Cruising in a complicated Cutlass
Okay, so what about all those sticks jutting out from the center console? How on earth do they work? Okay, here it is.

Hurst’s 3-stick shifter controlled the car’s four-speed automatic but it could be shifted manually. The lever off to the far right engaged shifts between gears 1 and 2, while the middle lever operated shifts between gears 2 and 3, and, you guessed it, the left lever operated shifts between 3 and OD, and also controlled the entire range.

warning b 2Confused? That was anticipated by Oldsmobile.

warning 2So much so, the cars shipped with the following warning label blocking out the right two levers.

shift sequenceMaybe a little clearer, Hurst described it thusly, “Squeeze the thumb trigger, pull stick one and BANG!–you’re in drive. Second trigger, second stick–BANG!–there’s 2nd. Third trigger, third stick–BANG!–there’s low. And the sequence for upshifts is just as easy. You can’t miss a gear, ’cause the stick you pull is the gear you get.”

What did Motor Trend think of it at the time? An article stated they, “came to the conclusion that the Lightning Rod 3-stick shifter is your basic cosmetic item, pure and simple. Yes, all three sticks are functional in that they control the gears they are assigned to control, but the transmission itself is completely programmed to upshift on its own […]” and “After a couple of passes using the manual sticks, we tried several runs simply putting the master control stick into ‘D,’ and within the band of normal variations the car ran exactly the same times–without all the monkey motion from the driver’s right arm.”

Oldsmobile initially planned on making 2,500 1983 15th Anniversary Hurst Olds models but demand drove that number up to around 3,000. The model carried on into the 1984 model year (in non-anniversary trim) whereby the black and silver colors were reversed.

In 1985 the 442 made its comeback but maybe that’s another post.

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