Before the 1970s, removing accident survivors from crumpled cars was an agonizingly slow process. Fire department responders used a variety of tools designed for other purposes—pry bars, chain saws, sledge hammers, winches, and jacks—to reach motorists. In the 1960s, George Hurst, who was famous for introducing the Hurst Shifter to auto racing, tried something new at the race track when a car cracked up: a 350-pound hydraulic spreader tool that dangled from an A-frame on the front of a pickup truck.
In 1970, Hurst hired Mike Brick to make the tool more practical and place it on the market. Brick designed a slim, powerful, hand-held caliper that could spread sheet metal, pop doors, and create a wide gap in a fraction of the time that conventional tools required. Suddenly the objective changed from removing motorists to removing the car around the motorists.
By the end of the 1970s, thousands of fire departments had purchased the Hurst Power Rescue Tool (nicknamed the Jaws of Life) through Mike Brick’s marketing efforts, which included national exposure on the television program “Emergency!” The tool donated to the museum was used by the Carlsbad (New Mexico) fire department from 1977 to 2012.