Hudson did its best in ’54 to clean up the aged 1948 body. Smoother flanks and a lower, wider frontal aspect helped, along with a new dash and brighter fabrics and vinyls. And at long last the windshield was one piece. Mechanically it wasn’t bad either. In fact, some say the last Step-Down was the best ever. With the straight six came a Twin-H power option, a hot camshaft, and an alloy head that could crank out 170 bhp; it was promptly dubbed “The Fabulous Hornet.”
The problem was that everybody had V8s, and by mid-’54 Hudson had hemorrhaged over $6 million. In April of that year, Hudson, which had been around since 1909, was swallowed up by the Nash Kelvinator Corporation. Yet the Hornet has been rightly recognized as a milestone car and one of the quickest sixes of the era. If Hudson is to be remembered for anything, it should be for its innovative engineers, who could wring the best from ancient designs and tiny budgets.
These Hudsons were known as Step-Downs because you literally stepped down into the car. Among the fastest cars of the Fifties, they boasted above-average power and crisp handling.
Amazingly, Hudson never offered V8 power, which was to hasten its downfall.
Coil springs provided an adequate ride up front.
Full-depth fender skirts accentuated the low look.
Despite their aerodynamic styling , Hornets drank a thirsty 17 mpg (6 km/l).
NASCAR devotees watched many a Hudson trounce the competition, winning 22 out of 37 major races in ’53 alone. Advertising copy made much of Hudson’s racing success, and the Hornet was “powered to outperform them all!”
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Hudson Hornet 7D (1954)
PRODUCTION 24,833 (1954 Hornets)
BODY STYLES Two-door coupe or convertible, four-door sedan.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINE 308cid straight six.
POWER OUTPUT 160–170 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual, optional Hydra-Matic automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 110 mph (177 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 12 sec
A.F.C. 17 mpg (6 km/l)