In the late 1920s, General Motors Chairman Alfred Sloan offered Hearley Earl a fantastic position: directing the styling of all GM car lines. Earl soon wielded unprecedented control over GM´s new product development.
GM´s Art and Colour Section (which Earl later renamed Styling) revolutionized the auto industry, and rival manufacturers soon developed styling studios of their own. A car´s appearance became just as important as its mechanics.
From 1948, Earl attached tailfins, chrome trim and other ornamental parts reminding of aircrafts to GM cars. Tailfins saw their greatest distribution in the mid-fifties and had mostly disappeared by the mid-sixties.
share Harley Earl: General Motors, tail fins and dream cars
Earl came up with the idea of the "dream car," or concept car, a one-off, non-production vehicle built for auto-show display. Earl also popularised the use of clay as a modeling tool, which allowed designers to visualize shapes and forms that were difficult and time-consuming to create in steel.
One of Alfred Sloan´s ideas was a model-line hierarchy of increasing price and status. The idea was that General Motors would have an appropriate product for consumers at each level of the automotive marketplace, and consumers would aspire to the next rung up the GM product ladder. Accordingly, Harley Earl designed a natural progression of increasing style and prestige into Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, and Cadillacs.
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