Harley Earl makes his transition April 10, 1969

Started by C.R. Patton II, April 10, 2014, 08:18:42 AM

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C.R. Patton II



Hello

On this day 45 years ago Harley Earl died.  He was a father, grandfather and husband.  To the automotive world he was a pioneer.  He served as the director of the General Motors Styling Department for 31 years.  I admire him for his creativity and innovation to start LaSalle. 
All good men own a Cadillac but great gentlemen drive a LaSalle. That is the consequence of success.

Jeff Wilk

Just to show the completeness of his thought, take a look at his design office at GM which he designed in 1953 and is still in use TODAY by the current head of GM Design.
"Impossible Only Describes The Degree Of Difficulty" 

Southern New Jersey

1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special
1975 Eldorado Convertible (#12 made)
1976 Cadillac Mirage (factory authorized Pick-Up)
1933 Phaeton Chevrolet - "Baby Cadillac"
1933 Master Sedan Chevrolet - "Baby Cadillac"

SOLD
1958 Cadillac Sixty-Special
1958 Cadillac Sixty-Special
1958 Cadillac Sedan
1958 Cadillac Coupe Deville

Quentin Hall

    Of course, Harley didn't design every car, bus, truck, building or office that GM built. There were thousands of individual designers working for GM. I  think it is important to remember that Harley oversaw the design and direction. He may not have put pen to paper, or hand to clay or hammer to metal, but he led his charges to explore and challenge like no other and on a scale that is hard to fathom, even today. It is hard to believe that the creations that left GM in the millions, were just "products of  their time".
   
       Harley was the leader. The great many "others" contributed their creative skills and talents under his direction.  He imparted his approval or disapproval in sometimes thunderous, theatrical displays. Harley knew what he wanted and equally what he didn't and for a while his creed also resonated with the buying public. His style transcended further than just the automobile, but also into the way people lived their daily lives.

     Harley was the maestro. Everyone watched his baton.  The "others" were the "chamber musicians".  Harley had a knack for putting all the talented musicians, the notes, the tempo and instruments and sounds together to make a wonderful symphony that resonated with the times. He was an interpreter, visionary and imaginative, free thinker. It is hard to imagine the dynamic life he led and  impossible to properly quantify the incredible impact that he made both in the past, but also the impact that he still imparts today nearly 50 years since his passing.
       I sometimes wonder if he was merely a "product" of his time. It is hard not to be cynical and say that someone like him could not stand a hope these days. That is not to belittle a great man, but instead to question these "new and improved times".  Perhaps we are all just products  of these times as well.           
       Nonetheless, he left us all a wonderful legacy indeed. 
       
53 Eldo #412.
53 Eldo #433
53 series 62 conv
39 Sixty Special Custom
57 Biarritz

las39

Is this not Mr Earl overseeing the design of 39 LaSalle ?
1939 LaSalle 5027
1941 Chrysler Royal Coupe
1934 Oldsmobile F34
1976 Moto Guzzi Convert

Doug Houston

While I was never an employee of GMC, as a young kid, I did now him personally, and he knew me. This was in the period of 1938 and several years later.

Mr. Earl was a taskmaster, as all would agree, but as told above, he had what it took to make the "General Motors look" a thing of reality.

Earl's essential partner was Alfred Sloan, and it was the alliance of these two people that made General Motors what it was peior to 1961, when the cost cutters engineered its downslide.

Alfred Sloan had a philosophy that stated "A car has to LOOK good for the buyers to want it" I often wonder what he'd think of cars in the showrooms today?
38-6019S
38-9039
39-9057B
41-6227D
41-6019SF
41-6229D
41-6267D
56-6267
70-DeV Conv
41-Chev 41-1167
41 Olds 41-3929

Walter Youshock

Very interesting since 1962 and earlier are my favorite Cadillac designs.  The '62 was already on the books before the bean-counters came in.  There were many more good years but the '60's was a decade of change.

As for that office:  OMG!  I would kill to see that in person...  The gadgets in the desk have "Harley" written all over them.  Changing that office would be like Will and Kate razing Buckingham Palace and ruling from a telephone booth.
CLC #11959 (Life)
1957 Coupe deVille
1991 Brougham

Michael J. Cascio

Wally,

    Im looking for the Reel to Reel & HiFi in his office?  Perhaps it was too "Dated" for his office!
-Mike

Walter Youshock

I bet there's something built into that desk.  All those buttons and dials look like they could control one hell of a hi-fi.  Maybe they took the r2r out of the Westchester show car from '55 and put it in the office...

Don Draper had NOTHING on Harley Earl. 
CLC #11959 (Life)
1957 Coupe deVille
1991 Brougham

Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

Quote from: Michael J. Cascio on April 18, 2014, 12:08:52 PM
Wally,

    Im looking for the Reel to Reel & HiFi in his office?  Perhaps it was too "Dated" for his office!

I couldn't find any McIntosh either... ;D

*Even today, the office décor could almost pass for contemporary. Very nice.
A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for which there is no Acceptable Substitute

Walter Youshock

Those controls look like Scott, if they even are hifi related.  Not sure if he was even into the radio thing.  Would have been a good test bed for Delco to get into the "home" market.  GM already had Frigidaire appliances, why not a home radio company?

If any other company, I'd lean toward Fisher since Avery had friends everywhere.  He and Alfred Sloan traveled in the same circles as both were huge supporters of the arts.
CLC #11959 (Life)
1957 Coupe deVille
1991 Brougham

Alan Harris CLC#1513

At one time, right after the war, GM made home radios under the "Delco" name. I have one. There were two table models available. Strangely, the dial on mine looks a lot like a speedometer!

GM sold a whole system of DC battery powered home appliances for use on farms. These also were sold by Delco.

My grandfather lived in a house built in 1941. The house had an oil fired boiler bearing the "General Motors" brand.

Sloan's book talks about the beginnings of the Frigidaire division making whole building refrigeration systems for apartment houses. He was a big believer in GM being in every field.

We have talked before in this forum about how Harley Earl stayed around way too long at GM and spent his later years taking credit for other peoples' ideas. Dave Holls, Ed Glowacke, Ned Nickles, Bill Mitchell and others were the real talents behind the GM look. Earl originally disapproved of the Cadillac tailfin and told his people to drop it. When his superiors were impressed by it, he suddenly took credit for it.

The design that Earl approved for the 1958 Cadillac had about twice as much chrome as the one that was built. Ed Glowacke thought that the prototype looked awful and risked his job to remove a lot of the gingerbread. The top guys liked the Glowacke version better and that was the one produced.

After the 1957 Chrysler products came out, Earl's days were numbered. GM felt that they had been scooped by the Forward Look cars. The 1959 and later Cadillacs were designed by Dave Holls. Earl went out the door in 1959.

Earl was an innovator, but his best days were before WWII. The 1938 Y job was gorgeous. The 1951 LeSabre was truly hideous, both then and now.

Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

Quote from: Alan Harris CLC#1513 on April 18, 2014, 08:01:21 PM


We have talked before in this forum about how Harley Earl stayed around way too long at GM and spent his later years taking credit for other peoples' ideas. Dave Holls, Ed Glowacke, Ned Nickles, Bill Mitchell and others were the real talents behind the GM look. Earl originally disapproved of the Cadillac tailfin and told his people to drop it. When his superiors were impressed by it, he suddenly took credit for it....

...The design that Earl approved for the 1958 Cadillac had about twice as much chrome as the one that was built. Ed Glowacke thought that the prototype looked awful and risked his job to remove a lot of the gingerbread. The top guys liked the Glowacke version better and that was the one produced.

Are you saying that Harley Earl was not the one the one to introduce the tailfin having been inspired by the P 38 fighter plane? This is news to me.

I was aware of the 1958 model year story however as well as the designers chiefly responsible for the 1959 model and beyond.
A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for which there is no Acceptable Substitute

Alan Harris CLC#1513

http://ateupwithmotor.com/contentfiles/uploads/Ate-Up-With-Motor-Frontier-logo.png

This link goes to the alternative story of the Cadillac tail fin for 1948. The part about the P-38 being the inspiration was true, but Frank Hershey was the one inspired by it, not Harley Earl.

Once the tailfin was a hit, Earl decided that it was his idea. Frank Hershey went to Ford, where he was responsible for the 1955 Thunderbird.

Glen

Glen Houlton CLC #727 
CLCMRC benefactor #104

Walter Youshock

Another Cadillac myth debunked...

We all agree that Harley was responsible for the '27 LaSalle, I hope.

One thing Harley did was to employ women in the Design Studio.  Sue Vanderbilt was one who was directly associated with interior design, fabric and color selection.  When Earl retired, the ladies were not as accepted by the new boys in charge and eventually went on to other things. 

He may have been past his prime with the '58 models, but he was decades ahead in other ways.
CLC #11959 (Life)
1957 Coupe deVille
1991 Brougham

Eric DeVirgilis CLC# 8621

Very interesting expose'.

I do not ever recall reading anything to this effect in the 2 decades+ I've been receiving the Self Starter nor in any of the Cadillac-related materials in my possession.

Certainly a topic that should be covered at some point in the Club magazine.

In any case, I could not agree more with the final sentence of the article:

"We don’t generally approve of retro styling, but perhaps Cadillac is missing a bet."
A Cadillac Motorcar is a Possession for which there is no Acceptable Substitute

Walter Youshock

If they don't generally approve of retro styling, then why all the hype at the New York Auto Show over the "new" crest?  Throw some diadems and merlettes on it and you've got the '56/'57 version. 

Dropping the wreath was one thing but maybe it's time to bring back the "V". 

One thing Harley DID stress was "continuity".  Design was an evolution, not a revolution.  Vertical taillamps, eggcrate grilles and the Cadillac crest are essential design cues linking all Cadillacs from the Golden Age to today.  A nice wheelbase with enough rear-seat legroom to comfortably stretch out wouldn't hurt either...  Or a trunk that LOOKS like you can actually fit 3 bags of groceries...
CLC #11959 (Life)
1957 Coupe deVille
1991 Brougham