Detroit's Woodward Avenue has long reigned as the premier place displaying special wheels. Barry Hydo remembers his teen years back in the 1950s when he lived in the northern suburbs of Detroit. "Woodward Avenue was always on the agenda for a Saturday night," he recalls.
His high school buddy, Dave Baker, had access to his father's Hudson Hornet coupe. Hydo and Baker would borrow the Hudson and go cruising. The low-slung car had Twin H-Power (two single-barrel carburetors) and an automatic transmission.
"The memory of street racing that six-cylinder Hudson against the Fords and Chevys of the day and emerging as the winner in most cases amazed me then and now," Hydo says.
From that time on, Hydo dreamed of owning his own Hudson Hornet coupe. Some dreams take longer to realize than others. Hydo, however, kept his eye on the prize. After raising a family in Texas he began to search for his own Hornet.
He finally located a 1952 model. "It was mostly disassembled and in boxes, bags, and crates," Hydo remembers. With a borrowed trailer hitched to their motorhome, he and his wife set out one Saturday morning optimistic that a deal could be made.
"Upon seeing the car for the first time," Hydo says, "my wife thought surely I had lost my mind." The Hudson had been sold new in Colorado with a base price of $2,742. "There wasn't much rust," Hydo happily reports.
The old Hornet, regardless of its condition, was a thing of beauty to him, a real treasure hidden in all those boxes. Negotiating a good deal is difficult when you're drooling over the car and an empty trailer is hitched to your motorhome. Nevertheless, the title changed hands. Once the tires were inflated, the 3,550-pound Hudson on its 124-inch wheelbase was loaded onto the trailer.
"We put what we could in the car and started loading the bags and boxes, as well as the various loose parts, inside the motorhome," Hydo says. There appeared to be no room on the trailer or in the motorhome for the last piece of the Hudson — the engine hood. Hydo solved that dilemma by securing it to the air conditioner atop the motorhome. And that's the way Hydo, his wife and their Hudson motored the 300 miles back home to Texas.
Hydo then took inventory to ascertain exactly what he did have. "We researched everything we could through the club and tried to keep the car as pure to 1952 as we could," Hydo says. Some things were not possible. Unable to locate original fabric for the seats, Hydo had to settle for a close facsimile. He also opted to convert the Hudson to a 12-volt electrical system to accommodate an air conditioner, a must when living deep in the heart of Texas.
With the 308-cubic-inch, L-head, six-cylinder engine returned to good health, the 145-horsepower output was once more achieved. The restoration project consumed every spare moment for three years. Several short shakedown trips were essential in debugging the car to ensure reliability.
Hydo recalls driving to Nashville, "The car was a pleasure to drive and made the trip with no problems," Hydo says proudly.
The Hudson Hornet has probably never been in better condition than it is now because Hydo took the time to make his dream car correct. He, like most restorers of antique cars, spent too much money. "At first we kept a log of every expense," he says. As the dollar amount kept rising, Hydo quit keeping track of expenditures. "I didn't want to confirm my wife's suspicions that I had truly gone over the edge."
— Vern Parker, Motor Matters