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Throwback Thursday: 1952 Hudson Hornet

You may not have even heard of the Hudson Hornet – the make hasn’t even been around since the early 50s, and was crowded out of the market by the Big Three from Detroit. The Hornet, however, left a pretty significant mark on automotive design and performance in its day.

Starting with the ’48 models, the Hornet incorporated a “step-down” design, with a dropped floor pan and chassis that lowered the car’s center of gravity and enhanced handling dramatically (it was also the industry’s first true unibody design). The edge in handling  made the Hornet a natural for racing, and by ’51 the Hornet was available with the “7X” engine, a 308-cubic-inch flathead straight-six. The engine featured modifications like twin side-draft one-barrel carburetors, a split exhaust manifold that was plumbed into dual exhaust, a milled-down cylinder head and dome pistons for higher compression, a functional ram-air hood scoop, oversize valves and a more aggressive cam. The resulting engine put out 170 horsepower from the factory but was routinely tuned to put out over 210 horsepower, an amazing number for the time.

In the early days of NASCAR racing, the Hudson Hornet dominated tracks across the country, with drivers like Tim Flock, Marshall Teague and Lee Petty behind the wheel; the combination of handling and power made them hard to touch. In ’52, Hudsons were first-place in 27 of 34 races, followed by 22 wins out of 37 races in ’53. A Hornet, in fact, was the first car that famed Formula 1 champion Mario Andretti bought and hot-rodded as a teenager in the 50s.

By ’55, Hudson had been absorbed by American Motors, who continued the name for a couple more years before hanging it up altogether. The Hornets still tore up tracks, however, until NASCAR made it illegal to race cars that were no longer in production. 


Antique tires for the Hudson Hornet: