October 29, 2004

Today in Automotive History 1954

Today in Automotive History

1954 The Last True Hudson

The Hudson Motor Car Company was founded in 1909 by Joseph L. Hudson, and by its second year ranked 11th in the nation for automobile production. Although rarely a top-seller, Hudson was responsible for a number of important automotive innovations, including the placement of the steering wheel on the left side, the self-starter, and dual brakes. In 1919, the Hudson Essex was introduced, a sturdy automobile built on an all-steel body that sold for pennies more than Ford's Model T. Hudson production peaked in 1929 with over 300,000 units, including a line of commercial vehicles. During the early 1930s, Hudson became increasingly involved in motor sports, and the Hudson Essex-Terraplane cars set records in hill climbing, economy runs, and speed events. After World War II, the modest automobile company set its sights on stock racing, launching its new Monobuilt design in 1948. The Monobuilt design consisted of a chassis and frame that were combined in a unified passenger compartment, producing a strong, lightweight design, and a beneficial lower center of gravity that didn't effect road clearance. Hudson coined this innovation "step-down design" because, for the first time, passengers had to step down in order to get into a car. Most cars today are still based on the step-down premise. In 1951, Hudson introduced the powerful Hornet, a model that would dominate stock car racing from 1952 to 1954. In 1952 alone, Hudson won 29 of the 34 events. A key factor in Hudson's racing success was the innovative step-down design of its cars. Because of their lower centers of gravity, Hornets would glide around corners with relative ease, leaving their clunky and unstable competitors in the dust. During this period, Hudson hoped that its stock-racing success would help its lagging sales, but the public preferred watching the likes of Marshall Teague racing around in a Hornet to actually purchasing one. In 1954, the Hudson Motor Company and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation merged to form the American Motors Corporation, and Hudson, which had been suffering severe financial problems, signed on as the weaker partner. Soon after, it was announced that all 1955 models would be made in Nash's facilities, and that most of Hudson's recent innovations would be discontinued. On this day, the last step-down Hudson was produced. Although the Hudson name would live on for another two years, the cars no longer possessed the innovative elegance and handling of models like the Hornet of the early 1950s.

Posted by Quality Weenie at October 29, 2004 06:28 AM