Curbside Classic: 1952 Hudson Wasp – A Day For Orphans

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(first posted 10/4/2014)    Spotted during a dreaded visit to Target last spring, this Hudson Wasp resulted in my partner going inside while I snapped pictures.  If he never had to touch or see another car again, he’d be perfectly happy, and that’s why meet-ups like this are so important.  Otherwise, you’re left all on your lonesome with an appreciation of all the aspects of what make cars so amazing, and it’s not uncommon for me to feel just like this Hudson, by itself at the back of the parking lot.  Speaking of which, many other shoppers, scurrying on and off the premises in their Outbacks and Jettas likely didn’t even notice this green beauty. 

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No wonder it was parked across two spaces to keep other drivers away; someone might only pause to take it all in after whacking their door into its streamlined flanks.  It’s amazing when you think about it; how could one not notice such a grand shape?  I guess I might fail to recognize an elaborate hair extension, a home run or a well-crafted pair of shoes that would cause others to stop in their tracks, but that’s the exact reaction this car provoked in me.


It’s recognizable from a number of movies, as it’s often called upon to date its era, despite not having been a huge seller.  Such is what often happens those products borne of its designers’ and engineers’ vision, living on as icons despite a lack of genuine popularity. Too bad that didn’t translate into actual earnings when it was most necessary.

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Yes, I’m sure a lot of car buyers back in the day thought this car was “weird.”  Well, take a lesson from this Wasp: indiscriminate use of such sentiment betrays a degree of simple-mindedness.  Hudson wasn’t ready for the ostentation required of from similarly positioned cars in the marketplace and its models were beginning to look dated, something their distinctiveness made hard to disguise.  Aging sixes at the dawn of the high-compression V8 era didn’t help, either.

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But a thinking man could certainly appreciate that with better handling and respectably low weight, one could enjoy themselves just as much behind the wheel in a Wasp as they could in many similarly priced Buicks, Oldses or Chryslers.  Yes, despite success in racing owing to the well thought out engineering embodied by these cars, sales in terminal decline.  Subjective impressions of its abilities were likely unfavorable when newer, flashier metal was so readily available; even with the fundamental diversity of new car offerings in the early ’50s, this mattered just as much as in today’s market, with its standardized approach to automobile engineering.

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So subjectively, it’s this car’s interior which really does it for me.  It’s clean, understated and space efficient.  For someone not familiar with cars of this era, the Hornet makes a great gateway drug; it’s easier to relate to this space than it is to understand the narrow, upright confines of the period’s other sedans.  Why did it take everyone else so long to figure out packaging efficiency and the unibody?

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The thought of true three abreast comfort on four wheels is somewhat exotic, also.  Many of the biggest, roomiest cars in the following decades didn’t accord the middle passenger this much real estate, and it doesn’t appear to have come at the expense of those seated outboard.  Actually, this is still impressive today, given that these were 77 inches wide.  Would an aquarium fit with this much space to spare in anyone’s Broughams or in a modern crossover?

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“Monobuild” construction or not, however, time waits for no one.  As unique as these cars were and as advanced as they may have been, the two-box styling was quickly becoming deeply unfashionable.  The coffers in Detroit were beginning to run thin and ever the queen bee, the Wasp’s corporate mother went searching for a new suitor, which she found in Kenosha.  By 1957, the Wasp, along with the Hornet, the Commodore and the Pacemaker were orphans.

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The cars which replaced these from 1955 to 1957 are no so fondly remembered, of course, but at least they were part of a short run and an obvious ploy to keep the marque alive.  When people think Hudson, it’s the very rational big sedans like this Wasp which come to mind, so unlike many orphaned cars, we are able to recall these as products designed with integrity, something separating them from, say, any Saturn made after 2002.  Speaking of which, we are already planning a meet-up in for October 2060, where we will be spending the day in Spring Hill, Tennessee at the Saturn Museum.  I expect that’s far enough in advance for people to make time to attend.

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Related reading:

Curbside Classic: 1952 Hudson Hornet – A Victorious Dead End

CC: 1951 Hudson Pacemaker – PN