Automotive aftermarket parts
|Headquarters||Warminster Township, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Products||automobile transmission shifters
Jaws of Life
Hurst Performance, Inc. of Warminster Township, Pennsylvania, manufactured and marketed products for enhancing the performance of automobiles, most notably for muscle cars.
Hurst produced aftermarket replacement manual transmission shifters and other automobile performance enhancing parts.
Hurst was also an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) supplier for automakers and provided services or components for numerous muscle car models by American Motors (AMC), Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors. Their products were included as standard equipment in AMC's The Machine (also known as the Rebel Machine), AMC AMXs and Javelins, Pontiac GTOs and Oldsmobile 442s, Boss Mustang 302 and the Boss 429, as well as Dodge Chargers, Plymouth Barracudas, and Plymouth Superbirds, among others.
Specialty automobile models produced in cooperation with automakers that incorporated the Hurst logo or name, included:
- 1969 AMC SC/Rambler
- 1970 Chrysler Hurst 300
- 1971 Hurst Jeepster
- several Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds
Hurst Performance was also the inventor of the "Jaws of Life" — a hydraulic rescue tool. The company designed a complete Hurst Rescue System in the early 1970s, a specialty Emergency Medical Services (EMS) apparatus. Based on the AMC Gremlin, it served as a quicker and more compact emergency vehicle, compared to the traditional heavy rescue vehicles used at motorsport race tracks and as a companion vehicle to any highway emergency system.
The original company was called Hurst-Campbell. It was started in 1958 as an auto repair company when George Hurst was a young man. 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 decided to finance him in a venture to manufacture large aftermarket bumpers for VW buses, which were gaining popularity.
When VW started manufacturing its own large bumpers for the buses, Hurst-Campbell branched out into the piston-driven gearshift business. They also manufactured, at different times, engine mounts, wheels, and shift knobs in addition to the line of gearshifts.
In the company's research department, it developed and invented the Jaws of Life. The company gave away the patent without any compensation.
By the early 1960s, Hurst transmission shifters and other products became legendary in auto racing, particularly in drag racing and among custom car makers. For example, many automobile enthusiasts replaced flimsy factory shifters with Hurst shifters to obtain better control of gear selection, particularly for competitive driving. "If you didn't have a Hurst shifter in your supercar, you were a mild-mannered loser." At GM there was a Policy that prohibited the use of outside vendors names on GM products. This all changed when Pontiac Division manager Pete Estes convinced the corporation that by having a name like Hurst on your cars shifter was a sales tool. Pontiac cars had already come with Hurst shifters stock from the factory, however 1965 was the first time the name Hurst appeared on Pontiac shifters. Oldsmobile fans of Hurst 442's have Pontiac division to thank for breaking the rules by first creating a muscle car and second by allowing affiliations with outside vendors such as Hurst corporation. The units were so good that U.S. automakers were forced to offer Hurst branded gear sticks on their muscle car models, although at the time they preferred manufacturing their own parts rather than outsourcing.
George Hurst expanded into other specialty performance products during the 1960s by acquiring Schiefer Manufacturing, a maker of clutches and Airheart, a maker of brake systems.
In 1968, Greenwald and Hurst took the company public. The company was bought out in 1970 by Sunbeam Products, a maker of small appliances. Hurst was promised an executive position and seat on the board of directors as part of the buyout, but Sunbeam did not follow through. (A variation of this account has Sunbeam specifically telling Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Hurst that they would no longer be part of the company.) Greenwald fully retired at age 67.
George Hurst died in 1986. Lawrence Greenwald died of natural causes in 1986.
In 1987, the Hurst operations were sold by Sunbeam and became part of the Mr. Gasket Company. In 2007, B&M Racing and Performance Products bought the Hurst brand.
A subsidiary, established in 2008, called Hurst Performance Vehicles, is responsible for creating new renditions of Hurst vehicles that include the Hurst Challenger, Hurst Viper, and the Hurst Camaro.