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During its production run, the Essex was considered a small car and was affordably priced. The Essex is generally credited with starting a trend away from open touring cars design toward enclosed passenger compartments.
Originally, the Essex was to be a product of the "Essex Motor Company," which actually was a wholly owned entity of Hudson's. Essex Motors went so far as to lease the Studebaker auto factory in Detroit for production of the car. By 1922 the Essex Motor Company was dissolved and the Essex officially became what it was all along, a product of Hudson.
Essex cars were designed to be moderately priced cars which would be affordable to the average family. Proving durable, their capabilities were checked upon and confirmed by AAA and the United States Postal Service. In 1919 an Essex completed a 50-hour, 3,037.4 miles (4,888.2 km) endurance test in Cincinnati, Ohio, at an average speed of 60.75 miles per hour. The early Essex cars also captured many hill climb records. In a special Essex race car, Glen Shultz won the 1923 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It had a 108.5-inch (2,760 mm) wheelbase.
Initially Essex marketed a line of touring cars (open four-door cars with canvas tops), which was the most popular body style of cars in production at the time. While Essex added an enclosed sedan in 1920, it was the introduction of the 1922 closed coach, priced at $1,495 (equal to $21,064 today), $300 above that of the touring car. By 1925 the coach was priced below that of the touring car. While Henry Ford is credited with inventing the affordable car, it was Essex that made the enclosed car affordable.
In 1928, the big news was the use of four-wheel mechanical brakes. Essex boasted "piano hinge doors" which were exceptionally strong. An advertisement shows a man fully supported by an open door to demonstrate the strength of the hinge. 1926 Specs
By 1929, the Essex was third in U.S. sales, behind Ford and Chevrolet.
Essex sales remained strong into 1931 before sales began to trend downward. For 1932 a redesigned Essex debuted and was named the Essex-Terraplane, a play on the word aeroplane. For 1934 the Essex name was no more and the car carried on as the Terraplane.
The instrument panel of the 1932 Hudson and Essex automobiles featured the first use of "warning lights" instead of gauges.
Essex racecars on display in Salt Lake City, 1920
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