1956 Chevys were the target market for George Hurst’s first custom shifter. Compared to factory shifters, it had shorter throws between gears and a more precise feel. Performance drivers flocked to them quickly from all over. In those days, Detroit automakers took performance very seriously, and by the 1960s, many cars—even Buicks—could be customised with a Hurst shifter!



Hurst expanded its product line in 1968 beyond shifters alone. He created an Olds Cutlass 442 with a massive 455-cubic-inch Toronado V-8 under the hood. This Hurst automobile prioritised speed and comfort in addition to all that horsepower, which was traditionally lacking in most muscle cars of the era. Additionally, GM prohibited all but the largest models from using engines larger than 400 cubic inches at the time. Producing regular Cutlass 442s and having Hurst do the engine change after the cars left the factory may have been one approach Oldsmobile saw to circumvent GM’s policy and maintain one serious racehorse in the stable.

Nine Oldsmobiles and three American Motors vehicles have been badged with Hurst since 1968. A 1997 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am WS6 that has been modified is the most recent Hurst vehicle. Pontiac loaned Hurst, which is now owned by Mr. Gasket, the manufacturer of performance parts, a car so that it could create a shifter for the Firebird’s automatic transmission.

Mark Hitchins, a representative for Pontiac, gave over a black WS6 and suggested that perhaps it was time for another Hurst vehicle. Hurst concurred. Hurst and Pontiac contacted renowned aftermarket tuner John Lingenfelter because they wanted the car to be more than just a paint-and-trim package. Hurst Firebird is the end product, however it’s a Hurst Firebird by Lingenfelter.

Lingenfelter wanted to boost horsepower without drastically raising the cost. A 1997 WS6 Firebird’s factory LT1 engine produces 305 horsepower with a ram-air intake system; Lingenfelter intended to increase it to 350.

Lingenfelter opened the LT1 just as Primatene Mist unclogs congested airways. First, he added a pair of cylinder heads and an intake manifold from the LT4 engine of the long-gone Corvette Grand Sport. Then stronger pushrods and valve springs with titanium retainers were added, which helped the redline be raised by 800 revs. Higher lift and more duration were provided by longer roller rocker arms and a camshaft that was custom-ground by Lin­genfelter Performance Engineering (LPE).

On the exhaust side, Lingenfelter added a Borla stainless-steel exhaust system along with new headers. He chose a 3.5-inch-diameter aluminium driveshaft to handle the greater power and replaced the factory Goodyear tyres with Michelin Pilot SX tyres of the same size for better traction.

Of course, the Hurst six-speed shifter was also included with its renowned short throws and precise feel.

Body cha-cha is also part of a Hurst custom job. The lower body panels are complemented by a ground-effects package, but because WS6 Firebirds are already so busy, it’s difficult to see the new zoot. The car’s trick paint job, with its gold aluminium wheels and gold paint covering the decklid and hood, cannot be missed, though.

The automobile has a tonne of possibilities. There is a T-top, power leather seats with “Hurst Firebird by Lin­genfelter” emblems, a CD and cassette player, cruise control, and power for the mirrors, windows, and locks.

Although we appreciate the added features, this automobile is really all about extra speed. The 15% increase in horsepower pays off on the racecourse. The new LS1-powered ’98 Trans Am accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, which is 0.6 seconds faster than this car. At 111 mph, the quarter-mile is completed in just 13.1 seconds. As a result, this Hurst vehicle outperforms the new Corvette in terms of speed within the GM stable. The fastest new Vette we’ve tested completed the quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds at 109 mph and reached 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. At 150 mph, the Hurst Firebird is still in front of the Vette, and it maintains that lead all the way to its incredible terminal velocity of 182 mph, which is 7 mph quicker than the Vette and 23 mph faster than the new Trans Am. We believe Lingenfelter’s estimate of 350 horsepower is, as even he notes, “conservatively low” given the Vette’s 345 horsepower rating, which is five fewer than this Hurst vehicle.

Oh, and did we forget to mention that the Hurst car produces 0.89 g on the skidpad, an increase of 0.04 over the stock version? Have we mentioned that there isn’t a free lunch? A Hurst package was $400 more expensive in 1968. It now increases by $15 495. Add that to a $28,789 WS6 Firebird’s price and you have a $44,947 payment schedule, which is cha-ching.

Consider this vehicle to be the most prestigious vehicle this side of a Ferrari F50. This is due to the fact that only nine of these Hurst Firebirds by Lingenfelter—designated as 1997 models—will reach consumers. Why are there so few? The original proposal was for 50 automobiles, but only nine of the 3807 WS6 cars that were manufactured had yet to be sold when the contractual details were decided. There is a significant likelihood that Pontiac and Lingenfelter will sign a contract for a Hurst variant of the upcoming LS1-powered Firebird. In any case, if you were one of the fortunate people to acquire a 1997 model, hold onto it. The future? Perhaps in twenty years it will be worth a lot of money.