Harley Earl Cars and Designs Featured at the Detroit Concours 2022

Explore the Iconic Designs of Harley Earl Cars with Stunning Photos from Vette Vues Magazine’s January 2023 Edition

Harley Earl cars have been beloved by many for decades, and their designs have been considered some of the most iconic of all time. Recently, Corvette historian Wayne Ellwood explored these cars and captured a range of photos for the 2022 Concours Detroit d’Elegance. His photographic journey was later featured in the January 2023 edition of Vette Vues Magazine, where readers can appreciate and learn more about Harley Earl’s designs. In this blog post, we will take a deeper look at the photos from Ellwood’s journey, giving readers an up-close look at Harley Earl’s designs.

Harley J Earl was a pioneering automotive designer and business executive widely credited as the “Father of Corvette.” Pictured here is a 1953 Corvette Motorama Car. 1953 Corvette unveiled at the General Motors Motorama at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Harley J Earl was a pioneering automotive designer and business executive widely credited as the “Father of Corvette.” Pictured here is a 1953 Corvette Motorama Car. 1953 Corvette unveiled at the General Motors Motorama at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

If you didn’t catch last year’s affair, the upcoming Detroit Concours of 2023 will take place on Friday, September 22nd, and Saturday, September 23rd, 2023, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Lose yourself in an atmosphere where magnificence merges with engineering virtuosity, where each crease and profile radiates eternal attraction and expertise. Reserve the date and take in the atmosphere of automobile history at the Detroit Concours 2023.

In this post, we are looking at Harley Earl Cars at the 2022 Detroit Concours:

Harley Earl: The Man Behind the Iconic Corvette Design

When you think of the iconic Corvette design, you might not immediately think of the man behind it all: Harley Earl. Earl is widely considered to be one of the most influential designers in automotive history and for good reason. Earl oversaw the creation of some of the company’s best designs, including the 1953 Corvette. But Earl’s influence went far beyond just one car model.

Earl was known for his forward-thinking ideas and willingness to take risks with new concepts. He was behind many of the concept cars that GM created in the mid-century, which allowed the company to explore new technologies and design languages. Earl was particularly interested in incorporating aerodynamics into car design, which was a groundbreaking idea at the time.

But perhaps Earl’s greatest contribution to the automotive world was his focus on the importance of design. He recognized that cars were more than just machines for transportation – they were symbols of status, personal expression, and cultural values. Earl’s designs emphasized this idea by incorporating stylish features like tailfins and sculpted bodies, which became hallmarks of American automotive design.

As we explore Harley Earl’s designs at the Detroit Concours d’Elegance, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the man behind the designs. Earl’s contributions to automotive design have left an indelible mark on the industry, and we owe much of the modern car’s style and personality to his vision. You can read more about the man in our article Discovering the Legacy of Harley J Earl: the Father of Corvette and Pioneering Designer.

Harley Earl Cars at the Detroit Concours d’Elegance 2022

The GM Heritage Center is a big supporter of both the design theme and a wide range of car shows, using its extensive collection to match any particular theme. For the Concours of Detroit, the Heritage Center contributed four legendary cars to the “Cars of Harley Earl” class. These cars, combined with a couple more from private entrants, paid tribute to Earl’s contributions to the history of automotive design.

1920 Cadillac Type 59C

Earl’s reputation was built in Los Angeles, where he became renowned for creating custom bodywork for wealthy clients at his family’s business, Earl Automobile Works, which was subsequently acquired by California Cadillac distributor Don Lee and rebranded as Don Lee Coach and Body Works. This Cadillac Type 59C is an example of this early work—sent to Don Lee Coach and Body as a rolling chassis; it was subsequently fashioned into the stunning blue-and-black coach-built sedan displayed at the DIA.

The 1920 Cadillac Type 59C is considered one of Harley Earl's best designs. It was one of the earliest cars to showcase his innovative design approach and would set the stage for the rest of his illustrious career. At the time, the Cadillac Type 59C was groundbreaking in terms of design. Earl introduced many features that were previously unseen in American automobiles. These included features such as an enclosed cabin, wraparound windshields, and integrated fenders. Overall, the 1920 Cadillac Type 59C is an important piece in Harley Earl's legacy as a design innovator. It serves as a reminder that Earl's design skills were not limited to just concept cars but that he was also capable of producing groundbreaking designs for production vehicles.
The 1920 Cadillac Type 59C is considered one of Harley Earl’s best designs. It was one of the earliest cars to showcase his innovative design approach and would set the stage for the rest of his illustrious career. At the time, the Cadillac Type 59C was groundbreaking in terms of design. Earl introduced many features that were previously unseen in American automobiles. These included features such as an enclosed cabin, wraparound windshields, and integrated fenders. Overall, the 1920 Cadillac Type 59C is an important piece in Harley Earl’s legacy as a design innovator. It serves as a reminder that Earl’s design skills were not limited to just concept cars but that he was also capable of producing groundbreaking designs for production vehicles. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1927 LaSalle Series 303

Earl’s eye-catching design work in California caught the attention of Cadillac president Lawrence Fisher, who was tasked with launching LaSalle, a new brand by Cadillac that would bridge the price gap between GM’s flagship luxury brand and Buick. The LaSalle was meant to appeal to younger buyers, and Fisher hired Earl as a consultant to give the LaSalle visual panache in line with the custom work he was doing in California. Earl’s design for the LaSalle was the first production car ever designed by a stylist. Shortly after that, General Motors hired him to lead its newly created design division, originally called the Art and Colour Section—it would later become known as the General Motors Styling Section and continues today as GM Design.

1941 LaSalle at the Detroit Concours 2022. Also featured is another highlight of the Harley Earl cars, the 1927 LaSalle Series 303, which aimed at the mid-priced luxury market and offered buyers a blend of affordability and elegance. Earl's inspiration for the LaSalle was rooted in his passion for aviation design, which is why the car's fenders resemble wings. The LaSalle Series 303 was one of Harley Earl's most successful concept cars.
1941 LaSalle at the Detroit Concours d’Elegance 2022. Also featured is another highlight of the Harley Earl cars, the 1927 LaSalle Series 303, which aimed at the mid-priced luxury market and offered buyers a blend of affordability and elegance. Earl’s inspiration for the LaSalle was rooted in his passion for aviation design, which is why the car’s fenders resemble wings. The LaSalle Series 303 was one of Harley Earl’s most successful concept cars. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept

Celebrated today as the industry’s first “concept car,” the Y-Job is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of design and engineering innovation that served as Earl’s personal vehicle for over a decade. Earl wanted a boattail roadster that communicated his vision of the future of automotive design. As such, the Y-Job featured an exciting laundry list of features, including retractable headlamps, a power top that stowed beneath a hinged metal decklid, power windows, and push-button exterior door handles. Upon its public debut in 1939, the press dubbed it the “Car of the Future.” In 2016, the Y-Job was the 14th vehicle enshrined in the National Historic Vehicle Register.

1939 Buick Y-Job Concept at the Detroit Concours 2022. Another standout vehicle from Harley Earl's portfolio is the 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept, which was the first-ever concept car. Earl himself drove this car as his personal vehicle for years and used it as a testing ground for new design ideas.
1939 Buick Y-Job Concept at the Detroit Concours 2022. Another standout vehicle from Harley Earl’s portfolio is the 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept, which was the first-ever concept car. Earl himself drove this car as his personal vehicle for years and used it as a testing ground for new design ideas. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
The Y-Job featured many futuristic design elements that are now staples of modern cars, such as concealed headlights and sleek, aerodynamic lines. The Y-Job is considered by many to be one of Harley Earl's best designs.
The Y-Job featured many futuristic design elements that are now staples of modern cars, such as concealed headlights and sleek, aerodynamic lines. The Y-Job is considered by many to be one of Harley Earl’s best designs. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
The convertible top was operated by an electric motor, which was a cutting-edge technology in the late 1930s. The Y-Job also had power windows, a power antenna, and power seats.
The convertible top was operated by an electric motor, which was a cutting-edge technology in the late 1930s. The Y-Job also had power windows, a power antenna, and power seats. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1951 General Motors LeSabre Concept

Widely considered to be Earl’s greatest work, the LeSabre concept is a masterpiece that represented Earl’s audacious vision of the future. Its styling was inspired by jet aircraft design; Its sleek bodywork is composed of aluminum, magnesium, and fiberglass. Power comes from a 335 HP, 215 CID V-8 engine designed to run on both gasoline and ethanol stored in aircraft-style fuel bladders within the LeSabre’s prominent tailfins. The engine is mated to GM’s first rear-mounted Hydramatic transmission. An aircraft-inspired cockpit features heated seats, a water sensor that automatically raises the power top at the onset of rain, and controls for a chassis-integrated jack system. Once he retired from show duties, it became Earl’s personal vehicle.


Among Harley Earl's best designs was the 1951 General Motors LeSabre Concept. This sleek and futuristic vehicle featured a bubble top canopy, jet-inspired tailfins, and a wraparound windshield that gave it a streamlined and aerodynamic appearance.
Among Harley Earl’s best designs was the 1951 General Motors LeSabre Concept. This sleek and futuristic vehicle featured a bubble top canopy, jet-inspired tailfins, and a wraparound windshield that gave it a streamlined and aerodynamic appearance. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
It was powered by a gas turbine engine and had innovative features like electronic controls and power windows. The LeSabre Concept was an embodiment of Earl's forward-thinking approach to design and his desire to push the boundaries of what was possible.
It was powered by a gas turbine engine and had innovative features like electronic controls and power windows. The LeSabre Concept was an embodiment of Earl’s forward-thinking approach to design and his desire to push the boundaries of what was possible. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
At the time, the LeSabre Concept was considered a technological marvel and a symbol of the post-war optimism that permeated American society. It was a showstopper at the 1951 General Motors Motorama and went on to influence the design of numerous cars that followed.
At the time, the LeSabre Concept was considered a technological marvel and a symbol of the post-war optimism that permeated American society. It was a showstopper at the 1951 General Motors Motorama and went on to influence the design of numerous cars that followed. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
One of the most striking things about the LeSabre Concept is how well it has aged. Even today, it looks modern and fresh, a testament to Earl's visionary approach to automotive design. It's no wonder that the LeSabre Concept is still celebrated today as one of the greatest Harley Earl concept cars ever created.
One of the most striking things about the LeSabre Concept is how well it has aged. Even today, it looks modern and fresh, a testament to Earl’s visionary approach to automotive design. It’s no wonder that the LeSabre Concept is still celebrated today as one of the greatest Harley Earl concept cars ever created. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1957 Cadillac Series 62

Cadillac introduced the fifth generation of the Series 62 for the 1957 model year. This new generation of Series 62 was offered as a 6.0L V8-powered coupe, convertible, or sedan. The fifth generation Series 62 was produced until 1958. This particular example is, without doubt, restored to the highest level and drew lots of attention at the 2022 Detroit Concours d’Elegance.

The 1957 Cadillac Series 62 boasts smooth curves, a sleek profile, and elegant chrome detailing. The Series 62 was also a testament to Earl's ability to incorporate innovative design elements, such as the tailfins that would become a hallmark of his style.
The 1957 Cadillac Series 62 boasts smooth curves, a sleek profile, and elegant chrome detailing. The Series 62 was also a testament to Earl’s ability to incorporate innovative design elements, such as the tailfins that would become a hallmark of his style. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1959 Cadillac Eldorado

For 1959, the Series 62 and Series 70 shared the same 130 in. (3,302 mm) wheelbase. New mechanical items were a “scientifically engineered” drainage system and new shock absorbers. All Eldorados were characterized by a three-deck, jeweled rear grille insert that replicated the texture of the front grille. The engine output was an even 345 hp (257 kW) from the 390 cu in (6.4 L). Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, backup lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rear-view mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six-way power seats, heater, fog lamps, remote control deck lid, radio and antenna with rear speaker, power vent windows, air suspension, electric door locks, and license frames.

One of the Harley Earl cars on display at the Detroit Concours was the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. With its sleek body and chrome accents, it's easy to see why this car was a popular symbol of luxury in its time. Earl's attention to detail is evident in the Eldorado's unique taillights and distinctive fins that were becoming a staple of his design language.
One of the Harley Earl cars on display at the Detroit Concours was the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. With its sleek body and chrome accents, it’s easy to see why this car was a popular symbol of luxury in its time. Earl’s attention to detail is evident in the Eldorado’s unique taillights and distinctive fins that were becoming a staple of his design language. Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

To continue examining Wayne Ellwood’s reporting on the 2022 Concours of Detroit, let us move on.

Just to repeat what has been announced throughout the year, the Hagerty insurance company has acquired several concours d’Elegance events. This has several implications. For the former Concours d’Elegance at St John’s Inn, this means that the event is now under new management and a new location in downtown Detroit. For you and me, this means that Hagerty is now on track to enhance its overall role in the automotive community. This change in the company’s branding is reflected in its new lexicon. Henceforth, you should know (and reference) that Hagerty is an automotive lifestyle brand and specialty insurance provider. It’s a mouthful, to be sure. But it does mean they are active on many more levels than just the insurance component.

The smooth flow of this year’s Concours of Detroit attests that they are well-prepared to take on their new mantle and that we can expect a degree of consistency and thoughtfulness in all future events. Of course, a downtown location brings challenges, but I think they handled the whole thing well enough to throw a few flowers in their direction.

As for the cars of interest to us (i.e., Corvettes), this was not necessarily a volume event, but the quality was superb and, if we add the special class for the “Cars of Harley Earl,” I think any reader will be satisfied.

2023 C8 ZO6 Display

  • 2023 C8 Corvette ZO6 at Concours of Detroit 22 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 2023 C8 Corvette ZO6 at Concours of Detroit 22 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 2023 C8 Corvette ZO6 at Concours of Detroit 22 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 2023 C8 Corvette ZO6 at Concours of Detroit 22 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

Sports Cars of the 1950s

Within two brief years, Corvette had advanced from a car on the brink of being extinct to one exhibiting true potential for a prolonged existence. Despite General Motors’ insignificant sales of the Chevrolet Corvette in 1956, it was obvious to all that it was starting to be seen as a serious sports car. Even after the immense renovation it underwent in 1956, Corvette experienced substantial developments in 1957.

The existing 265-cid engine was increased to 283-cid with an additional 1/8-inch bore (3.875 inches) to produce a more powerful 220 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor. Consumers could choose to equip the dual four-barrel configuration, raising the engine output to 245 horsepower (270 bhp) or take advantage of GM’s newly-released Ramjet fuel injection, capable of 259 horsepower (283 bhp).

1957 Corvette owned by Eugene Ostentoski at the Detroit Concours 2022

  • 1957 Corvette owned by Eugene Ostentoski - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 1957 C1 Corvette owned by Eugene Ostentoski - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • C1 1957 Corvette owned by Eugene Ostentoski - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

Ed Welburn Honored as Automotive Designer, Executive Director, and Supporter

Ed Welburn, a designer, author, and retired head of Global Design for General Motors was proclaimed the Hagerty Honoree for his lifelong dedication to the automotive world. Ed is also a National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame inductee and, if I understood correctly, an inductee to the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit. Ed was honored during the opening ceremony for this year’s concours and played his role with his 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.  

Ed’s favorite story about his C1 Corvette is how he came to own it…” I call my 1957 Corvette the most expensive cappuccino I have ever purchased. It was 2016, and I went to a Starbucks in Monterey (CA). As I walked out, I ran into the former baseball player Reggie Jackson, whom I had known for years. We decided to go back to his garage [which was nearby]. Reggie’s garage is full of muscle cars and baseball memorabilia. I turned the corner, and there was this 1957 Corvette, silver with red interior.”

This was the first time Ed had ever seen a silver 1957 Corvette, which is unsurprising since only 65 were made that year. The fact that the car was designed by his hero, Earl, also brought extra meaning to the purchase.

According to Ed… “Harley Earl was the first to run an organized automobile-design studio in America. He pushed to make cars longer, lower, and sleeker.” To honor his hero, he equipped the car with a “Mr. Earl” license plate.

The same year he purchased the car, he retired from General Motors and ordered another Corvette, a 2016 model Z06, also in silver with a red interior.

Ed Welburn at the opening ceremony at the Detroit Concours 2022

  • Ed Welburn at the opening ceremony at the Detroit Concours 2022 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • Ed Welburn at the opening ceremony at the Detroit Concours 2022 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • Ed Welburn at the opening ceremony at the Detroit Concours 2022 - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

1957 Corvette that is Ed Welburn’s Personal Car

  • 1957 Corvette that is Ed Welburn's Personal Car - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 1957 C1 Corvette that is Ed Welburn's Personal Car - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood
  • 1957 Corvette Interior owned by Ed Welburn - Photo Credit Wayne Ellwood

Here are some other articles you might enjoy:

Discovering the Legacy of Harley J Earl: the Father of Corvette and Pioneering Designer

Unlock the Secret of Harley Earl, Watkins Glen, Corvette, and Le Sabre

The One and Only 1963 Harley Earl Corvette Convertible

GM Design Chief Ed Welburn To Retire July 1, 2016

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