, but the original small windows remain, so it looks like an armored car version of the original.

  • avatar


    Then again our vehicles really have gotten monstrously large, so maybe it’s an art-statement type of thing?

  • avatar

    After all the fab work and design concessions that were made during the upscaling process it’s not recognizable as a Terraplane anymore. He could have started with any number of similar vehicles from the ’30s and accomplished something just as vaguely Terraplanesque.

    Build what you want and have fun doing something outrageous, but in my personal opinion it was a waste of rare parts.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    There’s no accounting for people’s taste.

  • avatar

    Check out those mirrors, also from the Ram 2500 that gave its frame–yeesh. But ultimately a necessary evil, given how incredibly, overbearingly enormous the whole thing is.

    I admire how civil we can be here, while also maintaining differences of opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      “I admire how civil we can be here, while also maintaining differences of opinion.”

      Yeah, the United Nations members could take a lesson from us.

  • avatar

    Front end reminds me of

  • avatar

    All three of the cars you’ve featured other than the yellow riv actually look like shit. I don’t care how long their owners spent polishing them. It’s akin to a fat woman who will go to great effort to look appealing by piling on the makeup and different clothes. All that time would be better spent in the gym.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you’ll like my final post from the Autorama, which will be on a sort of minimalist ’32 Ford roadster.

      The reason that I featured Al Grooms’ Ford F1 and Tom Carrigan’s ’39 Chevy was mostly due to the owner-builders’ mechanical ingenuity and because I think they’re ideas that were too silly not to do. While I didn’t post them because of their looks, I don’t find them ugly and as a matter of fact think that if Grooms’ finished and painted his car more traditionally instead of the steampunk/rat rod patina, it would look pretty cool. It’s low and has nice lines.

  • avatar

    “Coupes usually do have two doors. ”

    Sure, if you want to be “traditional” about it and think words have “meaning”.

    Both BMW and Daimler-Benz assure me that “coupes” can have four doors these days, at frightful expense…

  • avatar

    I actually have, and drive, a 1937 Terraplane coupe. It was at the Eyes on Design show last summer. I think the coupe’s looks are improved by the optional fender skirts ($12.50, dealer installed).

    I’ve had a number of 30s cars, and the Terraplane will drive circles around any of them. 112HP, with the 2 barrel carb ($6.10, factory installed) and high compression head (no charge, factory installed). 2700 lb curb weight. It will easily leave a V8 Ford in the dust. My 37 Lasalle felt like a barge by comparison.

    I’ve seen Terraplane customs that were pretty nice. But this aint one of them.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If my dad were still around, he’d tell you that the Hudson Terraplane was considered the ugliest car of it’s time. How ugly? Think Aztek ugly. But even the ugly Aztek didn’t inspire a blues song.

  • avatar

    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

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    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..

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