The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute
By David D Jackson

Overview      The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry

    Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Checker   Chrysler   Crosley   Ford   General Motors   Graham-Paige   Hudson
   Nash-Kelvinator   Packard      Studebaker    Willys-Overland

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   GMC   GMI   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Caterpillar   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  


Hudson Motor Car Company in World War Two / WWII
Detroit, MI
Rest in Peace

This page updated on 2-21-2017.

Hudson started production in 1909.  In 1954 it merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors.  The last Hudson, actually with a Nash nameplate, was produced in 1957.  Hudson's Main Plant was located on East Jefferson Avenue and Connors in Detroit, but no longer exists.

The Hudson Motor Car Company looking Northwest.  East Jefferson is the road in the foreground.  This is probably a pre WWII drawing.

Hudson Airplane Division, Main Plant, won the Army-Navy "E" Award twice during WWII.

Hudson Motor Car Company World War Two Production Statistics:  The World War Two production is shown below in the table, chronologically listed by Hudson start date.  Note that Hudson primarily made airframe components for the B-26, SB2C, P-63, P-38 and B-29.  The atmosphere on the production floor at Hudson must have been intense, starting in mid-944 with the added B-29 rear fuselage and wing production.  In just over a year's time, it had to produce enough B-29 components for 531 aircraft.  This was the most expensive project of the war, being more expensive than the Manhattan project.  (See the Martin B-29 production schedule at the bottom of this page.)  Hudson accomplished this while also making P-38 and SB2C wings.  This was a production miracle on the part of the Hudson Motor Car Company in World War Two!

Hudson Motor Car Company World War Two / WWII Production Numbers

Dates Product Number built Comments
2-41 to ? P-47 ailerons ? The first aviation contract.
7-41 to 10-43 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns (33,201) The contract was abruptly canceled by the US Navy and the contract given to Westinghouse.
9-41 to 1-45 Aluminum pistons for Wright aircraft engines (1,030,000)  
9-41 to 1-45 Rocker arm assemblies Wright aircraft engines (1,460,000)  
3-42 to 3-44 B-26 Marauder rear fuselage sections (1,891) Fuselages were supplied to the Martin plant in Omaha, NB, which built 1,585 B-26 Marauder twin engine bombers before converting to B-29 production in May 1944.
6-42 to 9-42 37mm armor piercing shells (310,551)  
12-42 to 9-44 License built Hall-Scott 250 hp Invader Marine Engines (4,004)  
1-43 to 8-45 SB2C Helldiver wing sets (4,250)  
3-44 to 8-45 P-63 King Cobra cabins (3,041)  
7-44 to 5-45 P-38 Lightning Wing sections 791 sets Records stop at the end of May but production is assumed to have continued through August 1945 so the number of P-38 wing sets would have been at least 1,000. 
7-44 to 8-45 B-29 rear fuselages (802) Martin built 531 B-29 bombers at Omaha, NB which at first glance would indicate that Hudson built more than enough rear fuselage sections for aircraft.  However, information presented below shows that the company provided three different sections as part of the rear fuselage, which  is a total of 1,593 total fuselage components.  This would have been an aggressive production program for Hudson.  As also noted below the first B-29 came off the production line at Omaha in May 1944.  Hudson would have had to started shipping components in April for them to be available for Martin's Start of Production.
7-44 to 8-45 B-29 outboard wing sections ? As shown below this included the leading edge, wing section, aileron and wing tip. Hudson supplied the Martin B-29 plant in Omaha, NB where the first of 531 B-29s came off the assembly line in May1944.  Hudson would have had to produced 1,062 of each wing component.  This, along with the B-29 fuselage production by Hudson would have stretched its production capability to the utmost.

My research has uncovered references to Hudson building the following parts during WWII.  However, I have not yet been able to substantiate that Hudson actually built them during WWII.  The unsubstantiated parts are:  Hercules DNX diesel engine components, ammunition boxes, aircraft engine starter parts, tank components and fighter drop tanks.

This is the B-29 "Enola Gay", now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA.  It is famous for being the aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  Significantly, the rear fuselage sections, wing tips, outer wing sections, outer wing leading edges and ailerons were built in Detroit, MI by the Hudson Motor Car Company.  As shown below, Hudson was one of many auto companies and their suppliers to contribute major components to the B-29s built at Martin's Omaha B-29 plant.  Martin Omaha built the B-29 "Silverplate" nuclear bombers, including the "Enola Gay" and "Bockscar", the Superfortress that dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

In the photo above, Hudson built the two fuselage sections that extend from behind the wing to the tail gun position, and the outboard wing sections, and leading edge wing sections. The wing tip is not visible in this photo.  Author's photo added 11-12-2015.

This photo gives a view of the Hudson built rear fuselage sections, the outer wing section, ailerons, and the wing tip on the B-29 "Enola Gay".  Author's photo added 11-12-2015.

Prior to making the B-29 rear fuselage section, Hudson had been supplying the same component for the Martin B-26 Marauder.  When Martin converted to the B-29, the company contracted the same suppliers previously used for the Marauder.  For Hudson, moving to the larger and more complicated B-29 rear fuselage was no trivial task.  Ultimately, Hudson provided at least 802 rear fuselages for the 531 B-29s built in Omaha.  As there are no known production numbers for wings components available, it has to be assumed that Hudson provided B-29 outer wing components on time and in the needed quantities.  While it is immaterial 75 years later, I always try and clean up the loose ends.  I can not do it in this case.  If new information becomes available during my research, I will update the page.

In any event, Hudson was taxed to the limit to provide all of these complicated B-29 components.

In this Martin supplier diagram Hudson is shown as the supplier for components #12, #16, #17, #33 #44(2) and #45.

Hudson supplied these components as per the Martin nomenclature.
#12 - Wing Inst-Outboard
#16 - Wing LE Inst - Outboard (Leading Edge)
#17 - Wing Tip Inst.
#33 - Aileron Inst.
#44 - Body Inst. - Rear (2 sections)
#45 - Body Inst. - Rear

With the Glenn Martin Omaha, Nebraska B-29 Program diagram shown above, supplied by B-29 historian Chris Howlett of the UK, it is now evident that Hudson's involvement as supplier for the Omaha, NB built Superfortress was significantly beyond what was previously known.  It was a major supplier.

The following photos are in the order from the start of production.  

 Hudson's first military contract starting February 1941 was for Republic Aircraft P-47 ailerons.  They can be seen being constructed in the Hudson plant.

The wings on the Republic P-47 are semi-elliptical, as can be seen in this photo.  The ailerons, located at the end of wings, have the same shape.  Author's photo from the National Museum of the US Air Force. 

An unknown number of the P-47 ailerons were produced by Hudson early in the war, or even before the US became involved. Author's photo.

Author's photo.

During the Second World War Hudson also operated a Government built Navy Ordnance Plant in Centerline (Warren), MI for the manufacture of 33,201 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.  This was a $20,000,000 plant built in 1941 that began production July.  Originally it was a 400,000 square foot facility contained in 113 acres.  During construction, expanded to one million square feet.  At the same time the acreage expanded to 135 acres.  The original contract was for 8,000 guns for $14,038,500 or $14,548 per gun.  Something went wrong somewhere because even though in 1942 Hudson was the largest producer of 20mm Oerlikon guns and hit a peak production of 2,330 units in September 1943, the US Navy terminated the contract the next month.  The business was awarded to Westinghouse.  Because the Centerline Plant and equipment in the plant belonged to the US Navy, most likely all of the 4,000 people working there, including probably most of the supervision were Hudson employees one month and Westinghouse employees the next.  Today, this facility is the GM Powertrain Transmission Plant located on Mounds Road at Nine Mile Road.

Here is one of the 33,201 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns built at the Centerline, MI plant; first by Hudson, and then by Westinghouse.  Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

This is one of the great displays of items built for defense by Michigan companies.  It is located in The Michigan Military Technical and History Society Museum in Eastpointe, MI.  Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

This is a Westinghouse built version, as it has the "W" ID stamp on it.  The Hudson versions were identical, as they were produced by the same tooling, people, and plant.  Only the top management changed.  Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

Some of the 33,201 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft gums manufactured by Hudson at its Centerline, MI plant during WWII.  Pontiac and Chrysler also produced the same weapon for the Navy.

This 20mm cannon can be found on the LST-325 along the Ohio River in Evansville, IN.

Hudson's third military contract was for aluminum pistons for Wright Cyclone Aircraft Engines.  1,030,000 were produced at the Hudson East Jefferson plant between September 1941 and the end of WWII.

Rear fuselage sections for the Martin B-26 Marauder at the Hudson plant.  The company produced 1,891 of the airframe components during a two year period from March 1942 to March 1944.

The rear fuselage of the B-26 at the Air Force Museum.  This was the section Hudson made for the Martin Omaha plant.  Author's Photo.

The Martin B-26 at the Museum is one of two currently on display in the United States.  Both of them are in Ohio, with the second B-26 on display at the MAPS Museum in Canton, OH.  Author's Photo.

Hudson advertised its association with the B-26 in this World War Two advertisement.  Note that the ad is displaying the Army-Navy "E" for Excellence Award.

The 250hp Invader marine gasoline powered engine was a license Hall-Scott design.  It was was called the Invader by Hudson.  Hudson took the liberty of putting its name on the engine in several places.  However, in the literature that specifies the applications on the small landing craft where it was used, it is identified as a Hall-Scott engine, not a Hudson.  Production of the engine ran from December 1942 until September 1944 during which time 4,004 were built for the US Navy.

An Invader Engine at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum Ypsilanti, MI.  Author's Photo.

The licensed Hall-Scott Invader engine, according to my research, was utilized on the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel), as seen in the photo below, and a few LC(V)s (Landing Craft, Vehicle).  However, there were 23,358 LCVPs built and only 4,004 Hudson built Hall-Scott Invader gasoline engines, so they were in the minority.  For combat operations, the US Navy preferred diesel engines, for which the Gray Marine/Detroit 225hp marine engine was the engine of choice.  LCVPs equipped with the Invader Engine were used in the US for training purposes. 

This LCVP is located at the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans, LA.  Hudson license built Hall-Scott gasoline powered marine engines were used when the preferred Gray Marine/Detroit Diesel engines were not readily available.  The Navy preferred the diesel as it was used to power its larger ships. Diesel is also not as volatile of a fuel as the gasoline, making it safer.  Landing craft like these with the Invader engines would have been used in training on the US coasts allowing the Gray Marine/Detroit Diesel engines to be allocated to the combat zones.  Author's Photo.

Also, my research did not produce evidence the Invader Engine was used on PT boats as a replacement engine.  PT boats they were all powered by three Packard 4M2500 Marine engines that produced between 1,200 and 1,500 hp each.  One is not going to replace a bigger engine with one that only gives 1/6th of the horsepower, as that would be fatal in combat.  Also, the Invader engine would not fit the motor mounts and other connections would not match.  There was no reason to replace a Packard 4M2500 with a smaller and less powerful engine.  This seems to be one of those old wives' tales that has taken on a life of its own without research or logic.

There were several different sizes of Army Air Forces crash boats during WWII.  The smallest, a 42 foot version like the model shown here, utilized either a Hudson built Invader engine or a Kermath Sea Ranger 6 Marine engine.  The AAF Handbook for the 42 foot rescue boat calls out for either one.  It is unknown how many Invader engines were used in the 42 foot boats.  This model of a 42 rescue boat is on display at the Michigan Military Technical and History Society Museum.  Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

The 63 foot crash boat, designated AVR-63 (Auxiliary, or Aircraft, Vessel Rescue), normally had twice the horsepower of the Invader engine with either two Scott-Hall 650 or Kermath 550 hp marine engines.  Of the 740 built, 20 AVR-63s had two Hudson Invader 250hp engines, due to shortages of the Hall-Scott engines.  They were vastly underpowered, and were utilized for duty other than crash rescue.  

 The Michigan Military Technical and History Society Museum has a fine example of the Hudson Invader engine on display.  Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

Author's photo added 2-21-2017.

Hudson built 4,250 outer wing sets for the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, manufactured in Columbus, OH.  Production of the wings ran from January 1943 to August 1945. 

This is the world's only remaining flying Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, as seen at the 2014 Tico Airshow.  Hudson built 4,250 of the outer wing sections like the ones seen here.  The pilot demonstrates the wing folding ability of the aircraft.  Author's Photo.

Hudson took on the contract for P-63 cabins for Bell Aircraft in Niagara Falls, NY in March 1944 running through the end of the war.  The company built a total of 3,041 of the P-63 on an automotive type production line as seen here.

The Bell P-63 King Cobra.  The Hudson built cockpit section can be seen after being assembled into the complete aircraft.  The seam between the cockpit section and the nose section is obvious.  Author's photo added 11-12-2015.

The P-38 is always popular at airshows due to its unique design.  Hudson built 791 wing sets for the Lockheed Lightning starting in July 1944 and through May 1945.  Author's photo added 11-12-2015.

Pictured here are some of the forward B-29 Rear Fuselage Assemblies produced by Hudson.  According to the Martin information presented above, the company also produced two more sections that were located behind this on the aircraft.  Hudson would have needed to build 531 of each for Martin Omaha production from May 1944 to the end of the war.  This would have been a huge task for Hudson, as the B-29 was a more complicated and significantly larger aircraft than the previous B-26 for which Hudson made parts.

This is Martin Omaha built B-29 "Bockscar", the second nuclear bomber, as seen on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH.  Just like the "Enola Gay, it has Hudson built rear fuselage and outer wing sections.  Author's photo added 11-12-2015.

Here the Hudson wing components can all be seen; the leading edge, wing tip, the wing itself, and the aileron.   Author's photo added 11-12-2015.  

The three Hudson built rear fuselage sections can be seen.  Author's photo added 11-12-2015. 

B-29 Bulkheads for the pressurized cabins in the aircraft are being worked on.

The table below details the production schedule that Hudson, and other suppliers, had to meet to supply components for the Martin Omaha, NB built B-29s.  Several months show no production, or at least no accepted production.  It could have been that there was a parts shortage that did not allow the aircraft to be finished and accepted by the US Army Air Force.  I do think the work stoppages were intentional.

Aircraft in WWII were built in Block Numbers, which had frozen designs and did not allow for any changes to the aircraft while coming down the production line.  This allowed mass production of aircraft without having to make the constant changes and improvements based on information coming back from testing and operational units.  When a new block was started, it contained updates and improvements.  Even then to facilitate production, not all of the upgrades would be included.  Afterward, the aircraft would go to one of nineteen modifications centers for the latest updates.  The modification centers were integral to the process of keeping the aircraft production lines operating efficiently.  In the case of Martin Omaha, it had its own modification center.

Serial numbers reflect the year the aircraft were ordered, as indicated by the first two numbers in the sequence.  The first B-29 built at Martin Omaha was the 65202nd aircraft ordered by the US Army Air Force in 1942.  The last one off the assembly line in August 1944 was the 86273rd aircraft ordered in 1944.

MO designated that the aircraft was built at Martin Omaha.

Of the four plants making B-29s during WWII, Martin in Omaha, NB was chosen to build and then modify the operational B-29s for the nuclear bomber "Silverplate" program.  Martin was considered by the US Army Air Force to have the best quality of the four plants.  The first fifteen came directly off the assembly line went to Wendover Army Air Field, Utah.  Once there, they were converted to the "Silverplate" configuration and then used in training. 

The fifteen operation "Silverplates" that went to Tinian were also built at Martin and modified at the adjacent modification center.  Modifications included, but were not limited to, replacing the Hamilton Standard propellers with Curtiss Wright Electric reversible props, the elimination of all of the gun turrets, gun sights, and gun control computers with the exception of the tail turret, and modification of the bomb bays to accept the large atomic devices. 

Martin Omaha, Nebraska World War Two B-29 Production Schedule

Month Number built Block Number First Serial Number Last Serial Number Comments
May 3 B-29-MO-1 42-65202 42-65204  
June 7 B-29-MO-5 42-65205 42-65211  
July 0        
August 8 B-29-MO-10 42-65212 42-65219  
September 16 B-29-MO-15 42-65220 42-65235  
October 28 B-29-MO-20 42-65236 42-65263  
November 0        
December 50 B-29-MO-25 42-65264 42-65313  
1944 Total 112        
January 69 B-29-MO-30 42-65315 42-65383  
February 18 B-29-MO-35 42-65384 42-65401  
February 67 B-29-MO-35 44-27259 44-27325 The B-29 "Bockscar" was serial number 44-27297 and came off the Martin Omaha assembly line in February 1944. 
March 0        
April 0        
May 33 B-29-MO-40 44-27326 4-27358  
May 35 B-29-MO-40 44-86442 44-86276  
May 39 B-29-MO-45 44-86277 44-86315 The B-29 "Enola Gay" was serial number 44-86292 and came off the Martin Omaha assembly line in May 1944.
June 55 B-29-MO-50 44-86316 44-86370  
July 55 B-29-MO-55 44-86371 44-86425  
August 48 B-29-MO- 60 44-86426 44-86473  
1945 Total 419        
Grand Total 531        

The Hudson Plant on East Jefferson in Detroit, MI.  This is probably pre WWII drawing of the plant.  Compare to the 1947 version below.

This is the plant in 1947.  Note the expansion that has taken place to the Northeast of the original plant.  After the consolidation of Hudson with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors, production moved to Kenosha, WI.  The above plant was torn down in 1961.  Apparently a portion of the facility was spared and a warehouse for the plant is still in use.  From below, it would appear that 17,000 jobs disappeared in Detroit with the 1954 merger.




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