He was once one of the most famous race cars in history; he won three Piston Cups in a row and still holds the record for most wins in a single season. However, it all changed for Doc when he was involved in a terrible crash during the final lap of the 1954 Piston Cup championship race, which saw him put out for the season. Upon his return, he was received with a complete absence of fanfare and told that he was a has-been who had been passed up for the next rookie in line. He kept a newspaper article on the career-ending crash as a reminder to never to return to the career that nearly killed him.
- “'They quit on me. When I finally got put together, I went back expecting a big welcome. Know what they said? "You're history." Moved onto the next rookie standing in line. There was a lot left in me. I never got a chance to show 'em.”
- ―Doc tells Lightning why he left racing.
Jaded by the racing scene, he left that world, apparently taking out time to study medicine. The famous #51 disappeared into obscurity, leaving many wondering where he had gone. He instead opted for a simple navy blue paint job and the life of a physician in the tiny town of Radiator Springs, the "shining Gemstone" of the Mother Road - Route 66. He runs Doc's Clinic as a "doctor of internal combustion". As times changed and the town got bypassed in favor of Interstate 40, Doc stayed on, even when the population had dwindled to a meager dozen or so residents. He is respected, well-loved, and serves not only as of the town's physician but as its judge as well. However, nobody in the town had any idea of his past as a racer; he was just an ordinary Hudson Hornet to them.
"Doc is a car of few words but many talents. He not only serves as the town judge he's also Radiator Springs' resident doctor. Doc is respected and admired by the townsfolk for the way he looks out for their health and tends to their aches and pains. No one knows too much about Doc before he came to town. He keeps his private life private, but if you've got a bad spark plug or a rattle in your engine, his door is always open."
Doc Hudson is based off of the real 1951 Hudson Hornet, which is where his name, number and paint scheme came from.
During his Piston Cup racing days, Doc was painted in a dark shade of blue, with a chrome bumper and grille. On his doors were the number 51 painted in yellow, as well as the words Fabulous Hudson Hornet painted in both white and yellow. He also had the words Twin-H-Power on both sides of his hood, and the Piston Cup logo beneath them. While Doc had red racing wheels during his racing career, official artwork seems to suggest that he had chrome rims at one point or another.
After arriving in Radiator Springs to set up his own medical clinic, Doc attempted to hide his past by removing most of his decals, leaving only his dark blue coat of paint and the his chrome grille, bumper, and lining.
Doc is portrayed as a grumpy old man who wants to leave his racing career behind after the painful rejection of the racing world, and stay out of the public line. Doc enjoys peace and quiet, and loves the town of Radiator Springs and its citizens. However, despite his fondness for his friends, he never told them of his past of being a race car as he wanted to forget and distance himself from anything that reminded him of his past. Even though Doc never told his friends about his past, he did felt shame and regret for lying to them about who he used to be.
When Lightning McQueen arrives in Radiator Springs and accidentally rips up the main road, Doc's initial reaction is highly negative, as the rookie racecar was a reminder of Doc's past and the racing world he left behind. Hesistant to kick him out of town, he decides to sentence McQueen to community service by fixing the road, causing their relationship to be strained at first. This is when Doc revealed his tragic past to McQueen, explaining why he wanted to have him leave town at first, as well as that the trophies he won are just nothing but "empty cups" during the second half of the film. However, at one point, Doc did try be friendly with McQueen, giving him well-meaning advice on how to turn on dirt, to which McQueen ignored. When McQueen decided to stay in Radiator Springs after fixing the road, Doc took it upon himself to get rid of McQueen by informing the press on his whereabouts, believing it to be best for everyone when it was really only to satisfy himself after Sally calls him out. However, upon seeing how sad his friends were to see McQueen leave, Doc realized how important and well-loved McQueen became to all of them. Doc then immediately made amends with his decisions by informing his friends of his former racing career and became Lightning's crew chief to support him in his race, even realizing that the race could be worse due to Chick Hicks. Doc was later impressed when he found out that McQueen conceded the Piston Cup to Chick Hicks so he can help The King finish his last race, having realized the lesson he taught McQueen about how people quit on him following his crash that forced him into retirement.
After becoming McQueen's mentor, Doc showed who he truly was on the inside: a caring, supportive grandfather-like figure as he finally came to terms with his past and be at peace with the former sport he loves doing.
Powers and abilities
Doc was considered the best dirt track racer of all time. Despite his age, Doc can still race with great skill, with incredible statistics, even being able to compete with other Piston Cup race cars in Cars: The Video Game. Drifting is one of Doc's most well-known abilities, being able to easily take turns on dirt tracks.
Doc also had medical experience that was handy even before he got his doctorate in internal combustion, and it was that knowledge that inspired him to go to medical school. Additionally, Doc serves as the judge for Radiator Springs, having the knowledge to serve in a courtroom.
One day when the town of Radiator Springs is damaged with its road being destroyed, Doc comes into the courtroom, angrily swearing to put the one responsible destroying his town in jail. When he sits on the judge's raised desk, Doc becomes shocked to see that the troublemaker is a racecar named Lightning McQueen and immediately orders him to get out of town. However, when the town's attorney, Sally Carrera comes into court and tries to persuade Doc to have McQueen fix the road, but Doc refuses, saying that the town doesn't need a racecar in it. Doc soon changes his mind when Sally successfully convinces the townsfolk to have McQueen where Doc sentences McQueen to community service, much to McQueen's dismay.
Doc introduces McQueen to the town's re-paving machine, Bessie and tells him that'll take five days to finish the road, much to McQueen's distress as he wants to get to California in time for the Piston Cup tie-breaker race. However, McQueen cannot leave town after having his boot taken off as all of his fuel was taken out when he was knocked out the other night. Bored and frustrated with the task, Lightning decides to rush it, and finishes the road within an hour. However, when Mater informs Doc, he discovers that the road is far from smooth, and is nothing but a mess of asphalt. After the residents confront Lightning, Doc ordered him to tear up the road and redo it, but his cocky response inspires Doc to trick him by challenging him to a dirt track race in exchange for his freedom. At Willy's Butte, Doc and Lightning have their competition; a simple one-lap race around the Willy's Butte oval, which has one banked turn, but one sharp turn without any type of wall or barrier. As Luigi and Guido start the race, the audience stares in confusion as they see Doc standing still at the finish line while Lightning speeds away. Doc then grabs Mater along and everyone watches Lightning fall into a cactus pit, as Doc anticipated that the racecar who was too used to asphalt would not do well on the dirt track and lose control on the final turn. After Doc mocks him, he tells Mater to fish McQueen out with his tow hook. As he prepared to go to sleep, Doc watched with smugness as Lightning miserably began to work overnight.
The next day, everyone wakes up to find that Lightning had paved a good road up to the intersection, at least half of the job; Sally commented that Doc should have thrown the rookie into a cactus patch a lot sooner. Doc then found Sheriff watching Lightning attempting to make the last turn around Willy's Butte, having ran out of asphalt in the middle of the night. Doc volunteers to take over watching Lightning and gives him advice by telling him to "turn right to go left", which McQueen simply passes off as nonsense from a "crazy grandpa car", so Doc leaves just as Lightning fails to make the turn again.
On the third day, Doc was operating on Sheriff when Lightning rudely burst into his office, wanting to ask for his gas ration. Doc ordered him to wait by Flo's V8 Cafe. Soon after, he finds Lightning in his garage, having discovered his identity as the Hudson Hornet. He became very bitter when Lightning discovers his past. Doc refused to speak of his past and called his trophies "just empty cups". Doc then watches and eavesdrops when McQueen tries to explain to the townsfolk Doc's past, only for them to not believe as Doc never told them, something Doc starts to regret not doing.
Later in the day, Doc put on his racing tires to take a lap around Willy's Butte and although he was hesitant at first, he drove the lap and successfully made the turn on the dirt track. But when he realized that Lightning was spying on him, he promptly drove back to his home. Lightning followed him and tried to comment how incredible his driving was, but Doc did not want to speak to McQueen and angrily ordered him away when McQueen said they are more alike than he originally thought. When McQueen asked why Doc would quit at the top of his game, Doc showed him the newspaper detailing his crash in '54 and related how the sport rejected him after he recovered which made him cynical, making him vow to never return to the racing world. Though Lightning insisted that he (Lightning) is not like the sports cars who rejected him, Doc wanted to know if he had ever cared about anyone besides himself. When the rookie couldn't answer the question, Doc tells him that the Radiator Springs residents look out for each other and he does not want them reliant on a selfish car like him. Lightning then retorted that Doc is no better than him, by not opening about his past to his friends. Instead of countering, Doc angrily tells him to finish the road and leave town.
After Lightning finished fixing the road he damaged and decided to stay for a while, Doc was unable to bear having him around any longer and called the news and press to immediately take him away to the Piston Cup, declaring that it is best for everyone, but seeing how disheartened everyone was by his unplanned departure after Sally calls him out on what he did, Doc realized that Lightning had become more important to them than he thought. Regretting his decision, Doc eventually admits the truth to everyone about his racecar days and he took back his old #51 colors to become Lightning's crew chief, bringing nearly the entire town (except Sally, Red, and Lizzie -- who watch the race on TV) to the Piston Cup to support Lightning as his pit crew (and in an ironic twist of fate, finally received that long-awaited fanfare for his return). When McQueen chooses to forfeit the race so he can help The King finish his last race after Chick Hicks caused the latter to crash, Doc smiles, expressing how proud he was of Lightning's sportsmanship.
In the end, Doc opts to keep his racing colors and becomes a trainer as well as a friend to Lightning as Radiator Springs becomes McQueen's new racing headquarters, putting the town back on the map. Just like Lightning, Doc learned some lessons: friendship, promises, how greed affects others, and that secrets can't be kept forever no matter how long you try to keep them.
Doc appears in the short film, where he scares Mater into believing in a monster called the Screamin' Banshee, which actually ends up existing.
Doc died prior to events of Cars 2, though he can be seen in posters of his museum. In memory of him, the Piston Cup was renamed the Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup, and gets a new logo with an image of the Hudson Hornet and the words "Hudson Hornet" above it. It appears prominently on Lightning McQueen's hood. Doc’s office was converted into the Hudson Hornet Racing Museum. When Lightning was showing Mater his new Piston Cup, he mentions how he knew Doc always said Piston Cups were just old cups and Mater tells him that Doc would have been real proud of him for winning his latest race. He is also mentioned a few times during the race in Tokyo. Darrell Cartrip mentions him as being one of the greatest dirt racers of all time while talking about McQueen when he and all the other racers are lining up at the starting line and when the racers reach the dirt section, Mater tells Lightning to do what Doc has taught him (turn right to go left), which he does and takes the lead. Another allusion to Doc is made in the end during the Radiator Spring Grand Prix when all the racers drive up the side of the canyon where Willies Butte is located just like how Doc used to do.
The circumstances of how Doc died are still unknown, especially considering the fact he's a vehicle.
John Lasseter was at first adamant in 2007 that Paul Newman would return to voice Doc Hudson in Cars 2, even though he had announced his retirement from acting. After Newman's death in 2008, Lasseter said that they would see how the story goes with Doc Hudson. Story supervisor Nathan Stanton said: "we felt, after really tooling around with the idea of him being in the film and how do we properly use him, it just felt right that we should have his character have passed away also [as Paul Newman]." John Lasseter said that he realized "Doc Hudson was Paul Newman. The character was written after listening to him talk about his passion for racing." and that "We pay homage to Doc Hudson, which is paying homage to Paul Newman".
After Lightning McQueen is forced out of the racing world following an accident during a Piston Cup race, he looks to his former mentor for inspiration. His voice is provided by archived records of Paul Newman for a series of flashbacks. The flashbacks depict Doc racing with old friends and competitors, such as Louise Nash and Junior Moon. In one sequence, Doc performs a flip move to overcome another racer. McQueen's student, Cruz Ramirez, utilizes this technique to win the Florida 500. It is revealed that Doc crashed at the Daytona Beach race from losing control one lap after taking the lead. Doc first appears in flashback when he is talking to McQueen about real racing. When Lightning meets Smokey, Louise, River Scott, and Junior Moon, they tell him of stories of Doc in the old days. Doc didn't let the new rookies stop him from coming in first and beat them even if they were faster than them. Lightning thought Doc wasn't happy like he was after his crash, until Smokey took him to his garage and showed him all the things Doc sent him since he began training Lightning. During this, McQueen has flashbacks of his old mentor, including where Doc was twirling stuff on his nose and told him to take notes on it, when he and Doc were racing and Doc smiled and laughed at him when he fell into the Cactus again. Smokey tells him that, while nothing was ever the same after his crash, Lightning is what made him so happy about racing again. At the end Lightning now acts as a racer and crew chief to Cruz and Dinoco/Rusteze. Lightning decides to try something new and takes a new paint job inspired by Doc, having a "old-school" look to him now and races with Cruz like he and Doc used to do.
A blue Hudson Hornet (supposedly a non-anthropomorphic Doc Hudson) can be seen in The Incredibles during the battle against Syndrome and his Omnidroid v.10. Even though Cars was released after The Incredibles, development of the film was already well under way. This could be a reference to Pixar's next film, Cars where one of the characters is an anthropomorphic Hudson Hornet.
Doc Hudson appears in Radiator Springs Racers at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. Set between the two films to allow for his presence, Doc Hudson serves as the crew chief for the guests, appearing in Audio-Animatronic form before the race to offer advice as well as providing radio chatter in the cars while they are out on the track.
His medical office and the museum established inside of it is also part of the dining complex for Cars Land's version of Flo's V8 Cafe.
During every Halloween season since 2017, an ofrenda of Doc was set up in Ramone's House of Body Art.
- Doc Hudson is a 1951 Hudson Hornet.
- A blue Hudson Hornet can be seen in The Incredibles, an Easter egg appearance of Doc Hudson. Even though Cars was released after The Incredibles, development of the film was well under way.
- The Hudson Hornet was one of the first cars used by drivers in the beginning of NASCAR.
- The story of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet is based on real-life events. Many Hornets used in NASCAR at that time actually used that quote on their body paint design. Hudson won the championship from 1951-53.
- Doc and Stanley are the only two vehicles in the entire series to have died off-screen. Stanley died before the events of Cars.
- Doc Hudson honking his horn to have court order seems to be the car equivalent of a judge banging a gavel, though it is never revealed if he honks his horn when a case is closed.
- Doc's appearance in the Radiator Springs Racers ride at Cars Land implies that the events of the ride take place before the events of Cars 2. However, this is contradicted when, while Lightning and Mater congratulate the guests after the race, the former occasionally mentions the time he raced in the World Grand Prix.
- All of Doc's lines for the ride are performed by Corey Burton and this was his last time voicing the character to date.
- Doc Hudson started racing in the Piston Cup series in 1951, the same year his car model debuted: this technically would make him, in real life, the true first rookie winning the Piston Cup.
- His license plate is 51HHMD, which is a reference to his year and track number (51), model (Hudson Hornet) and profession (medical doctor).
- Doc was Paul Newman's last acting role. Also, like Newman, he has blue eyes.
- He would have appeared in later films had Newman not died.
- If Doc was built the same year he won the Piston Cup (1951) and the timeline took place when the films came out, that would mean he died in 2011 at the age of 60, unless he died a few years before. One could argue that Hudson died in 2008, the year his voice actor Paul Newman passed away.
- "Car Finder" (supplementary material on Blu-ray Disc release of Cars). 2007. Blu-ray Disc. Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2007.
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