Triple Stick Shifter: 1983 Hurst/Olds Cutlass

By 1983 the day of the muscle car was long gone, but there are some really interesting things about these Hurst/Olds, including the Lightning Rod shifter and overdrive transmission. They are based on the rear wheel drive G platform introduced in 1978. This H/O is listed on eBay for an ambitious $21,500 and the seller is not even accepting offers. It is said to have been found in a heated barn in Walkerton, Indiana where it had been hiding since 1989. The seller describes it as in “mint” condition but I don’t think it is quite there. Hagerty shows the value of an excellent #2 condition car to be $23,600 but this one appears closer to a #3 car valued at $16,100. That’s about the asking price of nice low mileage examples I’ve seen lately. This seller provided some nice close-up pictures but none of the engine or the underside. They do not even say whether it runs or drives. There is one picture of the tachometer at about 1800 RPM. Hopefully, that means it runs and not that the tachometer is stuck. 

Here’s the “lightning rod” shifter. The left stick is the normal park, reverse, neutral, overdrive and drive. The sticks on the right allow you to manually select first or second. Pull back on the one on the far right in drive and you get first, the one in the middle gives you second. I suspect this was all was mostly a gimmick and few ever used the other 2 sticks. The interior really does look nice overall.

The seats look OK, but it looks like the driver’s seat is showing some wear. It’s sagging and the fabric is wrinkled as though the foam has broken down some. Perhaps the barn was heated but not air-conditioned?

There are no obvious signs of rust or damage showing in these very selective photos. They only built about 3,000 of these so they are somewhat rare if not very valuable. There are a lot of them around and the most expensive one sold for $5,000 less than the price of this one. We don’t know if this one even runs. The seller doesn’t mention any mechanical restoration work, so it does not likely run and will need at least the usual fuel system and brake work. This could be a nice car to drive after some work. The 307 V8 is rated at only 180 hp but it’s a light car geared pretty low. It wasn’t fast but it was quicker than most rental cars. It is discouraging to notice, however, that the speedometer only goes to 85 mph. The suspension is better than most cars of the era with independent front suspension and a four-link and solid rear axle configuration with coil springs and shocks all around. The H/O beefed things a bit more with anti-roll bars on both ends. This might be a really nice car to own and drive but for a lot less money. There are several other G body cars that are better performing and less expensive choices like the Regal, Grand Prix, and Monte Carlo. The one thing this car might have going for it would be if it really is rust free and in nice original condition.

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    I have owned many GM vehicles with factory tachometers.After a while they don’t always return to zero when the engine is turned off. They come to rest anywhere that they please! On start up they will read normally. Strange but true.

    23
    • Mark

      I had a 1985 olds cutlass supreme fully loaded with a 307/4barrel carb and full guages several years ago, and yes the tach did the same thing, and always returned to normal when started again.

      6
  2. Jack M.

    The 85mph speedometer is so that you can brag to your buddies that you buried the needle.

    27
    • Tom Member

      Yes, “buried the needle” no one ever says how long it to get there to do it !! 8.3……is that seconds or minutes !!!!!

      5
  3. Jim B Clark

    I always hoped for more from the 80’s 442’s. They looked so cool but with a 307?. I secretly wished they would have pirated the Grand National drivetrain.

    13
  4. jw454

    A friend has one that is not the best example. Early on it was stolen and upon being returned the shifters had been “appropriated”. It took me several months but, I located a set from a wrecked car to get it back on the road. She has several old cars so it sets about fifty one weeks a year. I’m still trying to locate a replacement front header badge.
    I think the feature car is a bit strong on the price. I’d say that’s the “Ten years from now” price.

    3
  5. chris

    These cars look pretty cool. I was always surprised GM put such a crazy shifter in them with such a gutless motor. Seems like they should have spent their time under the hood.

    2
  6. Tim P

    Ah, the Lenco-lookalike shifter. I have always been fascinated with these and have always wondered how they worked.

    I’ll be seeing Linda Vaughn at the Hurst event at Carlisle later this month… I know she has one of these, so I’ll ask her how she liked it.

    5
  7. Gunner

    Well, let me tell ya….if you are going to push me on a corner for 80’s Detroit Muscle for the super sum of 21K, I choose a 1987 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z. Hey, but that’s just me….. ;-)

    3
  8. Will Fox

    Any Hurst Olds built after the `75 model year was the downsized `78 and newer body, and not that collectible. Quality control then was questionable at best, and too many were built. I myself would look for a black `74 H/O coupe, but that’s as new as I’d want.

    3
  9. Robert Sabatini

    I think Doctor Olds had retired by the time this car was engineered! Too bad the GM divisions didn’t try to match the efforts of the crews over at Buick, with their Grand Nationals and the GNX.Would have made for some great times!

    5
  10. Lroy

    Can’t fault the add poster for swinging for the fence. To everone out in smart phone land, if your gona claim mint condition please use a really good camera and at the very least give us one clear photo of under the hood. Hate to burst any bubbles, I see a car worth $9500.

    5
  11. Chebby Member

    It’s so odd that Hurst built these radical shifters and only ever offered them in this obscure medium-performance car.

    2
  12. OldsUFO

    Now if it was the hunchback version you’d have something for cars and coffee.

  13. John Beaupre

    Grey interior? That’s odd…

  14. Rob John

    I remember seeing these new on my paper route. Thought this was a hot ride back in 7th grade. I would still like one, but I just don’t have the checkbook to afford all the toys I want.

    3
  15. Jack M.

    Actually Chebby, the lightning rods where available for awhile to the aftermarket to install in any vehicle. Similar to B&M shifters today.

    3
    • mlm

      Yes I brought one for my Buick Grand National shortly after I brought it,but something was wrong with it so I returned it.

  16. Troy s

    The old saying ” if you can’t make it go fast make it look fast” applies here. Too bad Olds couldn’t come up with something hotter, but the whole high tech performance thing was just beginning. Just a cool cruiser.

    2
  17. nrg8

    2 things, there is way more wear on the steering wheel leather than the milage shown. And why is it posted under parts and salvage?

    2
  18. Glenn D. Miller

    The driver’s floor mat is curled at the edges if you look close, also the driver seat is strangely sat out, both telling me that car has more than 60,000 miles on it- the floor mat looks like junk for what that car is supposed to be. Really curious how it looks under the hood and underneath!

  19. theGasHole

    As someone who has actually owned one of these, albeit an 84 H/O, and in about the same condition, I hate to burst the seller’s bubble, however…..
    I sold mine 4 years ago for $8,000. I know the economy is better now, but I seriously doubt the value of the 83-84 H/O’s has almost tripled in price since then. This is, on a really good day, a $9,500 car.
    Driving impressions: I had mine only during the late fall and winter, and in New Jersey, so driving opportunities were limited. However, I did find the drive disappointing. The car sounded good, looked good, but just wasn’t fast, or even quick. I had an 85 Cutlass during high school, and didn’t notice much difference in performance between it and the 84 H/O. The Lightening Rod shifters were fun….for awhile…then generally I found myself just leaving it in DRIVE. They did attract a lot of attention though.

    2

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