Hurst. The iconic name that’s known for the finest shifters in the world, and some of the most sophisticated and seductively attractive muscle cars ever built. Earning a solid reputation for what became known as “gentlemen’s hot rods,” Hurst enjoyed great success building limited edition vehicles in conjunction with General Motors, Chrysler Corporation and American Motors for many years. Among them were the Hurst/Olds 442, the Chrysler 300 Hurst and the lightning fast Hurst S/C Rambler Scrambler, just to name a few.
But there is much more to the Hurst story, and any retrospective of the legacy must include one of the most feared street and strip killer cars ever built. Yes, we’re talking about none other than the asphalt shredding Dodge A-Body terror, the 1968 Mr. Norm’s GSS 440 M-Code Dart.
In the fall of ‘67, hot off of his success creating the 383 GSS Dart the previous year, Mr. Norm, the “Hi Performance King” from Grand Spaulding Dodge in Chicago decided to ratchet up the little fire breather by installing the 375 horsepower 440 Magnum from the Charger R/T. A firm believer in the old adage, “there’s no replacement for displacement,” the 440 was a natural for the lightweight Dart.
Above left: Shock tower trim is another example of the attention to detail on the Hurst Heritage GSS. Above right: Installed between photo sessions, the new Hurst logo polished stainless steel quad exhaust tips add to the no-nonsense appearance of the Heritage GSS Challenger.
A new ’68 Dart 383 GTS was quickly chosen from inventory to be used as the prototype and by the end of next day the conversion was completed. Fitting the 440 big block into the A-Body was so easy that Mr. Norm instantly knew that he had another home run on his hands. The challenge was to get them built in quantity.
The question of who to choose to build the GSS 440 Dart was easy. Mr. Norm had been working with Hurst since 1965, successfully selling the entire product line though the performance center at Grand Spaulding, and often installing them on customer cars in the service department. Norm called Dodge division VP Bob McCurry and suggested that Hurst perform the conversions.
A phone call to George Hurst, and the rest, as they say, was history. In short, Chrysler shipped new 383 GTS Darts to Hurst where they were converted into 440 GSS Darts, and then sent to Mr. Norm at Grand Spaulding Dodge. The 440 GSS Darts were an overwhelming success, and today, they are among the most collectible muscle cars ever built.
Above left: Hurst lineage is clearly evident in the choice of colors, the design of the painted stripes, the fender logos and custom wheels with matching painted accents. Above right: The rear of the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger makes just as strong a statement as it does at the front. There is a consistent design theme, right down to the raised ends of the Mr. Norm’s GSS Speedway Rear Spoiler that mirror the shape of the front splitter.
Fast forward 40 years. When the new 2008 Challenger debuted, Mr. Norm and Hurst both created personalized versions of the modern day incarnation of the much loved early 1970’s E-Body. Much like the cars they offered in the late sixties, many of the new Mr. Norm’s GSS Challengers were powered by fire-breathing Hemi engines, while, true to form, the Hurst Challengers once again followed in the footsteps of their predecessors, maintaining the “Gentlemen’s Hot Rods” tradition that they were so well known for.
But at the end of 2010, Hurst ended the vehicle program and in conjunction with the acquisition of Flowmaster, moved forward with the development of a wide range of exciting new aftermarket performance parts and accessories.
But the spark for exciting vehicles with the unique Hurst theme was far from extinguished. Earlier this year, at the SEMA MPMC Trade Conference, fate intervened. Larry Weiner from Mr. Norm’s had a chance meeting with longtime friend Nate Shelton of Hurst. At the meeting Nate showed Larry samples of a comprehensive array of new Hurst products that were nearly ready to be released.
Above left: A Mr. Norm’s GSS Speedway Splitter provides additional downforce. Inspired by the shape of the air dam on the Hellcat, sprint car strut braces and adjustable Heim joints provide additional support. Above right: The GSS Speedway Rear Spoiler smoothly integrates kick-ups that are intersected by the Hurst Gold stripe. The unmistakable Hurst Equipped badge hints at the vehicle upgrades while acknowledging its star studded lineage.
Just like in the mid-sixties when George Hurst expanded the Hurst product line beyond manual and automatic shifters into custom wheels, disc brakes, line locks and air shocks, Hurst was about to expand the product mix once again.
To say that history repeats itself is an understatement, and just as they had before, Hurst was preparing to launch a plethora of new products, including lowering springs, disc brakes and polished stainless steel cat back dual exhaust systems, along with custom wheels for popular performance vehicles like the new Challenger, Camaro and Mustang. Larry suggested that a new Hurst Challenger could be the perfect showcase for all of these new Hurst products.
Another meeting the same day, followed by another shortly thereafter and the dream became a reality. And in real case of role reversal, it was agreed that Mr. Norm’s team would develop, build and market the new Hurst Challenger, infusing it with a healthy dose of Hurst DNA by incorporating the latest Hurst products in the build, complemented by a matching infusion of Mr. Norm’s parts and accessories. The culmination of these efforts is the striking new Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger that’s seen on these pages.
Above left: Pearl leather provides the perfect contrast to the black interior. Three pedals can only mean one thing, and the Hurst Billet Plus Shifter in the console reinforces the notion that a 6-speed Tremec backs up the big inch Hemi. The shifter falls easily into hand, providing swift, sure shifts each and every time. Dare we say “shift as hard as you like, but don’t break your arm!” Above right: Hurst Billet Plus Shifter. Flat chrome stick with a white cue ball on top. It’s the real deal. Did you expect anything less?
From a visual perspective, the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger lives up to its pedigree in every way. In a salute to George Hurst, the colors chosen for the first new Challenger were his favorites; Bright White with contrasting Hurst Gold stripes. But while the colors are traditional, the Hurst Heritage GSS is thoroughly modern. The foundation is a new 2015 Challenger R/T Scat Pack equipped with a 392 Hemi and a six speed manual transmission.
Form and function intersect with the addition of a racing inspired Mr. Norm’s Speedway Splitter with adjustable Heim joints that mirrors the shape of the Speedway Rear Spoiler. The design of both incorporates Hellcat like raised ends that accent recessed center sections. Additional exterior enhancements include an SRT-8 hood that’s retained with functional hood pins and lanyards that are identical to those used on the vehicle that was the spiritual inspiration for the new 2015 Challenger, the original ‘71 Hemi Challenger.
The already robust chassis of the Challenger is further improved with Hurst lowering springs, coupled with the increased grip offered by a set of BF Goodrich G-Force Sport Comp 2 directional Z-Rated tires. And what could be a more appropriate complement to the rolling stock than a set of Hurst Stunner Wheels.
Above left: The highly bolstered Recaro style front buckets and rear seat are swathed in soft, supple Katzkin Tuscany leather. The top surfaces of the seats are covered in pearl leather, accented with contrasting gold top stitching, perforated inserts and set off with black carbon wings. Completing the “cut above” interior, the iconic Hurst logo has been neatly embroidered into each of the seat backs. Above right: Rolling stock consists of Hurst Stunner wheels mounted on BF Goodrich G-Force Sport Comp 2 directional Z-Rated rubber. And not just any Stunners, but a set that has been triple chrome plated, with the signature Hurst diamond shaped insets in the spokes have been trimmed in Hurst Gold. They’re jewelry for the other love of your life. Did you expect anything less?
But, rather than an off the shelf set, the Stunners on the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger have been triple chrome plated, and the unique diamond shaped insets in the spokes have been trimmed in Hurst Gold. The result is nothing short of automotive jewelry that is, no pun intended, stunning to behold. One of the few options on the Hurst Heritage GSS, these wheels really add visual impact to the Challenger, setting it off in fine style.
Out front, sharp eyed admirers will spot the open left inner headlight that signals the addition of a Hellcat intake tube that feeds the matching air box for increased cool air delivery to the potent Hemi engine. Exterior accents include the legendary Hurst emblem on the front fenders, with Hurst Heritage GSS lettering just beneath it. Out back, a set of polished stainless steel exhaust tips with the Hurst logo provide an undeniable hint that this is no ordinary Challenger. In another salute to those that came before, a Hurst Equipped badge is proudly mounted on the rear spoiler, and serves as a subtle warning to would be posers that they might want to reconsider challenging the Hurst Heritage GSS to a duel.
Inside, the Hurst Heritage GSS features a full custom leather interior that is a big step above any Challenger interior that we’ve ever seen. For starters, the highly bolstered Recaro style front buckets and rear seat are swathed in soft, supple Katzkin Tuscany leather. The top surfaces of the seats are covered in pearl leather, accented with contrasting gold top stitching, perforated inserts and set off with black carbon wings. Completing the “cut above” interior, the iconic Hurst logo has been neatly embroidered into each of the seat backs, reminding the lucky driver and passengers that this is anything but an ordinary vehicle.
Above left: Details abound, including a Mr. Norm’s Snorting Ram overlay on the ignition button. Above center: Mr. Norm’s signature adds a touch of detail to the chrome fuel door. Above right: Functional hood pins hold down the SRT-8 central intake hood. And not just any hood pins, but actual replicas of those used on the 1971 Hemi Challenger R/T.
Above: One look at the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger and you know that this is one no-nonsense Mopar muscle car. When it comes to sheer attitude, this baby’s got it in spades. Here’s lookin’ at you sweetheart!
No Hurst vehicle with a manual transmission would be complete without a Hurst Shifter, and the Heritage GSS Challenger is no exception. To insure quick, precise shifts, the six speed Tremec transmission benefits from the installation of a Hurst Billet Plus Shifter. And in a nod to its storied past, the Heritage GSS is equipped with an original style Hurst logo flat chrome shift arm topped with a white cue ball knob with the shift pattern engraved on the top. Other interior details include Hurst logo carpet mats, a Hurst Heritage GSS Unique Serial Number Dash Plaque, a Mr. Norm’s Start/Stop button overlay and a chrome GSS emblem on the center of the dash.
The Heritage GSS Challenger is an exceptional modern muscle car that showcases the best of Hurst and Mr. Norm’s. The parts and accessories perfectly complement each other. The result is a thoroughly modern muscle car that incorporates the combined virtues of two iconic brands that have been closely aligned with Ma Mopar for over half a century.
The Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger, like the Hurst and Mr. Norm’s cars that came before it, offers the best of both worlds; exciting performance, matched with refined presence. If the Hurst Heritage GSS Challenger is any indication, we can hardly wait to see what the Hurst and Mr. Norm brain trust are working on next, because whatever it is, you can count us in!
Text by Marv Herbert, Photos by the Brunt Bros., Toshi Akatsuka, Marv Herbert and Brett Rounsville. “Two Titans of Performance Join Forces Again” was first published in Pentastar Power Magazine April 2015.