Lawrence R. Gustin


Biography: Lawrence R. Gustin, who wrote the first biographies of General Motors founder William C. Durant (1973) and Buick founder David Dunbar Buick (2006), was a writer/editor from 1960 to 1984 at The Flint (Mich.) Journal, in the city where Durant launched his vehicle career and where General Motors was born. While he covered such events as the launch of Apollo 11 that sent the first men to the Moon, the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier "fight of the century" and the inauguration of President Carter, he also became auto editor and assistant metro editor, in charge of the auto, business and labor reporters.

He is one of the very few writers active today who extensively interviewed people who were close to Durant when he created General Motors 100 years ago. Gustin had a number of long conversations with Charles Stewart Mott, who Durant brought from Utica, N.Y., to Flint, Michigan, in 1906-07 to build axles for Buick. Mott, who became Flint’s great philanthropist and a GM director for 60 years, died at age 97 in 1973. Gustin also spent days interviewing Durant’s widow, Catherine, who married Durant three months before he founded GM in September 1908. Catherine Durant died in January 1974.

In 1972-73 he wrote Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors, which was critically acclaimed and which won the Thomas McKean Memorial Cup, awarded by the Automobile Club of America for the best use of historical research in one year, as well as awards of merit from the Historical Society of Michigan and the American Association for State and Local History. The book, with updates, is being reprinted in a third edition by the University of Michigan Press in 2008. He also began a newspaper campaign to save the Durant-Dort Carriage Company office building, which became a national historical landmark. He produced The Flint Journal Centennial Picture History of Flint in three editions starting in 1976 and co-authored the award-winning The Buick: A Complete History in 1980. Considered the definitive Buick history, it was updated in five more editions from the mid-1980s to Buick’s centennial in 2003. He writes at Billy Durant’s personal desk, given to him by the estate of Durant’s widow.

Gustin, who became Buick assistant public relations director, helped create the Sloan Museum's Buick Gallery and Research Center in 1998. The following year he received a Distinguished Service Citation for historical work from the Automotive Hall of Fame. In 2003 he directed Buick’s centennial activities that won "best of show" in the International Automotive Media Competition. At Buick PR he worked with Buick events and people in Shanghai, Beijing, Paris, London, Mexico City, Rome and Rio de Janeiro – and in David Buick’s home town of Arbroath, Scotland. And in 2006, he produced another award-winning book, David Buick’s Marvelous Motor Car: The men and the automobile that launched General Motors. In 2007, he was named to the Hall of Fame of The State News, campus daily at Michigan State University, where in the late 1950s he served as sports editor and 50th anniversary edition editor. He and his wife Rose Mary live in Michigan’s Oakland County between Flint and Detroit (after more than 60 years in the Flint area). They have two sons and five grandchildren.

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Lake Orion, Michigan

Articles written by Lawrence R. Gustin:

The Spark That Created GM: Billy Durant Takes Control of Buick
Billy Durant’s Version of How He Founded General Motors

Note: The initial experts for the Generations of GM Wiki were selected by General Motors based on their demonstrated knowledge of the company’s history. The 2008 inaugural team is composed of employees, retirees and associates.