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Runs And Drives: 1956 Hudson Hornet


Usually the scariest aspect of a barn find is that the mechanical condition is a complete unknown. Often engines are seized, and rarely does a true barn find run and drive. With a face only a mother could love, this 1956 Hudson Hornet Custom is claimed to start off a bottle and is even able to drive around! It’s for sale here on eBay with no reserve and is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It may not be the most handsome vehicle ever built, but it’s packed full of automotive history.


Sporting a continental kit, flashy gold panels along the side, wraparound windshield and rear window with many chrome bits and baubles, this Hudson is far removed from the late 40’s and early 50’s clean and understated Hornets. The good reason for that is Hudson’s absorption into AMC. Instead of the old Hudson “step down” platform, the “new” Hornet was based on the existing Nash sedan.


This Hudson has some very good points. With what looks like a totally original dash including a radio that’s claimed to work, the view from the driver’s seat is encouraging.


Unfortunately, the view of that driver’s seat isn’t encouraging. There’s some rust in the floor as well, and holes also exist in the rocker panels, rear floor and trunk, as well as some perforations on top of the passenger side front fender. Surface rust is present over most of the hood, trunk lid and driver’s side front fender.


Looking at the possibilities for this particular Hudson, I was surprised to find that new rocker panels are available, and at a great price to boot! While I realize having the panels is one thing and installing them is another, at least the sheet metal is available to make it easier. And with the majority of the body damage being much simpler to repair than the rockers, and the body being straight and complete, suddenly this barn find looks less daunting.


Of the just over 8,000 Hornets produced in 1956, only the most powerful ones were fitted with the Packard 320 cubic inch V-8. So now we have a Nash dressed up as a Hudson with a Packard engine under the hood – but that engine is said to run! The seller does state that the brakes need work, but having an engine to listen to in between working on them has to help! While it’s not the usually desired Chevy or Ford, this mid-50’s Kenosha product is one of the last Hornets built with production ending forever in mid-1957. So, have you got room for it in your garage?


  1. Rick

    At least you wouldn’t have to worry about running into your twin on cruise night. Hash or Nudson, you decide!

    Like 1
  2. Dave b

    When I was 16 my dad owned a small car lot. He gave me a 1957 Hudson Hollywood 2dr ht. This big old heavy car would really fly . It had a v8 with a 4bbl carb and automatic tranny.I have not seen another , ever. He also had 2 Pontiac wagons, both 2dr that was Pontiacs version of the Chevy . The Pontiac had two tone paint,interior, chrome strips on the headliner, chrome strips on the tailgate. Both were Chieftans I believe, one was brown over beige and one was light blue over beige. These cars were stolen the night dad was killed and I never found them. He also had a 51 Ford Crown Vic 2dr hard top with half glass green top, a pretty car with a flat head V8. Cars of years past.

    Like 0
    • Gerald Luck

      Someone in the Richmond, VA. metro area owns and drives a 54 Hudson Hollywood. I’ve seen the car at the annual AACA meet . I met the owner(don’t recall the name now) and took pictures of the car at the time. It is yellow with a green top and interior as I recall. Awesome car.

      Like 0
    • Bob Jungmann

      Make that a 53 Ford and lots of people will agree with you. The 1/2 plastic top came out in 1953 and ended in 1956. Crown Vic’s were limited to 55 and 56—none in 53 or 54—those were “Starliners”. Mercury had similar models in 54 & 55 called “Sun Valley” models—I don’t think any the 56 Merc had a 1/2 top glass roof. Sounds like the 2 dr wagons were a Pontiac Safari’s—very rare compared to the Chevy version–the Nomad. Sad to hear that your dad was killed—were the Safari’s stolen then also ?? Too bad the Safari’s were not saved—you would be in the $$$ if they were still around. The 57 Hudson Hollywood 2 dr—could that be a 54 ?? as by 57 Hudson had 75% of their business in the “grave” and not much new came out after 55 other than the “Hash” or “Nudson” combo cars that were really Nashes with Hudson sheet metal.

      Like 0
  3. Charles

    Cool car! I have not seen another one like it. That car could be loads of fun and does not look like it will be difficult to bring back to its former glory! It will look great with some body work, new paint, and interior repairs. Surely someone will give it a good home.

    Like 0
  4. JW454

    Just clean it up, make it reliable, fix the brakes, and drive it as is. It’s never going to bring big bucks and not every old car needs to be concourse level. This would be one just to have a lot of fun with. Imagine the smiles you would get on the freeway as you and your brood sped along.

    Like 0
  5. Charles

    My suggestion was not even close to concourse level. I’m talking 4K worth of work. Repair or replace any non-functioning mechanical parts to make the car safe and dependable. Replace/repair the rusted panels and paint the exterior of the car in original colors. Repair/recover the front seat to match the original as much as possible. That car does not appear to need a full restoration. It just needs to be cleaned up a little. With fresh paint and no holes the rest of the car is very presentable. The chrome is worn but that gives the car some character.

    Like 0
  6. Rancho Bella

    This got to thinking about design (again). Being a ’56 and comparing this to Chevrolet, Studebaker or Ford (for instance).
    I ask myself, who goes to the Hudson dealer and says…………”I’ll take it”.
    Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t ugly………just different

    Like 0
    • MikeH

      I beg to disagree–it IS ugly [and I’m a Hudson guy]. That’s why they only sold 8K of them. They tried to modernize an old [the original Nash came out in ’52 and was a clean design] body style and failed miserably. However, they were ahead of the curve. It took the big 3 until ’58 to get as ugly as the Hash–remember the ’58 Buick? But all those cars I thought were so ugly in the late 50s are somewhat charming now. Still ugly, but charming in rococo sort of way. I’d love to have it.

      Like 0
      • Rancho Bella

        Dang it Mike, I was trying to be nice………………

        Like 0
  7. Vincent Habel

    I agree that the Hash is ugly. 58 was a ugly year for a lot of Makes. Olds Buick Studebaker and Packard. Did I miss any?

    Like 0
    • Gerald Luck

      Yeah, Edsel. But,like you say, nowadays, they’re charming. I agree with Charles. Invest a few grand and have fun with it. I would love to have it but, I’m already deeply involved in restoreing a 64 Chrysler New Yorker Salon. It’s my daily driver .

      Like 0
  8. fred

    I have a weakness for the orphan makes. My ’51 Kaiser wasn’t something I would have even considerd in high school, but my outlook changed over the years.

    Like 1
  9. Woodie Man

    A Nudson!

    Like 0
  10. charlie Member

    During the summer of ’63 or ’64 I dated a young woman whose father offered to give me his ’56 Hudson in just those colors. I had a ’56 Chevy at the time, Powerglide 6, but as reliable as cars got in those days, and, since I had no intention of actually marrying his daughter, I turned down the Hudson. It was a very heavy car, but faster than my Chevy, and on the open road, very comfortable and roomy. I occasionally have happy dreams about coming across the Chevy (which my father bought new, and I sold for scrap in ’68), and it was not worth keeping since it was a 4 door, 210 sedan. Had it been a 4 door hardtop, convertible, Nomad, or 2 door hardtop, BelAir, and a V8 I would still have it. But I have never dreamt about the Hudson, or the young woman, for that matter.

    Like 1
  11. jim s

    i think this would make a nice daily driver. make it safe and have fun. if someone offers to buy it for more then you have in it, sell and move on to something else. great find

    Like 0
  12. Charles

    The 1958 Impala was gorgous from every angle. To me 58 was one of the transition years. This Hudson has a certain charm about it.

    Like 0
  13. N Kristian

    My first car was a 1956 Nash Ambassador which looked almost identie to this car. It had the Packard V8 engine and a Continental kit. It was pink, white and gray. Paid $125.00 at a used car lot in San Diego when I was in the Navy. The trans went out on it within a couple of days after I bought it so I abandoned it on a side street in San Diego. Knowing what I know now it was probably the vacuum modulator valve and would have cost very little to fix! I’d love to have that car now!

    Like 1
    • Rancho Bella

      Pink and gray where hot colors in the fifties. I just sold a house with some original pink and gray tile a stones throw from the sub base in Point Loma. Go Navy

      Like 1
  14. amcenthusiast

    Bear in mind the ’54 Nash-Hudson merge into AMC was far better for Hudson to survive after Ford and GM flooded the market in ’50 and ’51, each making approximately 1 million cars for two years in a row… 4 million… hmm; how to ‘manufacture popularity’? (there was no way for independents like Nash and Hudson to do the same) Since Hudson was the weaker business (with Nash organized and doing well as Nash-Kelivinator Corp. -dominating the appliance industry in Europe), ’54 was the last year for a ‘true/purebreed’ Hudson model. Hudsons immediately became restyled Nashes and the Hudson factory was for making military products. The very next year, the full size’55 Hudsons obviously look ‘second fiddle’ to Ambassador, but then Hudson got a better (?) looking version of the Nash Rambler compact… replacing Hudson’s ‘money pit’ compact named ‘Jet’. -SO- Here we see a ’56 Hudson Hornet with Packard engine, looking a bit lukewarm styling-wise and ’57 would be the last year for both Nash and Hudson nameplates as AMC completes it’s transition to making cars as ‘Rambler Division’.

    Whereas Kaiser transformed into Willys-Overland in ’53, there does seem to be an unexplored historical input having to do with Kaiser, Packard, Hudson Hornet and AMC (whereas those AMC Hudsons were ‘Hornet II’s?)
    see http://www.homewoodboatworks.com/page2.html
    and http://www.homewoodboatworks.com/page2.htmlhttp://www.homewoodboatworks.com/page5.html

    so the actual history of the car may be more interesting than what some people would like to imagine?

    Like 0
  15. West Plains Autoworks

    Jamie, If you could please contact us here at West Plains Autoworks! We just came across this post and recognized the car as the very SAME ’56 Hornet Hudson we are working on here in our shop. We are repairing all of the rust on the car at this time for the current owner of the car. We noticed you mentioned that you were quite surprised to find replacement rocker panels. If you still know of there availability, Please let us know. There is some confusion as to what models are the same. Thanks! This post was a great find for us here as this very car sits here before us today getting the attention is deserves.

    Like 0
  16. Dwight P Thompson

    If I remember right, the Packard engine was well over 500ci not 330ci. The American Motors in house V8 was 327ci, no not Chevy, their own design. However American Motors did put a few Packard motors in their top of line Hudsons and Nashs.

    Like 0
  17. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    While the engineers at Packard had planned ahead with the new V8, and it’s estimated the block and crank were capable of over 500 cu. in., the Biggest factory built Packard engine was the 1956 [senior Packard line only] 374.

    For ’56, Clipper Super and Custom lines got the 352, as did the Studebaker Golden Hawk. The 1956 Hudson got the 320 engine as found in the Packard Deluxe line.

    Like 1

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