The Hudson Hornet was an automobile produced by the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan between 1951 and 1954. The Hornet was also built by American Motors Corporation in Kenosha, Wisconsin and marketed under the Hudson brand between 1955 and 1957.
The Hornet was introduced for the 1951 model year and was based upon Hudson's "Stepdown" design, which was introduced for the 1948 model year with the Commodore. These cars were available in two and four-door sedan, convertible coupe and hardtop coupe. The Stepdown was a design which merged body and frame into one structure. The Stepdown's floor pan was recessed in between the car's frame rails instead of the entire chassis being perched on top of the frame. Thus, a person stepped down into a Hudson.
The Hornet was powered by Hudson's H-145 high compression 308ci in-line L-head (flathead) six engine with a two-barrel carburetor producing 145 hp at 3800rpm. In 1952, the "Twin-H" version of the engine was introduced with dual one-barrel carburetors which produced 170 hp. The engine could be tuned to produce 210 hp if equipped with the factory 7-X modifications, introduced later. During 1952 and 1953, the Hornet received minor cosmetic enhancements, and still closely resembled the Commodore of 1948. For the 1954 model year, the Hornet received a major redesign, which was quite the undertaking because the Stepdown's design, which had the frame wrapped around the entire passenger compartment, dictated the car's shape, and thus a major retooling was required. The 1954 Hornet also received an updated interior. Although the redesign put the Hornet on par with its contemporaries in terms of looks and style, the update came too late to boost sales.
Hornet model year production saw 43,656 units in 1951, 35,921 units in 1952 and 27,208 units in 1953. In its final year before the Hudson merger with Nash-Kelvinator, 24,833 Hornets were produced.
During 1952 Hornets driven by Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas and Tim Flock won 27 NASCAR races driving for the Hudson team. In AAA racing, Teague drove a stock Hornet that he called the Fabulous Hudson Hornet to 14 wins during the season. This brought the Hornet's season record to 40 wins in 48 events, a winning percentage of 83%, a remarkable feat for a six-cylinder car.
In its final three model years, the Hornet became a product of the newly formed American Motors Corporation. Following the 1954, Hudson's Detroit manufacturing facility was closed and production of Hudson models was shifted to Nash's Wisconsin factory. All Hudsons would be based on the senior Nash models, but would have exclusive Hudson styling.
In 1955, Hudson emerged as a conservatively styled car. Sedans and hardtops were offered, but convertibles were not offered. For the first time ever, the Hornet could be ordered with a V8 engine.
For the 1956 model year, AMC executives decided to give the Hornet more character and the design for the vehicles was given over to designer Richard Arbib, who provided the Hornet and Wasp with one of the more unique looks in 1950s which he called "V-Line Styling". Taking the traditional Hudson tri-angle, Arbib applied its "V" form in every conceivable manner across the interior and exterior of the car. Combined with tri-tone paint combinations, the Hudson's look was unique and immediately noticeable. However the car's garish design failed to excite buyers and Hudson Hornet sales skidded to 8,152 units, off 4,978 units from 1956's 13,130.
The solution to the V-Line styling was to apply more ornamentation to the cars, including fender "finettes" atop the rounded rear quarter panels for 1957 and consumers reacted by buying only 3,108 units.
Production of the Hornet ended on June 25th, 1957, shortly before the first few 1958 Hudson and Nash models, based on lengthened 1958 Rambler platforms, were to ship. The cars were rebadged as Ambassador by Rambler. it was one of the most wanted cars of its time.
- The 2006 film, Cars, starring the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy and directed by John Lasseter is about a race-car who thinks the world revolves around him finding himself stuck in the Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. Paul Newman provides the voice of a Hornet named Doc Hudson who was the winner of three straight "Piston Cups" in the 50's. Subsequently, the price of Hornets on sites like eBay have risen considerably.