Car History Year 1948
Date: Sunday, September 26 @ 23:55:42 UTC
Americans had plenty to celebrate in
1948. The country was getting back on its feet after the war and life was returning to normal. To top it all, US athletes picked up no less than 38 gold medals at the Olympics held in London, England. It was also election year and there was a new President in The White House - Harry S. Truman. Later in the year, Truman was to sign the Marshall Plan, guaranteeing $6 billion for overseas aid. Some of that aid would be needed in Berlin, Germany, which was being blockaded by Soviet forces in one of the first moves of what would become the Cold War. Berlin was deep in the Soviet-occupied area of Germany, but the city itself had been split into zones administered by the Americans, British, French and Soviets. To keep their zones of the city alive, the Allies organized a massive, round-the-clock airlift, which kept the inhabitants supplied with all the essentials for daily life.
Back in the States, residents of San Bernadino, California, saw history in the making, as the first McDonald's hamburger stand opened. From this small beginning would grow first a nationwide chain of restaurants, then a world-wide chain that eventually would even penetrate the Soviet Union.
Fast food was not the only area of advance in 1948. The development of the transistor at the Bell Laboratories would soon lead to a burgeoning electronics industry, while the latest development in photography was the Polaroid camera.
In Detroit, the auto manufacturers were also making strides forward. In the years immediately after WW2, they had simply dusted off their pre-war designs, made a few cosmetic changes, then built them as fast as they could to satisfy the demands of a car-hungry public. Buyers did not mind that the designs were four or more years old; after years of not being able to buy a new car, anything with wheels would do. Besides, they simply had no choice; it was the only way for companies to pick up the reins of business after years of wartime production.
By 1948, however, new models were beginning to appear, often resulting from development work carried out in secret during the war, and utilizing techniques of manufacture founded in the war work. Experience gained in the manufacture of non-automotive products, particularly aircraft and aircraft components, opened the eyes of designers and engineers to new possibilities in automobile design and construction.
Hudson was one manufacturer that offered a new car for 1948 which was a real winner and, in some respects, unique compared to the rest of Detroit's offerings that year. It was known as the Step-down Hudson.
The new Hudson was based on a unibody design which, although not a new idea for an American car (Nash and Lincoln had already produced unibody designs), it was an innovative move at that time. As utilized in the Step-down design, the unibody arrangement gave greater passenger comfort and safety, together with a sleek, attractive appearance. However, there were pros and cons to this construction. Without the heavy chassis, a much lighter structure could be built saving both materials and cost. On the negative side, it was both difficult and expensive to make alterations to the design. This meant that the substantial changes in appearance, which had become and annual ritual in Detroit, were out of the question. This wouid prove to be a major problem with the Step-down Hudson but, in 1948, the rapturous reception afforded the car outweighed doubts about the future.
Based on a 124 inch wheelbase, the body was designed to incorporate box-section stiffeners, which effectively formed a strong cage around the passenger compartment and provided support for the engine, trans-mission and suspension. These formed perimeter rails that ran under the doors and outside the rear wheels keeping intrusion into the passenger compartment to a minimum.
The "Step-down" name referred to the design of the passenger compartment itself. Aware that a low center of gravity would improve the car's handling and ride quality, Hudson designers arranged for the floor to be level with the bottom of the main perimeter rails, rather than sitting on top, which was normal practice with a separate chassis. To get into the car, it was necessary to step over the side rails and down onto the floor.
With a lower floor, it was possible to lower the position of the seats within the body and, consequently, the roofline while retaining good headroom inside. At 60 inches high, the new Hudson was four to six inches lower than most of its competitors, yet it provided as much, if not more, head-room. At the same time, ground clearance was not compromised. A two-piece drive-shaft allowed the central floor hump to be quite low, improving comfort for passen-gers sitting in the middle of the seats.
Hudson engineers also improved the ride for passengers by cradling them between the axles, rather than having them sit over the axle at the rear, so the rear seat was positioned ahead of the axle. This allowed for a wider seat without requiring a wider body. Further elbow room was provided by arranging for the side glass to drop down into the doors at an outward angle, which allowed recesses to be formed in the door trim panels.
Although the roofline was lowered, the beltline was of conventional height, making the side glass quite shallow in depth - the bottom edge of the glass was level with pas-sengers' shoulders. However, the windshield and back light were comparable in area to taller cars, although these were canted somewhat.
Power for the Step-down Hudson came from a choice of six or eight cylinder in-line engines. The former was a new powerplant - the Super Six, which had a capacity of 270 cu.in and developed 121 horsepower, while the latter was Hudson's tested Super Eight, a 254 cu.in. engine of 128 horsepower. Among the transmission options offered was overdrive, Drive-master and Va*****otive Drive, which had been available on previous models. Drivemaster was a form of automatic transmission, while the Va*****otive Drive gave automatic operation of the clutch alone.
The suspension was conventional coil-sprung independent at the front, with parallel leaf springs at the rear. However, a heavy front stabilizer bar and a rear panhard rod were both incorporated to assist handling and ride.
A very wide range of models was offered in the Super and Commodore series, which was comprised of 4-door sedans, 2-door broughams, club and standard coupes and convertible broughams.
HUDSON COMMODORE SIX
Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line
262 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
Sedan; Club coupe; Convertible coupe
No. of seats
3,540 Ibs-3,780 Ibs
$2,399 - $3,780
Aluminum alloy - 6 Cylinders, horizontally opposed
335 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
4.5x 3.5 ins.
"Torpedo" 4 door sedan
No. of seats
CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY CONVERTIBLE
Cast iron - 8 cylinders in line
323.5 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3.25 x 4.88 ins.
No. of seats
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