BY BOB MCCLURG:
“Back as a full time owner of Lakewood Industries I was feverishly trying to fill orders for bell housings when I got a call from Jack “Doc” Watson who was George Hurst’s right hand man. “Doc” was involved in promoting the Hurst Hemi Under Glass Plymouth Barracuda wheel stander and said, ‘George Hurst, Jack Duffy and I are coming through Cleveland tomorrow and we want to get together with you and have a meeting.’ I thought to myself, all three of Hurst’s heavies in one meeting, wow, this must be big stuff. I wonder what they’ve got up their sleeves. Read on
The next day I drove out to Cleveland Hopkins Airport. ‘Gentleman Joe, we got an idea for a new car and I’ll let Jack tell you all about it; so Jack says that they’ve got this idea to build this car with two blown fuel burning motors, and it’s going to have an Oldsmobile 442 body on it. We’re going to call it “442 Much!’ I said tell me more?’ Jack says ‘well, we’ve got two shifters; we’ve got two starter buttons. We’ve got two ignition switches. We’ve got two sets of gauges on the dash,’ and I’m looking at this thing and he says, ‘We’ve got two accelerator pedals. One for the front engine and one for the rear engine. Your left foot is for the rear engine!’ “If the next thing you’re going to tell me is that it’s got two steering wheels, I’m out of here!”
Jack’s reply was, “There’s only one steering wheel, Joe. You make a burnout with the front engine and back up. Then you make a burnout with the rear engine and back up.
Then you just melt the tires down and fill the whole drag strip up with smoke!”
“I’m thinking there are just too many things to do for the amount of limbs I’ve got. ‘Who’s going to be sitting in the passenger seat, (T.V. Tommy) Ivo?’ Jack says, ‘No, you can do it all by yourself. We’re introducing a new product called a “Line Loc” that will allow you to set the brake. You push down the button with one finger, and that will hold you on the line. You put both feet in the stirrups to keep your feet on the accelerator pedals. When you’re ready to launch you just mash down both pedals, let go of the Line Loc, and grab the steering wheel!”
“I said, that sounds too easy. That’s not usually the way things turn out.’ Then George says, “We’re going to fix it so that you’ve got a big pit crew. We’ll bring the car to the drag strip on a flatbed called the “Hurst Hairy Hauler” and the car will be ready to go by the time you arrive. Make a few runs, lots of smoke and noise and go back home again. It won’t be that big of a deal!”
“I said, I really appreciate you guys thinking about me but I’m retired from drag racing. I’ve got a company to run. I’ve got real tiger by the tail manufacturing these safety bell housings and I’ve got to stay with it. Then George said!”
“Let me show you some pictures I’ve got here,’ and (he,) laid down some pictures of the most beautiful lady. ‘Her name is “Linda Vaughn,” and I’ve just hired her to be my “Hurst Golden Shifter girl.” She’s going to be a part of your pit crew. She can take your hat. She can help you put on your (custom made) Deist “tuxedo” fire suit,’ I thought ‘Oh my, I think I’ll find the time!”
As previously stated, the intended purpose of the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile was strictly exhibition. It wasn’t going to race anybody. It wasn’t going to win any awards for going fast (best of 182.00,) because with all the weight (5,800 GVW,) it wasn’t going to E.T. like gangbusters either, (best of 8.20.) The whole idea was to make a lot of noise, and smoke those 9.50×15-inch M&H’s through the lights. That was all that was ever expected of it.
“At the Bakersfield introduction, George told me, ‘bring it back to the pits with chords flapping in the wheel wells. He thought that I could blow the tires to bits way overestimating what was actually going to happen. The car was underpowered to begin with and that was the cause of most of our handling problems. The folks at Hurst Performance all thought that we could accomplish our objective with just two blown Oldsmobile’s running on straight alcohol, not even close!”
The reality was that there was so much traction with those big slicks mounted on the front wheels that torque from full throttle would “wrap” the front wheels around the front ball joint and stress all the suspension components to the limit. The front wheels toed in so badly that the car wouldn’t handle worth a damn. Someone on the crew came up with the idea to toe the wheels out the amount we estimated when they came in under hard
Acceleration. Then when Schubeck pulled up to the line and hammered the throttle, the front suspension would go back into proper alignment.
“A five thousand pound car with all four tires ablaze slipping and sliding all the way down the track was a shaky thing. With so much weight transfer on the rear tires, you really needed some (extra) horsepower to break them lose due to the fact that the front ones were pulling too!”
Schubeck turned to an old friend to find the extra horse power needed; namely Nitro-Methane!
“The car really started putting on a good show once we got the percentage of nitro up to 40-50% (the ratio of nitro was 40% front and 50% rear,) every time I touched the throttle it was instant tire smoke. The car would be skating and smoking all the way down the track. Most of the time I couldn’t even see out the front window so I looked out the side window which is exactly the way you drove a front engine dragster!”
“Once we got the car to run better, we started breaking parts and it seemed like the faster it went, the more dangerous it became. One weekend at U.S. 131 Dragway, Martin, Michigan, a blown front engine caused a monstrous fire. It became such an inferno, and I was sitting smack in the middle of it. I ended up running off the track onto a farm that according to what I later learned had been vandalized the previous week. When I felt that I was going slow enough, I made my exit outside the driver’s door and sat close by watching the burning car. The farmer’s wife thought the vandals were back and came out of the house toting a gun. In the meantime, Paul Phelps drove in with the Hurst Hairy Hauler and somehow ran over her cat and killed it! That really pissed the woman off and she pulled a pistol and started waving it at Paul. It was a pretty bad scene!”
Contrary to what has been reported in previous accounts, neither the farmer (who wasn’t even there,) nor his highly agitated wife never held onto the HHO in lieu of a huge ransom.
“The woman never asked for any money,” says Schubeck. “It was just a matter of loading the car up, and getting the hell out of there. Later on Oldsmobile Director of Racing Dale Smith may have given her some cash to smooth things over but it certainly wasn’t a huge amount!”
The Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile’s final appearance was in the summer of 19678 at Niagara Dragway, Niagara, New York.
“It rained most of the weekend. When it did seem dry enough to make an exhibition run with the car. The launch was good, but then suddenly, about 200 feet out, the magneto on the front motor quit. With no power, the front suspension went back into it’s toed out
setting and became impossible to steer. Once the car hit the wet grass I’m thinking
any second now, I’m about to kill twenty 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. Just then the car snagged a cable that was part of a line of low fence posts in the tall grass which I hadn’t seen from inside the car. It veered off and ran perpendicularly with the crowd. I thought, this is a God Send! On the way back home I began to think about it more and the reality hit me that what could have happened. 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 and told them that I didn’t want anything more to do with the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile!”
History records that the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile was returned to Hurst Performance Research Corporation and ordered scrapped. “Gentleman Joe” Schubeck continued.
“In retrospect, I think that the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile did a lot for the image of Hurst Performance, Inc. It also did a lot for my “Gentleman Joe” image taking it to new heights. That was after all, an interesting (two year,) episode of my life. Of course, Ed Iskenderian was the first one to suggest that I use my top hat and cane logo on my dragster although I never was all that crazy about that nickname, (given Joe by U.S. 30 promoter and DRAG NEWS writer Ben Brown,) but I started to embrace it when Isky gifted me a top hat, and George started using the “Gentleman Joe” moniker in his promotions. Those were endorsements by people whom I looked up to. I think a lot of people remember me for driving the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile more than for me driving a dragster or even for me owning Lakewood Industries. My pioneering the hydro-formed bell housing also takes a back seat to my recognition of being the famous drag racer that drove the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile. People who saw that car run loved it. They thought that car was THE hot deal. That car, especially during the last year that we ran it used to make a lot of smoke and noise! The fans loved it because they could sit in the grand stands and relate to the Oldsmobile 442 they had sitting out in the parking lot. Fans used to ask me what the “442” actually stood for. I would tell them it stood for “Four Thousand horse power, four-wheel drive, and two parachutes!”