The Hurst Performance Research Corporation gave buyers a chance to transform an otherwise
With the introduction of the boat-tail rear in 1971, Fire Frost Gold was also added to the
For the first installment of our three-part series, we explored Grand Prix history from 1969 through 1972. But sharp readers may have noticed we have yet to discuss what is today one of the most recognized Grand Prix models from that era-the Hurst SSJ. For the second part of our series, we will do just that. Follow along as we elaborate on Hurst's optional SSJ package and garner a little inside information from an individual within the company.
The Hurst Performance Research Corporation gained notoriety in the mid-'60s producing factory-installed and aftermarket manual and automatic transmission shifter components. But in the late-'60s, Hurst's popularity soared due in part to its partnership with Oldsmobile and the modifications made to models like the 4-4-2 that resulted in the Hurst Olds and other musclecars.
It wasn't until Pontiac advertising executive Jim Wangers visited Hurst one day in his own '69 Grand Prix that the SSJ would come to be. Wangers' white Grand Prix had its raised hood area and roof accented in gold, mimicking the Bobcat paint scheme offered by Royal Pontiac. It was from this that the SSJ appearance package was developed for the '70 model year.
The '70 SSJ Package
The base SSJ package added $1,147.25 to the selling price of a '70 Grand Prix. It included Fire Frost Gold body accents and Rally wheels, an electric sunroof, a body-colored padded vinyl half-top, and specific SSJ identification. The package was available on both the Grand Prix J and the SJ, but vinyl accent stripes or a Cordova top could not be ordered. Virtually any other regular-production options were available at extra cost, but Rally wheels were required.
Exterior colors were Polar White or Starlight Black. Interior colors were limited to black, brown, gold, saddle, or sandalwood-ultimately depending upon seating type and surface. Finished Grand Prixs were then shipped to Hurst, where they received the SSJ conversion before being shipped to the selling dealer for delivery.
The '71-'72 SSJ Package
The same basic components were included in the SSJ package for 1971-1972. As we learned in Part I of our series, however, the optional SJ package began including vinyl accent striping in 1971. Because the SSJ package provided its own hand-applied gold pinstripe, availability of the SSJ package was limited to the Grand Prix J for the next two years.
Exterior color choices were Cameo White (which replaced Polar White) or Starlight Black. Both were again trimmed in Fire Frost Gold-which now extended onto the decklid to accentuate the boat-tail styling. Interior color recom-mendations were black, white, or sandalwood in bench- or bucket-type seating. Mandatory options included Rally wheels, white-lined tires, and body-colored sport mirrors.
Hurst sales literature for 1971 boasts of several extra-cost options for the SSJ. Although Rally wheels were required, gold-painted 14-inch Honeycomb wheels and aluminum five-spoke American Racing wheels with gold centers in either 14- or 15-inch sizes were also available. BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires up to size GR60-15 were yet another option.
Other available equipment included a Hurst Auto/Stick shifter (available with bench-seat only), Hurst's exclusive front-brake lock called Roll/Control, and a digital computer for calculating vehicle speed, economy, and performance. Unpublished options consisted of complete engine blueprinting, high-performance tuning similar to that offered by Royal Pontiac, a theft-deterrent system, a black-and-white television, and even a mobile telephone.
Here is a brochure photo of a '70 Grand Prix SSJ.
The Hurst and SSJ emblems were strategically located for tasteful visibility. Including th
Car Distribution Bulletin 70-99-issued on April 28, 1970-may well be the only bulletin eve
A Hurst Insider's Comments
While gathering information on an unrelated subject, we spoke with Don Morton-who was not only Hurst's then-general manager, but also project manager for the SSJ. Morton confirmed the paint scheme used in the SSJ package was indeed patterned after that found on Wangers' '69 Grand Prix. He added that while Hurst was excited about the SSJ package, he suspects its success was somewhat limited by the lack of support from Pontiac.
Hurst was responsible for printing and distributing sales literature and publicizing the SSJ. Morton said that unlike Oldsmobile, which heavily touted the Hurst Olds to its dealers, few SSJ-related dealer bulletins were ever issued by Pontiac. He further added that Hurst was only allowed to build each SSJ upon customer order, and that Pontiac's involvement ended once the car was shipped to Hurst from the assembly plant.
When asked about production numbers, Morton stated that Hurst's records were sketchy. He said the typical production numbers we have seen of 272 units for 1970, 157 for 1971, and roughly 60 for 1972 could be severely skewed. According to Morton, some dealers were actually foregoing the Hurst conversion by applying the SSJ paint scheme to Grand Prixs in their body shop and passing them off as SSJ models. He went on to say that some unscrupulous dealers even went as far as producing their own SSJ emblems. These bogus SSJs, however, lacked the Hurst emblems and most likely a sunroof, too.
To the best of Morton's recollection, most SSJs were white, but a fair number were black. He says Hurst did produce at least one dark-green SSJ in 1972 (see "33rd Annual POCI Convention," Feb. '06) and that a few other colors may have slipped through. Morton also suggested that because the SSJ package was copied so well, there may appear to be authentic SSJs in other colors, but that wasn't always the case. Original documentation may be the only way to verify authenticity.
Popularity of the SSJ Grand Prix has soared over the past several years, and a countless number of historical perspectives have surfaced in that time. But since hearing about the potentially bogus SSJs from a key figure within the company, we can only look back with skepticism at a few of the questionable cars we have seen on the market in recent years. We might suggest that if you find yourself in the midst of an SSJ Grand Prix purchase, and have any reason to doubt its validity, submit its VIN to Pontiac Historic Services (www.phs-online.com)-an authentic SSJ Grand Prix should have Hurst Performance in Southfield, Michigan, as its delivery destination.
For how few were produced, it is not uncommon to find a well-preserved or correctly restored SSJ Grand Prix at national- or regional-type gatherings. These tastefully accented cars continue to draw enthusiast attention today. With so many regular-production and Hurst-add-on items available, it is entirely possible that each SSJ Grand Prix may be one of a kind. But let there be no doubt, each one out there is a unique work of art. So take a better look at the next SSJ Grand Prix you see. You might just find it as captivating as the person who ordered it did 35 years earlier.