If you're familiar with the muscle car scene that preceded Nixon's last stand at Watergate you know that Oldsmobile had this handsome, yet bruising machine called the 442. That number doesn't represent horsepower or cubic inches, but it does represent an automobile totally down to parade around like a devil in tailored wear. As a direct cousin to the Chevrolet Chevelle, the Olds didn't receive direct permission from GM to plant engines exceeding 400 cubic inches in a lighter frame unless it was the Corvette. Chevy had their 396, but Oldsmobile and Pontiac went right to the cliff with 400s.
A formidable 350 bhp out of their 400 incher did enough to curl lips and toes abound, but we're shooting for the moon in '68. With the hand of Hurst engineer Jack "Doc" Watson, select 442s were plucked off of the assembly line and taken to a neutral location, Demmer Engineering in Lansing Michigan to get cooking. Demmer Engineering was a tool and die maker, something of an unassuming front for what automotive voodoo began practice within.
The 455 had taken duty as one engine out of General Motors' Hemi hunting arsenal; perfect for Oldsmobile's a-body. It was beautifully massive, meant originally for equally big cars like the Toronado. At 390 bhp Hurst dove into making their lump an even greater throb. Freed up flow in the cylinder heads, hairier camshaft, ram-air and added timing advance attributed to frame rail contortion. However, to have Hurst's stamp meant getting the platform good and solid for safe stability. This is a muscle car capable of 5.3 second 0-60 dashes after all.
Wrangling all that raw power was a three speed automatic selected by a Hurst dual-gate shifter. One example out of the 515 produced is rumored to have a 4-speed manual with Hurst competition shifter affixed, but how true are rumors anyway?
Out back a G-88 axle housing 3.91:1 gears laid wheel in non-air conditioned cars and 3.08:1 rear gears helped a/c cars stretch out. Rear anti-roll bars were affixed as standard equipment and boxed lower control arms helped the Olds keep a straight face. Oldsmobile's standard F70/14 was ditched in favor of G70/14 tires to aid handling another tick. For better pilot control Hurst opted for power steering and power assist front disc brakes. Already this could have sold masses away from the four drum brake Hemi coupes of only two years prior.
As a cosmetic standout, the '68 Hurst/Olds was set to become one of the best. Engine blocks were painted red to differentiate from Oldsmobile's bronze applied to 400 cube plants. Custom hideaway headlights and an adjustable rear spoiler unfortunately remained on the workbench to appease a group who was under the clock's crunch. In the end Hurst even used a Toronado color, Peruvian Silver instead of their own signature gold so famous on the twin engine "Hairy" Olds. We'll forgive them because obviously the car's soul delivered more than enough to love.
Between 2500-3000 orders flooded dealerships, meaning this for a debut experiment was a smashing success for Hurst. 459 cars were two-door hardtops and a mere 56 were two-door sedans. Now there's only so much my writing in 2019 can convey, so how about we take a look at what one test group had to say about the original Hurst/Olds 442 upon release. Prepare for a very 60s onslaught of descriptive language in Car & Track's take. All video credit goes to Car & Track and the video's original uploader.