George Hurst and Patty Flannery congratulate the winner of the GeeTO Tiger contest in Detr
In the annals of automotive history, few women have made the impact that Linda Vaughn, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, made on the world, but here is a pretty amazing fact—she was not the first. Before her debut in 1966, there was another Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, someone who paved the way for spokesmodels all over the world. Her name is Pat Flannery Stephens, though back then, she was known as Perky Patty.
A fresh-faced Ohio farm girl, Pat was very much a people person, and possessed both a passion and a knack for dealing with the public. Born in Clark County, Ohio, she attended Bowling Green State University before taking a job in the office at a Ford dealership. That led the way for a position there as the first female customer-relations director of a Ford dealer, specifically Mefford Ford of Springfield, Ohio. It was not bad for a young woman barely in her twenties.
The dealership’s relationship as the sponsor of ARCA stock-car racer Jack Bowsher put young Miss Flannery in touch with ARCA President John Marcum, who was understandably taken with her. He offered her a position as Miss ARCA, and that association put her in touch with George Hurst of Hurst Shifter fame. With Marcum’s blessing, he stole her away from ARCA, and from there she became the first Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.
Perky Patty gives a wave to fans at the 1965 Daytona 500, which was held on February 14 of
Here is a close-up of Patty from the same photo shoot. Linda Vaughn had a tough act to fol
Patty looked resplendent in her gold dress at the 1965 Yankee 300 at Indianapolis Raceway
Her tenure as Hurst’s spokesmodel only lasted for a year, but she nonetheless managed to pack in a large number of experiences. “Oh, it was an incredibly exciting time for me!” she exclaimed during a July 19 phone interview. “Here I was, just a farm girl … standing on the back of a car with my name painted on it, waving at fans. It was amazing, to say the least!”
She found herself touring with the Hurst caravan to tracks all over the country, meeting racers like Parnelli Jones, Connie Kalitta, Lee Roy Yarbrough, and Indy legend A.J. Foyt. Her warm personality and cheerful smile won her many fans and she was named in Car and Driver’s Top 25 Personalities of 1965. To say it was a whirlwind year would be an understatement. She was there when the original Hemi Under Glass and the Hurst Hairy Olds raced, and she also worked behind the scenes as well.
A fresh-faced Ohio farm girl, Pat was very much a people person, and possessed both a passion and a knack for dealing with the public
Her most memorable moment came at the Bonneville Salt Flats on November 12, 1965. She was there when the Hurst-sponsored Summers Brothers’ Goldenrod set the wheel-driven land speed record at 409.277 mph—an FIA record that held for 27 years. Patty commemorated the event by writing the record speed on the car’s tailfin in lipstick.
Pat hung up her golden jumpsuit after 1965. “The plan was to have a new girl every year,” she explained. “George hired Linda for 1966, and it went so well, they just kept her on.” She remained with Hurst for another year, as the coordinator for the Hurst Hustler Club and was also editor of The Defender, a newsletter sent to servicemen all over the world.
Here she is getting ready for the parade lap at the 1965 Hot Rod Nationals in Riverside, C
One of Patty’s last promotional stops was the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) con
Patty waves to her adoring fans on the back of her trusty ’65 Bonneville convertible.
Here’s Patty showing off the Hurst wheels.
Eventually, Pat married and divorced, and worked for many years running a copier-supply company in Pennsylvania. After her divorce in the ’80s, she briefly reconnected with George Hurst, who was the love of her life. Tragically, he died in 1986; Pat, heartbroken, moved back to Ohio to care for her aging parents.
Another blow came to her in 1995 when she was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. “The doctors told me to get my affairs in order,” she said. “It is a particularly deadly form of cancer.”
Patty’s appearance at the 2013 POCI/GTOAA Co-Vention was met with a warm reception from Po
Nevertheless, she soldiered on, and after chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and radical throat and neck surgery, she was eventually declared cancer-free. She’s been in good shape and good spirits ever since, enjoying a new lease on life, if there ever was one.
Despite her health setbacks, she is still very much the Perky Patty everyone remembers. Her voice has changed some since the old days, but the smile is as bright as ever. She lives in South Vienna, Ohio, and runs a horse farm and tack shop. Horses are her other love, no doubt connected with her childhood on the farm.
We had a chance to catch up with Pat at the 2013 POCI-GTOAA Co-Vention in Dayton, and just like in 1965, she was signing autographs and posing for photos. She is an absolute delight, and yes, she drives a Pontiac—a late-model Grand Prix. She has always been one of us!