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Harley J. Earl (November 22, 1893 – April 10, 1969) was an automotive designer, engineer and industrial designer. He is best known for his work at General Motors where he served from 1927 to 1959. Earl was instrumental in establishing the car design industry or business and the standards and principles behind the “Auto Design” profession when it existed before in the United States. His list of creations includes being the father of the Corvette, introducing the annual style change, putting a computer on board a car, chrome upholstery, two-tone paint, Hardtops, wraparound windshield, but it’s probably best known for the general public by the beginning of the “tailfin” madness that dominated the style of automobiles in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The first car designed by Earl was the LaSalle 1927, a smaller car for the Cadillac, which closely resembled the Hispano-Suiza that various Hollywood celebrities and new rich Americans bought at the time, a fad that Cadillac executives offended. And, as the most expensive cars of the time used to be sold as chassis, train-car, fenders, radiator, and the cover that is approved by a specialized body of the company, it was the first car of this type that was designed in its totality by a professional in a motor company. But what GM always kept secret (Earl wanted to, as long as he lives to protect his anonymity) is that he was a great contemporary artist who literally has millions and millions of Americans hooked on his designs created for GM.
Although Harley is closely related to the Chevrolet Corvette, he was also the architect and responsible for the creation of a range of very successful models that allowed General Motors to catapult itself to the top in the preferences of the public. He was the creator of the remembered range ’60, which had as main products the Chevrolet Impala (large vehicle), the Chevrolet El Camino (light utility), the Chevrolet Bel Air (another luxury car of smaller size to the Impala) or the Cadillac Eldorado (large car). All were known for the characteristic fins that adorned the silhouettes of their designs, on their backs.
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