If the car pictured here looks familiar but you can’t quite place it, maybe it is because a smiley version of the hardtop Hornet was used as the character Doc Hudson in the 2006 movie Cars, the Pixar animation that scattered a billion plastic reproductions across the playroom floors of the world.

From a design point of view, it was a good choice. There is something adorably cartoonish about the Hornet – it has smooth, child-friendly curves that could have been carved from a block of ice cream. Do not be fooled by the soft-scoop appearance, however. Under the skin the Hornet is a very serious machine.

In the late 1940s, the now-extinct Detroit company Hudson was at the front of the charge for a new generation of cars that were to form an important part of a U.S. demonstration to the post-war world that, just in case there was any doubt, America was the Daddy now.

Hudson was a pioneer of the “unibody” concept, meaning bodywork that is an integral part of the car’s structural integrity. Before this, cars were “body-on-frame”, so the chassis did all the work, and the bodywork was something you just dropped on at the last minute, like a hat.

The Hornet featured a “step-down” chassis, with a footwell that sat below the line of the strengthening chassis rails. This allowed the car to be of an overall lower height than its rivals, and to have a lower centre of gravity. Lowering the centre of gravity gives much better roadholding – this concept is best visualised in reverse by picturing a double-decker bus trying to go quickly around a tight corner.

The Hornet was powered by a high-compression, five-litre engine that gave it the power in a straight line to go along with the finesse through the bends. This combination made it in a perfect candidate for the brand-new Nascar race series, which Hornets dominated in the early 1950s.

Despite this success the Hudson name was soon to disappear. A merger saw the company become part of the American Motor Corporation (AMC) and although some models continued to be branded as Hudson, a few years later the name was dropped and Hudson was no more. This meticulously restored convertible Hornet stands as gorgeous witness to a company that deserves to be remembered as a maker of real – as well as cartoon – cars.

The 1951 Hudson Hornet Convertible is Lot 37 in the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale in California on Friday 19th August 2016. Estimate $140,000 - 180,000 (£110,000 - 140,000)

Source: telegraph.co.uk     Photos: bonhams.com