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.
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?
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.
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.