The Fabulous Hudson Hornets

8/5/2019
Greg Zyla
Q: Hello Greg and thanks for all the fun columns on the old cars. My dad drove Hudsons his whole life, and I fondly remember many of his cars, especially the ‘grand daddy” of them all, his 1953 Super Wasp four door sedan. How about a few words on these great motorcars? Thanks, Alex H., Illinois.
 
A: Alex, Hudson was perhaps the most successful of the independent brands, and sold some of the fastest and best built cars in its 48 years of manufacturing. Matter of fact, Hudson was number three in sales behind Ford and Chevy in 1925!
 
Founded in 1909, Hudson was popular with working class, blue collar America. The company was most successful with its inline 6-cylinder engines, even though Hudson’s first straight-8 appeared in 1930. Although the inline-8 engine was smaller than the 6-cylinder engine it replaced, it was not as reliable and was the only engine Hudson offered through 1932. In 1933, Hudson re-introduced a new inline-6 to join the 8-cylinder Hudson engine, which was now improved.
 
In 1953, Hudson actually did away with the straight-8 altogether, which means your dad’s 1953 Super Wasp, which listed for about $2,450 new in 4-door sedan trim, came with a 232-inch 6-cylinder engine. Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors in 1954, and in 1955 the first ever Hudson V8 became available in the Hornet line.  The most expensive
 
Super Wasp in 1953 was the Brougham Convertible, which carried a price tag of $3,655. However, according to my records, less than 100 were ever built. Hudson, by the way, lost its identity after the 1957 model year due to the merger.
 
The most famous of the performance Hudsons was the 308-inch 6–cylinder “racing” versions that allowed race drivers like Marshall Teague to win 12 of 13 scheduled AAA stock car races in 1952 in a Hornet. In NASCAR competition, several drivers including Herb Thomas, Dick Rathmann, Frank Mundy and Al Keller, scored 27 wins in ’52, 21 in ’53 and 17 in ’54.
 
These Hudsons were known as the “Fabulous Hudson Hornets,” and featured a “Twin H-Power” performance package that included dual carbs, dual exhaust, higher compression, bigger cam and so on. Teauge and Hudson’s main engineer, Vince Piggins, developed the racing engine that produced 75 more horsepower than stock. (Sadly, Teague was killed at the new Daytona International Speedway in 1959 trying to set a speed record in an Indy Car).
 
Thanks for the letter and allowing our readers a look back at what once was a great car company. 
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