Friday, November 22, 2013
November 22 - Harley Earl
120 years ago: Automotive designer and executive Harley Earl was born on November 22, 1893, in Hollywood, California. He left studies at Stanford University to join his father as a coachbuilder, first in horse-drawn carriages, then in custom automobile bodies. Early clients included Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Fatty Arbuckle and cowboy star Tom Mix. The business became associated with General Motors’ Cadillac luxury division, and when Earl designed its successful 1927 LaSalle, GM’s CEO, Alfred P. Sloan, hired Earl as the first director of what became GM’s Design Studio. Together they established “planned obsolescence” and the annual “model change” as two linchpins of GM’s stupendous profits. In his 30-year career, Earl eventually controlled all design and styling at GM. He lengthened and lowered the size and stance of autos, and introduced the wraparound windshield, the use of clay-modeling in auto design and “concept cars” as a marketing approach. His enduring legacies include the 1959 Cadillac, with its exuberant, excessive tailfins, and the industry-disrupting 1953 Corvette sports car.