After all, Welburn had a say in so many GM projects and some of our favorite GM vehicles of the 2000s were conceived under his watch. NPR dug deeper into the past of Welburn to uncover what drove him to design cars. One could say it was his destiny from a young age.
Welburn says by the age of three, he was drawing cars and had a natural fascination with them. In 1959, his parents took him to the Philidelphia Auto Show at age 8, and that’s when he says his passion was truly lit.
There stood, in all its design glory, the 1959 Cadillac Cyclone concept vehicle. Straight from the inbound rocket age, the Cyclone featured dramatic rocket-like fins. Welburn was star struck.
“I saw that car and that car took me from being crazy about cars to this is it — this is what I wanna do,” he said.
“It was an emotional connection,” he added. “And that’s what I strive for in every design that we develop. … That car connected with me.”
At the age of 11, Welburn wrote to General Motors stating he had every intention to become an automotive designer, asking what courses he should take and asks for guidance. To his surprise, GM wrote back and sent recommendations to the nation’s top design schools.
Well, this rest is history. Welburn went on to become the most powerful design figure at GM after 44 years of shaping the vehicles we see on the road every single day.