Harley J. Earl
(November 22, 1893 – April 10, 1969) was first Vice President
of Design at General Motors
. He was an industrial designer and a pioneer of modern transportation design. A coachbuilder
by trade, Earl pioneered the use of freeform sketching and hand sculpted clay models as design techniques. He subsequently introduced the “concept car” as both a tool for the design process and a clever marketing device.
Earl's Buick Y-Job
was the first concept car
, he started "Project Opel", which eventually became the Chevrolet Corvette
, and he authorized the introduction of the tail-fin to automotive styling. During World War II
, he was an active contributor to the research of camouflage
Harley Earl was born in Hollywood, California
. His father, J. W. Earl, began work as a coachbuilder
in 1889. The senior Earl eventually changed his practice from horse-drawn vehicles to custom bodies and customized parts and accessories for automobiles, founding Earl Automobile Works in 1908.
Earl began studies at Stanford University
, but left prematurely to work with, and learn from, his father at Earl Automotive Works. By this time, the shop was building custom bodies for Hollywood movie stars, including Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
and Tom Mix
. He was six feet four and a half inches tall.