The unique genesis of this solitary example of Oldsmobile’s quarter-mile prowess begins several years before its date of manufacture. Originating as a promotional tool, the burgeoning relationship between Oldsmobile and Warminster, Pennsylvania speed products manufacturer, Hurst Performance Inc. started to grow into a promising partnership by the late 1960s. Hurst’s “Dual Gate” shifters were a common option for GM’s intermediate machines, and the aftermarket manufacturer had already signed contracts with Chrysler to privately outfit Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas for its factory Super Stock program. Oldsmobile wisely approached Hurst to collaborate a limited series of top-line performance cars.
Notably different from the factory ’68 4-4-2, the Hurst-equipped Oldsmobile – christened the “H/O” – was personally developed by performance guru Jack “Doc” Watson. The H/O breached GM’s 400ci cap by employing the 390-horsepower “Rocket V8” 455. Usually offered solely in the Toronado and Delta88, the higher-performance “W-46” 455 featured a more aggressive camshaft and closed chambered, higher compression cylinder heads.
The cars were trailered to Demmer Engineering for final assembly. There, the Hurst components were added, including black accent paint with hand-applied white pinstripes, authentic walnut dash trim, H/O emblems, and a Dual Gate shifter mounted in a mini-console. In 1968, color options were nonexistent, regulating all H/Os to a striking Peruvian Silver and Black paint scheme, while body styles were available in either the “Club Coupe” (post) or “Sport Coupe” (hardtop) models. Only 515 ’68 H/Os were built, 51 of the prior and 464 in the latter.
Riding a wave of new-found popularity, the lauded H/O came back for a second year. Oldsmobile changed the A-Body’s front clip and tail lights for 1969 encouraging Hurst to lose the subdued silver-and-black paint combo in exchange for a far “louder” fare. The new Firefrost Gold piping over White was anything but demure. To punctuate the point, Hurst relocated the 455’s Ram Air plumbing from below the Olds’ chin and mounted a functional fiberglass hood scoop with dual “mailbox” snorkels that funneled cool, outside air into a vacuum-operated butterfly-valved air box over the carburetor.
Surprisingly, the 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8 was detuned, receiving a milder camshaft to help improve the H/O’s civilian road manners. This change – in addition to a revised intake manifold and chrome steel valve covers – dropped the 455 down ten horsepower, to 380 horsepower and 500 ft. lbs. of torque. All H/Os were equipped with automatic transmissions, namely a specially-calibrated TH400 transmission and 3.42 rear gears for non-A/C cars or 3.23s for those with A/C. Only those H/Os opted without air conditioning could receive 3.91 gears if so noted.
Other external features included a deck lid spoiler and one-off 15×7-inch chrome SSII rims wrapped with Goodyear F60x15 Polyglas GT tires. A pair of English racing mirrors, flashy H/O emblems on the front fenders and trunk lid, blacked-out factory 4-4-2 grilles, and black hand-applied pinstripes totaled the ’69 H/O’s cosmetic accouterments. Inside, the H/O package offered slightly more flair than the previous year with painted gold stripes on the headrests, a H/O emblem on the glovebox door, and authentic woodgrain on the miniature center console (housing the Hurst Dual Gate shifter).
Despite the ’69 H/O’s confrontational new look, Oldsmobile recorded a near-doubling of the previous year’s sales; 913 H/O’s were built, two of which were convertibles, and only 906 available to the public. Motor Trend dubbed the 1969 H/O the “Hairiest Oldsmobile,” clicking off an impressive 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, high 13-second quarter mile times at 101 mph, while slicks and headers could uncork the H/O, earning solid 12-second time slips.
But this is only half of this H/O’s story…
A partnership between Long Island, New York’s Baldwin Chevrolet and nearby speed shop, Motion Performance, birthed the now-famous Baldwin Motion. The brainchild of Motion’s owner, Joel Rosen, the Baldwin Motion package was available for five 1967 Chevrolet models: Corvette, Camaro, Chevelle, Biscayne and Nova. Rosen, though, wanted to branch out further than just the “Fantastic Five.” During the H/O’s initiatory year, Motion Performance prepped Oldsmobiles on its own. Stepping in where Baldwin stepped out, Hempstead, Long Island, New York dealer Mack Markowitz Oldsmobile Inc. joined with Motion to create the “Motion-Markowitz Racing Division.”
Dubbed “Mach 1 Supercars,” these Motion-modified Oldsmobiles included small-block W-31s, big block 455 W-30′s, standard 4-4-2s, and even Toronados. Unfortunately, the highest tier Motion-Markowitz Oldsmobiles didn’t catch on as hoped, selling a meager two H/Os despite CARS Magazine’s awarding the ’68 Ram-Air 4-4-2, “1968’s Top Performance Car of the Year.” In the face of poor sales, Markowitz let the contract sour.
This solitary ’69 H/O 455 was purchased from Mack Markowitz Oldsmobile and then handed over to Motion Performance where it was christened “Commotion by Motion,” it was built for competitive Super Stock drag racing service. The ’69 H/O 455 was mini-tubbed, the stout 12-bolt rear given a set of steep drag gears and ladder-bar suspension.
An original non-A/C car, the W-46 455 received a set of long tube headers leading into big 3-inch exhaust ending before the differential, a lopey camshaft, and carburetor jetting. Motion prided itself on dyno-tuning its high performance engines, and it’s expected that this 455 to be no different.
In lieu of a a Muncie 4-speed, all H/Os were opted with TH400 automatic as stated earlier; this automatic-equipped H/O touts the famous Hurst Indy-Matic 3-speed floor shifter. The Oldsmobile was taken north to New England and campaigned at the Connecticut Dragway for no less than two years, dominating its Super Stock classes. Judging by its lacking cage, the Commotion never saw low 11-second times – well, legally at least. What other details circling the Commotion’s racing heritage continues to be a mystery.
Surviving unscathed, the Commotion – today – is still in the same condition it was in when it terrorized the 1320 over 40 years ago. In true “Survivor” fashion, this lone Motion Performance-built ’69 H/O 455 resides in the care of a private collector in sunny Florida. While there’s still a lot of history to fill in, what is known is that this sole ’69 H/O 455 is the only example of a marriage between one of the most lauded speed shops and factory-built performance muscle cars existing today.
Do you have any information pertaining to the “Commotion by Motion” Hurst/Oldsmobile 455? We’d love to know! Feel free to speak your voice here or email Street Legal TV editor, Kevin Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to come back and update this story in the near future!
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