Back when they were first bitten by the racing bug, legendary race car driver Mario Andretti and his brother Aldo set out to turn a scrapped Hudson into their dream car. Saving enough money and scavenging spare parts to create their original ride, the sneaky young brothers managed to gain entry into a local circuit, winning races before they were even of legal racing age.
Sadly, the original car was destroyed in a crash long ago. But Andretti will soon be reunited with his lost love: a replica is being rebuilt in a classic car garage in Los Angeles this week. Even better? You’ll get to drive this classic beauty when it’s virtually recreated and released within the launch window of Gran Turismo 6. But first, here's the story of the car that made Andretti fall in love with racing.
Befriending mechanics at a local garage, the Andretti brothers learned the basics of driving and working on cars at an early age. The 1954 Italian Grand Prix was their first exposure to real racing, and it hooked them immediately. "It just captivated us," recalls Mario Andretti when reminiscing about the experience. "The sound of the engines were just...awesome. There was something about the danger, the allure." From that point on he was determined to become a race car driver.
When their family eventually immigrated to America, Andretti and his brother caught wind of a racing circuit and started attending weekly races. "All of a sudden America will not be too bad after all," he remembers thinking. It wasn't long before he and his brother began exploring ways to get involved, and this led to them planning to build a car. Not just any car, of course. They wanted to build something from the NASCAR circuit, which was growing in popularity at the time.
"On the short tracks, the Hudsons were the ones that were really winning most of the races," he says, "so the suggestion was 'why don't you build a Hudson?'" The brothers got to work.
After gathering a little bit of money, the Andretti brothers hit the junkyard to pick up a Hudson shell and some spare parts. They chipped away at assembling it little by little, learning as they went. "The interior [was] basically an empty shell," recalls Andretti with a chuckle. "For the seat, we took two...25-gallon barrels, then padded it all around and taped it with regular electric tape. Then for the fuel tank to be safe, we used a beer can."
It turned out to be a pretty zippy ride. The only problem? It was ready to race a few years before the brothers were 21 — the legal age requirement for entrants. But that didn't stop them. They fudged entry documents and started racing anyway, winning several matches within the first few weeks. Unfortunately, the Hudson was totaled in a bad racing accident in the very last race of the season. Andretti salvaged what he could and built a different car, but that was the end of the Hudson. Until now, that is.
Working with Gran Turismo and Mario Andretti, racing enthusiasts Andrew Comrie-Picard and Billy Hammon are remaking the original Hudson Hornet. Join the live rebuild of Mario Andretti's first love, which is streaming live now — it's your opportunity to participate by interacting with the mechanics in real time. Once the car is completed and presented to Andretti, it'll be scanned and worked into GT6 as a classic racer you can hop into yourself.
Do you have a first love story to share about your favorite auto from the days of old? What was your first hotrod? Share your story in the comments section.
Nathan Meunier is a journalist and freelance writer who covers video games, technology, and geek culture. He's also the author of Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism, which is out now on Kindle and in Print.