Home » This Isn’t Quite What I Thought It Was: Cold Start

This Isn’t Quite What I Thought It Was: Cold Start

Cs Hudson1
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If nothing else happens this morning, it’s still significant, as I realized that something I thought about the Hudson Hornet was wrong. Wrong! I’ve been living a lie! See that picture up there, showing the advantages of the Hudson Hornet design over conventional body-on-frame cars? Well, I always assumed that was because the Hornet was a unibody car, since, aside from having what appeared to be the unibody packaging advances, Hudson was part of AMC, along with American unibody pioneer Nash. But that’s not the case! This isn’t unibody at all! I better explain.

First, this Hornet brochure is from 1951, before Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator in 1954 to form American Motors Company. While Nash had started building unibody cars since 1942, with the Nash 600, Hudson was not in a position to take advantage of that. Also, it’s worth remembering that Nash didn’t invent the unibody, even though we tend to think of them as one of the major early adopters; that honor goes to Lancia, with their 1925 Lambda.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So, what is going on here with the Fabulous Hudson Hornet? It’s not a unibody, okay, but it’s not quite body-on-frame, is it? So what is it?

Cs Hudson2

Well, really, it is sort of a body-on-frame, but the way that frame is designed is pretty novel; it’s much more of a permimeter frame than the usual kind of perimeter frame in that they crammed everything inside the boundaries of those frame rails, and then set everything much lower. They weren’t building on top of the axles, they built the car around them, and then lowered the floor to, as they like to say, let the passengers “step down” into the car.

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It’s clever, as it really lowers the center of gravity and makes the car roomier and handle better. It’s also kind of a technological dead end, as unibody designs ended up being able to accomplish the same thing in a lighter, more elegant way.

So, nothing is “Monobilt” today, so if that’s on your new-car buying criteria, you may want to update your list. But it’s a fascinating relic, and at least it got to be famous on one fabulous car.

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Philip Dunlop
Philip Dunlop
7 months ago

My suggestion for “how they do it”, as asked on the Instagram post for this story, was to say “by looking cool as fuck”. I love how Hudson’s look. Is there much of a demand for them in the US? Are they ridiculously expensive?

They’re one of the few manufacturers that assembled cars (in right-hand drive as complete knock-down kits, to the best of my knowledge) in Ireland, and yet I’ve never actually seen one in the metal. I’d be surprised if any survive.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
7 months ago
Reply to  Philip Dunlop

They are for the most part owned by near-fanatic group of folks who keep the price of nice ones very high. The remainder are scruffy used up beaters that are too far gone to justify restoration. Parts availability isn’t as horrific as you might assume. Most of your normal wear items such as belts, brakes, and engine parts for a rebuild are available. If you’re contemplating ownership I would suggest following the various sources on the net. If you find one that looks suitable spring for a trip to where your dream car is located.

Shipping costs are around $1k plus admin costs etc. Pursuing a Hudson isn’t impossible, it just requires a serious attitude and total focus and a medium size sack of money. All in, a nice early 50’s Hudson could be yours FOB $30k Bremerhaven, Rotterdam.

Check out this link for Hemmings: https://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/cars-for-sale/hudson/all-models/1948

Last edited 7 months ago by Opa Carriker
Philip Dunlop
Philip Dunlop
7 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

Oh god, ownership wouldn’t be either realistic or practical. As nice an idea as it’d be.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
7 months ago

The name of the vehicle is appropriate, because like insects, the unibody/perimeter frame is kind of like an exoskeleton.

DysLexus
DysLexus
7 months ago

Jason:
Those Entomology night classes must really be absorbing you lately.
Beetles last week, Hornets this.

When does this end? How many insect named cars are there anyway?

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
7 months ago

Why does everyone in the ‘other’ car look more chipper than the trio in the Hudson? Just from the facial expressions, some kind of deal has just gone very wrong in there.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
7 months ago
Reply to  PlatinumZJ

Because cramming people in cars is fun! I can’t remember a much more enjoyable time than driving back from live gigs at the neighbouring university with up to eight of us crammed in a decrepit BMC Mini.
(Driver; two front passengers: girlfriend on boyfriend’s lap; four people across the rear seat, outermost pair with outer buttock in seat-side pocket; one small female prone across four laps.) (No suspension to speak of.)

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
7 months ago

I knew it was gonna be Hudson when I saw the teaser on threads this morning. I would like to thank the great restaurant, Hudson’s Grill in Simi Valley, CA, for my knowledge of these strange cars.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
7 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

Simi? Time to try there I guess (next town over)

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
7 months ago
Reply to  Alec Weinstein

Yep. Looks like its gone now (not sure how long as I haven’t lived nearby in 15 years). Was a staple of my childhood, now its a Panera bread. Now I get how Social Distortion felt about that 7-11.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
7 months ago

The lower center of gravity due to the step down design was often credited with the success of the Hornet when it raced in the AAA racing circuit, Driver Marshall Teague drove a stock Hornet that he called “the Fabulous Hudson Hornet ” to 14 wins during the season. This brought the Hornet’s season record to 40 wins in 48 events, a winning percentage of 83%.

Overall, Hudson won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, followed by 22 wins of 37 in 1953, and captured 17 of the 37 races in 1954 — an incredible accomplishment, especially from a car that had some legitimate luxury credentials.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
7 months ago

Look at the cross-section through the Hudson, increase the size of the side rails, make them nearly tall enough to use as an arm rest if the passengers were sitting directly on the floor, move the rails closer together so that you can only have two passengers and their shoulders touch.

You now have the cross section of a series 1 Lotus Elise/340R/2-Eleven.

SCJeff
SCJeff
7 months ago

Doc Hudson approves of this article.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
7 months ago

Poor old Debbie Reynolds’s is stuck in the middle seat again!

You’d have thought that Fred and Donald would treat her better, but she’ll get the last laugh. Once the residuals from this Hudson commercial start rolling in, she’s going to get herself a nice little Nash Cosmopolitan. We’ll see if those two jerks enjoy singin’ in the rain without her.

LTDScott
LTDScott
7 months ago

I find it kinda funny that a “step down” was a selling point back then when today most vehicles are taller and having the seat up higher for ease of entry is a big selling point for CUVs for many people.

ES
ES
7 months ago

so perhaps a stupid question, but what did changing a rear flat entail? And in the undercarriage drawings above, there doesn’t seem to be provision for a drive shaft. Surely they weren’t building these as front drive?

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
7 months ago
Reply to  ES

Re: wheels, I suspect at full droop the hub probably dropped below the frame rail, granting access to the lugs etc, and there was enough space to then slip the wheel down and out.

Re: drive shaft, probably used a differential with very offset hypoid gears so the driveshaft was aligned with the bottom of the ring gear rather than the center. It’s a higher friction configuration but some cars used it to achieve lower floors.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
7 months ago

I’ll toss an interesting twist into discussion of this particular build technique. While there don’t seem to be new cars being built this way, there’s a modification method for wheelchair minivans that is similar.

Modern side-entry wheelchair vans have the entire floor and sub-frame structure between the axles cut away and then lowered by welding in new sections and reinforcements. The result is similar — the floor is lowered considerably, in this case to allow a wheelchair user to easily drive up or down an extendable ramp. To the outside of the vehicle, the modification is virtually invisible, although there’s some plastic ground effect-style molding applied to the (extended) rocker panels to hide the extra fabricated bits.

When it’s done right, like the Braun conversion on my wife’s van, it looks perfectly normal — even better than stock. The wheel arches are properly carried down further which also makes them look more filled-in. The lowered bodywork brings apparent ground clearance down closer to a sportscar-style stance. Her van just happens to be a Grand Caravan R/T variant, which actually has suspension and brake upgrades plus more aggressive fuel mapping from the factory — so the crazy thing is actually more hoon-able than any minivan has a right to. And the dropped center of gravity really does make it fee a bit more planted on the road. (She was a sportscar enthusiast before a cardiac condition forced her to need a wheelchair to get around. So “normal” vans weren’t her preference to begin with. Her first van was a Chevy G-series van that looked a good bit like the A-Team van which I installed a lift into. This one was too ridiculous to pass up. A sleeper wheelchair van? Who knew?)

**There are also “extra height” dropped-floor wheelchair van conversions which drop the floor below what would normally be possible at the standard axle heights. These look “hiked up” because their suspensions are lifted by a couple of inches, and their wheel arches look unusually high over the tires. Sometimes there are even filler panels in the upper area of the fenders. Although their builds start out similar to what I was describing, they come out looking and handling differently because of the suspension modifications.

JDE
JDE
7 months ago

Basically this where the hot rod term Channeled comes from for lowering cars. Except Hudson did it better and took the ladders and X’s out of the frames and dropped the floor inside.

David Durling
David Durling
7 months ago

How did they change the rear wheels?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago
Reply to  David Durling

In more time than it should normally take, mixed with some cursing and busted knuckles

Mattias
Mattias
7 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

As we all know from maintaining Citroëns.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago

One of the main features Hudson touted in the day was that putting the floor below the side frame rails also improved safety in side impacts

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Some roof bracing and this would be the start of a legit safety cage.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
7 months ago

She has plenty of room in the Hornet because manspreading hadn’t been invented yet in 1951.

SK2807
SK2807
7 months ago

But Main Street’s still all cracked and broken
Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken

Monobilt!

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
7 months ago

Interesting how the people in these pictures appear very relaxed and comfortable. Lots of the images that Torch shown us have people pretending to be relaxed or natural,but the artist that did these paintings really pulled it off.

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Brown suit guy is reaching for his flask.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
7 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Might as well since he’s getting cock-blocked by Gray Suit Guy.

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

True but Brown Suit is about to even the odds by offering Yellow Frock a nip of his Brown Liquor. Unless Grey Suit has some vodka, his Grey Goose is cooked.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

So, Hudson’s had a basement?

Paul B
Paul B
7 months ago

Jay Leno’s garage has an episode about the Hornet. Well worth the watch.

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