You can’t have a website dedicated to vehicles and girls, without having a tribute to Linda Vaughn.
When Linda Vaughn (born August 11, 1943) left her home in Dalton, Georgia, she promised her mother she’d make her proud, and not do anything to embarrass her.
I’m from a poor family of 13 kids, Vaughn said. We didn’t have much growing up but clean clothes. When my dad up and left, my mother had to raise us. She worked all kinds of jobs and was just a great mother. I told her when I left I was going to make her proud of me.
Linda Vaughn. Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. The First Lady of Drag Racing. Trophy queen at just about every type of automotive competition including NASCAR, Indy, Formula One, etc. Linda was the sweetheart of many a race fan from the mid-60’s to the early 1980’s when she relinquished her titled as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.
Linda began her career, strangely enough, as a dental technician, a part-time job she obtained while in high school. After graduating high school she began working full time as a dental technician. She soon got tired of looking into other people’s mouths and decided to enter a beauty contest and to her surprise, won. Soon afterwards, in 1961, she entered another contest, this one put on by Atlanta Raceway and won that title too.
Along with her new title of Miss Atlanta Raceway (which lasted one year), Linda’s job was to visit various race tracks in the south such as Charlotte, Darlington and Daytona in the pace car representing Atlanta Raceway, displaying her anatomical charms amongst her other duties as race queen.
After her reign as Miss Atlanta Raceway was up, Linda entered another beauty contest, this time sponsored by Pure Oil Company. She won that title as well, and assumed the role of Miss Pure Firebird a position she retained for 3 1/2 years ’til Pure Oil merged with Union Oil Company.
That merger signaled the end of her career as Miss Firebird and Linda was suddenly out of a job. She thought her career as race queen was over. All was not lost, though. Linda being the automotive oriented gal that she is, opened up an issue of Hot Rod Magazine and noticed an ad from Hurst who were looking for a new Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.
Linda decided to enter and won the preliminary at Atlanta, then the title overall amongst 200 other entries. Thus began Linda’s long career as Miss Hurst and her association with Hurst Industries.
Linda quickly became a prominent figure [pun intended] in the drag racing world and to a lesser extent in other forms of automotive competition.
In the mid-60’s, she along with Don Garlits and Richard Petty, toured military bases in Vietnam, giving our boys moral support and briefly taking their minds off the hell of war.
Towards the late 1960’s, Linda’s services became in such demand that Hurst had to hire additional blonde beauties – dubbed the Hurstettes, to fill in for Linda at various racing events across the USA.
In 1969,Vaughn entertained U.S. troops in Vietnam alongside Bob Hope. At the time she was a representative of the Hurst company, which had recently introduced a revolutionary gear shifter. “I went on stage and told them, I dont sing and I dont dance, but I sure will shift your gears. Everyone just went crazy”.
At more prestigious events, Linda alongside the other two or three Hurstettes, made their appearance. Yes, a sight for sore eyes indeed!
In addition to her duties as Miss Hurst, in the mid-1970’s Linda also was the spokes model for Gratiot Auto Supply appearing in their ads featured in the many car magazines of the day. She also starred in Gratiot’s television commercials, which aired in the Detroit area.
Linda’s other TV appearances include a couple of Hollywood films namely, Gumball Rally  and Stroker Ace , starring Burt Reynolds. Later, she was the host of The Exciting World of Speed and Beauty, which aired on ESPN in the 1990’s.
(Linda Vaughn in ‘Gumball Rally’)
Not all of Linda’s time at the races was spent as a trophy queen but as a competitor, as she got behind the wheel and competed (albeit briefly) in sports car competition after receiving her competition drivers license from the SCCA after successfully completing the driving course offered at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
After semi-retiring from the automotive scene during the years of 1983-87, Linda returned to her first love. She teamed up with Mr. Gasket Performance Group, a conglomerate of automotive companies, who now owned Hurst Industries, and was promoted to Vice President, Public Relations.
Today, Linda still makes appearances at many car shows and automotive races, no longer as race queen but as a guest of honor, signing autographs and greeting legions of her fans, many dating back to the 1960’s.
In recent history, Linda was elected to the Drag Racing Hall of Fame and was chosen the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s (SEMA) Person of the Year.
Questions & Answers:
Some questions and answers asked of Linda Vaughn:
Q: When you became a race queen, were you ever self-conscious about it? How did you get to be so bold?
LV: I wouldn’t say I’m a bold woman. I’m an educated woman. It wasn’t necessarily boldness. It was a passion for the sport and the industry. I was into cars back in the Fifties and Sixties, so it was something that came naturally to me.
Q: Being a glamour girl was something that came naturally to you?
LV: Being a race queen for the Pure Oil Company: I entered the contest and won. Then when Mr. Hurst had a contest for Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, I entered it and there were 200 girls in it. And I won. I got a contract with them the first year and I wanted to turn it into something like Richard Petty did with STP. So I educated myself and learned the warehouse distributor business. I learned the marketing end of the product. I wasn’t their glamour girl; I was their spokeswoman.
Q: Where did you get all the outfits for you and the Hurstettes?
LV: I made most of my things. And I had a lady, Martha, who did our costumes in Atlanta. I designed everything. I never bought so many white go-go boots in my life. One of my girls had a size 11 foot and another one had a size 4 foot. I think we did real well. We all had good reputations and good feedback. It was a learning experience for some of the girls, but I was very strict with them.
Q: Do you keep in touch with any of the Hurstettes?
LV: June [Cochran] died, unfortunately, of diabetes. She was my No. 1 girl. That was heart shattering, but I had myself checked and I’m a diabetic. So I think she saved my life by opening my eyes to diabetes. She was beautiful and a Playmate of the Year. She was a tiny little thing and had pretty big boobies. I’ve done some races up in Nashville for diabetes.
Check our collection of over 100 photos of Linda Vaughn below: