Everything happens for a reason. Of course, this thought isn’t universally accepted, but there is relevance to the idea. It may not always be obvious in the moment, but certainly there is some level of truth to the notion that one thing leads to another. If you’ve ever built or modified a vehicle, you can testify to that one.
In 2015 Larry Weiner, owner of GSS Supercars, was in Chicago attending the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. Larry brought several of the Hurst Heritage tribute vehicles that he and his team build to the show and they, as usual, were drawing a lot of attention. Throughout the weekend Larry was approached by numerous owners of classic Hurst vehicles who were drawn to his display of historically-inspired modern muscle.
For some reason, one question kept popping up in conversation that weekend. “Why isn’t there a Hurst-specific event?” The idea was intriguing and the number of Hurst-prepared vehicles that had been built over the years could certainly support a full-on show, but ironing out the details and making this all-Hurst event a reality would take much more than the desire to gather a group of rare vehicles and their owners. The seed was planted and after his trip to the Windy City, Larry took it upon himself to pursue the idea further.
Every year, Larry attends the Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, PA. He travels to the event with his friend Norm Kraus, otherwise known as Mr. Norm. Mopar enthusiasts are certainly familiar with Norm and his Grand Spaulding Dodge exploits. Anyway, without diving too far into the Hemi history rabbit hole, Larry started to put things together in his head. Carlisle Events had the infrastructure, team and attendance to support the introduction of a new event. Piggy-backing a first-ever Hurst show onto the already well-known and established Chrysler Nationals, could work. What better way to present an inaugural event to the public than to provide attendees with a two-for-one pass? Pay for admittance to the Chrysler show and get into the Hurst Nats free of charge. It’s a win-win for everyone. Larry presented his plan to us, and the good people at Carlisle Events, and the rest is what we can now call history.
And history it was. On the weekend of July 14th and 15th, 2017, the Carlisle Expo Center was filled with Hurst-built, prepared, and inspired vehicles new and old. Former Hurst employees like Don Glover, Jim Kerr, Don Lane, and Marty Denko were on-hand providing insight into Hurst’s past ventures, product development and the times that they shared during the company’s formative years. Hurst historian, Dennis Kirban, and authors Mark Fletcher and Richard Truesdell shared the wealth of knowledge that they have acquired over the years while researching Hurst’s rich performance legacy. The one-and-only Bob Riggle, signed Hurst Hemi Under Glass posters for friends and fans. Current Hurst employees were also in the house answering product-related questions and providing the scoop on Hurst’s latest and greatest.
Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about the stars of the show. More than a couple ’69 AMC Hurst SC/Ramblers, Hurst/Olds ranging from ’68-’84, a ’97 and ’98 Hurst Firebird, two Hurst Jeepster Commandos, a ’70 Chrysler Hurst 300 Prototype, ’71 Pontiac Hurst Grand Prix SSJ, a slew of late-model Hurst Heritage by GSS Mustangs, Challengers, Chargers, Camaros as well as several Hurst Elite Series cars, to name a few, lined the inside and exterior of the Carlisle Expo Center. The visuals were spectacular, but one man’s presence made the weekend truly meaningful and a time that won’t soon be forgotten.
Bill Campbell, George’s partner and original founding father of the Hurst brand, could be found milling around the exhibition area all weekend. Now in his early nineties, Campbell’s presence was humbling. Bill’s ever-present smile and unwavering kindness resonated throughout the show. To see what he and George started nearly 60 years prior still carrying so much relevance, creating such excitement and positively affecting the lives of countless enthusiasts was incredible. Deservingly, Mr. Campbell wouldn’t be exiting Carlisle that weekend without leaving yet another mark on the automotive community.
The Mopar Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony on the night of Saturday, July 15th. Gil Kirk and Jim Thompson of The Rod Shop, Direct Connection, the Dodge Viper, Chrysler engineer Willem Weertman, legendary drag racer Mary Ann Foss-Jackson and none other than the great George Hurst and Bill Campbell were set to enter the elite club. Hurst Performance also received the green light and became the first company ever inducted into the Mopar Hall of Fame. Don Glover did the honors and provided the monologue for Hurst, George and Bill’s part in the evening.
Photo: Marc Rozman
At one point during the ceremony, host Herb McCandless, walked over to Bill and asked him how it felt to know that one of their early inventions, the Jaws of Life, had saved countless lives over the years. Campbell replied, “Wonderful.” Bill’s response was much like the design of a Hurst shifter and its effect on a driver’s experience, simple yet profound. As the crowd’s applause and weekend came to a close, we couldn’t help but feel that the inaugural Hurst Nationals were an undeniable success. What was originally initiated by a few questions asked at MCACN, became a significant, memorable and moving experience just a couple of years later. It all came full circle.
Photo: Marc Rozman
The history and enthusiasm shared by the owners of Hurst-prepared vehicles, past employees and founders of the brand continue to stoke the fire lit within all of us so many years ago by the man himself, George Hurst. All of us at Hurst would like to thank and commend everyone who brought a car, truck or Jeep out to this year’s show. There were several rare and unique Hurst-built vehicles at the inaugural Hurst Nationals in Carlisle this year that most people may have forgotten about or never even knew existed. We know that there are many, many more out there and if you or someone that you know owns a Hurst-built vehicle that you think we should know about, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org with more info. We want to do everything that we can to showcase the vehicles, and owners, that represent our roots and are helping to keep the Hurst Performance legacy alive and well. We hope to see you all next year in Carlisle, PA.
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