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 and a slew of other manufacturers. In fact, Teague won NASCAR’s season-opening event in 1951 on the Daytona Beach sand, besting some 13 other manufacturers. A relatively light curb weight paired with an inline six allowed the Hudson to handle well on NASCAR’s tight bullrings. During that era, Hudson notched 80 victories and three manufacturer championships in NASCAR. Despite the stock car racing success, the fledgling company couldn’t survive its financial woes and ceased production in 1957.
This Hornet, prepared by legendary mechanic Smokey Yunick, was provided to Herb Thomas halfway through the 1952 season. He was the most prolific Hudson driver, with 78 total podium finishes and 39 victories in Hornets; he has the highest win percentage in NASCAR history. This Hudson is the only NASCAR-raced Hornet known to exist, and it will continue to do so, as a new member of the National Historic Vehicle Register.