(first posted 12/3/2011) The automotive market is cruel. What is once brilliant, within a year or so can be a has-been. And one of the greatest automobiles this fall from grace happened to were the 1948-54 “Step Down” Hudson models.
Hudson spent most of its prewar life as one of the most beloved independent brands; a Buick without General Motors is probably an apt comparison. The brand also had the Essex, and then Terraplane to round out coverage of the same medium price bracket as evergreens Pontiac, Dodge, DeSoto, Oldsmobile and Buick. But by the early 1940s only the solidly upper middle class Hudsons remained.
But like every single established manufacturer, Hudson realized that it couldn’t survive on the stale bread of the early 1940s it started selling after VJ day for long. And something more distinctive than a Quasi-Buick Super was needed.
The all new “Step Down” 1948 Hudsons were designed with an eye on two cars that make for one of the most intriguing points of inspiration; the Tatra T87 and early 1940s Buicks. The trend towards unit-bodied cars in Europe were a significant influence too. The new Hudson merged body and parts of the frame, resulting in a semi-unibody. For their size, they were remarkably light (a Commodore Eight tipped the scales around 3,800lbs, about 500 less than a comparable Roadmaster). The perimeter frame, which extended outside of the rear wheels, added a measure of side impact safety that bordered on overkill for the times.
Other goodies like an insanely wide track and low center of gravity for the time, tied with Hudson’s Center Point steering held over from the previous models made the “Step Down” models some of the most nimble cars on offer. They may well hold the title as best overall handling full sized cars of the post war era until the second wave of the Forward Look in 1957.
But the reason they were really titled “Step Downs” was pretty obvious as soon as you opened the door. And you had to step down, instead of stepping up and into the car, which was typical practice for most American cars at the time. While reducing the overall height of the cars to a mere five feet, the main contribution of this construction was the whole floor pan riding within the frame rails. This became remarkably influential, as most cars lowered their centers of gravity and height, going to someone ridiculous extremes by the late 1950s (I’m looking at you all of you 1959 General Motors cars).
The Hudson step-downs offered unparalleled passenger comfort, both in terms of interior space and ride comfort.
The only place they were somewhat outdated was under that long hood. Both the all new 262 cube six (121hp) and the recycled 254 straight eight (128hp) were flathead designs, just a year away from Oldsmobile and Cadillac unleashing the horsepower war with modern overhead valve V8s. Although more than capable for motoring needs at the time (and remarkably competitive with more powerful competitors, namely the Buick Fireball Eight), the lack of ability to heighten compression ratios or allow for better breathing led to Dead end #1
Dead end #2 was the fact that noir fastback styling was giving away rapidly to the open and airy Hardtop Coupe look. The Step Down body proved pretty hard to modify into chasing new trends, and only significantly jumped into a 1950s milieu for its last year on the market, 1954.
Even then, with an adoption of a one piece windshield and some jumbled cues from contemporary Fords, Oldsmobile and Hudson’s own Jet, at the same time the Step Down lost its individuality and dated itself all in one swoop.
But before the sad end, there were a series of brilliant last gasps starting in 1951. The Hornet model, debuting a stroked version of the flathead six, now with 308 cubic inches and 145hp in standard tune, debuted at the same price point as the Commodore Eight. With mild tweaking and some barely disguised racing engine parts the big six could be coaxed to deliver some very overhead valve V8-like performance.
While the base 308 was good for high 13 second 0-60 runs and a top speed of nearly 100mph, the various forms of the Twin H set up decidedly spiced things up quite a bit. The Twin H set up became standard on Hornets in 1952 (the year of our photo car) bringing 160, then 170 horsepower, on par with a variety of early 1950s V8s, from the original Rocket 303, to the DeSoto mini-Hemi 276 V8.
There was even an extreme usage 7-X version putting out a blazing 210 horsepower. But it didn’t come without penalty. The biggest being prodigious fuel consumption, which wasn’t as bad as a Dynaflow equipped Roadmaster, but not by much the further you went up the horsepower scale. It wouldn’t have smarted so much in the field if the Oldsmobile Eighty Eight didn’t return relatively stellar mileage and a close approximation of straight line performance for fewer dollars.
But the story of the fabulous Hudson Hornet wouldn’t be complete without lavishing praise where it is most deserved. It was the Father of great stock cars. The big six ready to party, paired with the most nimble chassis of the first half of the 1950s meant 13 NASCAR victories in 1951, 27 in 1952 and 22 in 1953. You can now see why Disney/Pixar picked this car as a surly character with a colorful past. The Hudson Hornet indeed had plenty of bar stories to tell before it was put out to stud.
Unfortunately, it only created a mild uptick of “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” sales. Over 43,000 Hornets went out the door the first year, followed by gradual decreases in volume, settling around 25,000 units for 1953-54. It was sadly dated in looks, but in so many ways superior still, to many near luxury cars in the early 1950s. And in the case of the optional Hydra-Matic, it actually had some of their best goodies.
It’s pretty much assumed wisdom that the Hudson’s failed compact Jet sucked all of the blood out of the possibility of the Step Downs getting some slick completely new sheet metal and a honest to god modern engine. But, it was never to be. And for 1955 the market received what must be the 2nd or 3rd biggest disappointment of the 1950s behind the 1957-58 Packardbakers and the Edsel.
Perhaps the less we say about these “Re-hashed” Nash Ambassadors in drag with an optional Packard V8 is best (CC here). Or we can hope every last one has been run off a cliff, Duel-style by a pack of angry Step Down Hornets. This is one instance where I can totally support a vigilante gang.
It would probably be best to close here, and pay homage to a forgotten hero. (Thanks, Paul Niedermeyer for the interior and engine shots.)
“They quit on me. When I finally got put together, I went back expecting a big welcome. You know what they said? “You’re history.” Moved on to the next rookie standing in line. There was a lot left in me. I never got a chance to show ’em. I keep that to remind me never to go back. I just never expected that that world would… would find me here.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, the late, great Paul Newman. (removes hat and genuflects).
Those green velour seats looked so inviting. Much more so than today’s leather seats.
My thoughts also when first viewing that interior picture.
Indeed. Very couch-like, and look at that huge rear armrest! Beautiful dash, too.
Very nice looking car. The first time I’ve seen one was in the movie Driving Miss Daisy, starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. I’ve yet to see one in person. I’d love to, maybe go for a ride in one. 🙂
I have a 52 Hudson Hornet. It is crazy roomy in the back of it. No velour seats though. Mine has the vinyl and stripe option. Love it though.
I’ve never ridden in a Hudson. 🙂
Mine is in Wyoming. If you ever find yourself there my husband or I would gladly take you for a ride 🙂
I’ve never visited Wyoming. Whereabouts in Wyoming do you live?
Northwest. We also generally go to Kool Deadwood nights in Sotheby’s Dakota with it.
Cool. I got to visit Deadwood SD. A friend of my dads lives in Spearfish, SD.
They were so nice to ride in. Though I was a child, I do remember.
The concept of comfort for the rear seat passenger died somewhere around 1955, and never came back. You have only to ride in the back of one of those pre-’55 cars to understand the concept of limousine comfort at regular market prices.
There still are cars with comfy back seats, but the idea that even a low priced car offered enough legroom for a 7ft tall person is long gone, even lower priced Buick Specials of the era have limo like rear seats.
Ever been in the back of an Intrepid?
Or a 500/first gen “new” Taurus.
..or a 1958-1960 Lincoln?
I Have… What exactly are you saying about the ride back there?
I’m saying a person can do cartwheels in the back of those cars. Saying there are no comfortable cars now is just silly.
I just had to be sure I was finally hearing something good about The Intrepid.
The back seat is roomy, and I prefer it back there to riding shotgun, where I feel like my Knees are vulnerable in a crash…
I have To watch my Head carefully getting in, and though I am barely 5’9″
I have it it several times unexpectently, It is a nice ride back there actually, somewhat suited to being driven around by a Driver.
But I have also been in the back of an OLD Buick, and I can remember being astonished at how comfy that “loveseat” felt. It was a 31 Buickj IIRC.
I greatly prefer the SOFTLY padded seats of old. Its like sinking into the best sofa in the universe.
112″ wheelbase on many GM Epsilon body cars. Malibu Maxx, Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6, Buick LaCrosse,.. Plenty of room in the back seat.
Citroen took it up in Europe in the mid fifties with the DS. Worked well for another 20 years.
Agreed – I had a partner who was 6’7″ tall, and my DS20 was the only car in which he could fit comfortably in the back seat.
Ford Flex. Second Row, has massive leg room.
This is one of my favorite cars. That American tendency to root for the underdog was never more at play as here, when a big, ancient, snarling flathead 6 took on and bested the most modern V8s made by the biggest companies. It is (or at least was) true: no substitute for cubic inches. The Hornet 6 was bigger than all but the Chrysler and Cadillac V8s, as I recall (and maybe the truck-sourced Lincoln flathead V8, but it was never in the same performance league). I suspect that in addition to the wide stance and low center of gravity, the car was pretty good from an aerodynamics standpoint. Imagine what the car could have done with a Chrysler Firepower under the hood.
There is a scene in the Pixar movie where Doc Hudson is preparing to make his run around the track, and I have no doubt that the revving engine is an actual Twin H Hornet. It brought chills to my spine when I heard it. I am a sucker for the sound of an obsolete engine, particularly one as accomplished as that one.
Back in the early 1970s, Mike Lamm wrote about using a 52(?) Hornet Hollywood hardtop as a working staff car when he was editor of Special Interest Autos magazine. With the Twin H setup that he installed, he was getting an all-around average of about 10 mpg. Otherwise, he found the car pretty satisfying as a day-to-day driver.
Your waxing nostalgic for the Hudson engines reminded me of a car show I was at 2 summers ago. I was talking to an older gent who owned a nice black Hornet. He was telling me his story about restoring the car. I asked about the engine. I remember his response pretty clearly: “I replaced the engine with a Mopar 340. Those Hudson engines were sh!t. When you heard the rods start knocking you went looking for another engine.” He may have been referring to their 8-cylinder engine, which still used antiquated splash oiling as opposed to a pressurized lubrication system.
We cannot go any further without a picture of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet in full race trim, along with Marshall Teague, one of the most successful Hornet racers.
what year is this model? This is identical to what we had, but not race. 2 tone green
To answer your question , it is a 1951 with the large Commodore upright taillights. The taillights on 1952-53 were just above the bumper in a more horizontal position.
Because of the wide bodies (seats) and recessed interior door panels a footer could rest easy across the front seat. Ours was a 1951 Hornet Hollywood Hardtop Hydramatic (HHHH) with the Twin H option. We loved the vehicle.
Or Hudson’s other notable driver, Herb Thomas, in the No. 92 car, in action.
A guy in my neighborhood has a couple of Step-Down Hudsons. Still beautiful cars after all these years.
Ditto what jpc said. Even though it was already obsolete, I found the step-down Hudsons intensely compelling since first laying eyes on them as a kid. My obsession with the Tatra in Innsbruck was directly transferred to an old Hudson that the family of a girl in my elementary school drove. I used to walk by it every day. She and the rest of the family were embarrassed by it, because it was already over ten years old.
I asked if I could sit in it once, and she thought that was pretty strange. It was like entering a holy space. i must have spent a half hour sitting in the front and rear seats. I’ve been obsessing on them ever since.
How is it possible to be embarassed by such a beautiful and unique car?
At that time, for most people, it was just another old car. And it definitely looked dated compared to new cars.
Car styles changed rapidly in the 1950s and early 1960s, and there was much more pressure to have a car that looked new parked in the family driveway.
In the Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary is embarrassed that she’s the only one of the group to have had a car at college. She mollifies the others by saying it was a ’51 Hudson with some defect I can’t recall.
Hudson is an interesting company. The Essex had started the trend to closed cars in the 1920s – Alfred P. Sloan specifically mentioned the car in his autobiography. In 1929, thanks largely to Essex sales, Hudson as a whole came in third place, behind Chevrolet and Ford. But when the Great Depression hit, Hudson sales collapsed, and the company never completely recovered.
The Step Downs were great cars, but they really helped hasten the company’s demise as an independent entity. They were difficult to restyle, as the article notes. But they were also expensive and more complicated to build. I remember reading that, at the height of the postwar boom, the Hudson plant was straining to produce 150,000 cars. In the late 1920s, this same plant had produced 300,000 cars annually.
Good points. I suspect that Hudson made a major mistake by phasing out the Essex as a brand. Kind of like AMC with its Rambler. When you’re that small of a company it’s generally safer to fix tarnished brand equity than to throw it away.
What’s interesting about the step-downs is that Hudson moved in the opposite direction as Studebaker, Nash and Kaiser, all of which fielded relatively light-weight entries in the late-40s and early-50s. Kaiser was too high cost to compete on price, but Studebaker and Nash did very well in the post-war period by keeping their entry-level prices in the vicinity of Chevy, Ford and Plymouth.
The Hudsons, in contrast, were almost as big and heavy as the Packards. That boxed Hudson in price-wise — which became a problem once its Big Three competitors had all switched to V8 engines and Hudson was stuck with a six.
The Hudson body was updatable but the company instead bet on the ill-fated Jet.
The step-down wouldn’t have been a dead end if it had been scaled down to the size and weight of a Kaiser or Studebaker. Note that both were narrow and light enough that they could have been shortened to offer a compact variant — but with far less investment than a distinct compact body. None of the independents had the economies of scale to keep separate compact and full-sized platforms competitive.
Too bad Hudson couldn’t stick around for the high-beltline styling to come back. I can see a little Chrysler 300 and new Taurus in that Hornet.
Every time I’ve seen one in person, and I mean EVERY time, my mind tries to think the car is a custom car, chopped and channelled. And I KNOW what this car is, but my brain does that anyway, especially when other, less-awesome cars are parked nearby.
They’re just beautiful.
You’re not the only one. The very first time I saw a Hudson I thought it looked like a chopped ’49 Merc.
I’d never seen one in real life. But in the family photo album there’s a photo of my parents on their wedding day, getting into the back of one…I had NO idea until recently what it was. It looked like some sort of customized or coach-built rig…a 1950 stretch/chop limo?
It was my great-uncle’s Step-Down. He was, when I was a kid, the Rambler guy in the family; only much later I learned that he got there from Hudson, not Nash.
Steve McQueen had one as a almost daily driver, and loved it. Drove his kids to school in it.
I was fortunate to have two of these briefly while in college in Philadelphia in the early 70’s. A ’51 Hornet convertible and a ’53 Hornet 4-door sedan. Both good fun, but slow, wallowing beasts. I assume the suspension was well worn, but the slow was a surprise. Equipped with electro-hydraulic windows and top, the convertible felt very heavy. I used to take it out late at night to race the city bus off the traffic lights. The bus won every time! No twin H power in those. Just the standard 308 with Hydramatic.
Talk about comfort, though! The convertible’s sumptuous dark blue leather seats were exceeded only by the (original!) velour seats in the 4-door. Simply amazing interiors.
A previous owner had retrofitted power steering to the 4-door, which gave a very strange effect – zero effort, fingertip steering with about 37 turns of the wheel. Well, okay – about 7 from lock to lock.
Thanks for the memories!!
wot a cool car i dont realy no much about hudsons but i know wot i like and its this car how sad another great american independant bit the dust ,here in the uk we hade our own hudson my dad had one ..THE ARMSTRONG SIDDLEY STAR SAPHIRE SALOON..a fantastic car powered by a straight 6 had its moment of glory in the early post war years but by the end of the 50s early 60s……..it was all over as with the beautifull and now very rare ALVIS TD.
When I was a kid these were all over the place. Dad tried to buy one but wound up with a Chevy instead. I was a big fan of the stock car races in the park in Dodge City. I think the engine cut off was 1948. A guy with a Hudson won everything because of the second carburator. My friend who ran a lighter 48 ford based engine said there wasn’t anyway the fight was for anything but second place.
When I look at the 4.9 Ford or the Pontiac OHC, I think about how far that engine would have taken Hudson if they had just updated the head. Anyway, I was a fan and sad when they became part of Rambler (IIRC). Nothing stands still.
The Hudsons and Nashes made from ’48-’55 are my very favorite American cars of all time. Haven’t seen Twin H Power under a hood in so looooong now. Really enjoyed this article, thanks!
“They may well hold the title as best overall handling full sized cars of the post war era until the second wave of the Forward Look in 1957.”
I’ve long been suspicious of that claim about the ’57 Mopars. Great handling requires structural integrity, lack of which was a huge, glaring problem for the 2nd wave Forward Look cars. I believe that *theoretically* they were capable of pretty decent handling, but doubt more than a hundred or two individual examples ever delivered on it. A classic case of great design spoiled by crap QC.
Make mine a ’51 Hornet with the 308 and Twin-H Power. 🙂
Beautiful cars Thanx Lawrence
I like the wierd looking 1956 and 1957 Hudsons too.
My grandfather owned a 52′ Hornet that he pulled a camper trailer up to the logging camps in the Redwoods with. Grandma hated it because according to her it was always broken. That may have had more to do with grandpa though.
And by the way, beautiful pictures Mr. Jones
I remember that it was quite a big deal when my uncle in southern California bought a two-tone blue ’49 Hudson sedan. At the time it not only seemed wide, long, and low – it really was. Pop’s 1950 Packard may have been a year newer, but beside the Hudson it seemed a lot like the heavily restyled late 40’s Clipper that it was. I never rode in my uncle’s Hudson – my first ride in a step-down Hudson was in 1990 or so in a ’53 sedan. It seemed then like any ordinary 1950’s car.
I have wanted a step down Hudson for years and still want a step down Hudson. The only pre-seatbelts car I’ve actively lusted after since I became aware of them 20 years ago.
Question. If the perimeter frame ” extended outside of the rear wheels” how did you remove the rear wheels to change a flat ?
I don’t know in detail, but it was more of a pain than usual. I suspect that the that frame member was high enough, so that when the wheel hung down with the body jacked up, it must have been doable.
As you can see on the sedan, the Chrome cladding is a skirt around the wheel, and like Paul said, the frame bumped up somewhat around the wheel, so when jacked I assume all the lugs were accessible.
The Nashes, with enclosed FRONT wheels, did present a real challenge when it came time to change a tire. There wasn’t a removable fender skirt for the front wheels.
That’s why they had that goofy-looking narrow track.
I’ve thought about this car for several days, off-and-on, but the only comment I can add is one of these lurked in our neighborhood in the 1960’s, and my buddy and I always referred to it as the “submarine”. Out-dated before it was built as to styling. That’s all.
You can have a car that beats the competition in so many ways, but if it doesn’t have that eye appeal, no-go.
“The Hudson Step-Downs offered unparalleled levels of passenger comfort, both in terms of interior space and ride comfort.”…paralleled only by (the love it or hate it) Bathtub Nashes.
Such a shame they wasted so much on the compact model and were left with no money to develop a modern engine. An overhead camshaft big six with 250 hp straight of the box in 55 and new styling still keeping to the original idiom? Someone did “what ifs” and I think for 57 it would have worked… From http://www.atawalk.net/homepage/PORTFOLIO/portfolio/2000s.html
Rereading this I just remembered the first time I laid eyes on one up close instead of in books or magazines. I was a senior in college and there was an early 50s Commodore parked at a house down the street from where I was doing my student teaching. It was in good (exterior shape – never saw the interior) shape and was painted a metallic blue with wide whites on it. Something about the fastback shape and sheer size captured my imagination.
“And for 1955 the market received what must be the 2nd or 3rd biggest disappointment of the 1950s behind the 1957-58 Packardbakers and the Edsel.”
“I don’t get no respect, no respect at all, I tells ya!” ‘Hashes’ are one of the Rodney Dangerfields of ’50’s cars!
IMHO, The 1955 Hudsons carry the best styling applied to the ’52-’57 Nash Airflyte body, the ’56-’57 the most bizarre, even more so than the ’55-’56 Nash frontal styling.
Perhaps the least attractive of the Hudsons I’ve seen was the 1955 model. It’s a good looking car overall, but the grille in front just ruins it for me. All the previous Hudsons up to then were at least different. I have always liked the shape of the 1948 – 1953 Hudson.
One of my favorite early pieces of automotive writing was Warren Weith rhapsodizing about a Hudson in Car and Driver. There may have been a shipping metaphor, something to do with a giant steering wheel and cabin accommodations (probably a Hudson Commodore). In later years, I was impressed by the beautiful wood dash with a glove box on each side. Very nice. That said, I didn’t like the high belt line and small windows any more then than I do now.
My mother is not really a car person, but she recognized that her dad had a few of the more unique choices that could be made. From what I’ve pieced together, he was a solid mid price guy, Hudson, Buick, Packard (my best guess is she confuses this with the Hudson), a ’58 Edsel, more Buicks and a couple of Caprices late in life. (The Sloan ladder was broken, even for a man approaching 70, but that is another tangent.)
I’ve long wondered if the picture I’ve attached was the Hudson. A little time spent with the Standard Catalog this morning says this is a 1950 Hudson Commodore. There were two series of cars, the base Pacemaker, and the high zoot Commodore, which wore the various bumper guards seen on this car. The Pacemaker made due with a simple bumper bar and few adornments.
The Commodore was definitely priced in Buick territory. The four door started at $2,282, while the mid line Buick Super four door started at $2139, the top Buick Roadmaster was over $2,600, closing in on the base Cadillac.
I’ve always appreciated my Grandfather’s taste in cars, and spent a share of time as a mid-price guy myself, but that segment is close to gone now with Ford and Toyota both doing a lot to fog whatever is left of the concept. Buick and Acura are about as close as it gets, and neither are exactly burning up the sales charts.
The people in the picture are my aunt and uncle – mom’s siblings – who are probably about 18 and 22 at the time (somewhere between 1950 and 1955 when my Grandfather bought a Buick). This is one of the last all members present family vacations they took together, I believe the photo is in Grand Teton National Park, a stop on the way to California.
Thanks. I should have mentioned in my post that there were 6 people traveling from Iowa to California, only my mom might have been child size, around age 10 to 15. Three men all over 6′, and three women. As others have noted, this was a roomy car.
Commodore has been probably my favourite Yank Tank since I watched Driving Miss Daisy the first time 20 years ago.
We had one in our family in the early ‘a 70s as a collector car. Light green Twin-H with a cream top and wonderful green checked velour interior. The big 6 was more than adequate, with lots of torque that handled the Hydramatic just fine. The car was a terrific handler, too, though driving anything from that era with a truck sized steering wheel is a bit like working a ship’s wheel.
You are all right about the interior. Cavernous. You could put 4 twenty-somethings across the front seat if you wanted to, and the arm rest you see in the middle of the back seat is actually wide enough to sit on.
Periodically re-filling the wet clutch in our ’49 was a major nuisance. And though the interior was “cavernous” with great seats, we little kids in the back could hardly see over the window sills.
Paul is correct that the rear wheel removal was a bit of a pain but not bad. There was a kickup in the frame rail there, and with the small skirt removed, all was good.
The seats were, indeed wonderful, sofa-like in their comfort. (In fact, my friend had a snappy red ’55 Buick convertible with white top. He borrowed my black ’54 Hornet when he had a heavy date.)
As for power, my ’48 and ’49 Super Six models would run with anything remotely contemporary, and the Hornet, with only the single carb, would walk away from a ’55 Chevy powerpack when triple digits were reached.
I read in the history by, I believe, Don Butler, that the power ratings were deceptive, as Hudson rated their engines with all accessories attached, unlike everyone else.
They were great cars, and I hated not having a “real” Hudson to buy after the ’54.
I wish I could say that I’ve ridden in a Hudson Hornet.
Another well written and beautifully photographed article Mr. Jones .
Sweet cars these .
The Rector of the Episcopal church had a ’53 Hornet 4 door with Hydramatic, Twin H and airconditioning. It seemed like a huge car that probably was very heavy, but it was certainly roomy!
I found a photo of a 1952 Hudson Hornet Club Coupé to share here.
Nice looking car. I’ve never seen a 2 door version of the Hudson Hornet. I’ve seen a 4 door Hornet, but never a 2 door. 🙂
Absolutely beautiful cars, and one of the designs that looks better as a sedan than as a coupe. That fastback roofline with the downward sweep of the side trim to complement it–just gorgeous. Plus great details in the trim! The first time I saw one I also wondered if it was a customized Mercury or Oldsmobile, until I read the badges…
When I was in high school, an employee at a local store drove a beautiful two-tone golden brown/dark brown Hornet sedan. (This was in the mid-late 90’s so it was pretty unusual, I suspect he may have been a retiree who worked part-time and therefore drove his classic to work.) Whenever I saw it, I’d have to stop and stare…wish I had thought to photograph it but that was well before digital cameras!
my grandfather had a ’52, beige and the top was brown the inside was the same colors, brown dash, door panels were split both brown and beige, the seats were all cloth, beige with brown trim. there were the three of us kids, and my uncles 4 kids all in the back seat with 1 adult, i rode in the rear window on the back dash, i remember when he got sick and no longer able to drive, my grandmother backed into the back yard where it stayed for years, i remember going out back and looking at it and i told my grandmother that it looks like our old bathtub upside down!
The first time I saw a 1949-54 Hudson was in the movie “Driving Miss Daisy” starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. 🙂
We were a Hudson Family. Among us and near relatives we had two Hornets Two Commodores an 8 and 6, A Pacemaker and a Super Six. First of all, Hudsons would go around a curve 20+ MPH FASTER than any other car. As far as power, people forget those Hudson engines also had Gobs of low end TORQUE…!
But most important, Hudsons were by far the SAFEST car on the road. From the dual safety brakes, to a frame which extended up above the doors, to the safety shields in the doors. Hudson’s were serious safety cars almost 20 years before anyone ever heard of Nader.
Unfortunately by the time Nader came to fame, he’d probably never heard of Hudson.
They looked like every future car drawn in the WWII period. Unfortunately by the time they appeared that wasn’t the future that was happening.
I know I rode in one as a little kid because I remember stepping in and finding the floor several inches lower than the door sill, unlike every other car back then.
They got a completely new dashboard and steering wheel with the 1954 facelift, so some real money was somehow spent on it. Unfortunately, it’s still looking like 1949 in there. Were the Hudson stylists all 75 by then? The handwriting was on the wall for the independents in the fifties, but they certainly didn’t help themselves with all their wrongheaded management decisions.
Family friends had one that got replaced by a 1964 Cadillac. By then, the Hudson was just an old-looking car, and the Caddy, long and low, with slender whitewalls and discreet fins looked much more sophisticated. Ten years later I used the Caddy to haul junk to the dump, after the husband died, and the Caddy also seemed old. I suspect as a very young kid I may have ridden in the Hornet, as I recall riding in the Cadillac also, even before I drove it. I think I have a fuzzy photo of the Hornet somewhere, parked along with the then-new Cadillac.
I’ve ridden in a step-down Hudson, but not a Hornet. Well, sort of. An older kid in my grandparents’ neighbourhood had two black sedans, which he was gradually fixing up. IIRC they were a ’49 and a ’51. He’d drive them up and down their long driveway. I remember them being smooth with what felt like a lot of low-down punch, and sounding quite different to the usual old Holdens most kids tinkered with.
With that background, of course CC-in-scale has Hudsons! 🙂
It would be great to live in an economy that can support a Hudson corporation. The 1953 recession is often forgotten, but it hit the auto industry hard and the car wars between the Detroit 3 sucked all the oxygen out of the market, and away from the five independent brands available then.
Another result from the recession was loading new cars onto buyers with poor credit. What this effectively did was remove the annual pool of buyers for the next few years.
Not only did the independents lose the horsepower war and the Big 3 war, the auto market became toxic for the next three years. With the end of the Korean War contracts many independents needed those federal military contracts. Washington shifted towards an oligarchical era where GM, Ford and Chrysler picked up the bulk of the Cold War and Space contracts.
Studebaker, Packard, Nash, Hudson, Studebaker, Willys and Kaiser began their decline in 1953 by facing a market that didn’t permit any errors for the small auto manufacturer. The environment required home runs and grand slams for the little guy, but only bunts, singles and doubles needed to survive for the Detroit 3.
FWIW, I got my drivers license driving (the driving test part) a friend’s 1951 Hudson, in a snow storm! That was in 1959.