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Jack “Doc” Watson had an early passion for automotive development that spurred him to create after-market products and specialty vehicles during his 50-year career.

Among his accomplishments was the development of the first Hurst Oldsmobile in 1968 and co-inventing the Jaws of Life rescue tool.

“He loved the automotive industry,” said his son, Jason Watson. “The biggest thing was the Jaws of Life and his improvement with that tool. He was always concerned with safety.”

Mr. Watson of Milford, died Sunday, Aug.2, 2015. He was 75.

He grew up in Milford and attended Milford High School. He also attended Ferris University and the General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University.

He got an early start honing his modification skills at a hobby shop his parents owned.

“He would modify model planes and cars to make them faster and sportier,” his son said.

In 1963, he married Patricia. The couple had two children.

While on break from college Mr. Watson spent a summer street racing all over the country. He later became involved with General Motors, working for the “Super Duty” group that Jason Watson said tested various vehicle programs, including Royal Pontiac and unofficial and official factory race cars.

Mr. Watson, who had been working with inventor George Hurst on various General Motors programs, began working for him full time.

Among his contributions to Hurst’s company was his operation of the Hurst Aid support trailer, with a complete machine shop, at racing events. Mr. Watson earned the nickname “Shifty Doctor” for his mechanical prowess as he helped racers get through tech inspection free of charge, his son said.

Mr. Watson’s experience also included creating 87 niche-market special vehicle programs and managing the building of more than 137,500 special vehicles.

Jason Watson said one of his father’s greatest accomplishments was his involvement in the development of what is now known as the Jaws of Life tool, named for his father’s initials J.A.W.

“It’s kind of funny when you talk about people who eat, live, sleep and breathe a certain thing,” Jason Watson said. “He loved technology and he loved looking forward to new products, whether it was cars, mechanics.”

Besides cars, Mr. Watson enjoyed his family and friends. Jason Watson described his father as a “larger-than-life guy” with a “big, tall, booming voice.”

“It was my fortune to have a father like that,” Jason Watson said. “He was somebody that had been a good friend and mentor, a teacher and father in one. It was a blessing. He lived large. He was interesting and fun to be around, as anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with him knew.”

In addition to his son and his wife, Mr. Watson is survived by a daughter, Whitney Dowsett; three grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

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