Hudson Hornet

From Dodge Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hudson Hornet
Hudson Hornet sedan
ManufacturerHudson Motor Car Company (1951-54)
American Motors (1955-57)
LayoutFR layout
ManualsService Manual

The Hudson Hornet is an automobile that was produced by the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan between 1951 and 1954. The Hornet was also built by American Motors Corporation in Kenosha, Wisconsin and marketed under the Hudson brand between 1955 and 1957.


First generation
1951 Hudson Hornet coupe
AssemblyDetroit, Michigan
Body style(s)2-door coupe
4-door sedan
2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
Engine(s)308 cu in (5 L) I6
262 cu in (4.3 L) I6

The Hornet, introduced for the 1951 model year, was based on Hudson's "step-down" design which had already been introduced for the 1948 model year in the Commodore. The design merged body and frame into a single structure, with the floor pan recessed between the car's frame rails instead of sitting on top of the frame. 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."[1]

The car was available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, a convertible and a hardtop coupe.

It was powered by Hudson's high-compression straight-six "H-145" engine. An L-head (flathead or sidevalve) design, at 308 cu in (5 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.[2] In 1952 the "Twin-H" version was introduced with dual single-barrel carburetors, and power rose to 170 hp (127 kW). The engine could be tuned to produce 210 hp (157 kW) when equipped with the "7-X" modifications that Hudson introduced later.[2] During 1952 and 1953 the Hornet received minor cosmetic enhancements, and still closely resembled the Commodore of 1948.

"[D]espite its racing successes...sales began to languish."[1] Hudson's competitors, using separate body-on-frame designs, could change the look of their models on a yearly basis without expensive chassis alterations"[1] 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].

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 interior was also updated. There was still no V8 engine available, but the 308 cu in (5 L) six-cylinder in top-line Hornets produced 160 hp (119 kW) and the racing-inspired "Twin-H-Power" version was optional.

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.[3]

Hornet model year production:

  • 1951 = 43,656
  • 1952 = 35,921
  • 1953 = 27,208
  • 1954 = 24,833 (the final year before the Hudson merger with Nash-Kelvinator)

The 1952-1956 Hudson Wasp was a lower-priced version of the step-down Hornet.


Herb Thomas' #92 Fabulous Hudson Hornet
Racecar built to resemble a Hudson Hornet

The Hornet "dominated stock car racing in the early-1950s, when stock car racers actually raced stock cars."[1]

During 1952, Hornets driven by Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas and Tim Flock won 27 NASCAR races driving for the Hudson team. In AAA racing, 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%.[citation needed]

Overall, Hudson won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, followed by 22 of 37 in 1953, and 17 of 37 in 1954 — "an incredible accomplishment, especially from a car that had some legitimate luxury credentials."[1]

The original Fabulous Hudson Hornet can be found today fully restored in Ypsilanti, Michigan at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum.


Second generation
1957 Hudson Hornet Hollywood 2-door
AssemblyKenosha, Wisconsin
Body style(s)2-door coupe
4-door sedan
2-door hardtop
1957 Hudson Hornet Series 80 sedan

In its final three model years, the Hornet became a product of the newly formed American Motors Corporation. Following the 1954, Hudson's Detroit manufacturing facility was closed and production of Hudson models was shifted to Nash's Wisconsin factory. All Hudsons would be based on the senior Nash models, but would have exclusive Hudson styling.

In 1955, Hudson emerged as a conservatively styled car. Coupes, sedans and hardtops were offered, but convertibles were not offered. For the first time ever, the Hornet could be ordered with a V8 engine.

For the 1956 model year, AMC executives decided to give the Hornet more character and the design for the vehicles was given over to designer Richard Arbib, who provided the Hornet and Wasp with one of the more distinctive looks in 1950s which he called "V-Line Styling". Taking the traditional Hudson tri-angle, Arbib applied its "V" form in every conceivable manner across the interior and exterior of the car. Combined with tri-tone paint combinations, the Hudson's look was unique and immediately noticeable. However the car's design failed to excite buyers and Hudson Hornet sales skidded to 8,152 units, off 4,978 units from 1956's 13,130.

The solution to the V-Line styling was to apply more ornamentation to the cars, including fender "finettes" atop the rounded rear quarter panels for 1957 and consumers reacted by buying only 3,108 units.

Production of the Hornet ended on June 25 1957, at which time the Hudson brand was dropped and all of AMC's products took the "Rambler" name.


In 1970, American Motors resurrected the Hornet name for their new compact which replaced the Rambler American. (See AMC Hornet)

In 2006, a small front wheel drive, concept car called Hornet was designed and developed by Dodge. (See Dodge Hornet)

In popular culture

  • In the 2006 film Cars, Paul Newman provides the voice of a Hornet named Doc Hudson, aka the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, who in the 1950s won three straight "Piston Cups" and set the standing record of 27 wins in a single season (the same number of NASCAR races won by Hornets in the real 1952 season).


  • Gunnell, John, Editor (1976). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. American Motors Corporation. ISBN 978-0-87341-096-0. 
  • Conde, John A. (1987). The American Motors Family Album. Kraus Publications. ISBN 1111573891.