Thursday, August 27, 2020

oddly, there is no Wikipedia entry for George Hurst (Thanks Steve!)

 the one guy that added more fun to hot rodding than probably any other, (with only an 8th grade formal education)
The Hurst Armed Forces Club!
the GTO races,
 the Hairy Olds,
 the shifters!
The Jaws of Life!
The Hurst Hemi Under Glass 'Cuda,
the Hurst SC/Rambler,
the Hurst Baja Boot,
the Gasser Passer
the Hurst Shawnee Scout
the Hurst Jeepster,
 the Shifty Doc Watson traveling performance clinic,
and Hurst Super Stock AMXs, Darts, Barracudas,
 the Hurst Olds,
and Hurst Airheart brakes -  who compares to all this?

There is a wikipedia entry for Hurst Performance... it's not very good

George Hurst worked with more car companies than maybe anyone I know of. Jeep, Pontiac, Dodge, Oldsmobile, International Harvester, and AMC.

For a good look through some cool stuff that the Hurst performance company made:

Born in New York City in 1927, died in 1986, Redlands California, in his garage. Suicide by carbon monoxide.

George's mom, Antoinette, was a naturalized citizen from Kutai Hora Czechoslovakia

His dad was a WW1 Army vet who worked for the National Biscuit Co in New York City

And his paternal great grandfather William Jackson Hurst was born in Ireland, 1818, and came to the USA before the Civil War, and enlisted in the 198th Infantry in Aug 1864, and mustered out a year later in May of 65. Lived in Pennsylvania

Almquist, the author of the sprawling history Hot Rod Pioneers published by SAE International, selected Hurst, his former business associate, as one of the topics in his book. He knew little of Hurst's early years, got his birth city wrong, but other than he was born in 1927, who never went beyond the eighth grade and dropped out of school to join the Navy when he was 16.

And there you have the most thorough info on his life before going into car parts business that the rest of the world is already familiar with. How about that... WW2 air craft carrier duty. I've never heard that before (thanks Steve!) Correction, I forgot, I had posted that he was an Navy Aircraft Machinist

After the Navy, 1943-1954, he resettled in eastern Pennsylvania in 1954 and became very active in the local drag racing scene.

His marriage didn't work out and no one even mentions the name of his wife. It was Lila, and they divorced in 1984

When he made Almquist's acquaintance, Hurst and Campbell were working out of a garage outside Philadelphia in Abington, with engine mounts as their lead product, when two problems occurred. First, a California firm began producing copies of their engine mounts. Next, Hurst became separated from his wife.

 In the mid-fifties, he and his friend Bill Campbell started a garage in Abington, Pennsylvania, where they built aftermarket engine mounts for performance cars. Although Hurst’s formal mechanical training was limited, he had an intuitive knack for automotive engineering and, more importantly, was a natural showman with a flair for clever promotions.

Hurst Performance was originally named Hurst-Campbell. The company was established in 1958 as an auto repair shop when George Hurst and Bill Campbell were both young men. An older man named Lawrence Greenwald (who is credited, among other things, as one of the inventors of stretch nylon hosiery), took certain cars from his collection to Hurst's shop for repair. Greenwald saw promise in Hurst and Campbell and decided to finance them in a venture to manufacture large aftermarket bumpers for VW buses, which were becoming increasingly popular.

When Volkswagen began manufacturing its own large bumpers for the buses, Hurst-Campbell branched out into the piston-driven gearshift business.

After some early setbacks, Hurst and Campbell formed a partnership with Jonas Anchel and Ed Almquist, founders of the speed shop Anco Industries. Together, they developed and launched several new products, including a revised engine mount design called Adjusta-Torque and a floor-mounted shift linkage for three-speed manual transmissions.

An agreement between Almquist and Hurst, in which the two decided to focus on aftermarket retailing and component development, respectively, endured for the rest of Hurst's life.

At that point, a new employee of the equally new Hurst Performance Inc., Jack "Doc" Watson, described by Almquist as then a gofer, made a personal connection that would set the company's role in history. Through his mother, Watson made a contact with Pontiac, which ended up selecting a four-speed version of the Hurst shifter as standard equipment for its 1961 Catalina powered by the Super Duty engine.

Since Almquist and Anchel were neither willing nor able to put up the substantial amount of capital needed to market the new linkage, Hurst and Campbell obtained a $20,000 loan and established their own company, Hurst-Campbell, Inc., in Warminster, Pennsylvania. It opened for business in 1959.

The hot-rodding and drag racing scene was booming in the late fifties and early sixties and Hurst-Campbell found a ready market for their shifters and shift linkages. Whatever Hurst’s mechanical abilities, his greatest talent was concocting stunts and gimmicks to market Hurst-Campbell products. Hurst sponsored drag racers; offered new cars as prizes for race winners who used Hurst products; and hired a buxom beauty queen named Linda Vaughn as “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter,” paying her to attend racing events in her gold bikini, suggestively caressing giant replicas of Hurst’s signature product. Some of Hurst’s promotional stunts were undeniably effective.

By the mid-sixties, Hurst-Campbell revenues were more than $20 million a year and Hurst shifters had become almost de rigueur among serious enthusiasts.

He was the co-founder of the Hurst Performance Product Co. and was associated with high-performance vehicles and automotive advances, particularly in the area of car transmissions. His Hurst Shifter, a floor-mounted gear shift for performance cars, made him a wealthy man.

Are you fucking kidding me? Do you have an idea how effing rare it is that anyone gives a shit about employees, much less hires anyone with any disability? Damn, this is incredible info, and I've never heard about it either. This seriously sheds light on why Linda has said so many good things about George. She never mentioned this though. Wow... sending a guy work, at his home, so he can keep a job? That's incredible!

The company has since been sold several times, said Chuck Lamerel of American Bristol Co., seller of the jaws of life. The jaws of life tool was originally developed by Hurst in the 1960s to rescue drivers in crashes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then adopted by rescue agencies throughout the country, Lamerel said.

George Hurst wrote a self help book that was published in 1984, "The Perfect You", there are maybe 5 copies for sale online, all for 75 to 125

In March 1984 Popular Mechanics did a paragraph about the transmission George was working out problems with... the problem was that the damn thing wouldn't work yet. Doubtless, it was about a whisker off from being the next must have for racers, like, a Lenco. Keep in mind, the Hurst Lightning Rod shifters... Hurst knew transmissions!

Tragic as his rise and fall are, as far from normal as either gets, he's getting hero status from me for the Jaws of Life invention. That's fair. No less should anyone expect, no more should anyone ask


  1. As far as I know, you don't need anybody's permission to create a new Wikipedia entry, so why don't you do one on Hurst? You seem to know a lot about him--at least enough to start a basic entry. It doesn't have to be a book, some Wikipedia pages are no more than a paragraph. Then others who know even more about Hurst can add to it. What are you waiting for? Since I have contributed to Wiki, I at least know that the basic principle is that you can't write anything that you can't support with a citation (newspaper or reputable magazine article, book, publication of any sort from an official organization such as Nascar, etc.)

    1. Why don't I? Because I just spent two hours making this post right here, and I don't see why I should take more time to move this over to their site. As long as a good job is done somewhere online, I'm pretty sure a Google search will bring up my article, that's how I get most of my traffic

  2. Turns out there actually is a Wikipedia entry on Hurst Performance.

    1. look under the photo of the Hairy Olds

  3. Nice summary of George Hurst's life, Jesse! I didn't know any of this about him.

    1. I didn't either, it blew my mind.
      I was doing the family tree of my cousins I grew up with, as their dad's family hasn't ever done one... and way back in the 1670s they had a Hurst. Well, when I see a famous name, I immediately stop everything and see if I can dig into the family tree of the famous person, and see if they are related.
      So, since I knew nothing about George Hurst, I went digging. I never knew he was married, where he was from, I had forgot that I'd posted he was an aircraft machinist, but didn't realize or know he was in the Navy, in WW2, and was injured pretty bad by a bomber landing on his aircraft carrier.
      Plus, I didn't know about him hiring handicapped people, or that he wrote this book, or that he suicided.
      I'm stunned.
      Frankly, I think the hot rod community owes him a bit of respect, etc, as does anyone that has benefited from the Jaws of Life.
      I think the New York Times should have done an obit, and that Hemmings, and Hot Rod magazine should have done better articles in memoriam about him.
      He earned it
      So, I do what I can, and I'm glad you've found it worthy of approval.
      That means I'm doing this right, and I'm pretty pleased to find that I am capable of doing an admirable job of journalism, and respect.

  4. I knew him in the late 80's and had a couple copies of his book, which I read and liked. He gave his books away one Christmas!

    1. Wow, you were fortunate to know him! Do you have any stories to share about him?

    2. that must have been the Christmas of 84 or 85