THE GANG­STER’S CHOICE

1934 HUD­SON TERRAPLANE

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Terry Cob­ham Photos: Duncan Rourke

One warm sum­mer’s evening, John Dillinger had just en­joyed a night at the movies and was mak­ing his way back to the car, hat down across one eye, a broad on each arm, and the keys to his new ‘34 Terraplane in his pocket.

Boom! And he was dead on the foot­path. If only he’d had his favourite Thomp­son sub­ma­chine gun in his hand, in­stead of his .38 re­volver. If only he’d parked the Terraplane some­where else, like out the back door of the theatre in­stead of the front.

Terraplane deal­ers all across the US must have se­cretly wept at the news the next morn­ing. The ’34 Terraplane was John Dillinger’s get­away car of choice, and, un­til that night, it had served him well as he had robbed and battered his way across cen­tral US. Such was his pref­er­ence for the Terraplane that Hud­son deal­ers even ad­ver­tised the fact. One had hung a ban­ner out­side his deal­er­ship that read, “Dillinger chooses the ’34 Hud­son for his per­sonal use.” Ah, the US … land of the en­tre­pre­neur.

The be­gin­ning

The Hud­son Terraplane — or sim­ply, the Terraplane, as it be­came that year — was the prod­uct of the Hud­son Mo­tor Car Com­pany of De­troit, Michi­gan, US.

Hud­son had be­gun man­u­fac­tur­ing cars in De­troit in 1909. The com­pany was formed by a group of eight busi­ness­men who had no­ticed very early on that the new­fan­gled mo­tor car was the way to go. They were im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful, sell­ing 4500 cars in their first year of pro­duc­tion. By the mid 1920s, Hud­son was num­ber three on the sales charts, and that was in an era when there were lit­er­ally hun­dreds of car man­u­fac­tur­ers in the US.

The com­pany took its name from one of the orig­i­nal in­vestors, a Mr Hud­son. He owned a de­part­ment store, and prob­a­bly even sold toy cars, but at least two of the orig­i­nal group were ‘car men’. Mr Roy Chapin is per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing. He was a De­troit car-in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive, and, years later, when the Hud­son de­scen­dant

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