Cars from the 1930s have always held an appeal for Jon Battle. In the summer of 1971 he decided to acquire an automobile from the 1930s of his very own.
Battle did not want one of the more popular models. He wanted something with character, something sporty, but more importantly, something affordable.
At the time Battle was living in Connecticut when he saw an ad offering for sale a 1937 Terraplane Super Convertible that had just been shipped to the United States following decades in Great Britain. Telephoning the seller he was surprised to hear him respond, "Don't call me, I'll call you."
A brief while later the seller did contact Battle and a deal was struck satisfactory to both parties. Battle drove the 16-foot, 2-inch-long car home. He noticed that the top speed posted on the speedometer was 200. Only later he learned that the instrument was calibrated in "kilometers per hour," not miles per hour. Even so, he says, 120 miles per hour is an optimistic figure.
Terraplanes were manufactured as a less expensive line of cars by the Hudson Motor Co. Terraplanes did not have all the bells and whistles that were on the more expensive Hudsons, yet they were solid, stylish cars.
Battle's Terraplane Super Convertible is equipped with a three-speed transmission operated by a shift lever sprouting from the floor. In the dashboard is an AM radio that actually is functional if you wait long enough for it to warm up.
In a nod to safety, since he regularly drives his car, Battle has installed turn signals and seat belts. The car also has an arm rest that Battle explains, was a $2 optional extra. Battle added rear fender skirts, which he says make the Terraplane more sleek and stylish.
A shoulder-wide three-spoke banjo steering wheel easily steers the 6.00x16-inch tires with no power assistance. One item that was a standard feature on Battle's car when it was new was a hand crank in case the battery or starter failed.
Specifications describe the Terraplane as a three-passenger convertible. It can easily be converted into a four-passenger car by leaving the three occupants on the front bench seat and fitting a transversely mounted seat with the fourth passenger seated sideways behind the driver. This is made possible because the recently redesigned car was widened to 64.75 inches. Battle is always eager to demonstrate how the right portion of the bench seat can travel forward to ease access to the back seat.
After owning the car for about 18 months, Battle had his big six-cylinder engine rebuilt along with the dual-throat carburetor. The rebuilt carburetor now sits atop the freshly painted engine and sips fuel from the 16.5-gallon gasoline tank. The rebuilt engine delivers 101 horsepower. The two-piece engine hood opens from either side of the car.
The 1937 Terraplane sports a tan top, which is rarely seen because the top is usually in the lowered position. The Super Convertible also has crank-out wing vent windows, which can direct fresh air where ever the occupants desire.
Besides driving the car locally around his Marshall, Va., home, Battle has driven it several times to Michigan, and even to Boston, and Indiana. The 117-inch wheelbase supports the 2,825-pound car comfortably and provides a luxurious ride.
For more than 40 years, Battle has maintained his convertible in the condition it was in when he acquired the Terraplane. "It's not a show car," Battle says, "but a good car."
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