Project Fighting Fish visits Hurst’s New ‘Shifty Doctor’

In the 1960s Jack "Doc" Watson, who started out his career as a “gopher” at Hurst Performance in Warminster, Pennsylvania, evolved into the go-to guy at the drag strip when you had an issue with your Hurst Competition Plus shifter. Doc was the helpful on-the-road face of Hurst, aptly nicknamed the "Shifty Doctor" with his rolling machine shop correcting racers’ mechanical issues while they were competing at major drag races across America and providing free repairs of Hurst products.

That was then and this is now. What with dwindling aftermarket manufacturer support at the drags these days it’s hard to find that 21st Century go-to guy for those of us who are still racing with stick shift transmissions and using vintage Hurst Performance products. That new go-to guy does his handiwork in a small corner of a huge southern California warehouse.

We started with this used (and looking it) shifter And ended up with this re-chromed and refurbished beauty.

His name is Mike – and he works for Hurst Shifters, but that’s all he wants to let out for fear that his time will be sucked up with troubled phone calls. This new incarnation of the in-house "Shifty Doctor” definitely knows his stuff, but I can’t show you his face!

For our Project Fighting Fish ’65 Barracuda, I opted to find my own Hurst shifter for the A-833 transmission swap, rather than buying one from Jaime at Passon Performance … my first mistake. I thought by heading down to the monthly Long Beach Hot Rod Swap Meet I’d stumble upon a mint, vintage Hurst shifter, bolt it on and away we go. Not so fast, Mopar breath.

After months and months of searching I casually mentioned my dilemma to an old friend who was showing off his cool black GTX at a recent Van Nuys Cruise night and voila! He had an extra Hurst shifter sitting in his garage and only wanted 100 bucks! Sold!

At that point, it was off to the Hurst Shifty Doctor’s office. Fortunately, I was allowed past the Doc’s ample San Fernando Valley waiting room since this was also about a tech story for Mopar Max, but you can accomplish the whole transaction for your Hurst shifter over the internet, the telephone and via UPS or FedEx; it’s really that simple. The initial diagnosis was that the shifter didn’t exactly fit this A-833, there was no mounting block and the tangled web of shifter arms didn’t seem to match the tranny.