HAIRY TO THE VERY END

Muscle Car Review - - Muscle Car Rewind - By Drew Hardin Pho­tos: Eric Dahlquist, Petersen Pub­lish­ing Co. Archive

As so of­ten hap­pens, we were go­ing through the Petersen Pub­lish­ing photo archive look­ing for some­thing else en­tirely and spot­ted a photo of the Hurst Hairy Oldsmo­bile with a crunched front end. Look­ing fur­ther, we re­al­ized we had come across pho­tos of the fi­nal run of this twin-en­gine, wheel-smok­ing ex­hi­bi­tion car.

Bob McClurg told the story of the Olds in our Feb. 2017 is­sue (“Hairy Was Scary”) with the ben­e­fit of first­hand ac­counts by “Gen­tle­man Joe” Schubeck, who drove the car for Ge­orge Hurst and Jack “Doc” Wat­son. The Olds was in­tended to be an at­ten­tion-get­ting pro­mo­tional car for Hurst, much like the wheel-stand­ing Hemi Un­der Glass Bar­racuda that pre­ceded it.

At­ten­tion it got, but not al­ways the good kind. Even un­der the best of cir­cum­stances it was a hand­ful to drive. Schubeck told McClurg, “A 5,000-pound car with all four tires ablaze slip­ping and slid­ing all the way down the track was a shaky thing.”

In the sum­mer of 1967, Hot Rod’s fea­ture ed­i­tor, Eric Dahlquist, went on a “sum­mer va­ca­tion” of sorts, re­turn­ing to his East Coast stomp­ing grounds to file sev­eral sto­ries long dis­tance, in­clud­ing his now-fa­mous visit to Bob Tasca and the re­sult­ing story on Tasca’s 428-pow­ered KR-8 Mus­tang, which was the im­pe­tus for Ford cre­at­ing the Co­bra Jet. But we di­gress.

One of the events Dahlquist covered on his trip was NASCAR’s Sum­mer Na­tion­als drag race in Ni­a­gara Falls. It was, for the most part, a rain-out. “Even when the sun fi­nally came out, the track re­mained slick enough to frus­trate any record at­tempts and was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in the par­tial de­mo­li­tion of the Hurst Hairy Olds 4-4-2,” he wrote in the story “NASCAR’s (Wet) Nats” in the Nov. 1967 is­sue. “It ca­reened off the course, up­root­ing a rail­road-tie guard post and nar­rowly miss­ing a por­tion of a fear­less crowd which stood its ground, know­ing all along that’s what good bull­fight­ers do in Spain. Span­ish bull­fight­ers are poor in­sur­ance risks.”

Judg­ing by the frame num­bers on the neg­a­tives, the last im­age Dahlquist shot on one roll was the out-of-con­trol Hurst Hairy Olds veer­ing off the track and head­ing straight for the crowd. (Tire smoke all but ob­scures the car, but it’s rec­og­niz­able from its stripes.) Schubeck told McClurg that the mag­neto on the front en­gine quit, and with­out front-wheel power the car be­came “im­pos­si­ble to steer. Once the car hit the wet grass I’m think­ing, any sec­ond now, I’m about to kill 20 or more of these peo­ple, and they’re all ap­plaud­ing and clap­ping like they thought it was part of the planned per­for­mance. There was ab­so­lutely no con­trol­ling this car. The steer­ing wheel and the brakes were use­less on wet grass.”

For­tu­nately the Olds snagged a ca­ble that was part of a low fence line, turn­ing it per­pen­dic­u­lar to the crowd and keep­ing it away from any­one un­til Schubeck could get it stopped.

The very first im­age on Dahlquist’s next roll of film is of the crunched-up HHO be­ing winched onto Hurst’s trans­porter. The sec­ond shot is a close-up of the hood, man­gled from con­tact with the fence, with the car’s front en­gine vis­i­ble be­hind it. The fi­nal shot in the se­quence shows the car loaded on the trans­porter, headed to its even­tual fate.

That fate was de­struc­tion. Schubeck told McClurg, “On the way back home I be­gan to think about it more, and the real­ity of what could have hap­pened hit me. I said to my­self, I re­ally don’t need this. I was more con­cerned than scared over what I was do­ing driv­ing that mon­ster. The next day I called Jack [Wat­son] and told him that I didn’t want any­thing more to do with the Hurst Hairy Oldsmo­bile.”

Wat­son dis­man­tled the car, but pieces of it were used in a re-cre­ation that de­buted at the sec­ond Mus­cle Car and Corvette Na­tion­als in 2010.

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