Hupmobile Automobiles

Essay by
Wilfred R. Franson
January 1999

The Hupp Motor Car Company

You could go to swap meets and car shows for years and not see a Hupmobile, but it was well known and respected in its day. The last Hupmobile was built in 1940.

In 1908 Robert Hupp and a team of experienced automobile men put together the Hupp Motor Car Company in Detroit to design and build a small car. The Hupmobile Model 20 was introduced in 1909 with only one body style, the runabout (a two passenger open car). It had a 20 horsepower four-cylinder engine and was smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the Model T Ford. Sales of the little car were good, and in a few years a larger car was added to the line. Both models were built in the usual body types, including the coupe, sedan, roadster, and touring car.

Those little Hupmobiles soon earned a reputation for economy and dependability, and all kinds of publicity stunts were tried to show off the good qualities of the cars. But they looked old-fashioned and in 1915 a somewhat more streamlined but very plain looking line of cars brought them up to date, looking like most other cars. They were still well built, and Hupmobile refined the cars without major changes for the next nine years.

Until 1924 all Hupmobiles had simple, rugged four-cylinder engines. In 1925 a big car with a straight eight engine was added, extending Hupmobile into a higher price class. A six replaced the four-cylinder engine in 1926.

You may wonder about the name. Hupmobile was one of more than forty cars with "mobile" in their names. The only one we have left is the General Motors Oldsmobile. Sometimes the Hupmobile was called the Hupp.

With the 1928 models, called the Century Six and Century Eight, Hupmobile broke loose from its old styling and came out with sharp, clean lines like the LaSalle. The new cars were a great success, and Hupmobile's best year was 1928 with sales of about 65,000 cars. Something went wrong then, and 1929 sales were not as good, although almost all other car makes sold very well that year. As the Depression hit the auto industry, Hupmobile sales went downhill fast, and the 1930 and 1931 cars were facelifts of the 1928-1929 cars, with some minor mechanical improvements such as free-wheeling, a small one-way clutch that allowed the car to coast without driving the engine. Almost every make offered it as an option.

For 1932 Hupmobile offered a handsome line of cars, including a six-cylinder and a very big eight. The eight had front fenders that curved around the wheels instead of sweeping back to the running boards, making the cars look even longer than they were. There was nothing wrong with those 1932 cars, and the 1933 cars were almost the same.

The 1934 small series was an interim car, looking too much like several other cars and with no outstanding features. The big news was the 1934-1935 Aero-Dynamic Hupmobile, a semi-streamlined car with its front end slanted back and its rear end slanted forward, headlights faired into the sides of the hood, a three-piece windshield that wrapped around for better visibility, and wider windows: a good idea when all car roofs were getting more rounded, cutting into the space available for windows.

The semi-streamlined car did not revive Hupmobile's sales, and production stopped in 1935, except for a few cars assembled and sold in 1936 and 1937. The 1938-1939 Hupmobile was another car that looked too much like the rest of the 1938 cars and had no mechanical advantages to show.

When the classic Cord front-drive car went out of production some of the body dies were used by Hupmobile and Graham to produce attractive cars with the conventional rear-drive running gear. The Hupmobile Skylark and the Graham Hollywood were not alike; there were chassis differences and each had its own front end sheet metal. Of course they were not luxury cars like the Cord. Both cars were built in the Graham factory in 1940, and the thirty-year story of the Hupmobile came to a sad end as the last 300 cars to carry that name came from the assembly line of a competitor.


© 1999 Wilfred R. Franson

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