Photos: Courtesy Hurst Performance
Hurst Performance is one of those iconic brands that everyone in drag racing and hot rodding just knows. Odds are, if you’ve run a quarter mile, you’ve run it with a Hurst shifter. Over the past nearly 50 years in business, the brand has been the OEM supplier for the Pontiac GTO, Plymoth Barracuda and Super Bird, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Shelby GT500 KR, and the Dodge SRT-10, to name a few, along with being part of the new Hurst Challenger and Viper. Recently, the brand decided that a return to its original roots was in order, both in terms of marketing and in focus. We sat down with Dale Dotson of Hurst to find out more about the return to the iconic logo, and what this might mean for the company.
The Burnout: At MPMC, we talked about Hurst rebranding (or rather, returning to the original branding that its customers have known and loved). What was the incentive behind that?
Dale Dotson: We took a step back and we realized that we needed to refocus and get back on track with what George Hurst’s original concept was: innovation, high quality and offering a wide spectrum of performance products that address the weak links and improve the performance and the style of vehicles. The Hurst brand is a lifestyle.
The Burnout: Can you tell me a little of the history of Hurst and the racing (particularly drag racing) community. I know there used to be a Miss Hurst Golden Shifter!
George always used racing as the proving grounds to test and improve products and to get feedback. The saying back then was; “What won on Sunday, sold on Monday.” George also was a shrewd marketer and knew that fast cars and pretty women went hand and hand. The first Hurst girl was Janene Walsh who was officially hired in 1964, followed by Pat Flannery in 1965 and then by the most famous of them all, Linda Vaughn who served as the main Miss Hurst Golden Shifter ambassador from 1966 all the way up to 1981.
The Burnout: Hurst is known for its shifters and shifter conversions. What are some examples of the most popular uses of these products – manual to automatic and automatic to manual. What’s the benefit of the conversions for a hot rod or muscle car?
Dale Dotson: The Hurst ‘Competition Plus’ line of shifters have been the mainstay of performance shifters for over 57 years. The Hurst family of shifters includes 3 speed conversions that move the shifter from the column, down to the floor, along with 4, 5 and 6 speed shifters. That all have a dramatic performance advantage and feel over the factory stock shifters. Keeping up with the times, Hurst introduced the Billet Plus line of shifters which provides added strength, positive shorter shifts and good looks.
Hurst also offers a line of performance shifters for automatic transmissions that only allow you to up-shift one gear at a time so you can’t over-shift and miss gears. Along with a reverse lockout system that prevents you from accidentally over-shifting into reverse. Whether manual or automatic shifters, all lines are very popular and are still strong sellers today for many applications.
A number of years back, Hurst expanded to include a new division, called Hurst Drivelines Conversions, which offers numerous 5 & 6 speed manual transmissions and conversion kits for both classic and modern cars whether they came from the factory originally with an automatic or manual transmission. These kits can be purchased in three levels, from a basic kit, a deluxe kit and a premium kit, which can include complete bolt in packages.
The Burnout: Are these kits? Can readers install them or do they need to have them installed?
Dale Dotson: The Hurst Competition Plus, Indy shifters, Billet Plus shifters and automatic shifter lines are all pretty straight forward installations. As long as you have basic hand tools and some mechanical aptitude and experience, you should be able to install any of these shifters without any problem. They come with clear and concise instructions and if you were to run into an issue, we have a tech department that’s available to assist you six days a week and is prepared to help get you back on track with your project. The Hurst Driveline transmission swaps require much more mechanical knowledge to do the conversions and unless you do all your wrenching on your car, you may want to consider taking it to a professional.
The Burnout: What new, or well-loved, products have come out this year that our audience might be interested in?
Dale Dotson: Our Hurst engineers have been hard at work developing lots of new products that we’ve been introducing throughout the year. We now have numerous Hurst performance products to enhance both the performance and the looks of your modern muscle car. Products ranging from handling/lowering springs and sway bar kits, T304 stainless steel axle back and cat-back exhaust systems, high end Hurst logo embroidered floor mats, Hurst shifters, Hurst logo decal sets and more on the way. We’re also developing and offering performance products for modern muscle so you can essentially “build your own” version of the legendary Hurst performance cars of the past. But without the high price tag and at a pace you choose to add to your car.
The Burnout: I know you’ve also got new exhaust systems. Can you tell me about those?
Dale Dotson: Earlier this year, we introduced a new line of full T304 stainless steel ‘axle-back’ exhaust systems and in August we’ll be introducing a new line of T304 stainless steel ‘cat-back’ systems for modern muscle. These systems will include a Hurst logo embossed X pipe assembly, fully polished ‘straight-thru’ performance mufflers with the Hurst logo embossed in the case. They have 4” polished stainless steel tips with the Hurst logo laser etched in them. All adding up to great performance, great sound, and first class ‘jewelry’ aesthetics for your Camaro, Challenger and Mustang.
The Burnout: What has kept Hurst such a strong part of the hot rod and performance community for so long? What’s the secret to your success?
Dale Dotson: Hurst has always been an innovator and at the forefront of high quality relevant products that give you that true “bang for your buck” and performance you demand, all with exclusivity and style. The Hurst brand is a lifestyle, and we’re determined to carry on George’s original philosophy, vision and dreams, which all us car fanatics crave for our cars. The Hurst name means Performance!