Pawel Litwinski, courtesy of Bonhams

Hudson highlighted the 1951 model year with the new Hornet model, empowering the already dramatic step-down design with a larger engine. The heart of the Hornet was an evolution of the new Super Six engine introduced in the step-down in 1948, but enlarged to 308 cubic inches. The most powerful Six on the market, it was soon campaigning on the stock-car tracks, rolling up six first-place finishes on the NASCAR circuit.

Since its recent acquisition, over $5,000 has been spent on further mechanical refurbishment. Showing fewer than 58,000 miles, this cosmetically original Hornet, with recorded history from new and replete with all of its original books and manuals, is ready to buzz into only the fifth garage it’s ever resided in.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Hudson Hornet Sedan
Years Produced:1951–57
Number Produced:35,921 (1952 Hornets)
Original List Price:$2,749
SCM Valuation:$19,000–$25,000
Chassis Number Location:Right front door post
Engine Number Location:Right front side of block
Club Info:Hudson Essex Terraplane Club
Alternatives:1952 Pontiac Chieftain, 1952 Oldsmobile 98, 1952 DeSoto Firedome
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 509, sold for $27,500, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ “Preserving the Automobile” sale at the Simeone Foundation in Philadelphia, PA, on October 7, 2013.

The first Hudson rolled off the production line in July 1909. With the deep pockets of Joseph L. Hudson of Hudson Department Store fame, and the acute business acumen of Howard Coffin and Roy Chapin, the company had become the 11th-biggest automaker in the country by the following year, in a field that included hundreds.

Hudson continued to prosper with the development of “closed” models so drivers and passengers were not exposed to the elements, and they quickly adopted the new developments of the era, such as the self starter.

By 1929, Hudson stood in the third spot in U.S. automobile sales behind Ford and Chevrolet. As the Depression took hold of the country, Hudson continued with expensive innovations that were not appreciated by the buying public. But the company did manage to survive while a lot of others did not, and after the war, Hudson was poised for unprecedented growth.

New look, slick performance

In 1948, Hudson introduced the Super Six with unit-body construction. Sales brochures referred to the new car as “monobuilt,” with the floorpan suspended from the bottom of the chassis. The chassis also extended past the rear fenders, giving the car a much lower look than everything else available on the market at the time.

Before the war, Hudson had set an impressive 102 official American Automobile Association (AAA) Class C and D records for speed and endurance, which had a positive impact on sales. So when the Hudson Hornet was introduced in 1951, with its more powerful 308-ci inline six and a lower center of gravity created by the “step-down design,” the racers took notice.

From factory to competition

Marshall Teague, a Daytona Beach resident and runner-up in the first race sanctioned by NASCAR in 1948, quickly realized the potential for the new Hudson Hornet and went to Detroit to visit the Hudson Motor Car Company without so much as an introductory appointment. In what would be unheard of in today’s corporate world, he walked away with company support and cars for his new team of “Fabulous Hudson Hornets.” It’s regarded as the first stock-car racing team to be supported by a Detroit auto manufacturer.

One of Teague’s first stops when he returned to Daytona Beach was to Smokey Yunick’s “Best Damn Garage in Town” to invite him to join the new team. Smokey knew nothing about stock-car racing, but he did know engines, and with his knowledge of physics and chemistry, he could determine how far to push an engine before, as he said, it “blowed.” He also carefully studied the NASCAR rule book and quickly determined that you could run anything you wanted that was “within the spirit of competition.”

The combination of Teague, Yunick and the new step-down Hudson Hornet with the Twin-H power, “severe usage” performance parts supplied by Hudson and the special 7-X engine was almost unbeatable. Overall, Hudson won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952.

Hudson, however, was a victim of its own success. The unibody design was expensive to update, and with planned obsolescence now a part of the car world thanks to the Big Three and their annual body changes, the Hudson soon looked dated and tired. Hudson merged with Nash to form AMC, but the marque vanished into history in 1957.

Setting the value

Hudson’s racing exploits certainly brought people into the showroom in the ’50s, and that legacy continues to add to their allure today. Pricing them, however, is like tacking Jell-O to the wall, as their values are all over the board. For example, Mecum sold a rather ragged ’52 Hudson Hornet for $7,000 in June 2012 (ACC# 209127), while Gooding & Company sold an outstanding example at their August 2012 Pebble Beach sale for $178,750 (ACC# 212005). Several others are in the ACC Premium Auction Database in the low $50k range.

So where does our subject car fit in the overall scheme of things? First off, it was a well-documented, low-mileage, four-owner car that appeared to be very original. It also has the “Twin-H Power” dual-carb 308-ci high-performance engine, which adds to its desirability. Documentation includes the original service policy, owner’s manual, radio manual, workshop book, accessory folder, clock tag and original Hudson key fob.

But if you read between the lines of the auction copy, the picture becomes a little clearer. It’s claimed to be “cosmetically original,” which likely means the brightwork needs some help and the paint is unwinding a bit — not a bad thing if you’re a stickler for originality, but if not, it’ll take time and money to clean up. The seating is stated to be original, too, but an excellent replacement package is available for ’52 Hudsons, which is a big plus.

From here, considering the price paid and the general state of the market for good cars in great shape, it looks like there is room for some cosmetic spiffing up of the car while still being on the right side of the equation. So at the end of the day, I have to call this a solid transaction for both parties, with a slight nod to the buyer.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.

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