The iconic wheelie machines known as the Hemi Under Glass Collection, built by Hurst, will cross the auction block Saturday, October 12, 2013, in Schaumburg, Illinois, at the Mecum Chicago Auction. These 4 Plymouth Barracudas, ranging from 1966-69, were built to race in the A/FX class of the late ‘60s. Each Barracuda helped to promote the Hurst brand, while also advertising aftermarket shifters and wheels.
The cars were conceived in 1964 as George Hurst looked for a car to enter the 1965 drag racing season that would help advertise his brand. At the time Hot Rod Magazine Tech Editor, Ray Brock, gave Hurst the idea for putting a Hemi in the back of a Barracuda for better weight transfer. He nicknamed the project “Hurst Hemi Under Glass” and it stuck.
It’s not what Hurst had in mind, but they went with it and it became a huge success. Hurst quickly realized the mid-engine location of the HEMI made it impossible to launch off the line without doing a wheel-stand. It looked like a problem, until crowds got in on the action. With the hype surrounding the original 1965 Hurst Under Glass, all new trim and sheetmetal was added to the 1965 model to reflect the 1966 version. The car survived the next season, gaining even more tracking with the fans, but sadly it was destroyed during the offseason.
“Each time out we tried to improve the car, Paul Phelps and I, working in what we called ‘The Aquarium’ up there in Madison Heights (Hurst’s headquarters in Michigan),” Bob Riggle, the first driver and mechanic of the Hurst, said. “We switched to fuel injection and then from gasoline to alcohol to make it run cooler, and with that and the 4-speed it ran great all through ’67.”
The next year, a band-new 1967 version was built to please crowds with its magnificent wheelies; following it, a 1968 and 1969 version was built to continue traveling the country. Each year the Hurst Under Glass Barracudas would showcase wheels and shifters at major events across North America from. The spectacle continued from 1965 thru 1975, and was brought back in 1992.
In the early ‘90s, Riggle was convinced by the famous Hurst “Shifter Girl,” Linda Vaughn, to rebuild the lost 1966 version of the Hurst Under Glass. After completing the 1966 Barracuda, it went on tour from 1992 to 2009. The car made it to the world famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in England in 2005. Soon after, he sold it to collector Bill Sefton who also owned the 1968, 1969, and eventually bought the 1967 after Riggle restored it for him. The 1967 Hemi went on public display at the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California, from 2011 to 2013 while Sefton has owned it.
“I put new quarters in, a new floor… built a new firewall, did everything new to make it like it is now,” Riggle said, talking about the 1967 version he restored. “There is a lot of work in this car. Everything that was bad was replaced. I’m real proud of the work we did on that and how we got it done.”
The 1969 version of the Hurst Under Glass has significant improvements in safety, which allow the driver to operate the car in a wheelie with little experience. A window through the firewall, added braking and steering controls help make the stunt easier to navigate. If you interested in seeing this car, along with the other 3 versions, be sure to check out the Mecum auction Saturday, October 12, 2013, in Schaumburg, Illinois, at the Schaumburg Convention Center. All 4 cars will be sold as one lot and are sure to grab a lot of attention.