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1950 Hudson Commodore

The 1950 Hudson Commodore was the beneficiary of Hudson's 1948 famed "Step-down" design. See more classic car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

At the beginning of the decade, the 1950 Hudson Commodore stood at the top of the Hudson lineup. It rode the longest wheelbase, boasted a big six or a smooth straight eight, received more luxurious trim than the concurrent Supers, and was by far the most popular of big Hudsons. Commodores outsold Supers by more than two to one, despite their rather higher prices.

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The range began with the Hudson Commodore Six club coupe at $2,257, and ended with the Hudson Commodore Eight Brougham (convertible) at $2,893. With accessories, options, and dealer prep, the typical Brougham cost about $3,300, roughly on par with that year's Buick Roadmaster. An estimated 1,100 of Hudson's 3,322 convertibles built in the 1950 model year were Commodores.

The 1950 Hudson Commodore's unit body-chassis ranked as one of the cleverest early postwar designs. Low and sleek, it hugged the ground and handled well, thanks to its radically low center of gravity. The design, which had begun as early as 1940, was directed by the brilliant Frank Spring, a fixture at Hudson and one of the most talented stylists of the 1940s.

The "Step-down" body evolved from wartime doodling -- sleek, aerodynamic forms modeled in quarter- and eighth-scale clay and plaster. As Bob Andrews, a member of Spring's team, commented later, "It was the Ivory Soap school of design: you'd take a bar of Ivory and start carving the fenders, hood and deck, and presto!"

Like all Hudsons since 1932, the unit body-chassis of the 1950 Hudson Commodore was extremely strong, rigid, and rattle-free. The nickname "Step-down" referred to the dropped floorpan, which was completely surrounded by frame girders. It was probably the safest automotive package of the time, perhaps any time.

Also, in its own way, the 1950 Hudson Commodore radiated its own understated beauty. The "fuselage" was clean, with a neat mid-height creaseline to eliminate any tendency toward slab sides. The grille sat low and wide; the taillights were functional rather than decorative. The dashboard was flat and positioned upright in front of the driver. It contained a big clock and speedometer (with 10-mph increments marked off in single digit numbers), warning lights for amperes and oil pressure, and gauges for fuel and water temperature.

To learn more about why the 1950 Hudson Commodore was one of the pinnacles of automotive design in the immediate post-war era, keep reading.

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With its unit body-chassis surrounded by girders, the 1950 Hudson Commodore was the safest car of its day.
With its unit body-chassis surrounded by girders, the 1950 Hudson Commodore was the safest car of its day.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

While the 1950 Hudson Commodore Eight's engine dated back to the 1932 "Greater Eight," it had been improved through the years, going from 101 to its final 128 horsepower. By the time it made its last appearance, in 1952, it had achieved a reputation for smoothness and reliability, running through five main bearings and ample water jackets. It was as good an inline eight as the industry ever developed.

The alternative six, which cost $84 less on comparable 1950 Hudson Commodore bodies, was perhaps more interesting. Violating an old Detroit rule about restyling and reengineering the same year, Hudson had brought this 262-cubic-inch L-head out in 1948 with the new Step-down body.

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By 1950, the Hudson Commodore six developed 123 horsepower, only five less than the eight (some say it was deliberately under-rated so as not to embarrass the eight). Although it had only four main bearings, it was also a smooth and durable engine. In 1951 it evolved into the memorable Hornet engine.

In these pre-automatic days, Hudson offered three transmission options for its basic three-speed stickshift: mechanical overdrive, priced at $95; Drive-Master ($105); and Supermatic ($199).

Drive-Master was a semi-automatic that eliminated both clutch and gear lever motion on the 1950 Hudson Commodore: the driver would place the shift lever into "High" and accelerate in a low gear, lifting his or her foot when the shift to High was desired (or at a preset 22 mph when a dashboard button was pressed). Supermatic added a high cruising gear.

Also, there was one flaw in the Hudson formula, and in the end it would prove crucial: the handsome Step-down was difficult to face-lift for the then-mandatory annual model change, and almost impossible to seriously restyle. Also, Hudson lacked the financial resources to construct variant bodies for its 1950 Hudson Commodore line -- the lack of a station wagon was an increasing problem to Hudson dealers in the early 1950s.

All Hudson had were closed two-doors and four-doors -- and the convertible, itself carved out of a coupe. Thus the ragtop's characteristic huge steel header, really the chopped-off coupe roof, was left there to save tooling money. Hudson made a virtue of this necessity by claiming, correctly, that 1950 Hudson Commodore offered more protection in the event of a rollover -- although the low-slung Step-down was almost impossible to roll anyway! In this respect it was doubly safe.

Check out the specifications of the 1950 Hudson Commodore on the next page.

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Hudson's attempts to market the 1950 Hudson Commodore against the newly popular station wagons met with little success.
Hudson's attempts to market the 1950 Hudson Commodore against the newly popular station wagons met with little success.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1950 Hudson Commodore was one of Hudson's most successful cars, but it failed to make up for Hudson's failure to produce the increasingly popular station wagon. Still, as the 1950 Hudson Commodore specifications below indicate, the Commodore could hold its own.

Specifications

Engines: Six sidevalve I-6, 262.0 cid (3.56 × 4.38), 123 bhp Eight sidevalve I-8, 254.0 cid (3.00 × 4.50), 128 bhp

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Transmission: 3-speed manual; overdrive, Drive-Master, and Supermatic semi-automatic optional

Suspension, front: independent, coil springs, tube shocks

Suspension, rear: live axle, leaf springs, tube shocks

Brakes: front/rear drums

Wheelbase (in.): 124.0

Weight (lbs): 3,640-3,865

Top speed (mph): 85-90

0-60 mph (sec): 15.0-18.0, depending on transmission

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