Some forty something years ago, HE&M Saw founder, Gerald Harris, bought an automobile at auction. Nothing special or unusual about that, except for what he bought was an original 1954 Hudson Hornet.
Having admired Hudson’s as a young man, he bought his first around 1946. A 1937 Hudson Terraplane Business Coupe, purchased from a wrecking yard for the ripe sum of $75, which was a lot of money back then.
Although that first Hudson had a bad cam, young Gerry Harris replaced it and off he went. The body rust on the frame and floor pans was no deterrent to a young man with a fast car. Well, until he revved the engine up past 7500 RPM and blew up the motor.
His love affair with Hudson’s didn’t stop there and in 1953 he bought a 1950 model and after that, he purchased a 1951 Hudson Hornet.
The 1951 Hudson Hornet was powerful and fast. It featured Hudson’s high-compression straight six “H-145” engine and had a whopping 145HP. But aside from that, it had Hudson’s new “step-down” body style, which lowered the center of gravity and allowed that road hugging ride, but also a very stylish and sleek look.
Then, while working as a car salesman in 1954-56, Mr. Harris did as most car salesmen do, he upgraded. This time it was into a 1953 Hornet. Starting in ’52, Hudson made an optional “twin-H”, or twin one barrel carburetor, set-up available. And with that option, this Hudson was faster than its predecessors, but Mr. Harris tells us that, while weighing in at over 3600lbs, “the gas mileage was very poor”.
Mr. Harris also says he wasn’t a very good car salesman and quit that to pursue “other options”. And boy, are we happy he did, because a few years later he founded Harris Engineering and Manufacturing, now in its second generation and known as HE&M Saw, Inc.
So, back to this 1954 Hudson Hornet, which, by the way, was the last car the Hudson Motor Company produced before their merger with Nash-Kelvinator, forming the American Motor Company (AMC).
Somewhere between 1976 and 1980, Mr. Harris heard of a 1954 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe that was to be sold at an antique car auction near Silver Dollar City, Missouri. The car had belonged to the son of a friend, and as the story goes, this car had not been sold by the original dealership and had been put into storage, along with some other unsold vehicles. Essentially, these cars were new, never sold and in original condition. Today we use the term “new-old stock”, new and never sold and with few or no miles.
The young man bought the “new” car out of the storage unit and used it during his college days, and years later consigned it with an antique car auction house to sell. And that is where Mr. Harris acquired the ’54 Hornet.
The selling price was $2200 and another $4000 was invested into having it painted and some re-chroming done. The big car drove well, but after a while, Mr. Harris realized that with no power steering and no power brakes, his new ‘80’s model car was a much nicer ride and in 1983, he parked the Hudson.
At first, the Hudson was stored outside with a tarp over it, but a few years later, Mr. Harris built a large garage and it was stored there. Until a few weeks ago, when Mr. Harris’ son, Doug Harris, President and CEO of HE&M Saw, Inc., decided that it just wouldn’t do to let it continue to sit and deteriorate.
After not having been tagged since 1989, the Hudson was pulled out and loaded onto a trailer for transport to Lawrenceville, Georgia, where Sam Mahdavi, of Sam’s Garage and Mahdavi Motorsports, will give it a total restoration.
Because of the stock car racing domination of the Hudson Hornet in the early ‘50’s, back when “stock car” actually meant bone stock, NASCAR fans have long revered the Hornets’ contributions as legendary. This fact was hammered home and made known to a whole new generation with the appearance of “Doc Hudson”, the Original Hudson Hornet, in the Pixar film “Cars”.
In light of all that, and it being an all original, numbers matching car, the complete restoration will bring it back to its original condition; no fuel injection, LS motor or air-ride suspension for this “legend”.
HE&M Saw and its owner, Doug Harris, are proud to be able to save this piece of automotive history and will be close to the action for all the work. We expect this to take up to 2 years and you can see it all documented on the next 2 seasons of Sam’s Garage, produced by PowerScope Productions and featured on MotorTrendTV, Saturdays at 8 am central and Sundays at 7 am central.
To follow “Project Hudson Hornet”, like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter (both @hemsaw), we’ll be posting pictures as the project progresses.