Stu Shuster: 43 years at The General

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contract that had been extending his stay at the Warren Tech Center since his retirement almost a decade ago has been retracted.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..

Cheers dad!


9 Responses to “Stu Shuster: 43 years at The General”

  1. jacqui Says:

    Jay this is amazing!!!! Rock on Stu!!!

  2. Dave Chow Says:

    I too, am related to a retired GM man. These fine talented folks have put in more than their fair share of hard work to raise families in this area. I tip my old English D ball cap to these hardworking folks.

  3. Sangwon Choi Says:

    I’ve only heard and seen your phenomenal artistic talent in the auto industry. I first saw your sketches at JCI at beginning of my automotive career in the about 10 years ago.

    I think you interned or worked there in Holland, Michigan prior to my JCI days. (I am now with Nissan)… and I just realized after seeing your Dad’s photo that I’ve been interviewed by him at GM a few years ago before I joined Nissan. I, then, didn’t realize that he was the father of “Shuster” whom I only knew by the signature of your sketches….what a small world !
    If I only knew then, I would have told your Dad how much I loved the work of “Shuster” 🙂

    Best of luck to you and your respected dad~ !

    just came across your blog thru Totoroforest website…

  4. Mike Luyckx Says:

    Jay and I have a great connection, our fathers worked at the General together for many years! While my Pops hung up his GM sketchbook in 97′, Stu continued to “rock on”. I know for sure that my father has the deepest respect for Stu as a designer and individual. He thoroughly enjoyed the time they worked side by side. Great tribute Jay!

  5. shublog Says:

    Right on Mike! Great to hear from you.

    And Sangwon thanks for your comment. How was it interviewing with the senior Shuster? Would the conversation suddenly veer to the virtues of air-cooled, rear-engined ‘Z’ Bodies?

  6. pleipzig Says:

    Jay, I figured this was coming. I hope your dad is handling the transition well. He has so much to offer the world at large that I’m almost happy they’ve set him free. Please pass on my best.


  7. Joe Cupelli Says:

    Hi Jay, my father Nick Cupelli is very good friends with Stu and spent his whole career at the General, on the Design Staff as well. My dad has retired to the warmth of Arizona like many other retirees. Our fathers both enjoy Lionel trains and I always love to see your father’s collection and layouts. My first car was a 68 Pontiac Firebird and I love the classic Firebird emblem. I wish I had one in my garage now! Stu is one heck of a guy, I’ve known him most of my 47 years and he is very respected. Good luck to him in his retirement and future! Best regards,

    Joe Cupelli

    • shublog Says:

      Cheers! I too remember your dad! It’s a name emblazoned on my brain from years growing up hearing dad talk about work and the folks he worked with all that time.

  8. Thamer hannona Says:

    Hi Jay, I worked with your dad Stu, he actually was involved in my hiring at GM, what a great guy, how’s has he been, please tell him that Thamer Hannona says “Hello”… take care man.

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