contact me

Got a question about the cars?  Drop me a line.

‚Äč© 2023 by TobyKnollGarage. Proudly created with Wix.com

Doug Smith, owner of Toby Knoll Garage, and his Fabulous Hudson Hornet at the Franklin County Technical School’s Fourth Annual Cool Rides Car Show. (2013)

1954 Hudson Hornet

In 1951, Hudson introduced the Hornet, a full sized sedan with a voluminous 308 cubic inch six cylinder engine. The Hudson was already an advanced vehicle. The seating area was depressed between an encircling unibody construction, which lowered the center of gravity, and the car was equipped with a novel anti-sway (Panhard) bar at the rear axle.

 

Along with an auxiliary mechanical brake mechanism, to back up the standard hydraulic system, the Hudson was making its mark as a performance machine. The advent of the Hornet made Hudsons the cars to beat at the circle track. “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” became the mantra for Hudson dealerships and few other cars could match them for speed, handling, and durability.

By the early 50’s the major auto manufacturers were designing all new high-revving overhead valve V8 engines. Nevertheless, Hudson persevered with the durable and less expensive big six. To confront the challenge of the novel overhead V8 and its advanced valve technology, Hudson began to offer performance upgrades. Early on in the Hornet’s history, “over the counter” and dealer and factory installed options became available to increase the power of 308 six. These were not after market items, like Edmunds intake manifolds or the earliest Offenhauser parts, but factory designed parts to increase compression ratio and induction efficiency. The most famous of these parts are the high compression “H145” aluminum head that raised the compression ratio from 6.7:1 to 7.2:1 and the popular “Twin-H Power” dual carburetor set up that employed two single barrel Carter carburetors on a primitive ram-style cast iron manifold. By 1953, Hudson offered a complete engine package, dubbed the “7X”, which included a specially prepared block, larger valves, a high lift camshaft, and a split exhaust adaptor. Combined with the aluminum head and the dual carburetors the “7X” surpassed the 200 horsepower threshold. Nothing like this was available from any other auto manufacturer of the time.

By late 1954, however, continued sagging sales and the great expense of retooling forced Hudson to merge with Nash (Rambler and Metropolitan), bringing to an end the era of the stepdown and its brief but spectacular racing career.

 

When I begin my research into which model and year I wanted to pursue, I decided that I wanted a car that would have been the model used in racing, and that turned out to be the Hornet coupe. Although the preferred two door stepdowns are the 1951 to 1953 Hornet coupes, I liked the styling of the 1954, which was the last year of the stepdown design. It was the most different looking stepdown in that the rear was squared off, not round as in previous years. The 1954 Hornet had other unique features, such as a full windshield, and embodied the latest developments in engineering and options. The car had a functional hood scoop, certain 7X inspired engine improvements, and, for the first time, optional power brakes and power steering.  Hudson built somewhere around 2500 Hornet coupes (excluding Hornet Specials) in 1954. According to the 2010 Hudson/Essex/Terraplane Club roster, about 30 ’54 Hornet Club coupes exist in some form of drivable condition.

My search did not take long. Within a few days I had located a 1954 Hornet coupe and after a brief phone conversation with the owner bought the car sight unseen. Although the car had no engine or transmission, it was an original “Twin-H” powered example and was factory-equipped with the three speed overdrive transmission. It had no power options.

Click on any of the thumbnails for full-size photos.

You can navigate through the slides by clicking on the right and left-hand arrows on the photo.

The car had indications that a restoration had been started. Nevertheless, many rust issues had to be addressed and the unibody needed to be strengthened. The first year of the restoration involved dismantling the entire body and cleaning and sandblasting every square inch. This was followed by welding in new steel to strengthen the box sheet metal that formed the body unit. The doors were restored as was the hood.

Click on any of the thumbnails for full-size photos.

You can navigate through the slides by clicking on the right and left-hand arrows on the photo.

Year two saw the rebuilding of the suspension, brakes and fuel delivery system. I decided to add power brakes and used original ’54 parts to make the change (Treadlevac/pedals/brackets).

 

By year three I was getting the engine rebuilt. I located a ’56 308 (last year) with Twin-H power. The ’56 has many 7X inspired features, hydraulic lifters, and had the highest rated horsepower of any factory 308 (170). Other “7X” features include larger valves and a milled ’54 aluminum head producing 8.3:1 compression ratio. As I mentioned in the Introduction, all electronics have been upgraded. The only non-original engine part is a Clifford header.

Click on any of the thumbnails for full-size photos.

You can navigate through the slides by clicking on the right and left-hand arrows on the photo.

The fourth year was the hardest because I went with a modern transmission and aftermarket adapter and hydraulic clutch. The transmission is a BW GM S10 T5 overdrive unit. The S10 version allows it to be used with a bench seat. Getting it all to work properly took a lot of time and bloody knuckles. I also needed to get the car fully prepped for paint, the interior done, all the glass installed, and following paint, all the bright work repaired or polished or plated and installed.

The completed, painted car went to a well-known letterer who created the graphics. The car is meant to be a Grand National tribute car. It has the rear seat removed (as was the rule then), a roll bar in its place along with a modern gauge cluster.

 

Unfortunately, all of the year one and two photos were lost to a hacking of my computer.

TOBY KNOLL GARAGE

'50s Cars