In 1916, Hudson was enjoying steady success in the automobile market. The Detroit-based company may not have been the biggest manufacturer, but they offered a high quality car with excellent performance at a reasonable price. Soon, however, other manufacturers began offering cut-priced brands that threatened to undermine Hudson sales. It was decided that Hudson would join the low-price car market with a new sub-brand called Essex. Production began in 1918, but war efforts meant that just 92 cars would be built that year. 1919 proved to be an altogether different story, with 21,879 Essex cars delivered. As with Hudson before, Essex quickly earned a reputation for excellent performance, quality and reliability at a very competitive price.
Initially powered by a line of F-head four-cylinder engines, the Essex range gained an all-new inline six in 1924. By 1927 the so-called “Super Six” had completely replaced the four-cylinder lineup as Essex crept closer to its Hudson siblings in price and performance. Also in 1927, Essex introduced the stylish little “Sportabout” roadster with handsome rumble-seat boat-tail coachwork. At just $700, the Sportabout was a tremendous value, and it is said that even Henry Ford took note and considered offering his upcoming Model A with a more powerful engine in order to compete with Esssex. The momentum at Essex continued into the 1930s when, in 1931 the styling was thoroughly refreshed and the engine was enlarged to 175 cubic inches. Now producing a healthy 60 horsepower, the Speedabout was renamed “Sport Roadster” and wore a stylish new body, which was built by Murray of Detroit. Despite remaining an outstanding value at just $725, the Sport Roadster did not sell in large numbers and was dropped in 1932, which incidentally was also the final year of the Essex name, as it would be called “Terraplane” from 1933 onward.
One of just a handful of known survivors, this delightful 1931 Essex Super Six Sport Roadster is handsomely presented in period-correct livery, wearing a well-preserved older restoration. This car was once part of the legendary William F. Harrah collection, and it is said to have been in very original condition when it was sold at auction following Mr. Harrah’s death in 1984. It was purchased by a collector from Oregon who would eventually treat it to a full restoration in the colors it wears today. The understated cream body and light brown fenders are accented with attractive green trim and wheels – the same color scheme shown in the 1931 Essex brochure. Following its restoration, the Essex remained in the same Oregon collection until around 2007, trading hands twice more since. With each subsequent owner, the Essex has been kept in fine condition yet also appears to have been used and driven, with the restoration now showing a light patina that encourages regular enjoyment.
As the value and style leader of the Essex line, this Sport Roadster is very well equipped with dual sidemount spares with hard covers, wire wheels, Essex radiator mascot, twin trumpet horns, a folding windscreen and twin tail lights. The fittings and plating remain in very good condition, and the body exhibits good overall fit and alignment. The two-seat cockpit is trimmed in tan leather and carpet with matching materials used in the rumble seat. The leather has taken on a charming character, showing some use but remaining supple and in good order.
Under the hood, the correct 175 cubic inch engine is presented in good condition overall, with tidy detailing and a period-correct appearance. The chassis and undercarriage are similarly tidy, showing some use but remaining in good order. True to form, this Essex is a delightful driver’s car with ample power from the six-cylinder engine and an easy to use 3-speed manual gearbox. All Essex cars of the era were equipped with reliable Bendix four-wheel mechanical brakes.
Approachable and with an appealing patina, this Essex would be right at home in AACA events or similar Hudson Club tours and gatherings. Rare, stylish and overflowing with charm, this Essex Super Six is perhaps one of the most affordable entries into the rarified world of Boattail Speedster ownership.
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