Cabiglio was impressed with what he saw, but a closer examination and a little time behind the wheel brought to light what he says were myriad small problems. Says Cabiglio: “It was a very pretty car, but it hadn’t been thoroughly sorted yet. If it had been driven more miles, those little niggling problems that follow any major restoration would have come to light and been corrected.” Cabiglio says he had to pull the engine out to clear up some issues: “Not to replace anything, but just to make it perfectly right.”
When Hudson talked to Excellence in 1991, he said he wished he could find his old car again. That wasn’t to be in terms of ownership, but — a few years later, in early March of 1996 — Cabiglio found a surprise visitor at his door. It was Skip Hudson. Says Cabiglio: “He’d heard we had his old race car and he wanted to take a look at it.” It would be the first of several visits by Hudson, who at the time was working for Gurney’s All-American racers in Santa Ana. “Skip told me he had some things I’d be interested in.”
The next time Hudson came by, he had a pair of framed original paintings by Bob Rector, one of him racing the white #92 Normal Speedster. The second — entitled Skip Churning the Burma Road — illustrated Skip catching air in his red car. He presented both to Cabiglio, and, wearing a boyish grin, slipped behind the wheel of his old racer to pose for some snapshots in Cabiglio’s crowded space. There were several more get togethers, says Cabiglio, who at the time was unaware that Hudson’s health was already failing. Their last meeting came in January, 1997, when Seinfeld decided to sell the car at the Barrett-Jackson auction. Skip Hudson accompanied Cabiglio and the car to Scottsdale. “Skip enjoyed all the auction atmosphere, and his presence when the car sold probably added to its cachet.”
The little car left Arizona with a new owner, Mike Kittredge, founder of The Yankee Candle Company near Boston, Massachusetts. Kittredge placed the car in the company’s Auto Museum so that, when families visited to shop for candles and other home decor, those less interested could wander into the museum and look at cool cars. “He got a lot of publicity in business magazines, so it must have been a good idea,” says fellow collector and racing enthusiast Steve Serio. “It was money well spent.”
Sadly, Hudson was losing his battle with cancer, and passed away in the spring of 1998. “It was a complete shock,” says Cabiglio today. A year or so later, Kittredge sold #80032 to Serio, owner of Aston Martin/Lotus of New England. Soon after, a doctor in Ohio purchased #80032, holding onto it for about five years before selling it back to Serio. Within a few months, however, the old Speedster would change hands yet again. Serio had been contacted by Ken Gross, a member of the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Committee. Gross was busy assembling a display of surviving cars that raced in the Del Monte Forest 50 years previously — before Laguna Seca was built — and extended an invitation to show the car. Serio agreed to bring the ex-Hudson 356 to California that August.
In the interim, Connecticut enthusiast and vintage racer Tony Angotti called Serio in search of a good Speedster. Since Serio already had a ’56 in his collection, he agreed to sell the earlier car to Angotti if he would honor the commitment to show this special car at Pebble. In May, Angotti picked it up and got to work “back-dating” its appearance to Hudson’s black-striped 1956 racing livery and preparing it for display at one of the most prestigious car shows in the world.
A cool and cloudy morning — typical Monterey weather — greeted the throngs of eager spectators who crowded the grassy fairway at Pebble Beach as soon as the entry gates opened. At the edge of the display, closest to the water, rested a line of proud old racing cars, all veterans of days when talented amateurs and semi-pro drivers battled for silver cups and glory on the dangerous, serpentine 2.1-mile Del Monte Forest circuit. Nestled among its peers, #80032 was home again.