Hudson Hornet First generation
|1951 to 1954|
|Assembly||Detroit, Michigan, United States|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupe
|Engine||308 cu in (5.0 L) I6
308 cu in (5.0 L) I6
3-speed manual with overdrive
Hydramatic automatic (General Motors) automatic 1954 only (Borg Warner)
|Wheelbase||124 in (3,150 mm)|
|Length||208 in (5,283 mm)|
|Width||77.5 in (1,968 mm)|
|Height||60 in (1,524 mm)|
|Curb weight||3,620 lb (1,642 kg)|
The Hornet, introduced for the 1951 model year, was based on Hudson's "step-down" design that was first seen in the 1948 model year on the Commodore. The design merged body and chassis frame into a single structure, with the floor pan recessed between the car's chassis rails instead of sitting on top of them. Thus one "stepped down" into a Hudson. The step-down chassis's "lower center of gravity...was both functional and stylish. The car not only handled well, but treated its six passengers to a sumptuous ride. The low-slung look also had a sleekness about it that was accentuated by the nearly enclosed rear wheels."
1951 Hudson Hornet Convertible
Hudson Hornets were available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, a convertible and a hardtop coupe. The models were priced the same as Commodore Eight, which was priced from US$2,543 to $3,099.
All Hornets from 1951 to 1953 were powered by Hudson's high-compression straight-six "H-145" engine. In 1954, power was increased to 170 hp (127 kW) from 145 hp (108 kW). Starting in 1952 an optional "twin-H" or twin one barrel carburetor setup was available at additional cost. A L-head (flathead or sidevalve) design, at 308 cu in (5.0 L) it was the "largest [displacement] six-cylinder engine in the world" at the time. It had a two-barrel carburetor and produced 145 hp (108 kW) at 3800 rpm and 275 lb·ft (373 N·m) of torque.The engine was capable of far more power in the hands of precision tuners, including Marshall Teague, who claimed he could get 112 miles per hour (180.2 km/h) from an AAA- or NASCAR-certified stock Hornet, as well as Hudson engineers who developed "severe usage" options (thinly disguised racing parts). The combination of the Hudson engine with overall road-ability of the Hornets, plus the fact these cars were over engineered and over built, made them unbeatable in competition on the dirt and the very few paved tracks of the 1950s. The newly introduced "Twin H-Power" was available in November 1951 as a Dealer installed option at the cost of $85.60. An electric clock was standard.
Hudson Hornet 1951 model year production totaled 43,656 units.
1952 Hudson Hornet Coupe
In 1952 the "Twin H-Power" version now standard equipment with dual single-barrel carburetors atop a dual-intake manifold, and power rose to170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS). The hood featured a functional scoop that ducts cold air to the carburetors and was considered "ventilation" in 1954, rather than ram air. The engine could be tuned to produce 210 hp (157 kW) when equipped with the "7-X" modifications that Hudson introduced later. During 1952 and 1953 the Hornet received minor cosmetic enhancements, and still closely resembled the Commodore of 1948.
The Hornet proved to be nearly invincible in stock-car racing. "[D]espite its racing successes...sales began to languish." Hudson's competitors, using separate body-on-frame designs, could change the look of their models on a yearly basis without expensive chassis alterations" whereas the Hornet's "modern, sophisticated unibody design was expensive to update," so it "was essentially locked in" and "suffered against the planned obsolescence of the Big Three [General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler] automakers.
Hudson Hornet 1952 model year production totaled 35,921 units.
1953 Hudson Hornet
The 1953 model year brought minor changes to the Hudson Hornet. The front end was modified with a new grille and a non-functional air scoop hood ornament.
Hudson Hornet 1953 model year production totaled 27,208 units. An 8-tube radio was a $100 option.
1954 Hudson Hornet Convertible
Eventually, for the 1954 model year, the model underwent a major square-lined redesign. This entailed extensive retooling because of the way the step-down frame wrapped around the passenger compartment. The front had a simpler grille that complemented the now-functional hood scoop and a new one-piece curved windshield, while the sides gained period-typical fender chrome accents, and the formerly sloped rear end was squared off. The front to rear fender line was styled to make the car look longer and taillamps were also redesigned. The interior was also updated with a new dash and instrument cluster that were surprisingly modern.
There was still no V8 engine available, but the 308 cu in (5.0 L) six-cylinder in top-line Hornets produced 160 hp (119 kW) and the racing-inspired 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS) "Twin-H-Power" (7-X) version was optional from the factory.
Although the Hornet's redesign put it on par with its contemporaries in terms of looks and style, it came too late to boost sales.
The updated Hornet Brougham convertible, the sole convertible available from Hudson, was attractive but overpriced at US$3,288 for a six-cylinder car in 1954.
Hudson Hornet 1954 model year production totaled 24,833 (the final year before the Hudson merger with Nash-Kelvinator).
Hudson was the first automobile manufacturer to get involved in stock car racing. The Hornet "dominated stock car racing in the early-1950s, when stock car racers actually raced stock cars."
During 1952, Marshall Teague finished the 1952 AAA season with a 1000-point lead over his closest rival, winning 12 of the 13 scheduled events. Hornets driven by NASCAR aces Herb Thomas, Dick Rathmann, Al Keller, Frank Mundyand, and Tim Flock won 27 NASCAR races driving for the Hudson team.
In the AAA racing circuit, Teague drove a stock Hornet that he called the Fabulous Hudson Hornet to 14 wins during the season. This brought the Hornet's season record to 40 wins in 48 events, a winning percentage of 83%.
Overall, Hudson won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, followed by 22 wins of 37 in 1953, and capturing 17 of the 37 races in 1954 — "an incredible accomplishment, especially from a car that had some legitimate luxury credentials."
The original Fabulous Hudson Hornet can be found today fully restored in Ypsilanti, Michigan at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, a facility that was formerly home to Miller Motors, the last Hudson dealership in the world.
First-generation Hudson Hornets are legendary for their NASCAR racing history and Jay Leno lists the 1951-1954 models as one of the "top ten of America's most collectible cars", "One of the great postwar landmarks - a true champion" gives it a big edge in collector appeal. Richard M. Langworth describes the first-generation Hornets in his book Complete book of collectible cars: 70 years of Blue Chip auto investments as "the most remembered Hudson of the postwar years, one of the industry's all-time greats." For example, prices on the Club Coupes, the body style used by the winning NASCAR drivers, have greatly appreciated in the last several years where several nicely restored examples have broken the $75K barrier in several cases.