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DISCLAIMER: The following article was provided courtesy of Hot Rod Magazine, July 1965, p.82-85, Technical Editor Eric Dahlquist, Photography by Eric Rickman.


Forgotten by all but a few, a new swarm of Hornets from the '50's has descended on racing, once again stinging the competition... and on an ultra-low budget at that.

There are few cases on record where automobiles out of production continue to dominate some phase of racing after being off the showroom floor for more than a decade. Singularly more impressive is the feat of improving stock performance to highs never considered when the car was new. To their everlasting credit, a small cadre of Hudson lovers have done just this, causing their unabashed enthusiasm to attract an ever-growing body of supporters all over the country.

One of the espoused reasons why Hudson went under in the first place has supposedly been laid to the fact the company refused to switch over to the OHV-V8 persuasion when all their competition did. Even as the ship was going down, Hudson maintained to the end that their engines were as good as, or even better performers than, the high-revving bent eights of that day and the fantastic string of successes they racked up on the NASCAR banked ovals (a record by the way never approached by any other manufacturer) seemed mute evidence of the sentiment's validity. No matter what the cause, the marque faded away to become an all-but-forgotten issue until a few years ago when drag rules were refined to give competitors a more equitable break and someone discovered that the Hornet's big 308 cubic inch mill's generous low-end torque was tailor-made for the quarter-mile. One thing led to another and before long the whole scene burst wide open with Hudson grabbing an ever growing number of class records. Perhaps the highest plateau so far attained was registered at Carlsbad Raceway when a Hornet-powered Jet business coupe, with a housewife driving, shut off the front-running World Points Champion '65 Ford Galaxie C/FX. With this incredulous accomplishment, we were sufficiently curious to seek out the builders and runners of these seemingly obsolete winners to learn what was new about this old car.

Like any other type of racing enterprise, certain persons become synonymous with the general area in which they are involved, for the high calibre of their work, and the Hudson story seems to always involve Jack Clifford, Ike Smith and Chuck Parcell wherever tales of the inverted bathtubs are told. So we sought out these three for the inside dope; Ike and Chuck for the stocker story and Jack Clifford for the modifieds.

Ike Smith Hudson Jet
ABOVE - Hunching low in the saddle, Ike Smith urges his Hudson Jet, replete with Ford hood scoop, on toward another record in the lower stock classes.

Currently, Ike is the person responsible for the successes of Chuck Parcell's "Black Beauty," a '54 Hudson coupe that has never been beaten in competition over the last two years of steady weekend racing. Chuck broached the subject of Hudsons in general with the statement that the prospective runner should be familiar with the fact that because Hudson played the mum's-the-word game about actual horsepower in their Twin-H series until 1954, only this one year of the two-carburetor jobs is eligible to run in any of the NHA stock categories. There are still plenty of '54's around, though, with AMA factory horsepower ratings so they are legal per NHRA rules.

In addition, it helps to know that while Hudson was in the thick of winning on the circle tracks they developed some mildly exotic pieces to befuddle the rest of the herd and these are also fair game in drag strip hollow. Besides the obvious Twin-H manifold then, there is the stock 311040 '54 camshaft that provides .390-inch lift and 268° duration. And on manifold, the correct scheme is to run two WA-1 series Carter single throats. Finally, for those who don't desire the fabricated steel-tube header route, a neat cast iron, tuned, dual exhaust manifold originally designed my Marshall Teague is lurking under the hood of a few Hudsons resting in the nation's bone yards and can usually be had for a dollar or so.

RIGHT - And here's what the torqueing Hudson six looks like. Aluminum foil wrapped around stock dual-pot manifold prevents exhaust header heat from perking gasoline in Carter single-throat float bowls. Mallory ignition components have been added for extra reliability.

Stock Dual-Pot Manifold
Hooker Steel Headers Aluminum Injector / Exhaust Header
ABOVE - Latest word in proven header design are these steel jobs fabricated by Hooker. Experiments are moving ahead with efficient tuned cones.

ABOVE - Most exotic new piece of equipment thus far has been this aluminum injector / exhaust header combination designed by long-time hot rodder Loran Sapp. unit provides metering control necessary for Hudson gasser's 11's!

With these parts in mind, we got into the intricacies of building a trophy-winning engine similar to the one in Parcell's bomb, which also happens to be the basic unit for most of the dragging Hudsons. When Ike gets a Hornet mill to build up at his S&S Enterprises, Hudson Racing Team Shop, the first move is to strip the block to its basics and check for any possible cracks, especially around the valve seats. The lead surface is then cleaned up and the main and cam bearing journals align bored. Despite some rumors to the contrary, Hudson blocks are tough, being composed of a nick-silica iron alloy that requires precision grinding to accomplish a bore job. When performing the allowable overbore, Ike goes out to .058-inch, leaving a .002-inch margin for the tech inspectors in the inevitable teardown that is part of the ritual of national meets.

All the stock, forged steel cranks are polished, ground, micro-finished and the con rod journals then grooved for oil. The factory bearings are 1-1/8 inch wide so a notch machined in the journal centers will get sufficient oil in providing a good cushion of lubricant. The bearings are Michigan soft alloy units and because of their relatively wide surface, function satisfactorily. Clearance for the mains and rods is held to .003-inch. Connecting rods are given .010 additional side clearance from factory recommendation, bringing the total to .027-inch.

Jahns PistonPistons for the Hornet are 7.5-to-1 compression of either Jahns or Vutaloy manufacture, with wall clearance held at the .006-.008 range with zero deck height. Because of the previously-noted block hardness, chrome compression rings wouldn't seat in two years of racing so softer Pedrick cast iron ones are chosen. Conversely, adequate oil distribution is desirable on the skirt so chrome rings are fitted. End gap for both is .012-inch.

By this time you have probably noticed that tolerance in these engines is on the snug side and this is because they are set up to run lukewarm or as cool as possible, retaining gasoline's utmost efficiency.

In the valve department, the word is stock size, 1.841-inch on the intakes and 1.561-inch exhausts, with one hot tip: Replacement manufacturers supply valves for Hudsons and, although they will function satisfactorily in street applications, Eaton original equipment units are lighter and of consistent quality demanded by constant racing. Stem clearance is maintained at .004. Cylinder heads undergo a whisker of a true-up mill job and all the combustion chambers are equalized at 95 ec's. Fitzgerald head gaskets, again a product chosen for its consistency of composition, handle head sealing chores because they don't shrink. The one-half-inch main cap bolts are tightened to 110 psi cold, engine warmed, and torqued four more times. Final compression after all this is 140 pounds. Stock Hudson valve springs which have displayed excellent tension holding characteristics over the years are shimmed .060-inch with a spacer to bring pressure up to 77 pounds on the seat with the valve closed. Timing chains come in two categories, Morris for the street and the lighter Perfection for strip use where mileage is naturally quite limited. Hudson distributors have proven reliable in competition but a Mallory unit is usually chosen to supersede it if for no other reason than that of ensuring additional peace of mind. The curve that seems to have worked out best is 8 degrees initial advance, plus 8 degrees internal, yielding a total of 24 on the crank. It is possible to go as high as 32 degrees advance and still stay in the ball park but individual experience will have to select the final figure. One additional point is worth remembering. On Hudson the oil pump gear also drives the distributor so any slop or irregularity of motion will be transposed into erratic timing. The necessity of a remanufactured oil pump, then, cannot be overstressed. Lubricant is simply 20 W Pennzoil mixed with an additive.

As described above, this combination enables Chuck's 3655-pound coupe to set and retain National L/S records of 15.67 and 89.00 mph, win the class on every outing, including the '64 Nationals, Winternationals and Cordova World Series, collect 300 trophies and grab $800 in prize money. All this, plus the satisfaction of dropping all those "modern" bent eights.

But for those who desire something less conservative there are the small, and hence light, Jets, like Jim Bellovich's '54 that we inspected. Weighing in at a mere 2980 pounds ready to run, this little jewel represents one specimen out of a total body of 700 "personalized compacts, the FX cars of a decade ago," designed originally for NASCAR classes. Though Jim's engine is identical to the rest rebuilt by S&S, other touches like a pair of early Olds torque reaction arms, to control wheel hop and lower e.t.'s a good half-second, are adapted. The rear end uses a short 4.10 gear ratio with 7.60x15 Casler slicks for bite and a Positraction is legal if needed. To top off the suspension tricks, a pair of Up-Loc shocks is found in front and a lone air bag in the right rear (in addition to stock shocks) the pressure of which can be varied for different chassis jacking combinations.

Almost all Hudsons utilize the reliable Hydra-Matic and Ike recommends the units beefed up by D&F Competition hydros in Inglewood which allow four-speed, standard-like shifts, at 4800 rpm in each gear. Most impressive of all is the set of Hooker collectors that look formidable and sound even meaner. Executing an occasional wheelie out of the gate, Jim buzzes the mill to about 4400 rpm through the lights, hitting a cool 92.21 and 14.82 for the records in J/S, again, usually at the expense of the V8's.

But if the Hudson revival was only a matter of restoration and rebuilding, it might well have earned little more than a footnote on the automotive scene. Jack Clifford, the man who had a hand in getting the stockers going, has now expanded the scope of interest through his Los Alamitos, California-based Research and Development Company to actual manufacture of Hudson Power Products that promise to make the Hornet's sting felt more severely than ever.

Aluminum Injector / Exhaust Header
ABOVE - Clifford's new aluminum head with compression ratios all the way up to 11.5:1 solves chronic sealing problem with "O" ring provision around cylinders. Finning helps to radiate heat.

Since the Hudson is primarily a torque rather than an rpm engine, one of the first avenues he explored was a half-inch stroker that gets the swing out to a full 5 inches in contrast to the normal 4-1/2. Actually, you can slap on an additional 1/2-inch on the 5-incher and this will be about the practical limit for a "long arm."

ABOVE - And here's the stroker by CrankShaft Company which, at 5 inches with the stock 3 13/16-inch bore, yields 346 cubes, plus generous torque increase. Closeup at right reveals throw detailing outlined in text; fillet radius, finishing.

crank shaft
Combining the 5-inch throw with the stock 3-13/16 bore brings the cubic inch figure out to 346. An 1/8-inch overbore along with the crank gives an additional 20 inches. With the 5-1/2-inch crank and the stock bore you get a quick 366 right off the bat, while another 1/8-inch on the cylinder size brings things out to a respectable 386 inches. Crankshaft Company is Jack's supplier and all the units are finished to CSC's high-quality level. The cranks go the trueing route and a large fillet radius is welded on each throw. The journals are then microfinished and stress-relieved to eliminate the possibility of any cracks developing.

The piston picture remains similar to Ike's techniques in that Jahns 3-ring buckets are used. The cam area on these slugs, by the way, has been specially designed so that much of the friction drag normally encountered in the bore is eliminated, contributing to more power and longer life.

Because the previously mentioned 311040 cams are in limited supply, Jack has undertaken to make available identical units manufactured by a reputable grinder. And, due to the fact that these new cams duplicated factory specs, they are legal replacements in the '54 stocks. Should the builder want something with additional hair, a .457-inch lift, 276-degree hard-face overlay model is ready for any anticipated modified competition. Chilled iron lifters originally intended for Plymouth and modified to fit the Hornet are used with this outfit, along with stock [late] Corvette valve springs, beefed an additional 20 pounds, which just happen to fit.

Jack interjected here, while on the subject of the cam and related parts, that it is imperative for a two-piece valve with a 2:1 expansion factor to be used, due to the great amount of valve growth (.007) engineers allowed for. Clearances should be set cold at .011 and .019 on the intakes and exhausts respectively.

Hudson was one of the few cars from the past that offered dual carburetion as a stock item and, although the twin assembly is the last word for the stockers, some operational areas demand other configurations. The occasional racer, for example, who uses his car for daily transportation and has long wanted more flexibility without two carburetors, will take heart from a new four-barrel setup that has been designed. At the other end of the scale, the full-bore drag artist will delight in a new tri-power ram log. Eclipsing both of these is an aluminum fuel-injector, exhaust-manifold combo, designed by Loran Sapp, that is tuned for max-torque at 4500 rpm. Driven by a Gilmer belt, a hilborn pump supplies fuel in adequate quantities.

Performance with a combination of these heretofore unavailable parts produces some startling results. Loran, running a stock bore and stroke hornet powerplant in his Anglia G/Gasser, but with the cam, injector and a new 11.5:1 compression aluminum head that has built-in "O" ring seals, won his class at the Winter nationals at an almost unbelievable 12.5 seconds at 106 mph. Next on tap will be a bigger, more finely-tuned engine that is expected to yield elapsed times in the high 11's and speeds around 112 mph! If this wasn't enough, a rail is being designed to run in the 9's on gas and with only one gear!

The new breed of Hudson followers is an outspoken lot who will be the first to point out that beauty of the idea is the low price of success. A complete car, ready to run right at the record of whatever class in which the machine falls, can be had for as little as $500, possibly less, depending on your ingenuity. And there are so many classes from which to choose: H-I-J-K-L-M-N/ Stock categories, (H-I/ Stock Automatic shift), G-H/Gas, E-F/ Modified Production, C/Street Roadster and D/Dragster, not to mention the oval track groups. Even with a modified or gas classer, the cost of a winner doesn't have to put you in the poor house. In the last analysis, this simple law of economics will probably be the single most important factor in the Hudson's most important factor in the Hudson's return to popularity. The little low-budget guy is almost out of contention in today's racing scheme as it is and we're 100 per cent behind anything that will get him back in.

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