Bedford Classic Cars – 1951 Hudson Commodore

January 20, 2023

Welcome to the fifth car in our Bedford Classic Car Series. Meet Don and his 1951 Hudson Commodore. People obtain classic cars for various reasons – childhood obsession, hobbies, investment, project ideas, and many more.

Don’s Hudson Commodore has literally been part of the family and has a special place for his family. The car belonged to Don’s father, a WWII Navy veteran who died young in 1960 at the age of 37. He left behind three sons who have continued over the decades to keep “DADS 51” still running. Don said, “My high school parking sticker from 1965 is still on it. Still smells the same!”

The Hudson Motor Car Company began manufacturing cars in February 1909 when eight Detroit businessmen got together and decided to make a car that would sell for under $1000.  The venture was financed largely by department store owner, Joseph L. Hudson, thus the name Hudson Motor Car Company. Hudson had a reputation as an innovator with the introduction of features not found on its competitor’s models. One of their earliest innovations was to protect passengers from the weather. Early cars were usually open top, still taking designs from when they were horse drawn. Hudson was the first to have an enclosed passenger compartment. Other innovations include improvements to suspension as well as the first automatic transmission.   

The Hudson Motor Car Company was very successful until the mid-1950s when they started to run into financial difficulties, unable to compete with Ford and General Motors. In 1954, the company merged with the Nash company and by 1957, corporate leaders switched the company name to AMC (American Motors Corporation) and renamed all their cars as Rambler. Chrysler bought AMC in 1989.

The Hudson car brand has been featured in many movies and television shows. Probably the most famous was being Doc Hudson in the Pixar movie Cars. Paul Newman was the voice of Doc Hudson in the original movie.

I asked Don to tell me more about his car.

Tell me about your car –  year/make/model? If it is rare, how many were made? How many are left in the world, etc.?

 It’s a 1951 Hudson Commodore 6 four-door sedan. Hudson was a profitable Detroit manufacturer since the early 1900s, and their Hudson Hornet models won quite a few stock car championships in the 1950s. It was probably like a “Buick equivalent” as far as cost/quality went back then. They were sold internationally, so quite a few are still out there and parts can be obtained for the most usual repairs. These Hudsons were known for their engineering and innovative design, especially with their “step down” unibody chassis design.

What work have you done to it? Do you do it yourself or do you send it out? or both?

Our car has been in and out of dry storage in CT since the early 1970s. It received a fresh paint job and an engine rebuild in the late 1980s and was stored again until I moved it to Bedford in 2014. At that time, it needed quite a bit of work to get it on the road. Pat Leary and his wizards at Leary Automotive on South Road in Bedford did that, installing a new clutch, shocks, brakes, new gas lines and wiring, plus a complete tune-up. Since that time, I do most of the routine maintenance, and electrical, interior work, etc.

Where do you drive/show the car?

You have to drive old cars or they will bite you, so we take the car out for 30 mile drives routinely in the fair weather months, as well as winter if a nice day presents itself. That keeps things lubricated and somewhat reliable. We have taken it to shows at the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Endicott Estate in Dedham, and the Larz Anderson Museum in Newton, where it meets some of its contemporary Hudsons and their owners.

Are there clubs for this model?

We are active members of the Hudson/Essex/Terraplane Club with both national, international, and regional chapters. There are active members and their cars from a number of area towns. Interestingly, there are quite a few members and their cars from New Zealand where Hudsons were exported and popularly sold.

What else should we know about?

Cindy and I look upon our Hudson as a member of the family. It’s a “driver,” not a perfect 10 collectible, that we enjoy. It’s a three-speed manual column shift with overdrive, so we routinely leave the keys in it; not likely someone today would know what to do to take it away. As I mentioned, it was my father’s car, so it has a special place. 

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