Hudson Hornet, Chrysler Turbine become newest members of the National Historic Vehicle Register

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Cameron Neveu

A NASCAR star and a jet-age concept car are the newest members of the National Historic Vehicle Register, which recognizes America’s most historically significant vehicles. The cars are the 31st and 32nd vehicles to be inducted into the federally recognized NHVR.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and permanently archived in the Library of Congress, the 2022 inductees are the 1952 Hudson Hornet (#7B-185596), known as the “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” and raced by Herb Thomas, and a Chrysler Corporation Turbine Car (#9912-31), one of 55 Ghia-bodied turbines that were part of a 1963–66 consumer test project.

The cars will be shown at various events around the country, including this weekend’s Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, where attendees will get an opportunity to see the Hornet and learn its historical connection to NASCAR, as well as how it influenced the “Doc Hudson” character from Pixar’s Cars animated movie series.

Future appearances with both cars include the annual Cars at the Capital exhibition on the National Mall in Washington, DC, September 2–11. The 1952 Hudson Hornet will be shown September 2–6, and the Chrysler Turbine will be featured September 7–11.

“Featuring these historically significant vehicles at events throughout 2022 helps to fulfill our mission to share and educate the general public about the cultural significance of the automobile,” says Jonathan Klinger, Executive Director of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit that provides programs and financial support in car culture, education, and innovation.

Cars at the Capital was canceled in 2020 due to COVID, so last year the Drivers Foundation revealed its 2020 and ’21 inductees, which both happened to be movie cars. The first was the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future; four months later it was joined by the 1979 Lamborghini Countach from Cannonball Run.

This year’s inductees are both located in Hagerty’s home state of Michigan. The “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” is owned by Al Schultz and is on display at the National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum in Ypsilanti, while the Turbine Car is owned by the Stahls Automotive Collection and is on display at its automotive museum located in Chesterfield.

From 1951–55, Hudson dominated stock-car racing just as the sport was beginning to take off. With early NASCAR legends like Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, and Dick Rathmann at the wheel, the small company’s cars bested the Big Three. This one, prepared by legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick, was provided to Thomas halfway through the 1952 season. He was the most prolific Hudson driver, with 78 total podium finishes in Hornets; he has the highest win percentage in NASCAR history. This Hudson is the only NASCAR-raced Hornet known to exist.

The Chrysler Turbine features a turbine jet engine housed in a Ghia body and was the latest iteration in Chrysler’s decades-long attempt to bring a turbine-powered car to the market. Fifty of the 55 original cars—wearing identical metallic bronze paint, black vinyl roof, and bronze interior—were distributed to households in the U.S. as part of a consumer research project. From 1963–66 a total of 203 people drove a Turbine car for three months and evaluated its performance. The results were promising, but the cost to mass produce the vehicles was not.

When the loan program ended, the cars were returned to Chrysler, and most were sent to a Detroit scrapyard and destroyed. This is one of only nine cars from that program that survived. Like the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, its historical significance cannot be overstated.

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