HomeThe MarketHudson museum sale a bittersweet auction

Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction


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.

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
Herb Thomas drove this ‘Fabulous Hudson Hornet’ in the 1952 and 1953 NASCAR seasons

“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.

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1911 Hudson Model 33 Speedster

“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. 

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1937 Railton has London Motor Show and Pebble Beach history

“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.

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1951 Hudson Hornet 6 custom Hollywood/parade car

The complete docket can be viewed at the Worldwide Auctioneers website, which also offers a multi-part video series on the Hostetler museum cars.

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1929 Essex Dover U.S. mail truck

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1929 Hudson Series R Convertible Victoria with two-way doors

Hudson, Hudson museum sale a bittersweet auction, ClassicCars.com Journal
1917 Shaw Special race car

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Just my luck. My 55 Hudson Ramber is going to be auctioned on Bringatrailer.com starting August 15th. But now with this big Hudson auction beginning a couple weeks later maybe everyone will be saving their money for that and won’t be interested in my little Restomod Ramber. Although, judging by the amazing Hudsons shown in this article, my car will go for a drop in the bucket compared to the Hudson Hornet Parade car or the Model 33 Speedster : )

    • Now more people (maybe 69 people) will prize and covet owning a Hudson to hopefully get out and Drive em.
      Wish I was one of them who could afford to try !

  2. It was a sad day when the decision was made to break up this collection. I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Eldon’s son JR three years ago while writing an article for the Hemmings daily magazine. JR described each car to me, gave me the history that he knew, and spoke with passion about the collection. I photographed each car in the collection (might have missed a couple because some were parked rather close together) and Hemmings used a number of the pictures to illustrate the article. The movie/ parade car pictured above was running according to JR, but he said it was a bear to drive. It may have been filmed on a trailer while making it look like it was being driven. JR said Eldon drove it a couple of times and said it handled terribly. Apparently, there were few reinforcements for strengthening after the body was altered, indicating it was never really meant to be driven. There were a lot of rare Hudsons (and cars related to Hudson) in this collection. According to JR, most were in running condition three years ago and several of them were regularly exercised. Several were one-offs if I remember correctly. This was a beautiful collection of cars and I think it is a shame it has to broken up. On the other hand, up to 69 people will have a chance to own one of these beauties.

  3. i own and drive a Right hand drive ,1955 Hudson Hornet 4dr saloon, 3spd; manual with o/drive and totaly love it, the power and thrills you get are second to none. How many of these cars exist in the Uk?…. Hudson’s Rule

  4. Closing this museum was tragic. Fortunately, Eldon and his wife had passed, so as not to see his wonderful collection scattered to the wind. It has to weigh on the town, as the cars were generously entrusted to them.

    I met Eldon, at the museum shortly after it opened. He spent an hour sharing stories about the car he donated to Shipshewana. He was most proud of the 37 Railton, which he felt was more valuable than the rest of the entire collection.

    I felt the museum was a well kept secret. A bit of advertising could have attracted many families to the town.
    I’m going to miss my annual visit, but my many fond memories will live on. Such a devastating demise.


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