November 22, 1893 – Harley Earl is born

Automotive designer and executive Harley J. Earl was born on this day in Hollywood, California in 1893. After leaving his studies at Stanford prematurely he joined his father’s coachbuilding business, which was producing custom car bodies for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Tom Mix. After the business, Harley Automobile Works, was purchased by a Cadillac dealer named Don Lee, Earl was named director of its custom body shop. It was here he would be discovered by Cadillac GM Lawrence P. Fisher. While on tour of dealerships around the country Fisher observed Earl at work, using innovative design methods for sculpting his bodies, including the use of clay to design the forms. Fisher was impressed enough to commision Earl to design a body for the 1927 LaSalle, Cadillac’s companion brand. The vehicle was such a hit that Earl was named director of GM’s new Art and Color Section. In 1937 The Art and Color Section was renamed the Styling section and GM President Alfred Stone eventually promoted Earl to VP, making him the first styling person to ever make VP at a large corporation. Earl’s career would introduce many vehicle’s of major importance, including the Buick Y-Job in 1939, the first concept car. He would also assist with Allied camouflage research during WWII and authorized Frank Hershey’s 1948 Cadillac design, which would bring the tailfin to the automotive world. Perhaps his most famous contribution is Project Opel, better known as the Chevrolet Corvette. It started out as a secret project but when it was shared with Chevy GM Ed Cole it was accepted immediately and would go on sale in 1953.  Pics:Harley Earl and “The Y Job” by {{{1}}} – Flickr: 1939 … Harley Earl and “The Y Job”, CC BY-SA 2.01928 LaSalle Phaeton designed by Harley Earl By Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.01954 Chevrolet Corvette – Public domain

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email