The Beat Museum Finally Gets a '49 Hudson Like the Car in On the Road

Cultural institutions in San Francisco continually search for new acquisitions. Alexis Coe brings you the most important, often wondrous, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally downright vexing finds each week.

The day Jerry Cimino opened the Beat Museum in North Beach, he put out a sign: The museum wanted a =1949 Hudson. Visitors came from all over the nation to visit the museum, but no one knew anyone who had the car — the year and model used by Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac to drive across the U.S. and into Mexico — let alone someone who was willing to sell it.

Not that Cimino could have purchased one if it had materialized. “We have no budget for anything,” he noted emphatically, having just sent out an S.O.S. to his 15,000 e-mail subscribers. Rent was due, but Cimino was not sure whether he could make it.

Of course, Cassady, the original owner of the '49 Hudson, couldn't afford the car, either. Kerouac would later fictionalize his travels with Cassady in his 1957 American classic, On The Road. In the book, Kerouac wrote, “He saw a '49 Hudson for sale and rushed to the bank for his entire roll. He bought it on the spot.” Cimino, however, asserts that there is no paper trail linking Cassady to the car because “Neal only owned the car for three months, and he never made a payment, so it was repossessed.”

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