Hupmobile’s new Century models for 1929 were being purchased “in more accelerated eagerness than a year ago,” according to a full-page ad in Maclean’s magazine.
The December, 1928, ad depicted a pair of swanky women in cloche hats and fur stoles chatting alongside a grand-looking Century Eight, while, in an illustration below, four well-mounted horsemen enjoyed a winter canter. And, the ad noted, “the extremely low price is no barrier to their entrée into circles of wealth and strict discrimination, where good taste is a supreme criterion of motor car ownership.”
Buyer enthusiasm had been throttled-up, the ad revealed, by an increasing recognition that the new model year Hupmobiles were “without a peer in their ‘tailored metal’ smartness, in their sound quality and in their super-excellent performance.”
And they still live up to that long-ago adman’s hype for long-time old-car enthusiast Hughie Montgomery, who owns a pair of 1929 models, and last year hosted an international Hupmobile club gathering in Ingersol, Ont., that drew fans of the defunct American brand from as far away as Reno, Nev.
“I’ve been interested in cars since my eyes first focused,” says Montgomery. One of the cars he recalls seeing with bright-eyed clarity was his first Hupmobile.
He remembers as “a little guy” walking up the street with his father and asking about the vehicles they passed. “We came to this tan-colored car and I asked what kind it was, and he said, a Hupmobile. It was a 1935, not a very old car at that time,” says Montgomery, now 72.
You might not recognize one parked at the curb today, but Hupmobile is one of those brand names that retains a degree of recognition despite the company being out of the car business since 1940, possibly because it sounds, well, funny.
But during its three-decade-plus existence, the Hupmobile was taken seriously and became a well-respected brand after being started as the Hupp Motor Co. in 1908 by Robert Hupp of Grand Rapids, Mich., and his brother Louis. They unveiled their first model at the Detroit auto show in 1909 and went on to build 500 that year, following up with 5,000 in 1910. The Hupps soon sold out, however, Robert venturing off to create another brand and then electric cars.
In 1912, Hupmobile made history by utilizing (along with Britain’s BSA) an early form of all-steel car body, with help from steel-stamping pioneer Edward Budd. Budd would become an industry giant, and later help France’s Andre Citroen develop the world’s first monocoque chassis for his Traction Avante in the early 1930s.
Hupmobiles moved upmarket in the mid-1920s with eight-cylinder models and, in 1928, production reached almost 66,000, but the “accelerated eagerness” to buy one touted by the Maclean’s ad evaporated after the Wall Street crash year of 1929, and worse was to follow. Taking on famed designer Raymond Loewy created good-looking mid-1930s models but not many sales, which dipped to 10,000 a year. A plan to use Cord body dies to build a new model resulted in the Skylark, which finally edged into production in late 1939. Only a few hundred were made before Hupp ended auto production in mid-1940.
But Hupp left behind a legacy of fine automobiles revered today by stalwarts like Montgomery, who’s a director of The Hupmobile Club (with about 900 members worldwide), and he still enjoys rolling the numbers up on the odometers of his 1929 Model M Century-Eight Sedan and Roadster.
Born in the Eastern Townships south of Montreal, Montgomery earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from McGill and went on work in the feed nutrition field, before moving to Tillsonburg, Ont., to design and build chemical fertilizer blending towers. Retired now, and living in Ingersoll, he volunteers with the local museum. “I like fooling around with the old machinery,” he says, including the ancient McCormick tractor he donated. “I still get to play with it.”
The first car he fooled around with was a Model A purchased by his father, that he tinkered with and ran up and down the family driveway before he was old enough to drive. He acquired his first hobby car about half a century ago, a 1934 Ford.
The Hupmobile Century Eight Sedan, originally owned by a Cobourg, Ont., dentist – price $2,470-$2,870 f.o.b. Windsor – was acquired in 1964 in Paris, Ont. It was in good original condition and Montgomery drove it “for many years, until it just wore out.” He then turned it over to The Guild of Automotive Restorers in Bradford for restoration in 1990, and has been “driving it ever since, and it runs perfectly.”
The 1929 Roadster was sold new to a St. Thomas, Ont., resident, who didn’t opt for the flashy extras available. “Most dressed them up with side-mounts [spare wheels] and wire wheels,” says Montgomery, who first tried to buy it [in then recently restored form] in the 1960s, but was beaten to the punch. It finally came into his possession in 2001.
Both are powered by a big-displacement, inline, flathead, eight-cylinder engine, with three-speed gearbox, solid front and live axle rear suspension, drum brakes and, unusual for the time, hydraulic dampers.
Montgomery uses both his Hupps, and prefers being on the move as part of classic car tours to static car shows, driving them the way they were meant to be used. “They were engineered for the era they were built in, not today’s conditions. You have to drive them the way they drove them at the time.” And he has, all over North America.
The Roadster, which once served as “a high school jalopy,” is a fun, fine-weather drive, but the Sedan – which he was taking for a test drive after refurbishing the brakes following our chat – is his favourite. “It’s a beautiful car to drive, at 40-45 mph on a smooth road, it’s a real dream,” he says.
Back in 1929
Guy Lomabardo and His Royal Canadians play Auld Lang Syne for the first time, a New Years Eve tradition that will continue until his death in 1977.
Edgar Rice Burroughs writes Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Agathy Christie The Seven Dials Mystery, and Arthur Conan Doyle The Maracol Deep.
NHL goaltenders Jacques Plant and Gump Worsley, journalist and writer Peter C. Newman and Canada’s 17th prime minister, John Turner, are born.
The Monaco Grand Prix is held for the first time and William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti takes first from a hard-driving Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes SSK.