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Home/Technical Info/Hudson/ 11. Car Models Described /
Hudson's Post-War Story 1946-1956


Hudson made their post-war name on performance . . . and it worked for a time . . . but if you stand still, others will pass you.
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By Society Staff - reprint with permission only

Started by a group of businessmen headed by young auto executive Roy D. Chapin and financed by Detroit department store magnate Joseph L. Hudson, who gave the company permission to use his name, the Hudson Motor Car Company pioneered modestly-priced cars right from its founding in 1909. The company made a small profit during the World War II years building airplanes and landing craft engines.

In 1946, like most U.S. auto manufacturers, it reentered the post-war automobile market with face-lifted prewar models.  Initially, Hudson retained both its L-head Six and Eight engines with its "Super Six" accounting for two-thirds of the company’s 1946 production. Optional transmissions included "Drive Master," "Vacumotive Drive," and overdrive.  Except for some exterior chrome changes, models were essentially unchanged for 1947, and Hudson registered profits in both years.

In 1948 Hudson introduced one of the great, early, postwar designs which, along with unit-body construction, would continue through 1953.  The new model was low and sleek, with a low center of gravity—allowing it to handle exceptionally well for the period. It also featured a dropped floor pan, positioning the passengers lower as well, and it earned Hudson the nickname "Step-down".  The 1948 car was offered in four models: "Commodore" Six and Eight and "Super" Six and Eight—and now sat on a 124" wheelbase versus 116” for the immediate postwar cars.  Postwar sales peaked for Hudson in 1949 at 159,100 units and would decline every year following.

Hudson also introduced a new engine in 1948, the 262 CID Super Six which developed 121 horsepower at 4000 rpm. By 1951, this same engine evolved into the 308 CID "Hornet" powerplant which, from 1952 through 1954, was the king of stock car racing.

Although the Step-down innovation proved to be one of America's most roadable cars in 1948-1949, Hudson lacked sufficient development funds to add any new models or styling to its car line. This worked against the company and stymied innovation in subsequent years. At a time when the Big Three were introducing new engines, engineering advances, and styling almost every year, the effect on Hudson would be decreasing sales through the early 1950's.

Hudson worked hard to cover this gap by introducing a less expensive "Pacemaker" model in 1950. This car was powered by a destroked version of the L-Head Super Six and was moderately successful in adding to the company's coffers as over 60,000 units were sold. The Commodore Six and Eight and the Super Six and Eight were continued, and all models continued to offer the optional Drive Master, "Supermatic" Drive and typical overdrive transmissions.
 
The legendary Hudson Hornet was introduced in 1951. It was not inexpensive, carrying the same price tag as the high-priced Commodore Eight, and it was available in four body styles. The Hornet was a performance car from the outset and was designed to go head-to-head with the new OHV V8s being introduced by all makers at this time. As such, the Hornet's six-cylinder powerplant produced 145 horsepower @ 3800 RPM and was easily a match for most of these newer engines. Oldsmobile, for example, considered by many back then and now to be a performance leader, touted 135 HP for their "Rocket" V8. In the hands of skilled tuners, the Hornet six was capable of considerably more than its advertised number.

The most noted of these Hudson engine tuners, Marshall Teague, achieved 112 mph from a NASCAR-certified stock Hornet. As such it was known as a very hot number even in stock trim. In 1953 Hudson upped the ante by offering "factory severe usage" options which were solely designed for racing applications. These included the famous "Twin H-power", a two carb setup, for improved breathing. It was factory available on all Hornets. The company also made available, over the counter, a "7-X" racing engine which combined Twin H-power with higher cylinder compression, a more radical camshaft, and other high-performance options. The 7-X six produced about 210 horsepower—more than the Cadillac V8 and Chrysler Hemi.
 
1952 was a significant model year for Hudson. The "Hollywood" hardtop coupe was introduced in the Hornet, Commodore and the new series, Wasp line. The 1952 Commodore line featured new "Hudson-Aire" identification and appointments to make Commodore appear more upscale from the other models.

The Commodore was dropped in 1953, with the Hornet taking its place as the top-end offering. A new, modern-looking "compact" 105" wheelbase Hudson "Jet" was launched. It sold well, but it did not increase Hudson's market share. In fact, sales further declined. A new Hornet "Special" was introduced in 1954, and it had no impact on sales.

Hudson's Jet and the luxurious "Jet-Liner" of 1954 languished in sales, but the chassis inspired a two-passenger Grand Turismo-type sports car called the "Italia". It was designed by Hudson's Frank Spring and built by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, Italy. Powered by a hopped-up 114 horsepower Jet engine, the Italia had an aluminum body with a wraparound windshield, doors cut into the roof, fender scoops for brake cooling, flow-through ventilation, and a leather interior. In addition to the prototype, 25 production Italias were sold. A four-door version, called "X-161" was also built.
 
By late 1953 Hudson sales were on a steady decline, and the company sought a stabilizing partner. Shortly thereafter, it merged with Nash, with the resulting new company called American Motors Corporation. As a result, Hudson production moved to the Nash facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the Hudson Detroit plant was closed on October 2, 1954.

The "all new 1955 Hudson" was no more than a badge-engineered Nash using Hudson's 1954 dashboard instruments. The Jet was gone, and the Wasp model would now be powered by the former 202 cid Jet engine. The 308 cid big six was retained for the Hornet. A new "Hornet V-8" was introduced using the Packard 320 cid 208 horsepower engine purchased under license by Nash. To boost Hudson sales, a line of Hudson-badged Nash Ramblers and Metropolitans were sold through Hudson dealerships.
 
In 1956 American Motors introduced its own 190 horsepower V-8 for the Hornet Special and Rambler Special, but depressed sales continued. Hudson’s last year was 1957 when only 4,827 cars were sold, and AMC decided it could no longer sustain a separate line.

Finis for Hudson.

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1947 Commodore 8 4-door sedan

1948 Hudson 4-door sedan

1949 Hudson Convertible

1950 Hudson Commodore 4-door sedan

1951 Hudson Club Coupe

1952 Hudson Wasp Hollywood hardtop

1953 Hudson Jet - Hudson's foray into the low-price field.

1954 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe

1955 Hudson Wasp Custom Hollywood hardtop

1956 Hudson Hornet Hollywood V8 hardtop

1957 Hudson Hornet V8 Custom hardtop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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