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Linda Vaughn, First Lady Of Motorsports And Race Queen, Then And Now

Icons | October 8, 2020

1968 NHRA Winternationals - Pomona. Linda Vaughn, Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, poses with Hurst's Jack Duffy, Vice President of Public Relations. (Photo by Bob Swaim/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Known as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter and the “First Lady of Motorsports,” Linda Vaughn brought sex appeal to the boys' club of NASCAR. Wearing skimpy outfits that often highlighted her large breasts and fit physique, she became an in-demand racetrack personality and gave racing some needed Hollywood glitz and glamor. The “Queen of Racing” brought a new form of entertainment to Nascar not only with her physical attributes, but also with her sincere kindness that made her everyone’s favorite racing sweetheart, known and loved by all of the legendary racing icons and from the 1960s to 1980s. 

Vaughn Began Her Career As A Small-Town Dental Technician

Source: Vintage Grid Girls

Vaughn grew up in Dalton, a very small town in Georgia not known for churning out celebrities. Most of the city’s residents spend their entire lives working in the local carpet mills. Vaughn decided she would not settle and dreamed of something much bigger, which she knew she could accomplish with her determination and dazzling personality. After graduating high school, she worked as a dental technician, but she was not destined to clean teeth for long.

As a teenager, Vaughn had entered the Miss Georgia contest where she met the organizers of “Miss Atlanta International Speedway.” This other competition seemed right up her alley so she entered it against two hundred other girls and ended up claiming the title. Vaughn said about her victory, “And I went at it wholeheartedly, not to win a beauty contest, but to represent racing because I liked it that much. And I won.” As the new beauty queen, Vaughn was to give out trophies to the winners while kissing them on the cheek and to always look gorgeous while doing so, which wasn’t too hard for Vaughn. One of her most famous acts with this title was when she publicly did The Twist dance move while wearing an ultra-tight red sequined jumpsuit with racer Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. This televised affair officially made her a national sensation.

Vaughn Becomes The Nationally Beloved Miss Hurst Golden Shifter

After Vaughn’s time as “Miss Atlanta International Speedway” was up, she went on to win “Miss Pure Firebird,” a contest sponsored by Pure Oil Company, and kept this title for three and a half years. Unfortunately, her career with Pure Oil ended suddenly when the company merged with Union Oil Company and left Vaughn jobless. Although she no longer had the title, Vaughn was not without hope and eventually saw an ad in Hot Rod magazine stating that George Hurst was looking for a new model for the 1966 racing season who would be crowned “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.” The competition was tough, as Vaughn was up against 200 other beautiful women, but she took an extra step to impress the Hurst Performance Board of Directors. Vaughn made a formal business presentation to the board that demonstrated how she was not only going to perform the best as the race queen, but she was also going to make the Hurst name more famous than ever. Hurst was sold and she officially became “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter,” the title she would be most remembered for.

Hurst Needed More Linda Vaughns -- Thus, The Hurstettes

As “Miss Hurst Golden Shifter,” Vaughn would appear for pre-race shows on the deck of a Hurst parade car standing on a special platform built for her while waving, bowing, and blowing kisses to the crowds. The audience adored the queen and some were more excited to see her than the actual races. Vaughn was attracting so many more gigs all over the country that Hurst had to hire a few more bombshells (who would be called The Hurstettes) to fill in when Vaughn was booked for other events. Occasionally, The Hurstettes and Vaughn would all appear together giving viewers an extra special treat. 

Fans Loved Vaughn, And She Loved Them Back

The admiration for Vaughn stretched beyond her sexuality, but also to her beaming smile and radiant heart. She also took part in Hurst’s popular Armed Forces Club where she visited Vietnam twice along with military hospitals in Okinawa, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii entertaining soldiers and bringing them some lost joy. Vaughn was also known for genuinely loving her fans and remembering their names and conversations even decades after meeting just one time. Her fans returned the love by writing her thousands of letters a week.

Vaughn Is Still A Beloved Racing Queen At 77 Years Old

At 77 years old, Vaughn is still as beautiful and compassionate as ever and has been recognized through her numerous achievements. Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) voted her “Person Of The Year” in 1979 and inducted her into their hall of fame in 1987. In 1984, a 10-page story was published about her in Sports Illustrated where not many women have ever received an article near that length. In 2009, she received SEMA’s Business Network’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” and just last year she was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. She poured out her life stories in a book she co-wrote with former editor of Hot Rod Magazine Rob Kinnan in 2016 called “Linda Vaughn: The First Lady of Motorsports.” She stated about the book, "These are some of the stories that a lot of fans don't get to read because I don't get too personal too often. They're stories from my heart. [The racers] are my brothers, my heart. I'm married to racing, honey! That's why I have no children. I have everyone else's children. The Andrettis, the Foyts, the Unsers, the Allisons...they're all my kids, and it's a large family!" 

Tags: Linda Vaughn | Motor Sports | NASCAR | Then And Now

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.