1969 Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds H/O 455

Transmission and shifter guru George Hurst had major mojo in the late 1960s and early ’70s. A relentless self-promoter, he cut deals with competing manufacturers to produce Hurst-branded performance vehicles simultaneously, an act of automotive-marketing chutzpah rivaled only by Carroll Shelby.

But of all the marques that hopped on the Hurst brand wagon–from Chrysler’s gigantic 1970 300 H Hurst to the compact 1969 AMC/Hurst SC/Rambler–the cars most associated with the Shifter King are Oldsmobiles. At the top of the Hurst/Olds food chain is the mighty H/O 455.

Introduced as a 1968 model, the 455 was a 442 on steroids. Some fan sites say the drivelines were installed at the factory, but conventional wisdom has it that Lansing, Mich., industrialist John Demmer was tapped to build the cars offsite to circumvent General Motors’ 10-pounds-per-horsepower mandate. Either way, all agree that the production cars were based on a prototype designed by Hurst and perfected by Jack “Doc” Watson. Painted Toronado Peruvian Silver, these sleepers pumped out 390 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, requiring no more race preparation than a few gallons of gasoline to clock quarter-mile times in the low 13s.

For year two, Olds added show to the go. All of the ’69s were painted bright white with Firefrost Gold accent stripes. The cars got huge, functional twin “rural-mailbox” hood scoops and elevated trunk spoilers, and gold inserts adorned the headrests. Power dropped to 380 hp, but torque stayed the same, and this muscle was delivered to Goodyear Polyglas rubber via a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic, controlled by a Hurst dual-gate shifter.

The 1969 H/O 455s are highly sought after, and this car almost got away from Andrew Prestridge. “By the time I heard about it, several prospective buyers had gotten spooked because the VIN didn’t match the title,” he says. “But the seller swore the car was original, so I looked into it deeper and discovered the DOT had made a typo. I got the paperwork revised and authenticated, and the deal was done.”

Prestridge’s 455 joined the 1968 442 and the ’69 Cutlass convertible in his Ojai, Calif., garage after a three-year restoration. An experienced engineer, he did much of the mechanical work with mostly local craftsmen doing the rest. The car is almost all original, except for the clear coat that protects the handiwork of old-school painter Carl Costerisan of Pumpkin Center, Calif.

It’s difficult to peg the price of a collector car in this economy, but Prestridge doesn’t plan to sell it soon. “I’ve got two major reasons to hold on to it,” he says, gesturing to his sons, Luke, 13, and Patrick, 10.

It looks as if Hurst’s mojo will keep on working for at least another generation.


CURRENT MARKET VALUE: $100,000 (est)

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