American automotive history is littered with stories of dominant brands failing to keep pace with the constant social and economic changes that the country faced over the course of the 20th century, and consequently dying out. Founded in 1909, the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit was one of the more prominent ones to meet this fate, at its peak it was the third largest car brand in the US after Ford and Chevrolet. It is also credited with bringing a number of innovations to the car industry including the first balanced crankshaft and the first dual brakes, among others. Eventually though, the heightened competitiveness of the baby boom years was too much for the company and in 1954 it merged with Nash Kelvinator to form American Motors.
The Hudson Hornet was the flagship of the Hudson range between 1951 and 1957. It is best known for pioneering the unit construction body structure – this made the Hornet’s art deco styling sleeker and more elegant while also increasing strength. Further separating the Hornet from its V8 powered competition was its large displacement straight 6. This along with the tighter construction made the Hornet a successful competitor in the early days of NASCAR – the car was quicker and lighter than anything else on track. The stock car’s 140hp output was uprated to 170 hp in the race spec models.
The Hudson Hornet seen here and up for sale at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction is one of 500 built in 1951. It features the Brougham convertible bodystyle and has the original Newport Gray with Maroon leather upholstery and matching carpeting, a correct leather-grain dashboard, and a new black convertible top with maroon piping. This example has also had a thorough rebuild to keep it up to speed.
Also notably, the Doc Hudson character from the Cars movie franchise was based on a Hornet. This is not surprising, given how the Hudson Hornet uniquely captures the sentiment of American society at the time. It was bold, outgoing and was redefining what attributes were expected of it – much like the people of that country.
Photos Courtesy- Darin Schnabel for RM Sotheby’s