Nearly as quickly as the automobile evolved, speed contests evolved alongside. Organized races between steam vehicles happened in as early as the 1880s, with events for internal combustion-powered machines following suit by the 1890s. At the turn of the 20th century, automobile racing was a full-fledged sport and manufacturers were constructing purpose-built machines to contest grueling cross-country events. As racing grew in popularity, more and more manufacturers saw the marketing value in building ready-to-race sports cars. In America, where closed circuit racing was hugely popular, manufacturers like Stutz and Mercer began to offer “off the shelf” racing cars which could be readily stripped of fenders and lights, raced hard, then reassembled and driven home. Between 1910 and 1914, the Mercer Raceabout and Stutz Bearcat earned legendary status for their on-road performance and illustrious racing careers. In an effort to get in on this prestigious market, other manufacturers soon followed with their own race-replicas. One such company was Hudson, who in 1912, offered the Mile-A-Minute Speed Roadster atop the robust and powerful Model 33 chassis.
The Model 33 was introduced in 1911, in only the 2nd year of Hudson production. This entirely new model is widely considered the first true “ground-up” Hudson. The four-cylinder engine was designed by the engineering genius Howard E. Coffin and built by Continental. It displaced 226 cubic inches and featured opposing valves and a unique oil filled cork-faced clutch which allowed for exceptionally smooth operation. For 1912, the smaller Model 20 was dropped and the Model 33 was the sole offering from Hudson. To the usual lineup of touring car, limousine and coupe bodies, Hudson added the racy “Mile-A-Minute” Sport Roadster. Spartan and purposeful, the Mile a Minute offered guaranteed 60mph performance – with period adverts claiming it was “faster than its name implies”. This racer for the road followed the formula of Mercer and Stutz, with two exposed seats, a monocle windscreen, and mudguard-style fenders. Fenders, lights and valances were easily removed for racing, the seats and steering column were lowered, and a large fuel/oil tank was fitted behind the seats. The light body combined with Hudson’s powerful engine returned truly exciting performance for the era. It was also a tremendous value; at a list price of $1,600 the Mile a Minute Sport Roadster was nearly $1,000 cheaper than a similar Mercer Raceabout.
This 1912 Mile a Minute Sport Roadster is a wonderful example of the rare and exciting veteran Hudson road-racer. This car has a long history in the Vancouver, B.C. area, where it was discovered in the 1960s by a famous local enthusiast named Buck Rogers. Buck was a pioneer of the antique car hobby in the area, and he formed the Vintage Car Club of Canada in 1957. He was well-known for unearthing rare and significant cars throughout British Columbia. When Rogers first saw the Hudson 33, he recognized this car as an important and unusual Mile a Minute roadster. As found, it was in a fairly derelict state, but the engine and running gear were intact, and Rogers was able to acquire the car and bring it home.
Rogers soon sold the Hudson to another prominent Vancouver enthusiast, Jack Halladay, who restored it using a replacement Model 33 chassis. The blue painted roadster was well known among club members and it participated in numerous tours over the years. Following Jack Halladay’s passing, the car was sold to Jack Sheperd in 1989. Sheperd was an avid collector and a perfectionist when it came to his cars. To meet his meticulous standers, he commissioned a comprehensive restoration to return the car to factory correct, Mile-a-Minute Roadster specification.
To ensure accuracy of the restoration, Sheperd located a proven and genuine example (an ex-Harrah collection car owned by Dick Deluna) to use as a reference to ensure his speedster was restored to factory original specification, with the correct lowered steering angle, set back engine and additional chassis bracing that were unique to the Mile a Minute. Sadly, before the restoration was completed, Mr. Sheperd passed away and the car was left to the Vancouver Vintage Car Club. Fred Grey, a club member and enthusiastic restorer acquired the car in 2013, taking over the project and exercising great care to ensure the car was completed to the correct standard possible. Great care was given to sourcing the special Model 33 speedster parts such as the Bosch DU4 magneto. The correct 24” wooden spoke wheels (touring cars and others used 25”) had to be custom made by respected expert Anderson Propeller.
Today, the Hudson 33 Mile a Minute roadster presents in wonderful condition, in a vivid period appropriate yellow paint scheme with lots of beautifully polished brass fixtures. The serial number, 23046 (engine no. KK12295), designates it as the 46th Speedster built, though it is believed that only a dozen or so remain today. The paintwork is in excellent condition, with correct button-tufted leather upholstery on the sparse bucket seats. Correct details abound such as the circular trunk that also doubles as a spare wheel carrier, accessory manual oil pump, Castle headlamps (discreetly converted to run LED bulbs) and E&J cowl lamps. The big four-cylinder runs well and thanks to the lightweight bodywork, the performance lives up to its evocative name.
This Model 33 Sport Roadster is a charming and historically important early speedster that benefits from a careful and authentic restoration. Exciting to drive even at less than “Mile a Minute” speeds, this beautifully presented and exceedingly rare Hudson is ready for enjoyment on tours, rallies or out on the open road.