Randy McCauley's '38 Hudson Terraplane Street Rod


1.  The name "Hudson” in the car industry applies to many excellent cars made by an independent company in Detroit between 1909 and 1957.  It was actually the third largest producer of cars in America in 1929.  That company became part of a new organiztion, American Motors, in 1954, which in turn was bought by Chrysler Corp. in 1989.  While there is always someone to love any line of motor vehicles ever made, Hudsons, too, have their fan base.

One car hobbyist came to the 2012 Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals in a lovingly restored and modified 1938 Hudson Terraplane that took two awards in competitive judging.  It won Second Place Street Rod and was the “Celebrity Pick” of Ramcharger Tom Coddington.

2.  Owner of the copper-colored coupe with white fenders is Randy McCauley of Cooperstown, Pennsylvania.  Having bought the car from an elderly couple in Youngstown, Ohio, Randy finished the restoration around 2007.  He did all engine and body work and paint himself.  The car is powered by a rebuilt first-generation Chrysler Hemi.  Randy also gets credit for interior work.  However he says he can’t sew a straight line and he had to bring in a seamstress to do seams and pleats for the car’s elegant white upholstery.

A machinist and toolmaker by trade, Randy has restored or built, then sold, many cars over the years.  His father was always working on cars and that exposure had its effect on the son.  “I get more enjoyment out of the build than just owning, maintaining, and showing the car,” Randy says.  “I keep them for a few years.  I show them.  My wife and I will enjoy them.  We’ve put 27,000 miles on the Terraplane since the Hemi went in.  Then I may get a wild hair about building something different or I'll see something that catches my eye.” Randy’s newest project is a ’49 Plymouth coupe powered by a Mopar Slant-Six motor.

3.  “The first car I ever had -- I wish I had it today! – was a 1963 Plymouth Savoy with the Slant Six motor.  I love those engines.  At the time, I hated the car because my father made me buy.  I was 16 years old and I was working and using my father's car to get to work.  When I came home with my first paycheck, he was waiting up for me. He said, ‘You got paid? Good! We are going to buy you a car tomorrow.’  I told him, dad, I don't want to buy a car.  He just said, ‘You're buying a car.’  One hundred and twenty-five dollars for a 1963 Savoy.  A six-cylinder, three-speed car and I was not happy with it.  My father just said, ‘You're unhappy now?  Next paycheck we’re going to get you insurance!’

“I build everything.  I do all my own welds, paint, motor.  When it came down to the interior, I had access to an industrial sewing machine and, I thought, how hard can it be to sew?  I soon found I can't sew a straight line.  So I had to get a seamstress to do the sewing because I was getting nowhere.  Got to give credit to my wife, who picked out the interior colors.  It's two-tone white or soft gray, but only a shade or two different.  I've always liked white interiors.  They’re hard to keep clean but they just look elegant.  Then there's the wood graining of the metal parts, which came out of the factory.  I had someone redo it, Chrysler specialist Bill Gratkowski, who works in Titusville, Pennsylvania, not far from where I live.  There are only a few people left who can do this kind of thing.  Bill has the original patterns.  He does this work for people all over the world.  The Terraplane badge kind of resembles Chyrsler’s winged badge.  So for a final touch, I put Chrysler wings in the roof lining under the rear window.

4.  The body of the car was in "surprisingly decent shape when I first got it.  There was no floorboard and the fenders were junk, but the rest was pretty good. I spent a whole winter working on the four fenders.  When I sand blasted them, one fender lost three inches of metal across the bottom and the front.  It all had to be replaced.  The original wheel opening had disappeared.

"When it came time to choose body colors I had seen some new copper shades on cars and that was how I went.  I started with the color of a shiny new penny.  At Carlisle, I was watching many newer copper-colored Mopars drive by that were a close match.  I could probably tell someone my shade is a Chrysler color and they wouldn’t know the difference.  I also wanted another color altogether for the fenders, something like a cream.  Me and my wife went from car show to car show for a year with a chip of the copper color, laying it against cars, looking to see how it would work with the copper.  We settled on Chrysler "Cool Vanilla," which was offered on the 2005 300's.

"The running boards were originally cover with rubber.  After I had the metal cleaned up I decided I wanted half-round strips.  On the Web, I found brass strips from a company, Alaska Copper Co., in Seattle, Washington.  I had to drill and tap them, put in little studs. They're all bolted down.  I like that look.  Some earlier cars, like Dusenbergs, had something similar.

5.  "The original motor in the car was a flathead six.  Not very big.  My engine is a 1957 392 C.I.D Chrysler Hemi.  I got it from a friend.  It had over a 100,000 miles on it, but it wasn't damaged or anything.  My friend didn’t want to part with it, but it was just laying around.  I told him, we’re getting older and one of us better do something with it soon, or it’ll become someone’s boat anchor down the road.  Finally we settled on it.

"Even though it was mostly in parts, my Hemi needed nothing.  I probably could have rebuilt it to stock specs.  But I bored it 0.030 over, and we ground the crank ‘ten-and-ten.’  I wanted it to be as close to perfect as I could get it.  Bob Walker, of the Hot Heads Research and Racing company, advised me on the build.  He is very knowledgeable.  When I told him I wanted to build a 392 Hemi, the first thing he asked me was, ‘What do you want it to do, run an eight second quarter-mile or drive around town all day?’  He wrote out a full list of things we had to do, what camshaft to run, what carburetion, everything.  The results were perfect.

"We put on two four-barrel Holleys. Holley had a carburetor that was small enough, rated at 390 cubic-feet per minute (CFM), which is not very big. They were a recommendation by Bob Walker. They were actually more expensive than some larger carburetors that I could have chosen. But Bob warned that larger carbs would constantly foul plugs and give off fumes. So, two carbs at 390 each equals 760 CFM of air/fuel. That’s plenty for the motor.

6.  "Gas mileage is okay.  On the Interstate I can get 16 miles per gallon.  My compression is 10.25 to 1, and I have to run mid-grade fuel.  My tank, which I built, is a 26.9 gallon tank.  The rear suspension is four-link and the tank just fills up the space between the coil-over shocks.  I thought I was doing a good thing building in that amount of fuel capacity.  I run with other guys to and from shows, and they're only running a ten-gallon tank.  I have to stop anyway.  I have to stop and wait while the other guys refuel!

"We used Sanderson headers on into two-and-a-half inch exhausts, which I redirected to come out under the running boards.  I thought they looked good there, but that also opened up the rear to accommodate the larger fuel cell.

"I've run the car at the drag strip but I don't flat out race it.  Guess I can't resist making a run when I’m over at at Summit Motorsports dragstrip in Norwalk, Ohio.  Or at the strip in Thompson, Ohio.  The car does real well.  It could use a lower gear.  Right now, I've got 325's in it and it really would like to have a steeper gear.  If I was going to race the car I'd have to put a little bit higher gear in it, like 390's.  The transmission is a 727 Chrysler automatic, with a Lokar floor shifter.  I added a trailer hitch at the back and I tow a camper with it when we go to shows.  People do a double take when they see a show car pulling a camper.

7.  "I liked frenched headlights for the Hudson buckets.  I used a kit from the Hagan Street Rods company.  Originally the car had chrome rings around the headlamps.  The frenched steel rims that came with the kit are not actually welded to the bucket.  They will pop off for headlight adjustment.  The parking lights are laid in flush on the front fenders: they're also in a kit from Hagan.  Those I welded in.

"In the summer of 2011 I was over at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk Ohio.  Don Garlits was there signing autogaphs.  I grew up watching him drag race and he was always my hero.  I asked him to sign the inside of my hood and he said, sure.  So now I think I own the only Hudson Terraplane on the planet that has been autographed by Don Garlits.”

In the Thirties Hudson came up with a marketing slogan for its Terraplane models: "On the sea, that's aquaplaning.  In the air that's aeroplaning.  But on the land, in the traffic, on the hills, hot diggity dog!  THAT'S TERRAPLANING."  Right!