In 1951 unemployment in the U.S. was at an all-time low of 3.3%, new highways were being constructed throughout the country and the average family income was $3,700/year. Very few cars had turn signals or seat belts then and televisions were still black and white. That was also the year that Harry S. Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur, Perry Como and Tony Bennet were on the top of the music charts, Dennis the Menace first appeared in cartoon strips and the Hudson Hornet was introduced by the Hudson Motor Car Company.
The Hudson Motor Company was started in 1909 by several young men who worked for Ransom E. Olds at the Olds Motor Works. Roy Chapin had been Olds' sales manager and was the businessman of the group. The others, Roscoe Jackson, Howard Coffin and George Dunham were designers and engineers and department store heir Joseph Hudson provided the financing. Sales at the Hudson Motor Company peaked with the 1929 Hudson and Essex models but dropped significantly during the Great Depression. However as with many automobile companies at the time, World War II brought new opportunities for their factories they were able to stay in business.
In 1946 Hudson introduced their first post war vehicles, the "Hudson Carrier Six", " Hudson Super Six" and the "Hudson Commodore". The Carrier Six was a cross between a car and truck and was only produced that year but the Super and Commodore were destined to put Hudson back in the automotive business. They both had a unique "monobilt" chassis/floorpan construction that allowed the floorpan to be dropped down several inches, resulting in more head room and better road handling. They came with either a 212 cubic inch, 103 horsepower, straight six-cylinder engine or a 254 cubic inch, 212 horsepower, straight eight-cylinder engine; and they paved the way to the 1951 Hudson Hornet.
The 1951 Hudson Hornet was a remake of the Commodore. It was marketed as a luxury car and the low slung body gave the six passengers a new kind of smooth ride, especially around corners. It came in a two-door coupe and four-door sedan as either a convertible or hardtop and sold for about $3,000. The major attraction, however, was the new 308 cubic inch six-cylinder engine with dual carburetors that produced 145 horsepower and 275 ft-lbs of torque at 3800 rpm. It was the largest production six cylinder automotive engine at the time and rivaled the new V-8 engines being introduced by General Motors. As a result, the engine combined with the superior handling made the Hudson Hornet a consistent winner on the NASCAR circuit in the early 1950s.
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The Hudson Hornet was a major success but two factors led to its demise. The first was that its unibody design was expensive to modify, at a time when the other automobile manufactures were changing bodies less expensively because of their independent chassis. The second was that they did not step up to a V-8 engine, which gradually achieved a superior horsepower to weight ratio over the straight six. Sales gradually fell to a point where the Hudson Motor Company merged with the Nash Motors Company to create the American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1954. By 1957 the "Hornet" name had been phased out but was revived to replace the "Rambler" as the "AMC Hornet" in 1970, which was built through the 1977 model year.