Historic Custom: 1954 Hudson Hornet

Generally, I shy away from customs. Auto designers usually have a great eye and a good feel for what works and what sells – yes, there are some obvious exceptions but I won’t belabor that point with specifics. Nevertheless, this 1954 Hudson Hornet custom really caught my attention. The modification work performed on this Hudson was commissioned by Detroit society mogul, Harold Du Charme, and its story is interesting. Let’s look more closely; this Hornet is located in Roswell, Georgia and is available here on craigslist for $25,000. Thanks to Kari A. for this most unusual find!

In 1954 Hudson was headed towards the end of complete independence as it merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motors. In addition to the Hornet and its top drawer “Hollywood” model, as is this example, there were also Super Wasp and Wasp models available in two-door hardtop and sedan, four-door sedan, and convertible body styles. The last Hudson branded car left the former Nash-only Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly plant in 1957.

The story, here, is that the previously mention Harold Du Charme, an investor in the Hudson Motor Car Company, was not enthralled with the design of his newly purchased ’54 Hornet “Hollywood”. He felt that a restyling was necessary and that in turn, would help with Hudson’s flagging sales. Instead of paraphrasing the seller’s listing, I’ll repeat his words regarding the modifications that were performed on this car. “It was delivered to one of the more prominent customizing shops in Detroit, located on St. Clair Street on Detroit’s East Side. There, the top was chopped 2.5 inches, the midsection was channeled by four inches, the stock hood was removed and replaced by a reshaped 1948 Hudson hood with ventilators installed, the headlights were hooded with two air intakes formed below (as an extension of the custom egg-crate grille), and both bumpers were highly modified. The trunk was sectioned to conform to the new lower silhouette, with a continental spare tire fared into it. A 30-gallon gas tank was fabricated, the rear fenders were extended and wrapped slightly to hold Lincoln taillights. The electric door opening buttons were hidden. Topping it off was a set of five wire wheels mounted with wide white sidewall tires”. The car was originally finished in green, and then later resprayed silver and topped off with a black roof. The body today is in fair shape, the paint is peeling and discolored in places and the passenger door may be misaligned but there is no evidence of rot or crash damage. While the chrome has gone thin, the body modifications appear to have held up well, there is no indication of cracking, separating, or seam visibility. The underside still shows to be solid with no visible breach of integrity.

The “Molta Casta”, as Du Charme named his Hudson, is still equipped with its original Twin-H, 160 HP, 308 CI, in-line, six-cylinder, flathead engine. There is no mention of whether or not this 56K mile custom still motivates on its own – the seller does add, “While the car is complete and solid, it is in need of a full restoration”. That could apply to both the body and mechanicals.

The interior of this two-owner Hudson is in its original and non-modified form. The two-tone green and parchment, vinyl upholstery appears to still be presentable but it would take a deep cleaning to know for sure. The color matching door cards are starting to sag somewhat though the dash and instrument panel still present well. The floor covering looks like a rubber mat, as opposed to carpeting, but it’s tough to tell for sure. Of note is the back seat, it seems surprisingly commodious.

A one-off custom can be a difficult car to move. If it were modified by a famous customizer like George Barris or Dean Jeffries, it would have certain star power. Unfortunately, all we know about this Hudson is that it was a Detroit based shop that performed the work. And it seems doubtful that the Harold Du Charme connection, regardless of his social standing, will have much of an impact on value or interest. In this case, one would have to favor this specific custom work to take a go at this Hornet; for $25 K, they would have to really favor it. I hope this unique Hudson finds a new home, it deserves to be saved as it represents an important fallen flag marque and a totally bygone era. Tell me, any interest in customs, or are they more interesting as someone else’s entrant at a car show?


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  1. Junkman

    Quite a car the front looks like the shop had an inside track to the 55 Packard Stylings front end styling and the back the tail lights again the tailights are 55-56 Packard esque and the rear bumper 52-53 Cadillac a neat car. As a sidebar the Torsion Level Ride on the 55-56 Packards was originally designed for Hudson by William Allison the inventor of it and Hudson was too broke to use it so he moved on to Packard.

    Like 9
  2. Paolo

    True Hudson aficionados will see the value in this car. It’s a terrific update on the step-down design. The continental kit notwithstanding. What if this had been the 1954 design? Unfortunately it arrived on the scene too late to influence the ultimate fate of Hudson.
    Very cool car.

    Like 5
  3. Little_Cars

    Wow, the first time I’ve ever read the words “chopped top” and “channeled” in the same sentence as a stepdown Hudson Hornet! Cool story.

    Like 5
  4. scottymac

    Shipshewana, Indiana city council will probably be bidding on this for the Hostetler Hudson museum. Right!!!!! Read the first review to see what they did here.


    Like 5
    • Poppy

      Yep, a damn shame. Luckily I saw the museum collection intact before the city got its hands on it.

      Like 2
    • Paolo

      Wow, that is pretty horrible.

      Like 1
  5. Lance

    Has all the appeal of a ZIL. Sorry Mr. Du Charme, I’ll keep my stepdowns the way Frank Spring designed them.

    Like 8
    • Skorzeny

      Lance, I am in complete agreement.

      Like 4
      • John

        Agree. The mods do zero to improve on the original design. With some of the period customizing going on at the time, there are much better examples of sleek, well done, and cohesive body and trim work that this doesn’t seem to stack up to. At the time it was done, it had to look simplistic and ungainly by comparison.

        Like 2
    • nlpnt

      It’s a circa-1955 version of the generic car on the parts place’s flyer.

  6. Vince H

    Only someone who is into custom Hudsons would want this. I think it is way over priced.

    Like 2
    • Greg

      100% agree! Seeing as this needs a full restoration; unless you are a retired master bodyman and painter this car will require many times more money to restore than it is currently worth. You might get lucky at an auction but really how many people are A) Passionate about Custom Hudsons and B) have the money to spend to buy & restore? I could be wrong but I’d place this right around the same price as any other Hudson in need of restoration.

      Like 2
  7. Danny from oz

    Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    Like 1
  8. Burger

    The nose makes me think of a car made in Soviet era Russia, using old Packard dies.

    Not really my cup of tea, but then again, my mind runs to all the drone car guys that shell large for the same old boring Chevelles, Novas, and Mustangs …. at least this car has some story and isn’t just another of 1000’s.

    Like 2
  9. Mike Adams

    I’ll add another thought-it-looks-like-a-Soviet-era knockoff.

    When I saw the picture, I thought Zil. When I read customized, I though movie car made to look like a Zil.

  10. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Still neat it has survived – there is a large following of early customs.

    Like 1
  11. chrlsful

    Y did folks love the Hornet so much? They were just B4 my time (born ’52) so know little about them, the co.

    Like 1
    • Dave Mazz

      Chris, Hudson popularity may be explained by (1): They were an underdog back in the 1950’s still using a flathead 6 engine but still competitive with the OHV V-8’s of their era; (2) Their great NASCAR run in the early 1950’s when, in 1951-1953 the Fabulous Hudson Hornets won over 100 NASCAR races: (3) The Movie “Cars” with Paul Newman as the voice of Doc Hudson, the old-school, retired racer (Note Doc Hudson’s exhaust-sounds were from a real Hudson race car of the early 1950 period.): (4) Jay Leno has one…. :-) :-)

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