I've been doing these Hotrod Hotline columns for months now, and they tell me they are generating quite a bit of rumble with you, the readers. Well, kind folks, hold onto your stroker- caps because I'm going to ratchet things up a couple of notches.
I'm going to start including some interesting sidebars in the columns...what you gotta do is read each side-bar very carefully and try to figure out who-what-where I am talking about. Fair enough? Keep in mind each sidebar will probably have nothing to do with the particular column involved. Just random ramblings.
There is so much inside information in our hobby that it pains me so much misinformation is floating about. And there is more with each passing year, especially with all the so-called hot rodding experts rampaging on the e-net.
But first, did I ever tell you about George Hurst? The Hot Rod Magazine digs had some very humble beginnings, but by far the most famous were at 6969 Hollywood Blvd. Just down the street from Vine street, and just through the block from Sunset. Very convenient to the Hollywood Freeway, and smack dab in the middle of smog. But we were right where the entire hot rod industry could find us. Which it did, with alarming regularity.
We had visitors from a cornfield in Iowa to famous celebrities who happened to be car nuts. And some who were just nuts. But we also had a steady clientele of back door regulars who came and went with total access to whatever we were doing. Such as George Barris. And George Hurst. You know, THAT Hurst, the one from back east who made transmission shifters.
Hurst was a pain in the ass, and we loved his Monday morning drop-in's. All the way from Pennsylvania. George was a good friend to Ray Brock, our tech whiz editor, but it seemed we were all on the Hurst A-list. Which was sometimes a pain, but never dull. You see, no matter what the world condition of the moment, George had an idea. Not so much about the world, but and idea that could/would/maybe change the world. And he was very much a carney pitch man, which was what his weekly visits were about. We at HRM were his window to that world.
Hurst first appeared on our radar as the name of a business on the "east coast" that advertised engine swap kits. At first we were skeptical, but once we met the man, we fell to his charm. Or his incessant hammering sales pitch. George never took a no answer. Neither George for that matter, Hurst or Barris.
........"You've got to be kidding! A 30 year old handshake business deal? No way in the world can you win this in a federal courtl!"........"But, we don't take cases we can't win, and your's is interesting, so we'll take it on!"..........
George would pester me weekly about doing another story on how good his shifter was compared to those $l9..95 units his competition was pushing. (is it my failing memory, but was there not one for under ten bucks?) had to admit that the Hurst shifter was damned good. It fit, it was solid to the feel, and it didn't rattle. I asked him once why he made it so sturdy. "Because it is going to become standard of the industry, and one of the OEM boys is going to buy it for their production cars!" He was emphatic on this point, and he turned out to be spot-on with his prophesy. Plus, he knew something vital to the car magazine reader: For something to become standard of the industry, it had to become common place in the magazine world.
One Monday just before noon George showed up in my office. "Sorry I'm late but I got held up on the Berdoo freeway. big car smash. But I got a terrific idea from that, can you let me borrow some paper and a pencil so I can sketch it all out?" He was all excited, and when he showed me the idea, I was excited too. I just didn't know if their was a market for what he was going to build. From my office, he called his place and told someone there to get such and such ready for him the next day. And in that short span of time the Jaw Of Life was born.
Turned out he had been stopped immediately alongside one of the crashed cars, and he got to watch in real time as a frustsrated fire crew worked for hours trying to pry twisted metal away from a trapped victim. The very next week he was back, and not surprising to us, he had a rough prototype along for display.
But first, a blatant self-serving commercial. I need to clear out my Idaho storage unit so I can have room for my l960 Chrysler big fin twice door. Meaning, I have some excess books that gotta go. I'm going to sell what I have here in the mountains as opposed to the company warehouse out in Oregon. Ten bucks each, postage paid. I have several boxes of Basic Hot Rods that I will move first. You phone to my cell phone, you get one of my girls, or if unlucky you get me. Phone is 1-808-634-1192. You give them/me your card details and we send a book or three along. Or, you send a check or bare bucks to Tex Smith, PO Box 547, Driggs, ID 83422. That's $10, postage paid by me. The Mopar will thank you.
Things happened to George Hurst. Fate must have been in his back pocket. One visit he showed up and he looked as though he had just come through the Normandy Invasion. "What happened to you," asked Ray Brock? Almost laconically, George replied, "Oh, I just got back from a vacation." Several of us were standing in the offices hall. We knew there had to be more to it, but we also knew if we just would bide our time, Hurst would spill the entire store. Sure enough, he told Brock later that day.
..... "just be prepared to take a pile of unfounded abuse from the defendant lawyers. and expect them to trail this thing out over a long time, but they will settle on the last day, after they have drug you through hell!" Boy were my lawyers right.....
It seemed that George and his missus (a buxom lass of German descent I believe) had flown down to Florida for a business foray, but last day there they had gotten into the schnapps with some associates, and when they awoke the next morning they were in...Spain. Hmmmmm, airplane travel was much more relaxed back then.
Anyway, the Hurst party of two awoke to find themselves across the Atlantic with only the clothes they were wearing, but George being such a resourceful sort simply spearheaded a thrust to the nearby apparel outlet. Suitably attired in a mediterannian vacation ensemble, the pair had rented a scooter to aprise their surrounds. And promptly crashed the mechanical marvel. So, a resultant visit to the local hospital and delivery to the international airport, they had come straight to 6969 Hollywood Boulevard.
....."I'm telling you Roy, who in the world is going to buy aluminum wheels that look like mags? " As normal, I was so far ahead of the curve in predicting future hot rodding trends....
I came home from HRM work one day to find two kind-of half size metal drums at my front door. Pegge said only that a delivery truck had dropped them off. I could see that they came from Hurst industries, because such identification was emblazoned around the drum perimeter. Pegge was anxious to open the new presents, I was cautious, knowing George Hurst. Anyway, the drums were exactly that, pint sized drums that contained four of George's new "mag type" wheels. Aluminum centers married to chromed rims. Just what I did not need. Since the wheel bolt pattern did not match anything I had, I found an unsuspecting hot rodding associate I could pawn them on, but we kept the two drums. A wooden roundel atop each and we had passable end tables for the front room...
..."Hi Tex," the salutation came from a sheriff looking dude riding with us up the courthouse elevator. "Remember me? I bought Brians wrecked '29. Got it on the way to recovery....."
Brock assured me that Hurst did not wear a business suit full time, but I never saw him dressed otherwise. Well, on a couple of occasions while at a drag race he would show up sans tie, but that was rare. You remember when George introduced Linda Lungs in her gold swimsuit, riding atop the convertible with a giant Hurst shifter alongside? I think he was driving the 'vert down the strip, and most drag fans immediately fell in lust with Linda. I doubt any of them knew it was the company boss at the steering wheel.
George Hurst was a master carney, but super salesman that he was, Hurst was a brilliant inventor. He knew where the back door was to our place out in Hollywood.
Remember, call me with your order for my Basic Hot Rods book. Half price at Ten Bucks, and I pay shipping. Gotta get the Chrysler inside before snow falls......