Q: Hello, Greg, and thanks for all the fun columns on the old cars. My dad drove Hudsons his whole life, and I fondly remember many of his cars, especially the “grand daddy” of them all, his 1953 Super Wasp four-door sedan. How about a few words on these great motorcars? Thanks, Alex H., Illinois.
A: Alex, I had a friend that lived on my street, and his father also drove only Hudson cars, and many times had three of them sitting in his driveway. He traveled a lot, and bought only used Hudsons.
As for the company, Hudson was perhaps the most successful of the independent brands, and sold some of the fastest and best built cars in its 48 years of manufacturing. Matter of fact, Hudson was number three in sales behind Ford and Chevy in 1925!
Founded in 1909, Hudson was popular with working class, blue collar America. The company was most successful with its inline 6-cylinder engines, even though Hudson’s first straight-8 appeared in 1930. Although the inline-8 engine was smaller than the sixes it replaced, it was not as reliable and was the only engine Hudson offered. In 1933, Hudson moved back to offering an inline-6, while its 8-cylinder engine, now improved, was still available.
In 1953, Hudson actually did away with the straight-8 altogether, which means your dad’s 1953 Super Wasp, which listed for about $2,450 in four-door sedan trim, came with a 232-inch 6-cylinder engine. Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors in 1954, and in 1955 the first ever Hudson V8 became available in the Hornet line.
Perhaps the most famous of the performance Hudsons was the 308-inch 6–cylinder “racing” versions that allowed race drivers like Marshall Teague to win 12 of 13 scheduled AAA stock car races in 1952 in a Hornet. In NASCAR competition, several drivers including Herb Thomas, Dick Rathmann, Frank Mundy and Al Keller, scored 27 wins in ’52, 21 in ’53 and 17 in ’54. These Hudsons were known as the “Fabulous Hudson Hornets.” These cars featured the “Twin H-Power” performance package, which included dual carbs, dual exhaust, better compression, bigger cam and so on. Teauge and Hudson’s main engineer, Vince Piggins, developed the racing engine, which produced 75 more horsepower than stock and ruled the racing events. (Sadly, Teague was killed at the new Daytona International Speedway in 1959 trying to set a speed record in an Indy Car).
As for your dad’s 1953 Super Wasp, the most expensive was the Super Wasp Brougham Convertible that carried a price tag of $3,655. However, according to my records, less than 100 were ever built.
Hudson lost its identity after the 1957 model year; although AMC would barley survive until 1980 when shareholders approved an acquisition by French company Renault. Had the merger not been approved, AMC would have gone bankrupt.
Thanks for the letter and allowing our readers a look back at what once was a great car company.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on auto nostalgia at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.