The ’80s was a crazy time for fashion, hair styles, and automotive accessories. Here’s an awkward moment in aftermarket shifters, the Hurst Lightning Rods.
Part of the fun in looking through old scrapbooks is having a good laugh with ourselves for the fads and styles of times past. Jeez, what we were thinking? Such could be the case in automotive fashions, too. Take the Hurst Lightning Rods, an aftermarket performance shifter marketed in the 1980s. This gadget employed three shift levers to accomplish everything that a single lever could do.
Hurst’s inspiration for the Lightning Rods was the Lenco transmission (above) used in drag racing in those years, notably in the NHRA Pro Stock category. A highly specialized, purpose-built piece of straight-line racing equipment, the Lenco employed a series of planetary gear assemblies that stacked together in modular fashion, with an individual shift lever for each gearset—simple, positive, and utterly foolproof. Hurst took this race-only setup and adapted it to production automatic transmissions, allowing road drivers to emulate their drag strip heroes, grabbing a separate lever for each upshift.
The Lightning Rods system was set up to work like any ordinary automatic gear selector, more or less, with a conventional PRND shift pattern (as shown in the top photo). The difference was in the two additional levers: the far right lever and release button performed the 1-2 upshift, while the middle lever and button performed the 2-3 upshift. Or the driver could simply leave the lever in D for Drive or OD for Overdrive and drive normally. In that regard, the Lightning Rods setup was not unlike the Hurst Dual Gate aka “His ‘n Her” shifters of previous years.
Hurst marketed the Lightning Rods through its regular speed shop channels in several versions, including kits for the GM F-Body Camaro and Firebird and a universal model with a small, stand-alone floor console. Perhaps the most familiar application was as standard equipment in the 1983-84 Hurst/Olds–the final iterations of the Hurst-equipped muscle cars. Some 3,001 models in 1983 and 3,500 units in 1984 were built before Hurst/Olds production concluded for good. In hindsight the Lightning Rods look like a silly idea, but often, silly can be fun.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.