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Y-Job Concept
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  Buick Y-Job Concept
 

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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1938
Numbers built:one-off
Designed by:Harvey J Earl
Source:Company press release
Last updated:January 09, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIt is difficult to imagine a time when concept cars did not exist. These mainstays of the show circuit have become as commonplace as electricity and indoor plumbing. But in 1938, the idea of creating an expressive automobile to explore new worlds of design and technology may have seemed as fanciful as space flight. General Motors was the first manufacturer to take this step - and the result was the Buick Y-Job, a car that is widely acknowledged as the industry's first concept car.

Designer Harley J Earl was the catalyst for the creation of this unique automobile. Colorful, charismatic and opinionated, Earl left his mark on generations of GM products. The Y-Job was a signpost that pointed to design trends that would endure for decades. Why the Y-Job name? In Earl's lexicon, every new project was a job. The letter "Y" went one step beyond the prosaic X-for-experimental designation and paid homage to the prototype fighter planes that were identified with the prefix "Y" by aircraft manufacturers.

The Y-Job was a collaborative effort within GM Design. Earl supplied the inspiration and a critical eye, George Snyder put the lines on paper and Buick Chief Engineer Charlie Chayne supervised the modifications to the production Buick Century chassis that became the foundation of GM's groundbreaking concept car.

They created a vision that inspired a new genre of automotive art: the Dream Car. With a 126-inch wheelbase and a body that extended more than 17 feet long, the two-seat convertible was an exuberant expanse of streamlined sheetmetal. Sporty yet elegant, the Y-job introduced innovative features such as concealed headlamps, electrically operated windows, flush door handles and a power-operated convertible top that was fully concealed by a steel boot when retracted.

But it was the Y-Job's long, low profile that left the impression that this was a time machine from the future. Gone were the running boards and formal, upright shapes of the classic coachbuilders. In their place, the Y-Job had fenders that flowed seamlessly into the doors, integrated bumpers that complemented the bodywork and strong horizontal styling elements. It introduced themes that would reverberate throughout the automotive industry through the '60s.

While contemporary road cars rode on 16-inch wheels, Earl specified special 13-inch diameter rims to give the Y-Job a lower stance. The small-diameter wheels were backed with airplane-inspired finned brake drums that were more than a match for the Y-Job's 320-cubic-inch/141-horsepower inline eight-cylinder engine.

During Earl's 20-year tenure at the Design Center, GM became the acknowledged leader in automotive styling, producing memorable automobiles that still elicit deep emotional responses from onlookers. With its innovative technology and stunning design, the Y-Job set the standard for the dream cars that would follow in its tire tracks.

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