La Feria News

Hudson’s Annual Model Changes

CentennialSeal

The city of La Feria is celebrating its 100th year anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we are digging deep into our archives each week to bring you images and stories from La Feria’s colorful past.

The following is part of a series of historical articles written by Michael Lamm that originally ran in the La Feria News in 2003. They are being reprinted with the author’s permission.

You’d drive down La Feria’s Main Street 50 years ago, and half the cars at the curb were Hudsons.

La Feria had only one new-car dealer back then. Lloyd La-Fond, like his dad before him, sold nothing but Hudsons. So most people in town owned Hudsons, my father included.

My dad must have been Lloyd’s favorite customer, because he bought a new car every three years–the usual interval back then–and he never haggled. Whatever Lloyd said the car cost, my dad paid. And Lloyd set the trade-in allowance.

Everybody in town loved Hudsons. The factory ran an ag-gressive racing program, and for three years, 1951-52-53, the Fabulous Hudson Hornet won more NASCAR and USAC events than anything else on wheels. Every time Hudson scored a major victory, the company would congratulate itself with full-page ads in all the local newspapers. I’d pore over those ads, and I got to know the drivers the way kids nowadays know basket-ball stars and baseball players.

Lamm expected an earth-shattering revamp in Hudson styling for 1954 but felt cheated when he saw an early sedan hidden in the dealer’s private garage. He considered the 1954 update derivative (Olds/Ford) and poorly executed. Photo: blog.hemmings.com

Lamm expected an earth-shattering revamp in Hudson styling for 1954 but felt cheated when he saw an early sedan hidden in the dealer’s private garage. He considered the 1954 update derivative (Olds/Ford) and poorly executed. Photo: blog.hemmings.com

Marshall Teague was Hudson’s winningest champion, and my other Hudson heroes included Fonty Flock and Herb Thomas. They came roaring out of those newspaper ads, smiling in triumph, white circles around their eyes where they wore their goggles, and the romance of it all captivated me in the way that the Beatles enthralled teenagers a decade later.

I had a personal affinity for Hudsons, not only because they won races but also because I’d worked for LaFond Motors for a short time when I was eight years old. Then, too, my dad and mom drove nothing else from 1939 through 1960.

The car-buying season had a rhythm in those years. Carmak-ers would announce their new models each autumn. Lots of hoopla ensued. About a week before each year’s grand unveil-ing, dealers would white out their showroom windows. Then, the night before, they’d set up searchlights, wash the win-dows and park the new models amid banners and signs. Next morning people would be lined up waiting.

In La Feria, this annual ritual represented entertainment of the highest order. We teens got all excited and couldn’t wait to see the new Hudsons. On the designated morning, we’d go to Lloyd LaFond’s dealership first. Later we’d drive over to Harlingen and check out all the other makes: Ford, Chevy, Packard, Nash, Cadillac, Dodge, Willys, etc.

Well, in 1948, Hudson had come out with a truly innovative design, the so-called “Stepdown” body style…very low and modern. And that style continued through 1950. But then for 1951, the factory started hyping the “all-new, totally changed” Hudson, and I was primed for the Second Coming. I dragged my parents down to LaFond’s, and there it stood, the new 1951 Hudson. It looked suspiciously like the old Hudson. Yes, there was the new Hornet, but outwardly all 1951 Hudsons looked 95% like 1948 Hudsons. As did, disappointingly, the following models for 1952 and 1953.

Mike’s dad, Heinrich Lamm, was hesitant about buying a “Nazi” car but eventually did. He’s shown here with Mike’s mom, Annie. Both were MDs and expected Mike to be the same. Photo: blog.hemmings.com

Mike’s dad, Heinrich Lamm, was hesitant about buying a “Nazi” car but eventually did. He’s shown here with Mike’s mom, Annie. Both were MDs and expected Mike to be the same. Photo: blog.hemmings.com

So everybody in town was looking forward to the 1954 Hudson, which we’d heard really was going to be all new and different. Hudson needed a shot in the arm, because by late 1953, the company was in terrible financial shape. Worse, Hudson was losing races to Chrysler and Oldsmobile.
Then one sunny afternoon in September 1953, about a week before new car announcement time, my high school buddy, Larry Myers, came to me and told me he’d already seen next year’s Hudson, the 1954 model. “It really is all new and different,” Larry assured me. Larry was Lloyd LaFond’s nephew, so he had the inside track.

I asked him, “Where’d you see it?” Behind Lloyd LaFond’s house, came the answer, in Lloyd’s private garage. “Okay, let’s go check it out right now,” I pleaded. This was serious business. I was jumping up and down.

So Larry and I went to Lloyd’s house, sneaked around back, and Larry slowly opened garage doors. There it stood, a big, blue, brand-new sedan, facing inward. My first impression was of the rear. So far not so good. It looked fat and finless. Fins were all the rage in 1954. This car had wimpy little fins on a broad backside, with a Ford-like, squared-off bustle.

We walked around to the front of the car. Ohmygosh, the front was even uglier than the rear. Hudson had obviously tried to copy Oldsmobile’s “fishmouth” grille, but the design was awkward and amateurish. If I hadn’t been a senior in high school, I would have cried.

I was crestfallen. What a horrible anticlimax. But my fa-ther was due for a new car. He liked the 1954 model, and we all loved Lloyd LaFond and Hudsons in general, so he bought an ugly 1954 Hornet as soon as he could, and he drove it for six years. My dad finally traded it in…his last Hudson…on a new Volkswagen Beetle. The times they were a-changing.

MichaelLamm2ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Lamm’s family moved to La Feria in 1939, when Mike was three. Both his parents practiced medicine in La Feria. Mike grew up here and went away to college in 1954, first in Oregon and then in New York. He and his wife, JoAnne, and their three sons live in California, where Mike publishes books about cars. His company website – www.LammMorada.com.


Do YOU have any photos, books, or stories that might help us piece together La Feria’s storied history? If so please email us or call our office at 956-797-9920 and let us know!

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