04/12/13 12:17PM Hudson Hornet, readers pics, Wild About Cars

The Fabulous Hudson Hornet 1948 - 1954

Low slung and smooth as a river stone - this convert is sexy - and fast!
(This car was also Twin H-powered).

The Hudson Hornet was a dominate force in stock car racing between 1951 and 1955 and won over 80 NASCAR races alone.  The Hudson's low center of gravity and center point steering contributed to the car's outstanding cornering and handling characteristics - the 200+ HP "Twin H" 308 cubic inch six didn't either.

by Steve Natale

The terms low, sleek, powerful and aerodynamic are not used to describe American-made automobiles in the early post-war years very often. But there is one car from that era that all these terms can be applied to easily: the Hudson Hornet. Hudson introduced it’s all new “Step-Down” body design in 1948 and kept it in production through the 1954 model year. “Step Down” refers to Hudson’s innovative body design that allowed the floor of the car to be placed lower than the frame-rails and door stills.

Steve McQueen's 4-door still looks swoopy

This design allows the driver and passengers to step down as opposed to stepping up as was the case with the other cars that were produced at that time. A lower center of gravity contributed to superior ride quality and handling characteristics, as well as allowed sleek aerodynamic styling. Both were huge benefits of this design.

Hudson may also have been the first post-war automobile company to realize the value of racing for improving the performance and durability of their products. In 1951, the Hornet model line was introduced featuring a 308 cubic-inch, L-head, 6-cylinder motor with “Twin-H” dual carburetors.

By 1953 the "Twin H" horsepower was up to 170 (the famous "Super 88 Olds only had 165 HP in its 324 cu. in. OHV V-8 in that year - with only the Hemi and Cadillac showing more HP). Racers where tweaking the L-Head straight six to up over 200hp, making the Hudson Hornet one of the fastest cars on the highway.

Dozens of NASCAR championship races were won in Hudsons between 1951 and 1955, beating Oldsmobiles and other OHV V-8 powered cars. The 1954 models received a slight styling face lift, but it would be the last Step-Down Hudsons with Twin H-power produced.

The change occured because Hudson merged with Nash in late 1954 to form American Motors Corporation. Starting in 1955, little more than rebadged Nash cars would carry the Hudson name through the 1957 model year. When new models were introduced for 1958, the Hudson name would be retired for good.

The animated feature movie Cars paid tribute to Hudson’s racing history with a character named Doc Hudson voiced by actor and well known race car driver Paul Newman, helping rekindle collector’s interest in these cars once more.

When you see one of these cars in person, one can’t help being drawn to them. Low, long and sleek, with short side windows that make them look like a chopped custom car, the Hudson Hornet is a very cool car to look at. The large rocket ship “Twin H” emblems on both fenders and the trunk lid let you know that there is something equally as cool under the hood as well.

Several Hudson Hornets were sold at auction during Monterey Week this year. A green 1953 sedan previously owned by Steve McQueen sold at RM for $61,600, a 1952 sedan at Gooding and Co. fetched a whopping $178,750, and a rare 1953 convertible changed hands at the Mecum auction for $190,000. 

About the Twin H engine's impact on racing:

The 308 cu. in L-Head Twin H version of the Hudson engine, the great handling and the fact tHudsons were over engineered and over built, made them unbeatable in competition on the dirt and the very few paved tracks of the 1950s.

Hudson was one of the first automobile manufacturers to get involved in sports car racing as well. Hudson dealers made "Severe Usage" parts available to the police, the public, and to thosein NASCAR and other  racing venues.

In response to racers' requests, Hudson engineers developed a dual carburetors systems called "Twin H-Power" and dual exhaust manifolds, several optional camshafts, heavy-duty suspension parts and even HD engine mounting kits.

Most racers opted for the Club Coupe model, however there were 4-door models raced in other venues. 132,000 Hudson Hornet models were produced from 1951 to 1954, and the Club Coupe amounted to only 7% of production - modtly because the car was percieved as a luxury car by most.

The race program was administered by Hudson engineer V.W. 'Vince' Piggins. Piggins would leave Hudson after American Motors was formed. He went on to head up Chevrolet's performance division when the 'small block' Chevrolet V8 models were introduced in 1955.

The race car pictured at right is the former Herb Thomas NASCAR stock car. It was given to Herb Thomas by the Hudson Motor Car Company and he raced it very successfully in 1952 and 1953.

Check out this neat 1965 Hot Rod Magazine Article on a 1954 Hudson Hornet J/Stock Class drag race car - it contains most of the specs on the motor and how to build one to kick butt! Click HERE to see that.

This four door sold for $178,750 recently

This "Twin H-Power" said "don't mess with me". That's the trunk of McQueen's car - are you surprised it would be a 4-door?

Hudsons had classy interiors - is that glitzy or what?

Here's what lurks under the McQueen Hudson's hood.

Herb Thomas's 1952 Hudson was typical of the factory racers of the time - though it probably didn't look as spiffy as this when it was racing.

Race engines differed in a lot of areas - note alumimum head (red arrow; special low-restriction air cleaners (green arrow) and factory oil cooler (yellow arrow).

This article courtesy of Wild About Cars.

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