The Fabulous Hudson Hornet

Long, Low, and a NASCAR Winner

Story Joe Greeves - February 12, 2014 11:00 AM


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Not too many automotive history buffs know the name of Marshall Teague, inducted in the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame in 1968.

Teague was an American race car driver who was so successful on the sandy Daytona Beach road course that he was nicknamed “King of the Beach.”

Evidently, his reputation preceded him when he arrived unannounced at the Hudson Motor Car Company in Michigan. Thanks to a combination of charm and proven talent, Teague left Hudson’s corporate offices with a formal agreement of support, generally regarded as the first time a stock car racing team was backed by a Detroit automotive manufacturer. 

Of course, Teague had a lot to work with, thanks to the unique design of the Hudson Hornet, introduced in 1951. Ahead of its time, the streamlined body had a low center of gravity, thanks to its “step down” design. The floorboards were mounted below the car’s chassis rails, meaning that passengers stepped down slightly when entering the car, a factor that lowered the car’s height and greatly improved its road holding. The Hornet was equipped with a 308 cubic inch, L-head six, one of the largest six-cylinder engines in the world at the time. The six was originally rated at 145 horsepower, but Hudson’s interest in racing led to the “Severe Usage” package, a factory-prepped and dealer-installed collection of thinly disguised high-performance options for the motor.

By offering the option to the public, Hudson was legally allowed to compete in NASCAR back in the day when stock cars were actually stock. The package included a larger bore, bigger valves, ported and polished combustion chambers, high compression head, high performance cam, split dual exhausts, and a pair of single-barrel Carter carbs called “Twin H-Power”. The changes added another 85 horsepower.

Like many independent automobile manufacturers, Hudson could not keep up with the Big Three, who were able to change their model line-up every year. The sophisticated Hudson unibody design was much more difficult to modify compared to the body-on-frame cars of their competitors. Hudson merged with Nash in 1954 and established American Motors. After 48 years in the business, the Hudson Motor Car Company closed its doors in 1957.


Read the entire story, which includes more detailed photos, in the April Issue of Cars & Parts, on sale Feb. 25.