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Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe

Reviewed by:   John Richards
     
  Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe diecast car
 
 
 

During the ‘50s, there was simply nothing like the Hudson. Though its history spanned 1909 – 1957, it was the years 1948 (the introduction of the “step down” design) through 1954 (embracing the greatest racing career of any stock car in history) that defined its reputation. The development of a body style coupled with an engine that stunned the competition resulted in a two-fold legacy, embodied in the Hudson Hornet: a public-pleasing car with unrivaled comfort for six passengers, unmatched safety, handling and road manners that could dominate in stock car racing. But that unique combination came at a cost. Though customers and competitive drivers loved it, the step-down design made the car virtually impossible to redesign at the pace demanded by the fast-changing tastes of the period. By the time (1954) that a meaningful new design was attempted, the abilities of the “Big Three” to produce yearly, eye-catching changes on its various models had left the Hornet looking a little dated and out of step with the fickle consumer of the era. Still, its unique accomplishments in its heyday made the Hornet one of the great period-defining cars of its era…and one of the highpoints of the Highway 61 catalog.

Highway 61 emerged a few short years ago at a time when 1:18 scale models consisted of fairly predictable subject matter sold in mass-market venues on the one hand, versus more specialized (if finely crafted) fare at higher prices on the other. Choosing its own distinct line of subjects, H61’s models are distinguished by fine build quality, superb fit and finish and working features many of which they introduced and are still unique to them: turning drive shafts, opening fuel doors and glove boxes, and operable vent windows among them. But for me their line of ‘50s-era automobiles, many of them now-defunct marques (the so-called “orphan” cars), is where they truly stand apart, and one reason why choosing the Hudson was so appropriate. Breathing new life into these cars is a bold move and has done much to redefine the legitimacy of the 1:18 scale. Others have followed H61’s lead, but their images remain among the most keenly anticipated among serious collectors.

The first component of Hudson’s formula for success was the “step down” design itself, and was introduced on the Commodore in 1948. It resulted from positioning the floorpan below the structural frame girders of the car, rather than riding on top of them. This eliminated the running boards, so passengers stepped down into the car, although it should be mentioned, honestly, that the effect is not particularly evident on the model. The resulting lowered center of gravity increased passenger safety and comfort and improved handling on the open road. While never intended as a luxury car, the interior had the expansive room which, coupled with its unique construction, made riding in a Hornet a quietly secure, smooth experience. Behind authentically hinged doors H61 gives us an uncannily realistic interior, with carpeting, a finished headliner, subtle textures and ribbing on the upholstery, folding front seats and sun visors, an opening glove box, refined door panel hardware and (both upgrades from the ’52 Hornet model) finished door sills and a carpeted rear seat deck.

The slab-sided look, characteristic of many ‘50s cars, was not always a positive aesthetic attribute. But on the Hudson, the effect flowed naturally from the car’s structural design, so there was a simple, lean uncluttered flow to the lines, culminating in the integrated rear wheel skirts. Highway 61 has captured the look to perfection and given the blue tone-tone finish the richest, deepest, most even sheen imaginable. The fly in the ointment continues to be the use of foil to trim the windshield, windows, roofline and the spear along the length of the car, as they did on the nearly identical ’52 Hornet. H61 seems committed to this technique, as it shows up on many of their models regardless of period. But the results are variable at best, with instances of flaking and cracking that would be more distracting on a lesser model. More recent images have shown some improvement and consistency. Meanwhile, the chrome on both front and rear bumpers and on smaller pieces of trim and hardware is rich and lustrous. The superlatives resume with beautifully crafted wheels, hubs and valve stems, intricate light lenses front and rear and crisp, clear scripts and emblems all around.

As a pre-eminent stock car racing champion, most notably as driven by Marshall Teague in his “Fabulous Hudson Hornet,” Hudson dominated NASCAR from 1951 through 1954 and won 14 AAA events, combining to give it 40 wins out of 48 events in 1952 alone, a record which still stands. This unique performance resulted from the car’s low center of gravity (from the step-down design) in a strong, light-weight frame powered by the most powerful of L-head 6-cylinder engines, displacing 308 c.i. and producing 145 HP in 1951. This unrivaled powerplant was dubbed “Twin Power” with the introduction in 1952 of twin single-barrel carbs encased in distinctive, bright red air filters, boosting power output to 160 then further still to 170 HP by 1954. Beneath the hood with dual support rods, H61’s depiction of this unparalleled engine is nothing short of a miniature model in itself: meticulously wired down to the battery cables, appropriately labeled and with the twin carburetors and their bright red air cleaner housings each proclaiming Twin H-Power. Finally, inspecting the model’s finely detailed undercarriage reveals that H61’s rotating driveshaft is actually articulated to the engine, turning the radiator fan!

Hudson merged with Nash in 1954. In its final years, the Hornet at last received its new look (dubbed the “V-line” design), adorned with more than its share of additional external ornamentation and given its first V8 and a new transmission (courtesy of Packard). All of this failed to move the public, enamored by this time with the Big Three’s simple ability to produce ephemeral, across-the-board styling changes on a yearly basis. A new Hornet was contemplated for 1958, but never came about, though the name actually resurfaced on an AMC compact in 1970. Hudson’s glory days were relatively brief, but they were based on an unmatched combination of innovative, rock-solid construction coupled with unrivaled performance on the open road and the race track. Whether as a passenger car or stock car racing champion, it’s a legacy unlikely to be equaled. And it’s Highway 61’s choice of cars like the Hornet as well as their masterful rendering of them in model form that sets them apart from other manufacturers in their price bracket.

(11/10/2007)
 
 
  Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe diecast car

Highway 61 1:18 1953 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe diecast car

 
 
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