Cars We Remember: Legendary GM Designer Harley J. Earl

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1953 Buick Convertible
Photos are compliments of Richard Earl, grandson of legendary GM designer Harley J. Earl, the latter who we’ve written about many times in this column. His designs are respected to this day as the best ever in the car design industry. Pictured is his 1953 Buick convertible, another legend. Please visit the links Richard gives in the article for more photos and information.

Harley Earl’s grandson Richard Earl responds to La Salle column

Q: Hi Greg, maybe you want to share some of what follows with your LaSalle audience after reading your recent great article. Basically,  after reading your story I just emailed you.

Anyway, I just wrote an article for a LaSalle club newsletter entitled, “A Breakthrough On An 87-year Old Controversy.” The article flushes out the “delicious pressure” of what was going on in the background of General Motor’s (GM’s) engineering world after my grandfather Harley began working with key players in “autodom” (Cadillac) starting in the mid-20s.

After Harley stepped down some 30-odd years later, many GM engineers would go on to do a number (in the history books) on his legacy.

No doubt this has to do with how badly America’s auto design pioneer/HJE had sidelined GM’s myriad of traditional engineers from being at all involved in the exciting genesis process of creating the company’s new product designs.

In other words, after Harley’s new hybrid-engineering/art department, a.k.a. GM Art & Colour, came into existence and when it turned into GM Styling it really became powerful.

Harley and his team of players took entire control of this exciting engineering process of, “WHAT A GM CAR WOULD BE,” and hence all GM’s cars became not only more useful, but beautiful, too.


Harley J. Earl Facebook photo
Pictured is Harley with a bevy of his beloved Corvettes, an ad for his School of Auto Design Please visit the links Richard gives in the article for more photos and information.

You could even say that right after HJE stepped down from the auto business, something new started in the 1960s. This was

when the traditional engineers inside GM ganged up right alongside the finance guys, (remember, both these factions had entirely been cut out of the creative control process HJE and his team dominated for 30-plus years), so moving forward in auto history,

let’s just say for simplicity’s sake “the decades that followed the 1960s” some of GM’s biggest engineers and finance guys had an axe to grind and went on to get even with HJE’s legacy/design department.

In this aftermath, GM’s auto designs (especially the Interior Designs of all GM’s cars) were significantly watered down in comparison to the cars Harley and his team designed so flawlessly.

Your readers can please take notice of the La Salle Club article link I leave below.

Also, if you get a chance, the fast-growing  Harley Earl “I Love Automobile” Facebook page has a trove of pictures and scholarly info I feel your many readers will enjoy.

Harley Earl Auto Design school
Compliments of Richard Earl

Check us out at Harley Earl I love Automobiles.

Here’s the link for the LaSalle article. (

Take care, Richard Earl, Harley’s youngest grandson.

A: Richard, I am honored that you have contacted me as I hold your grandfather in the highest of esteem when it comes to General Motors design. He indeed is the most influential designer/engineer EVER!

I want to thank you, along with my readers, for the links you provide as both are loaded with excellent photos and information. I’ve already “liked” your Facebook page, and look forward to chatting with you soon.

Another reader, C.J. Marshall of Towanda, Pa., noted that he always wondered what a LaSalle automobile was as he recalled in the opening number of “All in the Family,” that the next to the last line that Archie and Edith sang was “Gee our old LaSalle ran great,” right before the ear-shattering “Those were the days!!!!!!”

Thanks again for your letter and links as I’m sure my readers will enjoy the hours of fun ahead of them checking them out.

For more info: Harley Earl on Facebook

La Salle Appreciation Society

Top 12 Harley Earl Designs

National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame

(Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, and other GateHouse Media publications.  He welcomes reader comments or questions on auto nostalgia, collector cars or old-time racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email him at


Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla