Video: Harley Earl and the Buick Y-Job

General Motors produced this new video tribute to the company’s first concept car, the Buick Y-Job, and its first vice-president of styling, Harley J. Earl. The creative vision starts here, and it continues today. 



Completed in 1938, the Y-Job is said to be the auto industry’s first purpose-built concept car (or dream car, as they were called then). The project was driven by the industry’s first corporate styling chief, Harley J. Earl, who was recruited by General Motors executives Lawrence Fisher and Alfred P. Sloan and, in another unprecedented step, given the rank of corporate vice president, equal to any division boss. From that moment on, styling would play a key role in the creation and marketing of the American production car.

The Y-Job was not a prototype for any specific GM vehicle, but a corporate vision statement, a look into the future of automotive design. According to the young GM designers interviewed here—Creative Designer Justin Salmon, Lead Creative Designer Dillion Blanski, and Design Manager—GM styling is still in the business of looking forward, and the Buick Y-Job remains an important inspiration in the process. Video below.


4 thoughts on “Video: Harley Earl and the Buick Y-Job

  1. As ground breaking and beautiful as Harley Earl’s Y-Job was in 1938 , it is a bit inaccurate for GM to claim a “first” for “moveable headlamps” as the oral narrative states at 1:17. One need only examine U.S. Patent #2,084,120 ,Filed July 19 , 1934 , awarded to H. T. Ames on June 15 , 1937 and #2,119,892 , Filed Jan. 17 , 1938 and awarded to Herbert C. Snow , Inventor on June 7, 1938 to see that other designers had similar ideas at the time. Whether Earl or GM filed a patent for their headlamp design is not known to this writer , but the ” Headlight Structure” patented by Ames and Snow appeared on the limited production ( just shy of 3000 units ) 1936/37 CORD Models 810/812. Perhaps Harley Earl was aware of these patents when he executed the Y-Job. Thoughts anyone?

  2. That Buick looks more like a car 10 years newer, so GM had their designs that far ahead

  3. Probably a more reasonable five years ahead, but that pesky war got in the way.

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