Q: Greg I enjoy reading your columns and remember you wrote about what you felt was the first ever domestic hatchback. You gave that to the 1949-1954 Kaiser Traveler utility sedan and sibling Frazer Vagabond from 1949-1951.
I still have the column and you said these two cars had “all of the necessities to be called the ‘Godfather of the modern era hatchback.’”
Being an “old-timer” now in my late-80’s, I remember Hudson had some kind of sport utility vehicle called a Terraplane back in the late 1930s. Do you recall this vehicle and if so, can you give some information on it? I remember when I was a kid I saw them and they had some kind of trunk opening with a hatchback style storage compartment.
Keep writing those old car columns as I look forward to them every week.
David S., Montrose, Pennyslvania
A: David, I’ve been holding you letter for a while now so I could get some photos of an actual 1937 Hudson Terraplane owned by Nelson Creasy, nationally renowned Hudson collector who lives in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
Nelson and his brother Larry were both at the recent Bloomsburg Nationals Car Show, in Bloomsburg and I knew they would be there with their Hudsons. Luckily, they did bring the Terraplane you ask about so I can better give you and my readers a close-up look at the vehicle.
As you can see from the photo, the 1937 Hudson Terraplane did offer a model with a roll-out trunk utility bed that you remembered. Unfortunately it was not a fastback style like the Kaiser and Frazer models I wrote about but the Terraplane was still ahead of its time for sure.
Being that the Terraplane was a popular Hudson trim model, if you wanted the one with the miniature roll out truck bed it was officially called the Terraplane Utility Coupe, which Nelson explained. The brothers also had a copy of the magazine “Cars & Parts” from December of 1983 featuring their Terraplane on the front cover.
Astonishingly, Nelson told the story of buying the Hudson for just $25 back in the 1950s and then bringing it back to pristine shape. The “utility” part of the car was novel back then and featured the roll-out trunk cart that he had displayed at the show packed with picnic items and a large cooler.
The brothers explained that back then, be it a picnic, a family vacation or a day at work, the roll-out feature made it easy to access items that sat further back in those older car large trunk areas. If you didn’t mind not closing the trunk, one could haul much bigger items.
Although not a fastback, the Hudson Terraplane Utility was a forerunner to manufacturers adding convenience features to automobiles to carry more cargo. The little pull-out feature was like having a smaller pickup bed in the trunk of your Hudson.
In contrast, the Kaiser Traveler and Frazer Vagabond models both available starting in 1949, offered the owner a real hatchback style drop-down trunk, a flip up rear window and rear seats that folded down. The trunk area featured wood skid strips that helped hold the cargo in place, and Kaiser advertising pointed to the fact that an owner could put a double-size bed in the cargo space, similar to a pickup truck.
Thanks much for your letter and comments David and I hope all this information helps. Thanks also to Nelson and Larry Creasy for their assistance.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.