Hudson hawked around mile ovals

It’s all going wrong. Once known as ‘The Miler’ due to its success on one-mile sprint circuits, this wondrous Hudson has just given up the ghost after roughly half that distance, lost in a fug of smoke and shower of rust-coloured water erupting from the radiator. A shame, as it was fun while it lasted.

Like the Reo, it too was once one of Argentina’s most hallowed pre-war racing cars, racking up column inches in the dailies as battles with Blanco’s Reo captured the country’s imagination. Typically its history is convoluted. Legend has it that the car was built in 1920, one of six machines prepared by the Hudson factory for an attack on the Indianapolis 500. Most local historians believe this legend is just that, reckoning that the car was built in Buenos Aires.

The Hudson’s first recorded outing was in the Copa América race, driven to victory by Federico Serra Lima. Uruguay’s Daniel Artagaveytía campaigned the car in the opening event on the La Tablada circuit (11 miles long around the outskirts of Córdoba city) on October 12 1923 and took the chequer. It then passed to Bernardo Duggan, who was similarly victorious with it.

But it was with Raúl Riganti that the Hudson proved its true worth. Born in 1893, ‘Polenta’ was one of Argentina’s foremost drivers of the 1920s and ’30s. Together with Ernesto Blanco and Italian-born Juan Antonio Gaudino, he formed a triumvirate of aces known as Los Tres Mosqueteros (The Three Musketeers) although success didn’t stretch to International events. Three Indy 500 attempts resulted in just one finish:14th In 1933 aboard his self-entered Chrysler.

Nevertheless, with the Hudson Riganti won the ’24 Copa América (Blanco and his first Reo were fourth) and, two years later, he triumphed in the 500 Millas Argentinas with Blanco as runner-up. Then its history gets a little mired. Riganti is known to have raced three Hudsons and subsequent results are likely attributable to these later cars, this hard-charger competing into his 50s and surviving a horrific accident with Jorge Perin’s Bugatti Type 35 at the Los Toboganes circuit in Esperanza in 1928. He died in 1970.

What is certain is that Riganti was a bit on the stumpy side. Trying to enshroud 5ft 9in of hack in the sparse cabin proves a feat of physical dexterity. It’s worth the effort, though. Unlike the Reo, which looks every inch the hot rod, this 3-litre, straight-six monster appears to have been crafted with real care. From the beautifully sculptured flanks to the machined H-gate, the detailing on this car is a joy. By European standards the use of proprietary running gear might render it a mongrel, but there’s an underlying pedigree here.

After 10 minutes’ idling it’s still in a decidedly grumpy mood. Mindful of the centre throttle and weedy rear drums (braking is by the exterior lever, the right pedal seemingly there for mere decoration), it takes off with some alacrity despite running on only four cylinders and then… Oh well.