George Hurst and the Hurst Olds


If anyone thought the first Hurst Olds wasn’t conspicuous enough, the 1969 model comprehensively solved that problem. The second H/O traded Peruvian Silver for Cameo White with dramatic Firefrost Gold stripes, this time embellished with black rather than white pinstripes. In case the local traffic cops were color-blind or unusually inattentive, Hurst helpfully added a pair of enormous scoops on the hood and a fiberglass rear wing on the rear deck.

1969 Hurst Olds front 3q B
The Hurst Olds’ hood scoops are fiberglass, mounted atop two holes crudely hacked in the hood. They are functional, admitting outside air into the engine, but their effectiveness is questionable; they’re not positioned or sized properly for much volumetric efficiency. Their main purpose, of course, was to make the H/O immediately recognizable from the front, which they do exceedingly well.

Although air conditioning was still optional on the H/O, there was now only one engine. It was called W-46, but it was essentially a hybrid of the previous W-45 and W-46 versions with the “D” heads and a milder cam. The new W-46 was rated at 380 gross horsepower (283 kW) and 500 lb-ft (675 N-m) of torque, but despite its power was rather mildly tuned, more akin to the engines in the Toronado or big Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight sedans than the previous W-45. The W-46 was less racy than the 442’s optional W-30 engine and not nearly as high strung as dealer-created special editions like the Baldwin Motion Camaros. Except for its cop-baiting decor, the Hurst Olds was really quite civilized.

1969 Hurst Olds rear3q
The H/O’s fiberglass rear spoiler was similar to the one Pontiac used on the GTO Judge. Oldsmobile proudly proclaimed that the rear wing provided 64 lb (285 N) of downforce at 120 mph (193 km/h), but admitted that it produced less than a quarter of that modest figure at legal speeds. The Hurst Olds suspension was basically the same as the 442’s, including front and rear anti-roll bars, but the H/O benefited from fatter tires: G70-14 Wide Ovals in ’68, F60-15s in 1969.

The H/O’s mild manners didn’t hurt its performance. Testers found that the 1969 Hurst Olds could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in around 6 seconds and run the quarter mile in about 14 seconds flat; Car Life recorded a top speed of 132 mph (213 km/h). That wasn’t quite in the league of Chrysler’s 426 (6,974 cc) Hemi or a big-engined Corvette, but it put the Hurst Olds into a very elite class.

The 1969 Hurst Olds was again a limited edition, although Oldsmobile and Hurst extended production to 906 cars, all hardtops. Hurst took an additional six H/O hardtops and two convertibles for company use; one of the convertibles went to Linda Vaughn.

Although it was not a big moneymaker, the Hurst Olds had validated Beltz’s judgment and won him new respect from the sales organization. In the spring of 1969, a few weeks after the new H/O started rolling off the line, he became the new general manager of Oldsmobile.

1969 Hurst Olds interior
Other than the wood trim, dashboard plaque, and Dual-Gate Shifter, the Hurst Olds’ interior was basically the same as that of a standard Cutlass S. Full instrumentation was mandatory, although the deeply tunneled instruments are not easy to read. This car has the optional air conditioning, unusual for a late-sixties Supercar.


The Hurst Olds illustrated the basic limitations of the Supercar genre: For all Doc Watson’s talk of executive hot rods, it was really too gaudy for most of the customers who could actually afford it. It was not outrageously expensive, but it was well out of the price range of most young buyers. Furthermore, even if those customers could swing the payments, the H/O was difficult and costly to insure. Thus, it was an impressive car with a very limited audience.

1969 Hurst Olds engine
The 455 cu. in. (7,450 cc) W-46 engine in a 1969 Hurst Olds. The rubber gasket atop the air cleaner assembly mates it to the hood scoop system, allowing the engine to breathe cooler, denser outside air. The fresh-air system operates only in hard acceleration; at gentler throttle settings, a vacuum-controlled valve shuts it off, drawing intake air from under the hood instead.

All of GM’s divisions (save Cadillac) discovered that the hard way in 1970, when the corporation finally rescinded the displacement limit. Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Buick immediately unleashed a host of big-engine Supercars with 454 (7,443 cc) and 455 (7,468 cc) engines and up to 450 advertised horsepower (336 kW). All sold poorly, as did Ford’s 429 cu. in. (7,027 cc) and Chrysler’s 426 Hemi (6,974 cc) and 440 (7,206 cc) Six Pack engines. However formidable their performance, they were just too expensive and the cost of insurance had become prohibitive.

With the end of the displacement limits, the Hurst Olds became redundant. The 455 was now standard in the regular Oldsmobile 442 for a lot less money. Even there, sales were disappointing, so a more-expensive, more-powerful version wasn’t likely to help.

1969 Hurst Olds Mulroney sticker
The Hurst Olds displays its primary weakness: a sticker price of nearly $4,800, including a hefty $683.94 for the H/O package itself — nearly as expensive as Chrysler’s 425 horsepower (317 kW) 426 cu. in. (6,974 cc) Hemi.

John Beltz did talk to Hurst about a new Hurst Olds for 1970: not a big-engine Supercar, but a cheaper “insurance-beater” special that would combine the loud paint, hood scoops, and rear wing of the 1969 H/O with Oldsmobile’s 350 cu. in. (5,737 cc) small-block V8. The hope was that with “only” 310 gross horsepower (231 kW) in a 3,600 lb (1,633 kg) car, the smaller-engined car could avoid the more punitive insurance surcharges; it also represented a throwback of sorts to the original 1964 Olds 442.

The concept sounded promising, but the deal fell apart after Oldsmobile and Hurst were unable to reach an agreement on price and license fees. Frustrated, Beltz decided to offer a similar model without the Hurst name, instead dubbing the car “Rallye 350.” Olds built 3,547 of them, but demand was disappointing. Unsold cars languished on dealer lots for months and the Rallye 350 disappeared after only a year.

John Beltz was diagnosed with cancer in 1971 and died the following May. That year, however, Oldsmobile achieved Beltz’s original goal, claiming the coveted No. 3 spot in total sales, just behind Chevrolet and Ford. It would retain that spot for 12 of the next 16 years.

1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350 front 3q
The Rallye 350 was based on the Cutlass S sports coupe. Its base price of $3,253 included the hood scoops, Sebring Yellow paint, and body-colored bumpers and wheels, although the rear spoiler was technically a $74 option. The Rallye 350 was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around 7 seconds and could run the standing quarter mile (402 meters) in the low 15-second range. (Photo: “Rally 350” © 2009 Chad Horwedel; used with permission)


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  1. When I was young I couldn’t afford one… and by time time I could I was a family man with more need for a station wagon than a pseudo-sporty coupe. I remember seeing one of the last Hurst/Olds Cutlasses on the showroom floor of Thompson Cadillac-Olds in Raleigh, North Carolina when I was looking for a replacement for my totalled ’68 Caprice Estate in November 1983. It got a passing glance while I was waiting for a salesman to see if his boss would accept my offer on an ’81 Custom Cruiser with a diesel engine (fortunately, in retrospect, he didn’t, and I went on to buy a ’78 Country Squire elsewhere).

    But they were interesting cars nonetheless… thanks for the memories.

  2. Thanks for a nicely written and terrifically researched piece. The factories in Lansing, Michigan where many of the H/Os were built have been torn down in the last couple years. Demmer Manufacturing is still in business doing a lot of military work. Story Olds became a Chrysler dealership with the demise of the Olds brand and closed last year.

  3. Reading about George Hurst in this article made me curious about the advent of the four speed manual transmission in American cars.

    I’d love to see a history of the 4-speed on this site, from the Warner T-10 to the Ford and Muncie and the Chrysler A-833.

    You have a very interesting site here, thanks!

  4. [quote]I’d love to see a history of the 4-speed on this site, from the Warner T-10 to the Ford and Muncie and the Chrysler A-833. [/quote]

    That’s a very interesting idea. Let me think about that.

  5. nothing like the executive super car. I grew up with a friend who had a 69 Judge and he hated me in the 1/4 mile I could always bet him, but any thing more and he had me.
    but for some reason we both agreed mine felt like it was more powerful nothing like the big 455cid and all that torque. still my favorite car.

  6. As a 17 year old Indiana farm boy in 1977 I was BIG into going fast, read ALL the big Car magazines I could read and afford, and after having had a 1965 Impala SS since Id gotten my license at 16 I bought a 1972 Chevy Nova SS with a 350 4 bbl, 10 bolt positrac, and Muncie M21 4speed tranny with the prerequisite for racers and go fasters like me Hurst Competition Plus shifter with a polished Hurst embossed “T” handle on top.

    It didnt take me long to install headers, a hotter cam,and traction bars.But I was proud of that chrome plated Hurst Shifter and even sported a big ol “Hurst” sticker on the dash with the 4 speed shift pattern on the four corners of the H behind the Hurst lettering (you old timers like me :) will remember that decal too). The ONLY thing I ever did to that shifter after many years of abuse and hard shifts was replace the worn out shifter bushings in 1978 and I LOVED it.

    After Graduation in 1978 I moved to Cheyenne WY with my folks and started going to Wyoming Technical Inst. (now WyoTech) in Laramie about 50 miles away west on I-80. Going back to school one Monday morning I heard a voice asking for assistance, no one answered and the voice got louder as I got closer to it and I saw a motorhome broken down along the road so I stopped. An older (50+ was a LOT older then)gentleman came up and thanked me for stopping, told me his tranny was acting up and asked if I could give hima ride back to Cheyenne so he could call AAA to come tow him.
    I said “[i]Sure! Hop in[/i]”

    Drove him about 25 miles back to Cheyenne and as we were driving he asked about me and what i was doing with my life, I told him and then he said “[i]Nice car!” [/i]I said thanks and he asked about it, said,”[i]it sounds real good[/i]” and asked what id done to it and so on, making small talk and then asked ,[i]”How do ya like that Hurst shifter?”[/i] Which, I thought was a kinda strange thing to ask about but I told him I liked it a LOT and that Id only changed the shifter bushings after they got kinda sloppy and it was good as new.

    Nice guy and a nice talk (but I thought to myself “Boy! This old dude SURE does like cars!”), and we shortly ended up back in Cheyenne and he asked me to drop him off at a local restaurant and “[i]What do I owe you?”. [/i]I did and I said “[i]Oh?, Nothing at all[/i]!” and as he got out he said [i]”Thanks a lot” [/i] and extended his hand to shake mine (no one older had EVER done that to me and I was floored) and asked my name so I told him, and I said “[i]No problem at all Good luck!” [/i]and I asked him what his name was as we shook hands and he replied, “[b][i]Im George Hurst[/i][/b]”,
    Then he turned and walked inside as my mouth was hanging open!
    I was simply floored, In MY car I was talking to THE guy that designed MY shifter! THE shifter!”Miss Hurst” and Hurst Oldsmobiles [b]MR. [/b][b]Hurst[/b] [i]himself[/i]!!

    I drove away saying “[i]I will NEVER forget THIS!MAN[/i]!” and as I did I looked down at that Hurst shifter in awe, and there, on the pasenger floorboard laid a $50 bill.

    R.I.P. Mr.Hurst

    1. Its been a day since I came across this website & indeed was impressed enuff 2 even leave a slobberknocky kind of post.
      While generally aware of the storie’s highlights previously, Aaron’s style,& presentation, coupled with wormhole type (little known insider information) revelations, definitely sucked me all in….
      And my point is… upon reflection, it was you’re long & entertaining comment that inspired my post.
      I found a lot of common ground for 1 thing,close in age,country boys,Cheyenne was the last big town for my harvest crew.. ect..
      That’s all well n good I spose, but all that pales next 2 your experience with Mr.Hurst. What an amazing story inspired by coincidental random events!
      It left me with a purely symbolic thought not unlike what Saul might have felt when struck by the blinding light on the road 2 Damascus. …
      (Maybe Saul wouldn’t have been walking if he’d had a Hurst Shifter on the floor.)

  7. In 1972, the 300 hp net 445ci, which came with the W-30 option, was called the L77 in an Oldsmobile advertisement.

    According to a 1973 Hurst/Olds advertisement, the base engine was the L75 (air conditioning was not available with this engine) and the optional engine was the L77.

    Was the L77 offered in the 1973 Hurst/Olds a 300 hp net engine (as in 1972) and the L75 a 270 hp net engine?

    In 1973, Oldsmobile did not offer the 300 hp net engine in Oldsmobile cars.

    1. Oldsmobile never produced a 445 Cubic Inch Engine.

      1. I’m assuming that was a typographical error.

    2. We have had our 1972 Hurst/Olds since 1975 (second owners). It came with a 455 (blueprinted at the factory), but I don’t think the 300 HP rating is right. That was for insurance purposes and only an estimate. It does about 108 in the quarter mile, and about 7.2 sec in 0-60 (but you spend about 4 sec with the tires spinning). The red finder wells were up front like the original Hurst/Olds in 1968. Because the 1972 Indy 500 was not corporate sponsored there were lots of fake badges applied at dealerships for U-coded Olds. The Hurst/Olds at the race track in May 1972 are the right ones to compare. At Indy 500 in 1972, there were the pace cars (which had all the badges that you see), ones driven by the judges for the race, and some on display (by the gates). We have the one on display at Gate 4, and it never had the big stickers on the door or finder. The Hurst/Olds badges were all metal and the only stickers on it were the reflective gold 3M. So, yes there were 455s in the Hurst/Olds, but the dealership stuck stickers on whatever they could in 1972 (including lots of 350s). The HP is about 400 (like the older 455s).

      1. Thomas,

        I can certainly understand the sticker game, particularly given the climate of the time, but I’m very skeptical of the 400 hp estimate. Even pre-smog, very few stock engines had more than 400 net horsepower and even the hottest W30 455s were not nearly that quick. I certainly don’t doubt that one can get 400 real horsepower from an Olds 455 and I could see the actual pace car engines (not replicas) being that powerful, but I can’t easily see Oldsmobile going to the expense of blueprinting all the engines or being able to EPA certify them if they did. Pontiac was only able to top the 300 net hp mark with its well-massaged Super Duty 455 by disabling EGR after warmup in a way that subsequently drew a cease-and-desist order from the feds.

        If your car is indeed that fast, more power to you (literally) — I’m not going to argue with someone about the timing slip in their hand! I just don’t know that such speed or power is either stock or typical for these cars.

  8. From what I could determine, it looks like the 1973 L77 optional engine was similar, if not identical, to the ’72 L75 engine — which would mean probably 270 net horsepower, rather than 300. I’ll send you an e-mail with more about my reasoning.

  9. I own the first hurst shifter bracket. It came out of a mercury i believe.

  10. In 1976 and 1977 there were 1 1976 Hurst Olds in white,in 1977 there was 1 made in Black.I have all the documents on the 1976.My neighbor,was Bill Barto sr. director of Hurst performance in Warminister,Pa.,that is whom i purchased my car from.

  11. George Hurst was born in upstate NY in 1927 and his mother forged his fahers signature to enlist in the Navy. After he served in the Navy he settled down in PA. Just wanted to clarify this information. George Hurst was my fathers(James Hurst)cousin. James Hurst was born in 1927 and also enlisted in the US Marines at the age of 15.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate the correction — I’ve amended the text.

    2. Joe Hurst, I once heard many years ago that the Hurst Tool (Jaws Of Life ), Were developed after George Hurst daughter died in a car accident. Apparently they were not able to get her out of the car. Is this fact or fiction? I’m 50 and lived in Warminster,Pa back in High School. I’d pass the plant every day to school. I often wonder were the large sign is today that once graced the outside of the building. I still live in the area. I remember fondly seeing the 1983 Hurst Olds parked in the lot on the Street Rd side of the plant. I even attended the last car show before the plant was sold. I’m glad to of had the privilege to have walked those sacred grounds. Many thanks to the Hurst family for a still fabulous product.

      1. Don’t believe the rumors Gary Kleppe. I’m very much alive and well. I think it’s time for a few of the former Hurst Campbell, Hurst Performance employees to stop fantasizing about their role in the company. Since May of 1986 some of these people have gotten out of hand and I’m tired of sitting back while they do this, times are going to change.

        1. Hello Laurie Hurst. My Mother was Sherry Jean Hurst. I was given up for adoption and found my real Father recently. Richard P. Baker. They were married in 1969 but gave me up for adoption in 1966. Forrest Lamar was her dad and Jean Hurst was her mom. I was told that her Uncle was George Hurst. I was wondering if there is any of the family left alive? Sherry died in 2008 and never got to meet her. My 1st car was a 68 Camero with a Hurst shifter…this was 1986…wow what a trip

          Let me know Lisa Mckearney

    3. Joe, my father was born in New York City. My grandparents lived in a suburb of NYC. You are close but no cigar and that only counts in horseshoes. And My cousins will back me up.

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Laurie! If you or your cousins have any other factual corrections, let me know and I will incorporate them.

        1. (You can always feel free to contact me directly via the contact form if you have any concerns or clarifications.)

      2. your grandparents lived in Little Ferry N.J I knew them well. I also know your mom and Billy and Bobby Zimmerman. I was your fathers partner and helped get the company started. We built Capt. Smarts 46 Lincoln Continental. Ask your mom and while your at it give her my Best regards. Jim Rahm

    4. Sorry Joe my dad, George Hurst was born in New York City. And other than my aunt Dolores, my father never spoke of any relatives outside the immediate family. Please don’t cloud the issues on things you know nothing about. Since my fathers death, there have been enough people making statements that are not entirely true.

    5. I was raised in PA.. born in 1927, we had a neighbor George Hurst , he went in to the service, I think it was the Army. He and his brother bill and their father and a housekeeper Lena. lived close to us. we went to their house on Sat. nights to listen to the top ten. he was my friend while growing up a good friend no hanky panky just a friend . If any one reading this know if he is still living and know him My nick name was Jane Evans. I’d like to hear from him. Janet Laury Ho, TX.

  12. During my Sr. year in HS (78) I bought a 1973 HO black with a 455. Today; I would leave it stock. In 78 and 79 I added Hurst Hatch T-Tops, side-pipes and Western Wheel cyclone mags. She was a pretty thing.

  13. very interesting picture of the back up 1972 hurst pace car .does anybody have the vin numbers of those 2 cars ? or any history of there location ? thank you !

    1. I do not — sorry!

  14. Really interesting story start to finish. Much appreciated Aaron. In my opinion, George Hurst will always be a legendary icon & find myself truly saddened regarding the circumstances of his later years.
    I discovered H/O in 1974 @ age 16. It was late summer & I was finished with wheat harvest. My dad had sold me a ’67 F-85. It had a 330cid,automatic, & it was a 4 door. I became friends with 1 of the other harvest drivers whose dad ran a repair shop in the tiny town of Burdett Ks. Man,I was gonna drop this, chop that,& turn it into a real street demon. A few days after I’d brought the F-85 with me to start the transformation, my friends’s dad ran sum $numbers by me,telling me it was way too expensive ect. Besides he said, with all you want to do, “Why don’t you just get a Hurst/Olds”. My exact words were, “Get a what?”
    Naturally after a little research I was impressed. Later that day I headed for Wichita & the Holy Grail. I actually found a couple of ’68’s & test drove them,but they were really in bad shape. Next stop was KCity & the same thing. I recall being in a run down part of KC & stopped @ 1 of many hole in the wall used dealerships. By now I was just going thru the motions but I had to ask,”Sir do you have any Hurst / Olds?” This man was a polite elderly black gentleman & his reply was priceless. “What you want a Hearse for? They ain’t good for nuthn cept hauling around dead people!”
    Disappointed, I returned to the home place but gave it 1 more shot by placing an ad in the classifieds. “Wanted to buy. Hurst / Oldsmobile.”
    Low & behold a few days later I got a phone call. The guy was a cameraman for WIBW,didn’t want to sell but was curious about the ad. So me & dad arranged to meet him @ work & check out the car ect. It turned out to be a real sweet ’68 that he raced on weekends down @ Lawrence Speedway. I still remember the big old slicks he had in the trunk. We chatted a bit, then he asked me if I’d like to take it for a spin. Hah. The old WIBW/Menniger complex was extremely hilly with wicked curves. The guy was beside me, dad in the back seat. Before we took off he mentioned not to let the RPM’s get below such n such. I said sure, but I didn’t know what I was getting into. Almost right away the guy started freaking out, screaming about keeping the RPM’s up! I’m like wow,ok then,& punched the tar out of it… flattening the hills, straightening the curves. Later, on the way back home, dad finally said something, “Where’d you learn to drive like that?”
    I would go to 1988 before I realized my dream. A 1984 w 23K miles. I still own it w 56K now. I joined the HOCA in 2014 & realized another dream when I got to meet “The Doc” in Indianapolis. Very sad to hear he passed last year.

  15. The story of Hurst and GM is a fascinating story. It is really as much of a story about Pontiac. What most people don’t realize is that the Hurst M/T shifter/linkage,the Dual gate shifter or for that matter the Hurst built Oldsmobile’s. or any other aftermarket at GM product owe their existence to Pontiac division Knudsen/Estes/Delorean and advertising agency’s Jim Wangers. It was this foursome that finally convinced the corporation to approve using a popular outside product on GM cars as a adjunct to selling cars. All manufacturers today use this technique in selling cars.


  17. Hello,
    One minor correction in the article needs to be pointed out. The W-46 mentioned in the article was actually the air conditioned version of the 1968 Hurst/Olds. Essentially it was the same as an Oldsmobile 98 455 engine, but with the 4-4-2 exhaust manifolds & heat shroud, the Outside Air Induction Air cleaner assembly, notched 4-4-2 valve covers, a Police Apprehender 1111469 distributor,and the 400165 camshaft. This version was rated at 380 H. P.

    The non air conditioned W-45 455 was much more of a performance engine. Using the same 455 block a W-31 Ram Rod 350 camshaft (308 degrees duration, 88 degree overlap, and .474 lift) was used in conjunction with the 7028255 W-31 Quadra-Jet carburetor (.075 main jets vs the .072 in the W-46, plus calibration changes). W-30 400370 D casting heads were added along with the forementioned 4-4-2 exhaust manifolds and notched valve covers. A 4-4-2 automatic transmission and W-30 use 1111468 distributor rounded out the package.Both versions had the W-30, Turbo-Systematic OR code transmission, shifted by the Hurst Dual Gate shifter. A/C W-46 cars had 3.08 to one limited slip differentials, code S5 while non air W-45 cars received 3.91 limited slip gears. Both cars had heavy duty cooling; VO1 for the W-45, and Y72 for the W-46 version. Also, there were 64 Sport Coupe post cars and 451 Holiday Coupe hard top cars. This figure is in accordance with the Demmer Shipping Control list, which I have a copy of.
    Karl D. Sarpolis.
    Advisor, 1968 model year Hurst/Olds
    H/O Club of America

    1. The transmission was a Turbo-Hydra-matic OW coded W-30 400 type .

    2. Thanks for the clarifications. The one point about which I have to quibble is on the horsepower rating of the ’68 engine. Every source I’ve seen, including the 1968 Hurst/Olds brochure, lists output as 390 hp, although for 1969, the W-46 was indeed rated 380 hp. In either case, the rating is pretty clearly a nominal one and probably dictated by GM’s 10 lb/hp rule more than any technical point.

    3. Great details Karl. So how many 1968 cars had air conditioning?

      Are you able to provide similar enlightenment on the 1969 engine pair?

  18. Mcsilver, Karl is the authority, but I found lots of good info at and
    According to the first site, 153 were equipped with A/C and thus the W-46 engine:

    Aaron, awesome site with great, well-researched articles. One typo: “W-46 cars had a 3.91 axle for better dragstrip performance while air conditioned cars had a 3.08 axle to keep revs down and give the A/C compressor a fighting chance of survival.” Should say “W-45” that had the 3.91 rear.

    1. Whoops, you’re absolutely right — I fixed that in the text.

      Your comment had originally ended up in spam because it had links. This happens automatically; I don’t necessarily even see it at all unless I make a point of looking through the filtered comments, which usually amount to 100+ pieces of obvious junk a day. (This is why I have the filter set so aggressively — spammers keep finding new ways to go around whatever precautions I set.) Sorry about that!

  19. Aaron, one other omission I think worth correcting is the Lightning Rods shifters in the 1983 and 1984 Hurst/Olds. Although kind of a gimmick, as a young teen at the time I thought they were pretty cool!

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