My 1955 Hudson Hornet

8 July 2010
, CarsGuide

"I've done 7000 miles in it in 25 years," he says with a smile.

That meagre 11,000km equates to only a few hundred km each year. Ross is actually the second owner of the 1955 cruiser but he's had the car since 1984 after picking it up from a deceased estate. "It's done 42,000 miles (67,000km) from new. It's completely original, except it is carrying radial tyres rather than the old crossplys," he says. "It was bought originally new by a gentleman who lived in Dulwich Hill (Sydney). He drove it for a couple of years and then he stopped driving."

Ross bought it from the deceased estate in 1984 after the original owner had driven about 35,000 miles (56,000km). With less than 70,000km on the clock, at the current rate the 55-year old car will be a centurion before it reaches 100,000 kays.

The car, like many classics, has historic club plates so its use is limited and it has spent several years in storage. Ross says he concentrates on club runs but has taken it on interstate journeys. "It's not a viable everyday driver. You can't drive a car of that size in modern traffic."

He says that while the car has good brakes for its day they are not designed to handle modern stop-start traffic and erratic drivers. "I can keep up with the traffic but if they propped in front of me I would probably hit that car."

It's forte is cruising the open road. "We've driven to Victoria and Toowoomba and back in it and it's fairly easy. It just eats the miles up, but in eating the miles up it uses a bit of petrol". The big American slurps fuel at the rate of about 16-17L/100km.

But, he says despite its size, it weighs nearly two tonnes, it goes well. "It will cruise very, very easily at 70-80mph," he says. "It's top speed is 105mph, I believe."

The Hudson has a 308 cubic inch 6-cylinder side valve version, the same motor that gave the independent American firm victories on the racetrack in America in the early 1950s. It produces 140bhp (190Nm)... "the torque is enormous," he says.

The car has a four-coil suspension, a six-volt electrical system and has a 3-speed manual gearbox complete with electric overdrive which kicks in at about 60km/h.

The Hudson was one of a range of independent American brands that were gradually swallowed up by the big three, General Motor, Ford and Chrysler throughout the 1950s and 60s. By the time Ross' Hornet came out in 1955 Hudson was no longer independent though its brand name was still in use. It had become part of  the AMC (American Motors Corporation) which included Nash and Rambler cars. AMC also took over Packard and Studebaker. About 30 years later AMC itself would disappear, taken over by Chrysler. The Hornet represents one of the last models of a famous line.

Ross says he is attracted to the brand, (he has about five Hudsons in various states of repair from running down to just a collection of parts) because of  their quality. "It's a hobby, its an expensive hobby. I'm lucky I've just got the space to hold them," he says. "I've always liked the way those cars cruise. These cars are built to do long distances. They're solid."

Ross says that in 1955 they cost 3100 pounds. For the same money you could buy two Jaguars.

The car will be on show in Sydney this Sunday. American Independence Day might have been last week, but for car fans in Sydney, American Independents Day will be celebrated this Sunday at historic Linnwood House at Guildford. Organisers say that up to 60 Hudsons, Rambler-AMCs, Studebakers, Packhards, Willys-Overlands and a few surprises will be on show from 9.30am-3.30pm. Linnwood House will be open for inspection and there will be other activities including music, arts and crafts.