30 April 2023

More than an old car #205: Essex Super Six

It has been a long while since I actually wrote about a super old car, and I was moved to write about this 1928 Essex Super Six after chancing upon an old Facebook post back then...

Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1910, the Hudson Motor Car Company took its name from Joseph L Hudson, who provided the finances that enabled a group of experienced ex-Olds Motor Works employees to start a new automobile manufacturing venture. Incorporated in February 1909, Hudson built its first car in July of that same year and 12 months later had sold 4,000 units, the industry's best first-year sales record to date. Although the firm would later become famous for its record-breaking Super Six range, Hudson's first product was a four-cylinder car, as was that of companion marque Essex, which was introduced in 1918.

Essex pioneered low-cost closed coachwork in the United States, its four-seater sedan being only slightly more expensive than the tourer in 1922 and marginally cheaper by 1925. Essex's big news for 1924 was the switch from four to six cylinders. The new sidevalve power unit started life at an unusually small - for the United States - 2.1 litres capacity before being enlarged to 2.4 litres part way through the year. Renamed 'Super Six' for 1927, the Essex gained a larger (2.5-litre) and more powerful engine that year and four-wheel Bendix mechanical brakes the year after. Stylistically, the Essex looked broadly similar to its Hudson parent, albeit on a smaller scale.

The car was powered by a 2511 cc inline-6 engine, which had a power output of 17 hp. Considering that it was in the 1920s, this would have been relatively powerful back in the day. It was 3975 mm ling with a wheelbase of 2807 mm.

The Essex name was dropped in 1933 and subsequent cars were sold as the Terraplane. More than 1 million were made, of which some 229,887 were from the 1928 model year. Essexes were sold in Singapore as early as 1927, where a sedan retailed for $2,050 Straits dollars by Straits Motor Garage at their showroom in 41 Orchard Road. Today, the stretch of car showrooms is long gone and replaced by the Istana Park. 

This unit is understood to have been imported some time back and had a change in number plate to its current one. More interestingly, this particular car was also featured in the popular local drama series 'The Little Nyonya'! It has not gone on the road ever since I saw it 3 years ago, but such is the fate of the vast majority of pre-war cars here. It may or may not make further appearances, but hopefully you will have the chance to see it one day!