As some of you know (and even less of you care), I recently purchased an old car. To most it’s just that; a 44-year old Oldsmobile. However, to me and hopefully many others, it is much more than that.
I feel the need to explain what makes this thing such a rarity….
Take yourself back to 1968 if you’re old enough. The muscle car craze was wide open, started by most agreements, John Delorean and his 1964 vision of the Pontiac GTO. I tend to agree, however there were some damn fine hotrods coming out of Detroit prior to that. By 1968 everyone had a performance car or line in their stable domestically. Oldsmobile was no different, they released the 442 shortly after the GTO hit the streets.
Most of these cars were equipped with Hurst performance gear, mostly shifters but other stuff too. George Hurst, was obviously a muscle car fan and every year he had a car built specially for him. They ranged by brand, but by far he preferred the Olds 442. Not just for the “Rocket” V8s under the hood; Olds added handling and some class to the 442….they were considered “Executive Hot Rods”. In 1968 Jack “Doc” Watson took the base 442 (a new body style that year) and added every performance goodie that GM had on the shelf. The first “4” in 442 stood for 400 ci engine (after 1965). Doc, wasn’t satisfied with that, he stuffed the all new Oldsmobile Rocket 455 in George’s car. Also, built up that 455 with the hottest parts in the Olds stable; hot cam, distributor,W-31 carb, forged crank, W-30 heads and Ram Air, and on and on.
The result was probably the most “badass” 442 ever to roll off the line. Soon after George received his car, a friend, John Demmer wanted his own “Hurst/Oldsmobile”, and then Demmer’s son. Doc knew he had a hit on his hands, however GM edict of the day said that these cars could not have engines larger than 400 ci. A problem? Not for long. Olds sent the specially painted Toronado Peruvian Silver 442s to Demmer Engineering, they stuffed Doc Watson’s fire-breathing 455 under the hood, added special black accents and interior trim, as well as Corvette four-piston disc brakes. To top it off the Hurst Dual Gate shifter was added to control the beefed-up TH400 tranny. And that folks, is how the Hurst/Olds was born.
They had only a few months to build the cars and managed to get 515 done before the line had to retool for the 1969 model year. To put that in perspective – days after the announcement of the H/O being offered, Olds had orders for over 5,000. At the time there were over 3,000 Oldsmobile dealers (so only one dealer in six even got a Hurst/Olds to sell). Finally, in 1968 Olds made about 37,000 442s. The 1968 Hurst/Olds was rare beyond belief from day one. Today, the Hurst/Olds club estimates there are only 140 of them left.
After 1969, the Hurst/Olds brand was more a graphics package as the government and insurance companies lowered the boom on performance cars rolling out of Detroit. The 1968 was the first and the most powerful, made to go straight from your dealer to the track…and mine did. I own #511 of 515. It was raced through Humphrey Olds/Cadillac in Rockford, Ill for three years, then spent many years in the family of factory race car driver Wayne Garnhardt.
She now resides at a shop nearby where the body has been taken off the frame to finish the restoration started by the gentleman I bought the car from….Vinny B. in NYC. We are wrapping up all the mechanicals and putting the body back on the frame so I can redo the interior this winter. It will be a driver for a few years, eventually getting a full re-spray. Even then, she won’t be a trailer queen…these cars were built to be driven. If I break something…I’ll fix it.
There ya go…that’s why I’m so obsessed with this car. I promise to post pics in a few weeks once she’s back home…
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