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Car of the Week: 1954 Hudson Hornet (Last Step-Down Design)

The last of the Step-Down design Hudson Hornets — the 1954 model — upheld the winning record established by the 1951-53 models on the nation’s stock-car ovals, but it eventually lost the bigger battle, which was to remain in production
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The last of the Step-Down design Hudson Hornets — the 1954 model — upheld the winning record established by the 1951-53 models on the nation’s stock-car ovals, but it eventually lost the bigger battle, which was to remain in production.

This year the big cars were restyled to look more like the compact Jet introduced the year before. The grille had a heavy, bowed molding tracing the upper radiator opening. There was a full-width, flat horizontal loop surrounding the wedge-shaped parking lights at each end. The main bar (top of the loop) was ribbed towards the middle and held a triangular Hudson medallion in a finned housing at its center. Behind this bar was an angled plate with four additional, wide-spaced ribs. Block letters spelled out the Hudson name below the scoop on the nose of the hood.

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Despite a new one-piece curved windshield, new sheet metal from the belt line down, a modernized interior and the most powerful flathead sixes ever installed in a passenger car up to that time, the public and the critics voted that the Hudson was outdated and sales were dismal.

Hornets had most Super Wasp equipment plus the following additions or changes: crank-type front ventipanes on all models; cast aluminum 'high-compression' head; electric clock; foam rubber rear seat cushions; Custom wheel discs; hydraulic window lifts (in convertibles); and special trims. Sedans and Club Coupes were upholstered in 15 percent nylon worsted Bedford cloth with broadcloth bolsters and Plasti-hide trim in different shades of the same colors: brown, blue or green. The Hornet Hollywood had similarly toned, snowflake design nylon cord seats with Plasti-hide bolsters. The convertible was done in blue, maroon or green genuine leather (with Plasti-hide side trim). Convertible tops were available in maroon, black or tan. Specific combinations of top colors with car finishes were recommended, but not considered mandatory. Also, the Hollywood hardtop could be had with tri-colored seat and headlining combinations of antique white Plasti-hide and red, blue and green bolsters, at no extra cost. The last models introduced by Hudson, in Detroit, were the Hornet Specials. They appeared March 19, 1954, at prices $115 to $140 lower than comparable Hornets. They had Hornet Special front fender script, Hornet engine and a subdued level of exterior brightwork.

After long talks, Hudson and Nash-Kelvinator merged on May 1, 1954, to form American Motors Corporation. Nash was the strong partner, relatively speaking, and it was decided that current Hudson production would end in October, with the name being transferred to a variation of the Nash.

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Even with the midyear introduction of the low-priced Hornet Special series, sales did not pick up. In all, 24,833 Hornets were made. Only 11,603 of the smaller Wasps were put together.

The base Hornet engine, still at 308 cubic inches, was rated at 160 hp and the Twin-H option brought that figure to 170 hp for $86 more. However, the stock-car racers used the specially built 7-X engine, which was available through the company’s parts operation for $385. This high-performance engine reportedly produced 210 hp.

Hudson won 17 out of 36 NASCAR Grand Nationals, again more than any other make, and driver Marshall Teague wrapped up another AAA title with five wins.

Other Hudson drivers took three more victories to account for half the AAA events that season. Ironically, Teague’s last win came September 12, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not far from where the 1955 Hornets would be constructed in Kenosha.

Hornet prices in 1954 ranged from the Hornet Special Club Sedan at $2,571 to the convertible Brougham at $3,288

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HORNET 'BIG' SIX: Inline six. L-head. Chrome alloy block. Displacement: 308 cid. Bore and stroke; 3-15/16 � 4-1/2 inches. Compression ratio: 7.5:1. Brake hp: 160 at 3800 rpm. Four main bearings. Solid valve lifters. Carburetor: Carter two-barrel type WGD Model 2115S.

Wheelbase124 inches; Overall length: 268 7/8 inches. Front tread: 58.5 inches. Rear tread: 55.5 inches.

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On Jan. 14, 1954, Hudson directors approved a merger with Nash-Kelvinator. On March 24,1954, Hudson stockholders approved the merger. On April 12,1954, the Jet Family Club Sedan was added to the line. On May 1,1954, Hudson officially became part of American Motors Corp. Twenty-six days later, Hudson employees were notified that production was being switched to the Nash automobile factory in Kenosha, Wis. On Oct. 30, 1954, the 1954 Hudson model run ended in Detroit. Eleven days later the first Hornet/Rambler departed the Kenosha plant. On Dec. 28, 1954, the first 1955 Hudson Hornet V-8 was built at Kenosha. An era in Hudson's history had ended.

Collector Values
1954 Hornet Special Series 6D

2d Club Coupe
No. 1 condition $20,000
No. 2 $14,000
No. 3 $9,000
No. 4 $4,000

2d Club Sedan
No. 1 condition $18,100
No. 2 $12,670
No. 3 $8,150
No. 4 $3,620

4d Sedan
No. 1 $18,400
No. 2 $12,880
No. 3 $8,280
No. 4 $3,680

1954 Hornet Series 7D
2d Club Coupe
No. 1 $21,000
No. 2 $14,700
No. 3 $9,450
No. 4 $4,200

2d Hollywood Hardtop
No. 1 $23,000
No. 2 $16,100
No. 3 $10,350
No. 4 $4,600

2d Brougham Convertible
No. 1 $55,000
No. 2 $38,500
No. 3 $24,750
No. 4 $11,000

4d Sedan
No. 1 $18,600
No. 2 $13,020
No. 3 $8,370
No. 4 $3,720

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