Cars We Love: 1951 Hudson Hornet

1951 Hudson Hornet

We’re all familiar with animated movies starring anthropomorphic cars, airplanes, animals, or whatever as the main characters. We are transported from our everyday lives by characters and stories that are pure fantasy – or are they? If you’ve seen the Disney Pixar film Cars, you’ll undoubtedly remember the character of Doc Hudson, voiced by actor and racer Paul Newman. Doc’s successful racing background could have been inspired by the true-life exploits of the Hudson Hornet, or as it was known in early ‘50s NASCAR, the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.

Hudson introduced the Hornet in 1951, making it the brand’s performance model by giving it a 308 cubic inch six-cylinder engine producing 145 horsepower – at the time, the most powerful six-cylinder engine available in an American car. Hudson was one of the first manufacturers to become involved with stock car racing, sponsoring such racing legends as Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, and Tim Flock, and dominating NASCAR racing in the early ‘50s. They won 11 races in 1951, 49 in 1952, and 46 in 1953 to become NASCAR champions in 1952 and 1953. All told, Hudson won 80 races between 1951 and 1955.

The Hornet had the ‘Step-down’ styling that Hudson introduced in 1948, which served them well through 1954. Hudson used ‘Monobody’ construction that integrated the body and the chassis into a single unit. The unit could be made lighter and stronger than normal body and frame construction, and Hudson took advantage of this to mount the floor pans between the side frame rails, unlike other manufacturers that attached the floor pans to the tops of the side rails. The result was that Hudsons were five inches lower than their competition. To enter a Hudson, one stepped over the side frame rail and down into the car, hence the name ‘Step-down’ styling.

The Hudson’s ruggedness and power, coupled with its low center of gravity, made it almost unbeatable on the race track. Available as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, a convertible, and a hardtop coupe, 43,666 Hornets were sold in 1951. Hudsons came with a three-speed manual transmission, a manual with overdrive, or a GM-sourced Hydramatic automatic transmission.

We tend to think of American cars from the fifties as being heavy and ill-handling, but some, while they may look the part, led glamorous racing lives, like Doc Hudson and the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.


Photo by Duggar11



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