1932: The Official Rollout of the Terraplane in Detroit

July 21, 1932

The Hudson Motor Car Company introduced a unique automobile amid great fanfare at the company’s plant in Detroit, Michigan. The automobile was the Terraplane. While lacking the airborne qualities of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this new automobile was given its unusual name to attract public interest and capitalize on the strong popularity of aviation at that time. 

A newspaper ad for this inexpensive six-cylinder vehicle proclaimed, “Today, the earthbound automobile takes on phantom wings – and you have the TERRAPLANE!” The executives at Hudson further highlighted the aviation “pedigree” of the automobile at the official launch in Detroit. The first Terraplane to roll off the assembly line that day was christened by no less an aviation legend than Amelia Earhart, who had achieved international renown by that time for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. 

Approximately 2,000 Hudson dealers and distributors from across the nation who were on hand for the rollout of the Terraplane had each been given bronze-colored demonstrator models of that automobile. All of these individuals proceeded to leave the Detroit plant in what one press account called “the biggest drive-away parade of new automobiles ever staged.” 

The linkage between that automobile and aviation did not end with either the name of the vehicle or the participation of Earhart in the ceremony in Detroit; the model she had christened, as Hudson heavily publicized, was ultimately delivered to Orville Wright for his use. “The other day I had the fun of cracking a bottle of gasoline on the nose of a new automobile,” she subsequently wrote in a letter to the surviving Wright brother and her fellow aviation pioneer. “I was just dropping this line to tell you that my fun was increased when I found that the one I christened was for you.”

Photo Credit: Joe Ross (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license at Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC BY-SA 2.0)

For more information on the Hudson Motor Car Company’s Terraplane, please check out Terraplane – Wikipedia

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