A Honey of a Hudson

1955 Hudson Wasp is Two Tones of Sweet

By Jeff Barnes

People usually avoid wasps, but Diane Andress said people practically run her off the road to get a closer look at hers.

The Omahan is owner of one sweet 1955 Hudson Wasp sedan, and with its distinctive two-tone coloration, continental kit and unusual design, it definitely catches the eye of fellow motorists. “They want to know what it is,” says Andress. “I tell them it’s a Hudson. ‘Who made the Hudson?’ they ask, thinking that it’s a Ford or Chevy model. ‘HUDSON made the Hudson,’ I tell them.”

Some debate whether it’s a true Hudson. This is one of the cars built in the first year of the Hudson-Nash merger which created American Motors, so it’s sometimes called a “Hash.” The Hudsons received new bodies in 1955 which didn’t sit well with the make’s traditional fans, and sales of the Wasp dropped by almost two thirds. The company attempted a completely new design for Hudsons the following year which backfired even more. Hudsons went out of production after 1957, evolving into American Motors’ Rambler line.

As a result, said Andress, you don’t see many Wasps around; she knows of a dozen. She used to be involved in Hudson groups, particularly the “5-6-7 Club,” referring to the last three years of Hudson production. “Those years aren’t fully accepted by the Hudson purists,” she said.

The car floats like a butterfly but doesn’t exactly sting like a bee – its 4,500 pounds is pulled by a small Jet 202 flathead-6 engine. “She doesn’t like going up steep hills,” Andress confesses. “If it’s moving fast, it’s fine going uphill; if it’s moving slower, people like to honk at you.”

An interesting feature of the car leads to an interesting nickname. The Wasp’s front seats fold backwards to create a queen-sized bed in the car; it picked up the moniker “the Babymaker” as a result. Andress confirms that the car is great for drive-ins (which are about as rare as a Wasp anymore). She and her husband Matt once hauled the car to Nashville via trailer, but still used the car bed for a nap break in on the way.

She bought the car nine years ago from a dealer in Plattsmouth from whom her brother had also purchased a car. “I went to look at a Kaiser-Frazer he had,” she said. “It was so big and black and ugly. This one was next to it and I loved it.” Andress said the car had been over-sprayed with another car’s paint (which took three days to buff out), but she only paid $3,000 for it which she called a steal.

Andress calls hers a “girl’s” car. “It’s so simple that I can work on it, but I haven’t had to do much,” she said. “The only thing I’ve done to it was install the headliner, which I did all by myself.” The sunburst-yellow portion of the two tone paint job was redone, but the black is still original as are the 63,491 miles on the car. She said new carpet will likely go in this year, but everything else on the car works.

She bought the car while her husband was out of town. “He called home and I said ‘Honey, I bought a car.’ ‘What did you get?’ he asked. ‘A Hudson.’ ‘A WHAT-son?,’” she related. “He wasn’t as excited about it as I was, and still thinks I should sell it, but I love it.”

(Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, May 1, 2010)

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