Why We Lost Two Exciting 50’s Brands — Hudson and Packard

Bob Gerometta
8 min readJun 16, 2022
In 1952, not even an Olds 88 could touch a stock Hudson Hornet with Twin H-Power. And when equipped with the 7X race engine . . . “forgetaboutit”.

Let’s Talk About Hudson

When we talk about the mystery cars of the first muscle era, the early 50s had some hefty sleepers. One such brand was the Hudson and its famous Hornet. In 1948, Hudson employed some great new features when, like most of its competition, it broke away from the recast pre-World War II models. Sleek styling, unit body construction, “step-down” lowered chassis, and starting in 1951, the famous Hornet 308 CID I-6 powerhouse. This Hornet/308 combo dominated NASCAR though 1953.

Hudsons were a mid-price to luxury brand, whose competition among the big three was Pontiac and Oldsmobile at GM, Mercury at Ford, and Dodge and DeSoto at Chrysler. The styling that was introduced in 1948 was the equal to Ford, way ahead of Chrysler, and just behind GM. There was no expectations in the Company that Hudson would deliver the volume of those brands, but the Company expected to sit comfortably with about 100,000 annual sales — more than adequate to stay profitable.

When the new body bowed, sales rose, climbing each year, and the Hornet performance model juiced up deliveries as well, culminating in almost 132,000 in 1951. Things were looking good, right? Wrong.

The famous “7X” Hudson race engine. In this form, it dominated NASCAR and USAC stock car racing between 1951 and 1953. Arrow points to the factory available dual exhaust system, said to add 10 street HP.

At the height of Hudson’s popularity and the Hornet breaking all kind of speed records, sales dropped, and then plummeted. By 1953, barely 66,000 Hudsons left the factory. By 1954, Hudson had merged with American Motors as a junior partner. Sales continued to nose dive, and though they never flat-lined, the car was just a badge engineered Rambler.

By 1958, the storied brand, started in 1909, disappeared.

What Happened to Packard?

While Hudson was coming out of Word War II with the thought of offering exciting and innovative cars, Packard was thinking that the resurging economy would open the door to a huge increase in solidly built luxury vehicles. Like Hudson, Packard was was working on an exciting looking new design also slated to bow in 1948. And again, like Hudson, they chose the “pontoon” fenderless style for their new designs. Unlike Hudson…

Bob Gerometta

Gear head, archivist, historian, mystery writer — I’ve been called a “renaissance man”, but I’m very, very sure . . not