Most people don’t know that Hudson made pickup trucks. Twenty-three years ago, Lil’ Red, (or Callie Peterson as she’s formally known) certainly didn’t when she spotted one on some property in Spearfish, South Dakota. All she knew was that the long lines of the fenders made her think it was the “coolest truck in the world” and she wanted it. Sadly, several years of trying to find the owner resulted in learning that it was staying put as a promotional landmark for a local bar. Disappointed, she vowed to find her own one day.

Callie’s husband Bruce is a car guy who grew up in Huntington Beach and builds old-school customs. Knowing she had a desire for one of those Hudson trucks, he put the feelers out on the web and among his friends and began tracking potential candidates. He scoured eBay and classified ads looking for that perfect one.

It was a friend in Kansas who turned up this one. Bruce had known about it when it was in Oregon and being offered by a guy thinning his herd. It had been sold on eBay to someone in Kansas who decided he couldn’t fit in it comfortably, so it was up for grabs once again.

With so few of the original production run of 2,917 trucks left, they decided to jump on the deal and it was trailered up to their home in South Dakota. They thought they had a pretty straight truck, with maybe a few patches, but the deeper they dug the more it became obvious the truck was a “Bondo queen,” as Lil’ Red puts it. Bruce adds, “I’d love to meet the guy who did the work, he was a real Bondo wizard. He fooled us.”

After blasting it clean they jokingly say that only two-thirds of the truck came back. To return the pickup to a complete vehicle it was taken to Danny Angel at A&H Customs in Livermore, California. Extensive repairs were made to bring the metal back up to spec. Callie and Bruce made many trips to California to help out with the work when they could.

The couple also spent many hours joining the tight-knit Hudson society, making new friends and collecting parts. Many of these members only sell parts to good homes, as they are few and far between. It’s a caring group of preservationists and all-around good folks. For instance, the correct tube radio was a swap meet find and rebuilt by an 80-year-old guy. They both agree it was a fitting birthday gift to Callie. Another guy had most of the rubber, except the rear window seal, which came from another enthusiast.

The truck was missing the original seat when purchased, but it came with the message that the previous owner in Oregon still had it. It was finally reunited with the truck five months later. An interesting side note on Hudson truck seats is that they use pegs and holes instead of tracks to adjust their positioning. To move the seat forward one has to literally pick it up out of the holes and move it forward. Bruce thought that was cool enough to leave intact, but he also added a set of sliders on top for ease of operation.

The Petersons’ local upholstery guy, J.B. Bear of Sew Cool Upholstery in Piedmont, South Dakota, built up the stock seat and trimmed the cab in a tan and camel leather combo. The stock dash was filled with VDO gauges and a stunning steering wheel from a top-of-the-line Hudson Commander was used. Callie says she loves it and “it’s like driving a bus!”

The chassis was left mostly stock and was lowered with a 2-inch drop in the back and a shorter wide white radial from Coker up front. South Dakota roads can be pretty rough and the Petersons wanted all the sidewall they could get while maintaining the old-school look with steelies and baby moons.

Building the original 262ci inline flathead six wasn’t feasible with its babbit bearings and hard-to-find parts, especially in ranch country, so they opted for a more user-friendly 240/four-speed from an ’86 Ford pickup. Bruce hopped it up with a Holley carb on an Offy intake and matching split manifolds. He also skipped the chrome and paint-detailed the engine.

Speaking of paint, Danny Angel was wrapping up the bodywork when the paint chips came out. Lil’ Red was wanting a red that stayed red in the sunlight yet had enough metallic to accent the truck’s beautiful curves. They settled on a 2017 Lexus Matador Red from PPG. Since most Hudson owners called their Super Six trucks the Big Boy Trucks, Lil’ Red decided to call hers Big Red. Once painted, the truck came back to Bruce’s home shop where he went to town detailing things like the oak bed and running boards and all of the finishing touches that make Big Red shine.

Callie says timing is everything and that if she had bought that first truck it wouldn’t have turned out nearly as nice as this. Her husband’s great eye and creativity in building cars, and their friendship with everyone involved in the project, resulted in a truck that simply wouldn’t have been 23 years ago. Showing the truck in Pleasanton was the icing on the cake for Callie, as she grew up there, and it was a great weekend of celebrating with friends, family, and Big Red.

Photos by Steven Bunker