Donald G. Wheatley

  • BS Engineering Mechanics 1962
  • MS Mechanical Engineering 1963

Donald G. Wheatley went to work for General Motors in 1963. He worked on the guidance systems doing vibration and fatigue analysis for the Apollo project. Out of the sixty new hires on the project, he was the only one remaining at the end. He also did some work on the main battle tank. Don then accepted an offer from Ford, where he worked on a small team to define the new Ford Maverick. He later led the team that designed and developed the Ford Bronco. In 1982, Don invested $350 to start a business in his basement with his son, making clear and tinted Euro-Lens line headlight covers (thermo-formed) for trucks and cars, both to protect the bulb and to improve appearance. In 1984, he founded and became President of Extang Corp, making Extang’s famous “No Damage, No Drilling, Clamp-On Aluminum Frame” truck bed cover system, a tonneau cover. Extang was the first to sell this truck accessory product nationwide. Extang grew to 128 employees with three plants and sales of $18-20 million. He sold Extang in 2007.

Extang Corp. had built a fifty-foot carbon fiber catamaran, but it was not financially viable and was sold, although it continues to win races today. The resulting boat technology and patents launched Fortress Stabilization Systems, which is owned by his son Edward. His daughter, Anneb and her husband Dave then spun off Wahoo Composites/Wahoo Walls from Fortress. Wahoo builds custom carbon fiber beams for robots and has launched an energy-saving wall system. While at the helm of his business, Don liked to hire young kids who had problems in their lives and give them the chance to turn their lives around.

Don has over fifty-three patents as inventor or as coinventor while at Ford Motor Co. and Extang. He lives with his wife Patricia in Punta Gorda, Florida.

This profile appeared in the ME-EM 2012-13 Annual Report