Fred Hudson a Yacht Designer for the Ages

Posted by: David Schwedel on Monday, June 19, 2017

Uniesse Luxry Yachts, designed by legendary Fred Hudson

There were Yacht Designers, and then there was Fred Hudson. So much goes into the design of a motor yacht or boat, yet it is one of the areas highly overlooked by owners.  Most people at boat shows browsing the displays ask questions about performance, interior functionality and electronics.  Ultimately, what first brought them to notice the boat was the shape of its hull and deck, its overall look - its design.  However, what makes a design great is how the vessel looks five, ten, even twenty or more years from now.  Paramount to that is how the vessel operates under running conditions.  We owe all of this to the designers, and to that point there are only a handful in the world that have captured the imagination and soul of the experienced boat community.

John Deknatel built on Ray Hunt’s early concepts to create such captivating designs as Hunt Yachts, Sabre and the Grand Banks East Bay series (the picnic or pilot boat designs).  Both he and Hunt also designed Grady White Boats. Then, there’s Bob Dougherty who designed nearly every single Boston Whaler that exists. In the performance area, Don Aronow designed the iconic brands Cigarette, Magnum Marine, Cary, Donzi and Formula.  And even Carlo Riva during the 1950’s, building out the iconic brand that bears his family name. But, within this esteemed group, one man stands out.  Fred Hudson.

To say Fred Hudson was an innovator would be an understatement. The man was one of America’s top automotive and boat designers because of his knack for bringing his visions to life. Graduating from Cornell University's College of Architecture School of Fine Arts in 1951, he headed to Detroit with nothing but a sketchbook full of automotive drawings in hand and landed a job at Packard Motor Car Company within a day.

His work at Packard fueled a passion for automotive design that took him straight to Chrysler’s Imperial Studio as Chief Stylist, Exteriors. A single drawing later saw some of the brand’s most iconic designs put into production. From grill wing fenders to floating headlamps and the transition from wood to fibre glass designs, Hudson certainly knew how to push the boundaries of style.

A few years later, he was introduced to Harry Coll, President of the steel boats division at Chris Craft. After taking one look at his drawings, Coll wanted to know the soonest Hudson could start. Fred had always had a love for boats and, being the adventurer he was, immediately packed up his things and moved his family to Florida. One of his first challenges was competition for the design 1963 Connies, which he won in spades, becoming lead designer for ‘37s and ‘38s. His role at Chris Craft was incredibly influential, as seen in the introduction of Cavalier yachts and upgrades to Sea Skiffs.

By 1987, Hudson had made a name for himself in the realm of boat design. That’s why when the four Scaburri brothers decided to follow their own passions for boat making, (after finding much success in button manufacturing), they turned to Fred and collaborative designer Jim Wynne for guidance. Together, the team launched Uniesse (pronounced: you-nee-essy) and Hudson had a hand in every design from its 1987 launch right up to his retirement.

Since its launch, Uniesse has become a staple for quality and style in North American yachting. The brothers wanted to ensure the yachts never compromised durability for style and required all designs to feature a hull with a “clean entry”, which can be found in all their designs. Other key design elements include a spacious yet sophisticated salon area with sleek woodwork and stylish, ample living spaces. Hudson managed to strike the perfect balance between utility and class, with timeless designs you see reflected in Uniesse’s latest models.

The designer would never shy away from doing something different, and it’s that spirit that has cemented him as one of America’s most legendary yacht designers. Over five decades, he brought us some of the automotive and boating industries’ most loved designs, and enthusiasts around the world are eternally grateful.

David Schwedel is a U.S. based SMB investor with a demonstrable career in building businesses and creating shareholder value for more than 25 years. He has a depth of experience in complex cross-border financing, project financing, and global capital markets. Mr. Schwedel specializes in Small & Medium- sized Business Investing within the energy technology, petrochemical, and manufacturing industries.  

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