When John Upchurch asked me to speak at an international car conference that he and his wife were directing, I agreed. They’re nice people and it meant a July trip to Chattanooga. I thought it was a collection of vintage cars.
It wasn’t until I pulled into the big parking lot of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and saw the cars that I got excited, my sense of history and personal connections kicking in. It was the annual event for those who collect Hudsons and they had all brought their cars. Oh. My. Goodness. The Hudson Motor Company is part of the foundation of my life, even though I was born years after the last one was produced.
“I didn’t realize it was exclusively for Hudsons,” I exclaimed. I marveled over the restored beauties and their owners, one an old crew chief friend of mine from NASCAR, was proud to show them off.
When I began working in NASCAR racing in the mid-80s, folks still talked about the Hudson Hornet with respect and awe. In the early 1950s, this super engineered, slick car had ruled the sport – the Hudson won 27 of 34 events in 1952 – with drivers like Tim Flock and Herb Thomas, both future NASCAR Hall of Famers. Hudson was the first car company to make stock car racing an integral part of its marketing efforts so it was the first to have factory-backed teams. By the way, it is said that Thomas was the inspiration for Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman) in the animated film, Cars.
Long before Chevrolet and Ford got the marketing message, Hudson proved the adage, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” All car manufacturers have played a part in NASCAR but Hudson was the grandfather, the innovator. The first who came, saw, believed, and conquered.
Ronda Rich, Columnist
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