The Hudson Hornet built for the 1951 through 1953 model years are thought by many to be the most memorable Hudson’s of the post World War Two years. The Hornet models were built by the Hudson Motor Car Company in Detroit Michigan. Hudson was a big name in the automotive industry with it’s heritage dating all the way back to 1910. In fact, the “Hudson” name wasn’t the name of the inventor but was the name of one of his financial backers, Joseph Hudson of Detroit. Joseph Hudson was the founder of the once hugely successful Hudson’s Department Store in Detroit.
The Hudson Motor Car Company was one of the more successful early car makers whose automobiles were targeted to the upper middle class car buyer. Hudson stayed in business during the Great Depression of the 1930′s and enjoyed a good amount of success up to World War Two and the forced hiatus for civilian car production. After the war and when automobile production resumed, Hudson, like most of the other automakers came out with new designs. New sleeker designs were unveiled post 1945 in what was one of the biggest buyer markets in automobile history.
Surprisingly to many, the Hudson Hornet was an accomplished race car and that occurred even with it’s six cylinder engine. The Hudson Hornet was almost unbeatable in stock car race events through 1954. The 308 cid put out 145 horsepower which was a lot of power under the hood for a car of it’s size. For the 1952 model year, Hudson introduced as an option the “Twin-H Power” induction system. This system used two interconnected manifolds, each feeding three cylinders and with separate carburetors and air cleaners. The Twin-H version of the Hudson engine produced 170 horsepower.
Your first impression might be that the Hudson Hornet doesn’t look like a race car. Well, there were a few things that made the Hornet stand out as a racer. One was the lower floorboard which lowered the center of gravity and that meant better handling. You have to remember that stock car racing back in 1951 was not what it is today. The racers of that era were street legal vehicles which basically came right off the factory assembly line. Today’s NASCAR races are run with greatly modified purpose built cars. In the early 1950′s the Hornet excelled on the racing circuit because of it’s low center of gravity, relatively lighter weight and it’s powerful engine.
The Hudson cars from 1948 to 1954 were named the “Step-Down Line“. The 1951 Hudson Hornet shown in this article inherited the Step-Down attributes which first came out with the 1948 models. The Step-Down models had lower floorboards. Passengers were seated between the built in side frame rails accomplished with it’s “unibody” construction. The 1951 Hornet shown here was considered the top-of-the-line Hudson product in that model year. Interestingly enough, there were only some 500 Hudson Hornets built for the 1951 model year. Another interesting fact is that the Hudson Step-Down design that first started in 1948 was so difficult to retool for that the automaker stuck with the design for six model years until 1954.
The Hudson Motor Car Company was around for a long time, ever since the first decade of the 1900′s. Finally in 1954 the company merged into Nash-Kelvinator which then became the American Motors Corporation. The merger came about after several years of declining sales even though the car was recognized for it’s fine engineering. The company also did not have the cash to retool from the unibody design.
After 1957 the Hudson nameplate disappeared forever. While the nameplate faded into history, the excellent engineering of this automobile cannot be denied and it’s stock car racing records are the books forever. The Hudson Hornet also remains one of the better examples of post World War Two streamlined car designs. The Hudson Hornet is a popular collector car and you’ll find a good number of the old Hudson cars for sale.
Hudson car clubs are very active. One such online club can be found at hudson car clubshudsonclub.org . According to this online car club, it’s purpose is a free online club for Hudson, Essex, & Terraplane enthusiasts, hobbyists, and car owners. The interest of the club encompass all vehicles wearing the Hudson name, from the early days of Hudson Motor Car Company through to its waining days as an element within American Motors.
Another active Hudson car club is the Southern California Chapter of the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Club. The chapter has been around for over forty years and their website is socalhet.org.
(1951 Hudson Hornet photos from author’s private collection. 1952 Hornet photo from the public domain)