Television shows like "Happy Days" and "Leave it to Beaver" may invoke nostalgic, romanticized feelings for days gone by, but for Stephen "Doug" Cooper, those times can be found cruising around town in one of his vintage automobiles.
Cooper, a procurement analyst with Army Contracting Command Contract Operations, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the proud owner of two Hudson Motor Car Co. vehicles. Produced in Detroit from 1909 to 1954, the automobiles were among some of the low-priced cars on the American market selling for around $1,000 in 1909 and a 1957 Hudson Hornet cost about $2,845. In time the company would merge with other companies and become American Motors.
"I like the orphan cars like Hudson, Packard, Studebaker and Kaiser Frazer," Cooper said, referring to cars where the manufacturer has discontinued business entirely. "It's important to keep these cars on the road for others to enjoy. I'm always getting comments when driving, usually from people who had a Hudson or whose parents had a Hudson."
Cooper's gravitation to older cars can be connected to his upbringing.
"I've liked the late 40s early 50s Hudsons since I was a teenager. They are well-built cars and drive very well. The styling was popular during that time and still looks good," said Cooper.
"Hudson had many firsts in the industry including many safety innovations, and in 1948 had the first car that was a 'step-down' design. Prior to the step-down, cars commonly had a running board that provided a step to get into the car."
His father bought a 1947 Hudson Commodore Eight sedan in 1974 that the two of them worked on.
"I was in high school but didn't drive yet. I think he liked it because that was the year he graduated from high school. We both enjoyed working on and driving that car and it's still in his garage in Illinois, though he passed away a few months ago," he said.
"I purchased a 1951 Hudson Pacemaker four years ago. My wife, Nancy, and I enjoy traveling in it," said Cooper, who does as much of the automotive work on the vehicles as possible, sometimes with antique tools unique to the Hudson. "It's a pretty good road car but not geared for interstate driving."
According to Cooper, the Hudson was known for winning stock car championships in the early 1950s with the Hudson Hornet version, featured in the 2006 animated movie "Cars," with Paul Newman as the voice of "Doc Hudson."
When the rubber meets the road, for Cooper, the Hudsons are all about memories old and new.
"I really don't track how much I put in the cars. Since I do most of the work myself, it keeps the cost down. My wife and our three girls have enjoyed riding in the vehicles, especially at Christmas time when we would drive around looking at lights. It's become a tradition," said Cooper, who enjoys spending time with his family today much like he enjoyed spending time with his father as a younger man.
"These cars have a special place in automotive history. They drive very nicely and are reliable when maintained properly," said Cooper. "They really got around in style back then and there was such a variety of automotive manufacturers trying to compete."
No wonder heads turn when they are seen on the road today.