Earl is the father of the Corvette. The Corvette was his
idea pure and simple. He was influenced after World War
II watching Jaguars and MG's run road-racing courses like
Watkins Glen. He felt America needed its own sports car
and he convinced GM to develop its own, inexpensive two-seater.
code named "Project Opel", Earl kept the Corvette
program pretty much to himself. He had a special small
studio with a handful of people working on it. At the
time, Earl wasn't sure which GM division ought to sell
the Corvette, But he felt close to Ed Cole at Chevrolet
and decided to give the "Bowtie Division" first
shot. Cole was sold the first time he saw the prototype.
He knew it was just what the stodgy Chevrolet division
Corvette debuted at Motorama in New York, January of 1953
and was an instant hit. Six months later the Corvette
went into production and the rest is history. But the
Corvette may not have been Earl's greatest achievement.
His main accomplishment was making automotive design an
institution. It was the work of Harley Earl that put the
sizzle back into the American car business after World
War II. His expressive designs defined an entire era.
He was the first man to design a car with a wraparound
windshield, cars without running boards, and the first
to tantalize the motoring public with dream cars like
the 1938 Y Job and the 1951 Le Sabre.
grew up in Hollywood in the early 1900s and quickly developed
designs with a flare for the dramatic. His father ran
a custom coach building company, and young Harley was
put to work- as Chief Designer. He would often produce
clay models for customers, showing them what their future
vehicles would look like. Earl
later became close friends with Lawrence Fisher, who became
president of the Cadillac Division of General Motors in
1925. Fisher asked Earl for some design help on the new
LaSalle. His successful design caught the attention of
GM Chairman Alfred B. Sloan.
moved to Detroit in 1927 and quickly set about making
GM one of the world leaders in design. In 1937, his Art
and Color department was renamed General Motors Design
Staff. Among Earl's most memorable designs are the Chevy
Nomad, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, all of the early
1950s Buicks and of course, the Corvette. Earl's legacy,
however is the Corvette which will live on as a testimony
to his vision and his talent. Harley Earl died on April