Vette Videos: The Life & Times of The Father of the Corvette, Harley Earl

Dateline: 11.23.11

Harley Earl gave us much more than the Corvette. He could have also been called, “The King of the Razzle-Dazzle!”

Three Harley Earl Videos!

Yesterday we shared with you a brief overview of the life and career of General Motors’ first chief of design, Harley Earl. When it comes to Corvettes,  it’s easy in retrospect to say that GM should have done this and done that. But it’s essential to remember that when Earl first showed his sports car renderings of what they were calling the “Project Opel,” there were no sports cars being made in Detroit. And no one even knew if there was an American market for the little machines. And on top of that, no one in Detroit really knew “how” to build a true sports car. But, everything has a beginning. And lucky for the Corvette, it skimmed by for a time, just on its good looks.

So much of what Earl pioneered  in his career at GM is now commonplace practices in the automobile industry. Two of the best examples of Earl innovations were the “design studio” and “annual model changes.” Today all of the major car companies have their own private facility where ideas and concepts are thrashed out. Before Earl’s Technical Center was officially christened in 1956, there were no such places where ideas could be securely developed in private.

If you’re a baby boomer, from your perspective, there have never not been annual model changes. While today, car companies have been drifting away from the “BIG Fall New Cars” events, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, this was very exciting stuff for car lovers. Dealers would cover the new cars in their showrooms and only show them to the public on a specific day when the manufactured officially released the cars. Between Earl’s Motorama shows and the new car suspense at the dealerships, it’s any wonder why American was car crazy in the ‘50s and ‘60s. These guys knew how to generate excitement and Earl was a master ring leader! Enjoy the videos. – Scott

Related: Bill Mitchell took over as VP of Styling after Harley Earl. Although Mitchell learned much working under Earl, he had his own ideas of “style” and left a permenent mark on the Corvette – for the better. Here’s a post on Bill Mitchell…

Corvette Timeline Tales: July 1977 GM’s Chief of Styling, Bill Mitchell Retires

PS – We invite you to visit, the Official Harley Earl Website fully sponsored by the Earl Family Archives. Why compromise, find out the truth on the World’s Greatest Car Designer.

Here’s a more comprehensive list of Harley Earl’s innovations.


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