General Motor’s First Concept Car: The Buick Y-Job

Buick Y-Job

This Buick Y-Job is believed to be first concept car released by General Motors and has just been included in the National Historic Vehicle Register by the Historic Vehicle Association.

The Y-Job was designed by Harley Earl together with his Styling team in General Motors will be joining the roster of historic vehicles including the New York-to-Paris winning Thomas Flyer, the GM Futurliner, and the 1st Meyers Manx Dune Buggy. The project is achieved through the partnership of Historic American Engineering Record, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the records provided by the Library of Congress.

The Y-Job’s addition to the register was made public at the 50th anniversary of the Buick Club of America as well as the opening of the National Laboratory by HVA located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. According to HVA President Mark Gessler in a press release: “The Buick Y-Job is a true American design treasure and an incredibly appropriate vehicle to document during our National Laboratory grand opening.”

General Motor’s First Concept Car

GM Global Design Vice President Michael Simcoe said: “Harley Earl and the Buick Y-Job expanded the boundaries of car design and drew the blueprint for concept vehicle design and execution. We thank the HVA for ensuring the world’s first concept car is documented and preserved for future generations.”

Buick Y Job

The announcement made by HVA honored the efforts of both GM’s engineering and design teams that created the Y-Job in the late 30s. One interesting feature of the Y-Job was its rain sensor located in the center console that would automatically close the convertible top while it is parked during sudden rainfall.

Buick Y-Job interior

An official HVA press release explaining the history of the Y-Job:

“The Buick Y-Job was created under the direction of GM’s legendary design chief, Harley J. Earl. The car was described at the time as a ‘convertible coupe’ hand-built on a custom Buick chassis and powered by a Buick Series 50 engine with special experimental features.”

black Buick Y-Job

“The Y-Job foreshadowed many design features that were adopted over the next several decades. The low and wider design eliminated the need for running boards and improved stability. The car incorporated 13-inch wheels and brakes with features used on airplanes at the time.”

original Buick Y-Job

“The body was beautifully streamlined and extended front fenders into doors. The rear of the car featured a fully concealed convertible top, boat tail design, and the hint of the tailfins that became iconic design elements of cars in the 1950s. The grill was far lower and wider than what was typical of the period and included novel retractable headlamps. The hood was described as ‘alligator-type’ of one piece that was a departure from the two piece hoods from the time.”

The new HVA National Laboratory was specifically built for photogrammetry, automotive photography, 3D scanning, and videography. The facility will also house the growing archives of HVA, both physical and digital. According to HVA, the laboratory will be used for the expanding collection of the National Historic Vehicle Register. One of its unique features is a 40×40 foot room that is enclosed by infinity walls and a turntable embedded in the floor which will be used for documentary photography of the most historic and iconic vehicles of all time.


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