John Kruse was 18 years old, a teenager living in Auburn, Indiana, when he first met Eldon Hostetler, farm-equipment inventor and car collector who lived about an hour’s drive to the west in the Amish community of Shipshewana.
“I called and asked, ‘Hey, Mr. Hostetler, would you show me your cars?’ “ Kruse recalled.
Hostetler invited the teenager to visit the “old chicken house” where Hostetler kept the world’s best collection of Hudson automobiles.
Kruse had grown up around vintage cars. His father and uncles and other family members were involved in the auctioning of all sorts of items, including collector cars. Yet that visit to Hostetler’s chicken house “was the most impactful moment of my car life to that point,” Kruse said. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Eldon and what he did with those Hudsons.
“When the museum happened, it never crossed my mind that any of those cars would ever get sold.”
But on Saturday, August 4, beginning at 11 a.m., John Kruse, his business partner Rod Egan and their Worldwide Auctioneers will be responsible for selling the 69 vehicles that have been part of Hostetler’s Hudson Auto Museum, including cars that Hostetler still had that were not part of that display.
“It is sad to see any collection broken up,” Kruse said. “Can you imagine if the Auburn Cord Duesenberg museum or the Petersen museum got shut down?
“All those emotions certainly swirled not just for me but for everybody who had any relationship with the museum or Eldon. But the reality is that these cars are going to get sold.”
Various political and financial factors following the deaths of Eldon Hostetler and, a year later, his widow, Esta, led to the museum being closed and the collection going to auction.
Not only is the Hostetler widely accepted as the best collection of Hudson vehicles on the planet, but “there are some really special cars,” Kruse has learned.
“This is incredible,” he explained. “You start realizing Hudson, as a marque, it was pretty far up the food chain from the very beginning, awful close to Packard, and had racing history, and relationships with custom coachbuilders, and was an innovator in safety and engineering and design.”
And yet, he added, Hudsons generally were not expensive vehicles to buy when new.
“Collectors from all over the world are coming to participate,” Kruse said. “There’s sadness in breaking up a museum, but excitement of being able to buy one of the cars, it’s really a landmark occurrence.”
Kruse added that the auction will be the first time that all of the Hostetler Hudsons will be in the same building, rather than some in the museum and others stored or on loan elsewhere.
The docket includes Hudson, Essex, Railton and Terraplane vehicles.
“So many one-offs, or one of five built, not just surviving but ever built,” Kruse said.
Nearly 20 of the cars have coachbuilt bodies by the likes of Biddle and Smart, Rawlinson, Murphy, Graber, Briggs, Cantrell & Company, and one of the 26 1955 Hudson Italias by Carrozzeria Touring.
There’s the 1937 Railton special limousine commissioned by Col. Reginald Rippon and shown on the Rippon Brothers stand at the London Motor show, and again in 2011 at Pebble Beach. Others with Pebble Beach credentials are a 1927 Hudson Series O roadster and 1928 Hudson Super Six Series O convertible sedan, both restored by LaVine.
Also on offer are the 1952 Hudson Hornet 6 “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” car owned and driven in NASCAR races by Herb Thomas, a 1929 Essex Dover U.S. Mail truck discovered and restored by Harrah’s Collection, the 1932 Essex Terraplane convertible coupe purchased by Hudson co-founder Roy Chapin and used when he was U.S. Secretary of Commerce, a 1911 Hudson Model 33 Speedster built to promote the brand in Puerto Rico, and the 1917 Hudson Shaw Special single-seat race car.
Also, a one-off Murphy-bodied 1928 Hudson Series O town car, and a Graber-bodied 1929 Hudson Series R convertible Victoria with double-acting doors that can be opened from the front or rear, and a striking 1951 Hudson Hornet 6 custom convertible built for Hollywood and for parades.
The complete docket can be viewed at the Worldwide Auctioneers website, which also offers a multi-part video series on the Hostetler museum cars.