Think ‘pre-war competition cars’ and the name of Hudson might not be the first to spring to mind. But this famous American marque, launched in 1909 and named after Detroit department store mogul Joseph L Hudson who funded it, was well aware that track success translated into showroom sales.
Although it might be best known for its larger touring cars, Hudson offered a sporty, stripped-down roadster called the Mile-a- Minute as early as 1912. A similar model demonstrated the marque’s performance five years later with a win at the Omaha 150- mile Auto Race at an average speed of 101mph, and Hudson-driving Ira Vail took ninth at the 1919 Indianapolis 500. So by the time Barney Oldfield had lapped Culver City Speedway for 1000 miles nonstop at an average speed of 76mph in 1927, the ability of a Hudson to make an effective performance machine had been well and truly established.
Fast forward to 1932, and authorised dealer Lawrence J Martz is of a mind to seek further glory for Hudson by putting himself forward for that year’s Indy 500 in the extensively modified racer pictured above.
Yet despite factory backing and a plethora of special tuning parts, the inexperienced Martz failed to qualify, leaving it to professional driver Gene Haustein to save face the following year by returning to the celebrated oval and taking the ‘Martz Special’ to a respectable 15th place.
Haustein was hired to drive the Hudson at further AAA events throughout the year, finishing fourth in the Elgin Road Races and second in Detroit before running at Indianapolis for a third time in 1934, when the car finished in 29th place following a collision with Charles ‘Doc’ Mackenzie’s ‘Cresco Special’.
Fully restored to its original specification in 1982, the Martz Special is believed to be the only surviving competition Hudson of its type. It takes its place at the Pebble Beach sale alongside a remarkable line-up of race cars, including the March that won the Indy 500 in ’86 with Bobby Rahal at the wheel (£1.1m-£1.5m) and the 1966 Ford GT40 AM GT-1, the first of only two aluminium-bodied GT40s built by Alan Mann Racing. It could fetch up to £6.5m.
1932 Hudson ‘Martz Special’
For sale with Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, California, August 13. Estimate on request