1929 Essex Super Six
The 1929 2-door sedan above is pictured on the day it was purchased by the current owner, in unrestored condition, save for fresh tires and an engine replacement. The car was originally bought and operated in Detroit, only a few miles from where it was built, and was passed from father to son and then grandson. At one point in its life - it was stripped of its fenders by local thieves, who tried to sell the parts as "authentic Model A" items to a Ford garage - who knew better - and turned the fenders and the auto "experts" over to the police. The parts were then returned to the car. In a final stroke of bad luck - the Detroit garage the car was stored in started on fire, and the local firemen dragged the car out of the blaze - which put it back into circulation.
Essex automobiles were conceived and designed to be moderately priced -- affordable to the average family, competing with the likes of Ford and Chevrolet, while the parent company Hudson cars were much higher lined vehicles.
During its production run, between 1918 to 1932, the Essex is generally credited with starting the trend away from open touring cars toward enclosed passenger compartments as the rule, not the exception. Even though Essex added an enclosed sedan in 1920, it was the introduction of the 1922 closed coach, priced only $300 above the open touring car that caused a stir. Owning a closed coach for only a small price step above an open tourer was a well received luxury. By 1925 the popular coach was priced below that of the touring car. While Henry Ford is credited with inventing the affordable car, it was Essex that was credited with making the enclosed car affordable to the common man.
Originally, the Essex was a product of the "Essex Motor Company" which actually was a wholly owned entity of Hudson Motor Car - the company backed by J. L. Hudson of department store fame. The proposed first plant was planned for Essex in Detroit, inside of premises that Studebaker did not require, but due to World War One, the facility was leased out for war work. Production of the new Essex was delayed for 10 months and did in fact finally commence in a Hudson factory.
Above are pictures of the Hudson Motor Car Company - then and now. The building is located at 6501 Mack Avenue, Detroit, Michigan. Most of the windows have been bricked up - likely to stop break-ins - but the character and outline of the factory remains in tact. The area is now mostly derelict with a variety of open fields, abandoned buildings, a few remaining residences, along with companies taking advantage of the low cost storage.
By 1922, the independently operated Essex Motor Company was dissolved and the Essex officially became what it was all along, a product of Hudson, from the 1922 through 1931 models. In 1932, the Essex-Terraplane name was launched, a name that blended the Latin "Terra" meaning terrain and the word "aeroplane". One year later, in 1933, Terraplane was the only brand mentioned and Essex ceased to exist.
From 1918 to 1932 Essex produced a fairly hefty total of 1,331,107 passenger cars. But with car styling changing rapidly, and World War II gas rations and steel in short supply, many used Essex found their demise in the smelter's pot, turned into various Detroit made World War II military products. Essex are probably more visible in Austrailian or New Zealand car shows than in the U.S. today.
1929 Model Description: New styling arrived for 1929, along with the Challenger model name. A new manifold and Marvel carburetor, along with increased bore and higher compression, plus a two-piece sump were engine changes for '29, and four lever action shock absorbers and rubber engine mounts were now fitted as standard. Hudson/Essex had a very good year in 1929, and were again, as they had been in 1925 and 1927, third place on the US market behind Ford and Chevrolet. Two-thirds of the over 300,000 cars shipped that model year were Essex. One can pick out the '29 from the vertically-ribbed radiator shell base, and the twin rows of louvers along the bonnet sides. In the dash there was a fuel gauge that performed double duty as an oil gauge at the press of a button.
During '29 five models were available plus a bare chassis for buyers who wanted their body built elsewhere. Body styles included: 4-door phaeton, 2-door roadster, 2-door convertible coupe, 2-door closed coupe, 2-door sedan (shown in the picture above and the gallery below), and 2-door boat-tailed roadster.