It’s not the first time for Detroit. The place has been rife with not-fun economic insecurity for decades. The news hit a bit closer to home yesterday- in fact, at its core: Stu Shuster’s contract that had been extending his stay at the Warren Tech Center since his retirement almost a decade ago has been retracted. The formidable talent was hired in 1965 during the reign of GM’s second Design Director, Bill Mitchell, and would witness the direction of the next four: Rybicki, Jordan, Cherry and (currently) Welburn. All told 43 years in service to the General. The above picture taken, perhaps, days into his new job: hair intact and ready to rock out (note hand).
Stu was a committed company man and his dedication, no doubt, bank-rolled the benefits and privileges of a middle class way of life in Detroit’s northern suburbs. (Christmas and the celebratory firing up of the Corvair.) His career began in the Tech Center’s Industrial Design Dept. plying skills to the graphic and identity systems of packaging and dealerships, with short stints in the empire’s then-subsidized Frigidaire unit, dad’s design proficiency allowed a mobility through the various GM Design Staff strata. (He penned the original Firebird emblem, designed and supervised the building of interiors for GM’s corporate jet fleet) Only later in his career did the design exploit involving four wheels become a priority. At the time of his retirement MK1 he was Assistant Chief in the Truck Interiors Studio; not a glamorous job, however, the product rolling out of the studio contributed to a massively profitable cornerstone.
Prized from the hands of its Chief Engineer, Ned Nickles, (circa 1970) dad has kept this custom ’69 in pristine show condition thru the years; pictured here in front of one of Eero Saarinen’s glazed walls at the Tech Center. I can only imagine what it will be like for dad to leave this place that has been his ‘place’ for the last time. I can’t say this now-official retirement MK2 isn’t a bad thing; though I’m a bit concerned for what will take the job’s place. While his contemporaries accepted the terms of retirement, Stu Shuster didn’t (and may not) know the meaning of it. Work ethic in-hand, us kids have no doubt he’ll find definition in this new chapter. Design gun for hire? Saarinen historian? Teacher of design? Grandfather to five grands..