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 byAmerican Motors Corporation (AMC) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and marketed under the Hudson brand between 1955 and 1957.
The first-generation Hudson Hornets featured a functional "step-down" design with dropped floorpan and a chassis with a lower center of gravity than contemporary vehicles that helped the car handle well – a bonus for racing. The Hornet's lower and sleeker look was accentuated by streamlined styling, sometimes called "ponton" styling. The car's "unique, low slung appearance and silky handling earned Hudson an image that – for many buyers – eclipsed luxury marques like Cadillac."
The second-generation Hudson Hornets became a restyled Nash that was badge engineered as a Hudson.
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."
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) oftorque. 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.
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.
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.
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).
1951 Hudson Hornet Convertible Brougham.......1951 Hudson Hornet grille ornament
1952 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe.............1953 Hudson Hornet Hollywood Hardtop
1954 Hudson Hornet sedan...................1954 Hudson Hornet "Twin H-Power" engine