Lot 178

1929 Essex 'The Challenger' Boattail Speedabout by Biddle & Smart


$63,250 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



Chassis No.
US Title
  • Reportedly one of five produced in 1929
  • No-expenses-spared restoration in 2002
  • Striking red and black over red interior
  • Coachbuilt body by Biddle & Smart of Amesbury, Massachusetts

Between World War I and the Great Depression, it was trendy for high-end automakers to introduce “junior marques,” which offered the same quality and beautiful design as the larger models, but in a smaller and more affordable form. Essex was created to serve that role for the Hudson marque and quickly proved itself by outselling its parent courtesy of several AAA speed and endurance records earned at the Cincinnati Speedway. Essex was early to recognize the growing interest in closed cars and eventually offered the nation’s lowest-priced version starting in 1922. The sales success of the Essex contributed significantly to Hudson being the third-largest producer of American automobiles in 1929 but, by 1933, the Essex name was dropped entirely in favor of a new model called the Terraplane.

Essex first offered its novel boattail Speedabout in 1927. After skipping the 1928 model year, the Speedabout returned for 1929. Hudson officially labeled the Essex for 1929 “Essex the Challenger.” The moniker, not surprisingly, was shortened to Essex Challenger for 1930 before disappearing entirely thereafter. As noted by the coachbuilder’s tag on this example, aluminum bodies were built by Biddle & Smart of Amesbury, Massachusetts, with which Hudson had a volume production contract. A rumble seat was included, as was special gearing and an overdrive transmission, providing for an 80-mph top speed.

As a specialty model starting at $965, production was limited, with just five known examples produced including the example offered here. Reportedly, the Speedabouts were built as show cars by Hudson to test the feasibility of volume production. The Speedabouts were powered by a 55-horsepower, 161.4-cubic-inch inline L-head six-cylinder engine backed by a three-speed sliding-gear manual transmission with overdrive. Additional features include a fold-down windshield, wide whitewall tires mounted on wire wheels, a rear-mounted spare, and running board step plates.

This sprightly Speedabout has benefited from a no-expense-spared body-off restoration and a complete mechanical rebuild by the Guild of Automotive Restorers, completed in 2002, for one of its executives. Painted in stunning red and black with red belt line and matching black canvas top and red leather interior, this rare and attractive roadster strikes quite a pose. Sure to be the only example at virtually any event, it will no doubt be the star of the show wherever it appears, thanks to both its appearance and rarity. Included with the sale is a selection of documentation, books, and an owner’s manual.