Wednesday 23rd February 1955
The Nash-based Hudson Hornet and Wasp were introduced at the Chicago Auto Show. This was the first redesign of the brand since the introduction of the 1948s, and AMC designers, including Edmund Anderson and longtime Hudson stylist Frank Spring, did their best to marry a platform shared by Nash with styling that was distinctive to Hudson and respectful of the brand’s history.
Stylistically, all the body panels save for the decklid were unique to Hudson. In fact, the bodywork ahead of the cowl had been designed by Spring as an update for the old stepdown body shell. Aside from the aforementioned egg-crate grille, wide-set headlamps, and exposed wheels, the Hudson featured an upper grille surround shaped like inverted steer horns, with the traditional triangular Hudson badge inset. At the leading edge of the broad, flat hood were block letters spelling out “HUDSON.” Near the windshield was a prominent, full-width cowl vent, a considerable change from the old-fashioned, pop-up style vent used in 1954.
A simple horizontal molding decorated the front fender and extended back to near the trailing edge of the front door. The quarter panels were accented by a beltline molding that dropped from the A-pillar and extended to the rear of the car before wrapping around below the taillamps. This also provided a break point for two-tone color schemes, which carried the upper color from the roof down to the top of the doors and rear fenders. The Wasp came in three varieties: standard, Super Wasp, and Custom. In previous years, the Super Wasp had been a larger-engined variation on the Wasp, but for 1955, it was simply a trim variation on the Custom.
All 1955 Wasps were built on a 114.25-inch wheelbase shared with their corporate twin, the Nash Statesman. That meant the traditional low Hudson stance and wide front track were gone, though AMC engineers did manage to retain Hudson’s traditional dual braking system with a mechanical backup in the event of a hydraulic failure. Inside, the plush Hudson interiors (at least in the upper trim levels) were augmented by Nash-derived All Season air conditioning and Airliner reclining seats and travel beds.
An important part of retaining a separate Hudson identity within the AMC Hudson-designed engine, the 202-cu.in. 120-hp straight-six from the departed Hudson Jet was carried on. The Twin-H package, including a high-compression cylinder head and twin carburetors, was available and good for 130 horsepower. A three-speed manual transmission, shifted on the column, was standard–overdrive and Hydra-Matic drive were optional.
Hornet styling was very similar to that of the Wasp, though stretched to the 121.25-inch wheelbase of the platform shared with the Nash Ambassador. The base engine choice for the Hornet was the vaunted 308-cu.in. straight-six first introduced in 1951, albeit modified to mesh with Nash transmissions and the Nash enclosed driveline. Twin-H dual carburetion boosted the standard 308’s power from 160 hp to 170 hp. Solid lifters, retained from earlier Hudson engines, would prove to be tough to adjust in the Nash-derived chassis. With the six-cylinder, transmission choices were the same as for the Wasp.
Big news for Hudson this year was an available V-8 engine. The 320-cu.in., 208-hp unit was purchased from Packard. This was intended as an initial step in George Mason’s planned next phase of independent consolidation, where Studebaker and Packard would merge with AMC to produce a corporation able to compete with GM, Ford, and Chrysler. It did not pan out, but it accounts for use of the Packard V-8 in Nash, Hudson, Studebaker, and Packard automobiles. Also used was a Packard-sourced Twin Ultramatic transmission, the only transmission choice when the V-8 was ordered.
The only body styles available for full-size Hudsons in 1955, whether Wasp or Hornet, were a four-door sedan and a two-door “Hollywood” hardtop–convertibles and the storied Club Coupe body style were gone. Hornets were divided into Six and V-8 series and further subdivided by Super or upscale Custom trim. The company produced 7,191 Wasps, 6,911 Hornet Sixes, and 6,219 Hornet V-8s, a considerable decline from the 11,603 Wasps and 24,883 Hornets produced for 1954.