On January 5, 1965, George Hurst threw a huge PR party around the swimming pool at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. At that Tuesday bash, Hurst introduced his newest product, a forged aluminum custom wheel. Hurst knew a good promotion when he saw one, and he chose to debut his new wheel in Southern California, the cradle of hot rodding, and the home of Petersen Publishing Company. Petersen had the largest circulation automotive magazines in the country with titles like Hot Rod, Car Craft, and its flagship, Motor Trend, which was the sponsor of the upcoming Riverside 500 NASCAR race.
Beginning in 1967, Hurst offered...
Beginning in 1967, Hurst offered paintable wheels. The wheels came primered in black and were ready for painting, which allowed owners to match their wheels to the exterior color of the car.
It was for that reason that Hurst chose to debut his wheels at that time and place. To cap it off, they were displayed on the 1965 GTO convertible that would pace the race (the one and only time a GTO served as a pace car for a major NASCAR race). The relationship between George Hurst and Pontiac had been firmly established in the early 1960s. Pontiac was the first to offer Hurst's stout three-speed floor shifter, and when Hurst developed a four-speed shifter in 1961, Pontiac immediately put it in their order book. When the GTO arrived in 1964, it was equipped with the Hurst lever, and every manual gearbox GTO built until 1974 was stirred with a Hurst stick.
So why did the Shifter King, who had built his success on engine conversion kits, floor shifts, and line-locks decide to get into the wheel business? Hurst saw an opportunity to market a quality wheel with a custom look, but that wasn't his only reason. Hurst had a genuine concern for safety, and he was aware that virtually all aftermarket wheels were poorly engineered and cheaply built. Since there were no true industry standards to hold wheel manufacturers accountable to, aftermarket wheels had a history of failure due to metal fatigue. Corners were often cut in materials and construction to bring it to market at an "affordable" price.
Along with the standard caps,...
Along with the standard caps, Hurst also offered bullet-nose caps and three-wing spinners. The bullet caps cost $9 for two, while the spinners retailed for $15 for two. That price was later dropped to $11.50 for two.
Hurst also believed that with the right wheel, he could crack the OE (Original Equipment) market and have his wheels become options on some of Detroit's hottest musclecars. Hurst had already gained a foothold in the industry by having his rock-solid shifters installed as standard equipment in GTOs, 4-4-2s, and Grand Sports. There was no reason to think he couldn't do the same thing with wheels, as long as they could meet the rigid OE standards.
To his credit, George Hurst was also dedicated to building products with no compromise to quality and safety. He had done his research on wheel safety and recognized that no one in the industry was building a wheel that met OE specifications. When Hurst decided to build his own, he constructed them with the same bulletproof engineering that went into his shifters. Aftermarket wheels were prone to breakage because, in the manufacturers' zeal for light weight or styling, lateral load capabilities were grossly inadequate, and many wheels failed, often causing accidents. George Hurst chose to build an unbreakable wheel.