The Hudson Wasp is an automobile that was produced by the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan between 1952 and 1954. The Wasp was also built by American Motors Corporation in Kenosha, Wisconsin and marketed under its Hudson brand for model years 1955 and 1956.
The Wasp (Series 58) was introduced for the 1952 model year as an upgraded version of the Hudson Pacemaker, replacing the Hudson Super Custom models from 1951. The Wasp was available in two- and four-door sedan, convertible, and a 2-door hardtop designated the Hollywood. The Wasp was built on Hudson's shorter 119-inch (3,023 mm) wheelbase using the company's unitized, "mono-bilt" step-down chassis design with an overall length of 201.5 inches (5,118 mm). Hudson's mono-built unitized structure used a permiter frame which provided a rigid structure, low center of gravity and side-impact protection for passengers.
The base Hudson Wasp used the 232 cid L-Head straight 6 from the Pacemaker. Hudson also offered the Super Wasp which used improved interior materials and a more powerful Hudson 6-cylinder engine. Instead of using the Pacemaker's 232-cubic-inch straight 6, the Super Wasp used Hudson's 262-cubic-inch L-Head 6 fed by a 2-barrel carb. The 262-cubic-inch 6 was rated at only 127 HP (with single 2 bbl. carb) while the top-of-the-line Hudson Commodore Custom Eight's 254-cubic-inch straight 8 was rated at 128 HP. Many thought that the 262-cubic-inch 6's power was underrated so it would not outshine Hudson's flagship 128 HP straight 8. The narrow block 262-cubic-inch 6 was the basis for the stroked and reinforced Hornet 308-cubic-inch 6-cylinder engine first introduced in 1951 which dominated NASCAR from 1952 to 1954. The Super Wasp was offered with an aluminum twin H manifold and twin 2 bbl carburetors. Super Wasp performance with twin H induction matched the performance of the big 2 bbl. 308-cubic-inch straight 6 equipped but heavier Hudson Hornet.
Wasp model year production saw 21,876 units in 1953 and 17,792 units in 1954, its final year before the Hudson merger with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation took effect.
In its final two model years, the Wasp became a product of the newly formed American Motors Corporation (AMC). Following the 1954 model, Hudson's Detroit manufacturing facility was closed and production of Hudson models was shifted to Nash's factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. All Hudsons would be based on the senior Nash models, but would have exclusive Hudson styling.
After Hudson's 1954 merger with Nash, 1955 Hudsons were built on the unitized Nash platforms. The 1955 Hornet was built on the 1955 Nash Ambassador unitized platform and was offered with the big Hornet 308-cubic-inch 6 as well as a detuned 320-cubic-inch Packard V8. The 1955 Hudson Wasp was built on the Nash Statesman platform. For 1955, the Wasp was offered with Hudson's 202-cubic-inch 6 previously used in the Hudson Jet compact sedan and Hudson Italia. The 202 was offered with twin H Power and put out 120 HP.
The 1955 Hudsons used Nash's long travel coil spring suspension, integrated and advanced Heating and ventilation system and were offered with air conditioning and reclining seats. Although comfortable, the Nash based Hudsons were no longer competitive on the race tracks where they dominated from 1952 to 1954.
Hudson Wasp sales dropped to 7,191 units for the year as traditional Hudson buyers left the marque, viewing the cars as something less than the legendary Hudsons of the past.
For the 1956 model year, AMC executives decided to give the Wasp and Hornet more character in hopes of boosting sales. However, the plan backfired. Design for the vehicles was given over to designer Richard Arbib, who provided Hudson's with one of the more distinctive looks in 1950s, which he called "V-Line Styling". Taking the traditional Hudson triangle, Arbib applied its "V" form in every conceivable manner across the interior and exterior of the car. Arbib's front-end combined a tightly woven egg-crate grille (a nod to the 1931 Hudson Greater Eight) bisected by a prominent "V" (a nod to the 1954 Hudson Italia). Combined with tri-tone paint combinations, the Hudson's new look was unique. However, the plan to build a better Hudson identity failed; the car's garish design failed to excite buyers. The Wasp was available only as a four-door sedan and its sales fell to 2,519 units in its final year of production.
End of Hudson
For 1957, AMC stripped Hudson of eleven of its fifteen models, including the Wasp and the badge engineered Metropolitan and Rambler models. This left only the Hudson Hornet in two body configurations available in two trim lines (Super and uplevel Custom) for sale. The Hudson brand name was pulled from the market at the close of the 1957 model year as AMC focused on the new Rambler, as well as the Metropolitan and Ambassador models.