The Fabulous Hudson Hornet, An ARCA Flashback

The Fabulous Hudson Hornet, An ARCA Flashback
TOLEDO OH (3-7-10) - The Fabulous Hudson Hornet came back to life in the 2006 animated movie "Cars".

‘Doc Hudson Hornet', whose voice was the late Paul Newman's, introduced some and reacquainted others with NASCAR's earliest champion - the Fabulous Hudson Hornet. However, NASCAR wasn't the only stock car sanction with Hudson Hornet roots.

While the movie carried a NASCAR theme, those familiar with ARCA's history could and can certainly relate. That's because ARCA's (then MARC) first two champions - Jim Romine (left) in 1953 and Buckie Sager in 1954 - drove the Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Even Iggy Katona, who won his first championship in 1955 in a Ford, campaigned with a Hudson Hornet in ARCA's '53 and '54 seasons.

Sager, in a Hudson Hornet, won the first-ever race sanctioned by ARCA/MARC at Dayton Speedway on May 10, 1953. Between Sager, Romine and Katona, Hudson Hornet completely dominated, winning 19 of 22 events in the inaugural '53 season, including 13 consecutive, still the longest consecutive victory march by any manufacturer in ARCA's 58-year history.sagerhornet.jpg

In 1954, Hudson Hornet won eight of 15 events with an interesting combination of drivers to include Sager (right), Romine, Katona, Fonty Flock, Bob Flock and Russ Hepler.

But by 1955, while Hudson Hornet consumer sales were dwindling, other auto manufacturers emerged, introducing their brands through stock car racing. Cadillac, Mercury, Plymouth, Ford and Chevy all began to appear in the win columns while, for whatever reasons, the Hudson's popularity languished. The last known Hudson Hornet to go to victory lane in ARCA was on June 25, 1955 on the Canfield Speedway dirt with Hepler at the controls.

Although the Fabulous Hudson Hornet faded away into the sunset, it, quite fortunately, wasn't before it graced the history books as ARCA's first champion, adding yet more luster and lure to ARCA's rich and incredible history.

Hudson Hornet Brief History

hudson53.jpgThe Hornet, introduced for the 1951 model year, was based on Hudson's "step-down" design which had already been introduced for the 1948 model year in the Commodore. The design merged body and frame into a single structure, with the floor pan recessed between the car's frame rails instead of sitting on top of the frame. Thus one "stepped down" into a Hudson.

All Hornets were powered by Hudson's high-compression straight-six "H-145" engine. The L-Head (flathead or sidevalve) design, at 308 cu. in. (5L), was the "largest [displacement] six-cylinder engine in the world" at the time. It had a two-barrel carburetor and produced 145 hp (108 kW) at 3800 rpm.hudsonhornetcheckered.jpg

Despite Hudson's near-invincible stock car track record, sales began to languish. Hudson's competitors, using separate body-on-frame designs, could change the look of their models on a yearly basis without expensive chassis alterations, whereas the Hornet's modern, sophisticated unibody design was expensive to update.

Hudson Hornet Sales

1951 = 43,656
1952 = 35,921
1953 = 27,208
1954 = 24,833 (the final year before the Hudson merger with Nash-Kelvinator)hudsonkatona.jpg

Production of the Hornet ended on June 25, 1957, at which time the Hudson brand was dropped and all of AMC's products took the "Rambler" name.

At left, 6-time champ Iggy Katona steers his no. 30 Hudson Hornet on the Canfield Speedway half-mile dirt in 1953. The fairgrounds oval in Canfield, Ohio is there.