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(Above) The hood is slightly ajar, it had been open to show off the engine.
Note the McQueen papers on the plush seats. The upholstery is original. Hudsons were fast, comfortable, solid cars that offered excellent handling qualities.
Pictured here is the 1953 Hudson Hornet formerly owned by the late actor Steve McQueen.
Some highlights of this car are:
• Model 7C. 170 hp, 308 cu in valve-in-block “flathead” straight six cylinder engine
• Dual Carter single-barrel carburetors (Twin-H Power)
• Hydramatic automatic transmission
• Wheelbase: 124"
The car was in Steve McQueen's possession at the time of his passing in 1980. Aside from an engine rebuild and a very high quality repaint when the car was in McQueen's possession the car is very original, preserved, and unrestored - including the interior. The car was sold by McQueen's estate in 1984 and this owner held it until the auction at Monterey, California last weekend. «Louis» is happy he was able to see this fine automobile.
Steve McQueen, at one time the world’s highest paid, most popular actor, amateur motor racing driver, skilled motorcyclist, hands-on automotive enthusiast, sex symbol, and pop culture icon of intergalactic proportion, needs little introduction here or anywhere else. McQueen’s classic films that included automobiles, motorcycles, or motorsport as central plot elements include, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Reivers, Le Mans, and The Hunter. McQueen wasn’t so much a car collector, in the traditional sense, as he was an enthusiastic gatherer of great motorized hardware and ephemera. He had the financial wherewithal to afford nearly any car or bike he wanted and had great taste and feel for cars. Throughout his life, he acquired, drove, and raced dozens of fabulous cars and hundreds of interesting motorcycles, among them, numerous Porsches, at least three Ferraris, a one-of-sixteen Jaguar XKSS, an ex-military half-track, and two Hudsons, one of which is on offer here.
The Hudson Hornet is likely the most famous of the historically significant “step down” Hudson model designs. The car’s chassis architecture, and the way the body was mounted on it, meant that entering passengers stepped down modestly into the interior of the car, and this also allowed for a lower center of gravity, which improved roadholding. This is one of the reasons the Hornet was such a successful race car, especially in the relatively new venue of NASCAR “stock car” racing. Hudson stuck with its tough, well-proven flathead six, souping it up from its original rating of 140 horsepower to 170 horsepower by virtue of “Twin H-Power,” which employed a higher compression ratio, and the factory installation of dual Carter carburetors. This combination in race trim yielded well over 200 horsepower.
McQueen purchased this Hudson Hornet 7C Sedan in the mid-1970s, and it was registered into his name in August, 1977. It was offered at the RM Monterey Auction with several certificates of ownership and title documents, as well as the actual blue and yellow California license plates the car wore during its tenure in McQueen's collection. This Twin H-Power Hudson was in his ownership and possession at the time of his passing on November 7, 1980. Subsequent to McQueen’s passing, an estate sale was held in November, 1984, and the Hornet was sold into private ownership, which included a numbered certificate of authenticity signed by McQueen’s daughter, Terry, and son, Chad. That document, along with the aforementioned titles, registrations, license plates, and service and maintenance documentation since 1976, were included with the sale of the car. It sold for $61,600.
In 1948, Hudson launched their "step-down" bodies, which lasted through the 1954 model year. In time all US automakers would embrace Hudson's unitized body concept as a means of building bodies. Automotive writer and authority Richard Langworth wrote that the step-down models "..(were) one of greatest" autos of the era".
In 1951, Hudson picked up the "Hornet" name for the top-of-the-line car and "Wasp" for the lower-priced model. The names were a tip of Hudson's hat to the famous U.S. Navy aircraft carriers of the same names in World War II.
All Hornets (51-53) were powered by Hudson's high-compression straight-six "H-145" engine. In 1952 the "Twin-H Power" option became available. A L-head design, at 308 cu in, it was the largest displacement six-cylinder engine in the world at the time. It had a two-barrel carburetor and produced 145 hp at 3800 rpm and 275 lb·ft of torque. The engine was capable of far more power in the hands of precision tuners, including Marshall Teague, who claimed he could get 112 miles per hour (180.2 km/h) from an AAA- or NASCAR-certified stock Hornet, as well as Hudson engineers who developed "severe usage" options (thinly disguised racing parts). The combination of the Hudson engine with overall road-ability of the Hornets, plus the fact these cars were over-engineered and over-built, made them unbeatable in competition on the dirt and the very few paved tracks of the 1950s.
Hudson's strong, light-weight bodies, combined with its high-torque inline six-cylinder engine technology made the company's 1951–54 Hornet an auto racing champion, dominating NASCAR in 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954. Some NASCAR records set by Hudson in the 1950s still stand even today. Later, these cars met with some success in drag racing, where their high power-to-weight ratio worked to their advantage. Hudsons enjoyed success both in National Hot Rod Association trials and local dirt track events well into the 1960s.
Hudson was founded by Roy Chapin, Sr. with much of the capital supplied by Joseph L. Hudson, founder of Hudson's Department Store in Detroit and who gave permission for the company to be named after him. A total of eight Detroit businessmen including Chapin and Hudson formed the company on February 20, 1909, to produce an automobile which would sell for less than $1,000. Roy D. Chapin, Sr. had worked with Ransom E. Olds, who founded Oldsmobile. Chapin's son, Roy Jr., succeeded George Romney as president of American Motors Corp. in the 1960s when Romney, father of current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left the company to run for Governor of Michigan. As «Louis» has previously recounted to you, Nash and Hudson merged in 1954 to form American Motors. The original plan called for Packard and Studebaker to become part of American Motors, but, as you have read here, Romney killed that plan. A further twist to the tale is that Hudson Department Stores merged with the Dayton Department Stores in Minneapolis, forming Dayton-Hudson, which in turn spawned Target.