AR139 AMERICAN MOTORS Hudson • Essex • Terraplane • Nash • Rambler • Metropolitan • AMC By Rod Ward
This is the story of two American car marques, Hudson and Nash, which united to form American Motors (AMC). Roy Chapin and his colleagues had founded Hudson in 1909, taking the name from their main financial backer, a department store owner in Detroit. It has been claimed that Hudson introduced more ‘firsts’ to the auto industry than any other car maker.
Jeffery was another US auto industry pioneer, which made Rambler cars, and then Quad army trucks in the Great War. Charlie Nash left General Motors in 1916 to start up in competition against his ex-employer. He acquired Jeffery’s large plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and began his own range of Nash cars. Both firms prospered between the wars, Hudson introducing its world-beating Essex and Terraplane lines, and Charles Mason taking control of Nash in 1936. After the Second World War it was obvious that the smaller car makers could no longer compete with the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler), so Mason hatched a plan to combine the four second-tier marques, Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Packard. Mason only got as far as combining Hudson with Nash in 1954, to form AMC, when he suddenly died, leaving his protégé George Romney in charge of AMC. The merger with Studebaker and Packard was abandoned, but Romney continued Mason’s plan to concentrate on smaller cars, not trying to compete with the Big Three model for model. He discontinued the large Hudson and Nash cars, to concentrate on the Rambler and the even smaller Metropolitan. The Rambler carved out its own niche in the US market, until the Big Three began to produce their own ‘compact’ cars. In 1962 Romney left for the world of politics, and his successor changed the direction of AMC, trying to make every size and type of car. This strategy failed, leaving AMC needing urgently to recover profitability, achieved for a while by the acquisition of Jeep in 1967. As AMC grew weaker, Jeep became its only attractive division, encouraging Renault to take control of AMC in 1982. Renault never quite got to grips with AMC, however, and in 1987 they sold out to Chrysler, who also only wanted Jeep. Thereafter all AMC badging disappeared, bringing this story to an end.