1968 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Bob Thomsen. Click image to enlarge
The Hurst/Olds Club of America
Review and photos by Jeff Burry
Hurst Olds, 1968-1988
When one thinks of muscle cars, “Oldsmobile” is unlikely to be the first name mentioned. Mustang, Camaro, ‘Cuda and even AMX are more likely to be uttered by the muscle car enthusiast. The Oldsmobile faithful are probably sneering at this point.
However, in the late 1960’s, Oldsmobiles were being modified by the Hurst Performance Research Corporation, and re-sold through select Oldsmobile dealer channels. These vehicles became known as Hurst/Olds, and were produced from 1968 through to 1988, though not in every model year. All H/Os were built in Lansing, Michigan.
A total of 515 H/Os rolled off the assembly line in 1968. The paint scheme was Peruvian Silver, with black stripes, and white pinstripes. The cars were powered by a 390-horsepower W-45 (without AC) or W-46 (with AC) 455 cubic-inch V8 engine. Two body styles were offered. There were 51 club coupes and 464 sport coupes manufactured.
1969 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Ken Millington. Click image to enlarge
The H/Os were the only GM intermediate-sized cars to offer an engine larger than 400 cubic-inches. A corporate policy at the time prohibited the divisions from putting larger engines in cars smaller than full-sized models, other than the Chevrolet Corvette.
The H/O returned for the 1969 model year. The biggest change was the paint scheme. Gone were the black stripes on Peruvian silver. In was Firefrost gold on a striking white paint scheme. That colour combination would remain the primary paint scheme for many Hurst/Olds in future years.
While the 1968 model sported dual ram air scoops under the front bumper, the H/O of 1969 received a functional fiberglass hood scoop with H/O 455 markings, advertising what lurked under the hood. A spoiler was mounted on the trunk and the car sat on unique 15×7 chrome SSII rims with Goodyear F60x15 Polyglas tires. Approximately 913 cars were built. Two convertibles were built for promotional purposes: Linda Vaughn, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, got one of the convertibles.
1972 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Stephen Oberto. Click image to enlarge
The 455 cubic-inch V8 received a slightly milder cam and produced 380 hp with 500 ft-lbs of torque. The H/O was dropped after the 1969 model year because GM dropped the 400 cubic-inch engine limit for the 1970 model year.
The next H/O didn’t roll off the assembly line until the 1972 model year. It was developed by Hurst Performance and not Oldsmobile. Due to a tragic accident at the 1971 Indy race, major auto manufacturers were reluctant to provide a pace car. In stepped Hurst Performance with the 1972 Hurst Olds and the rest, as they say, is history. It was the first time an Indy pace car was sponsored by a manufacturer other than an automotive one.
Two 455 cubic-inch V8s were available, one sporting 270 hp and the other, a blueprinted 300-hp engine. Both engines were mated to a Turbo-Hydra-matic 400 transmission with a console-mounted Hurst Dual-Gate shifter. This shifter would later become synonymous with most H/O cars.
1975 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Dean Naddeo. Click image to enlarge
During the 1970s, these cars were produced in the 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979 model years. During this period a number of enhancements were made to the vehicles including a new colour scheme introduced in the 1973 model year. Buyers could now choose black with gold stripes.
1974 saw the introduction of a 350 cubic-inch engine producing only 180 hp. By 1979, the H/O did not come with a true dual exhaust system and still came with the Hurst shifter.
There was once again, a hiatus for the next three model years. Finally, in 1983, GM offered a limited edition Hurst/Olds commemorating its 15th anniversary. Shifting gears would be facilitated by the newly introduced Lightning Rod Shifter. This shifter would be standard on all 1983-84 H/O cars.
1979 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Ron Krier (top photo); 1988 Hurst Olds; photo courtesy HurstOlds.com and Nathan Olson. Click image to enlarge
Yet again, there was another hiatus with the next H/O car, not being produced until 1988. This would be the last year of the H/O car. Power was supplied by the de-tuned Rocket 307 engine.
The 1988 model was essentially a “kit” car involving the rear-wheel drive Cutlass, and when combined with a plastics aero kit, formed the 1988 H/O. The kit itself was produced by a company called Action Products, located in Tempe, Arizona.
With the purchase of the kit, the owner also received a one year membership to the Hurst Olds Club. According to numerous sources, these kits did not fit properly, and so ended the Hurst/Olds as a performance car.
Automotive collectors are starting to pay attention to these H/O cars. While the earlier models tend to be the more collectable, the late 70’s and 80’s models are slowly gaining collector car status.
Either way, it is a piece of automotive performance history and somewhat dispels the myth that the Olds is my “old man’s” car.