Monday, June 18, 2012

GM Design and Buick celebrate 85 Years

This week marks the 85th Anniversary of GM Design, formed in June, 1927 as Art and Color and headed by the legendary Harley Earl. There is no doubt that GM revolutionized automotive design and created the blueprint which is still in use today. Renamed GM Styling in 1937 and then GM Design in 1972, GM revolutionized the industry with dedicated studios, separate studios for interiors, and the creation of what is known today as the "Concept Car."

To mark this milestone in a Buick way, here are the most significant Buick concept cars from the thirties into the seventies. Let's start chosen the industry's first concept car, the 1938 Buick Y-Job - still one of the most admired cars of all time, the Y Job featured hidden headlamps and taillamps integrated into the fenders, and eliminated running boards completely. The design direction for Buick in the 1940's can be clearly seen. The Y-Job is part of the GM Heritage Collection.

The long, low XP-300 of 1951 looks like a combination of sports car and aircraft. The front end predicts the 1954 Buick line while the tail tapers like a jet plane. The wraparound windshield makes its debut as well. Fully driveable, the XP-300 is in the Sloan Museum in Flint. 

The Wildcat I of 1953 explores Buick themes old and new. The front clearly predicts the 1955 Buicks while the tail lamps and sweep spear trim recall the 1949 model. The Wildcat I featured fixed brake drums in front which the wheels rotated around. While more than one were supposedly built, there is one known survivor in private hands today.

Wildcat II of 1954 was possibly the sportiest Buick ever designed. The exposed front wheels and freestanding headlamps have the car the look of a Le Mans racing car. The wire wheels are genuine. The car is finished to a degree that suggests production was considered. It is part of the Sloan Museum Collection in Flint. 

The Wildcat II Show car of 1955 previewed the side profile of the 1957 models. The car was made of fiberglass and unlike most of Buick's concept cars of the 50s, this one has been lost to history. Few images survive of the Wildcat III. 

Centurion of 1956 is stunning from any angle. Designed by Chuck Jordan, it features a clear plastic canopy roof, delta wing fins, sculptured sweep spear sides and unique headlamp pods. Inside it has bucket seats that swivel and rotate. It has a fantastic interior including a back up camera. Many design cues for the 1957 Buick can be seen here, as well as a hint at the future Corvette grille. It survives in original condition at the Sloan Museum in Flint. 

 The 1956X Century was created for the personal use of Bill Mitchell. It features over 100 changes from a production Century convertible, including special bucket seats that swivel and rotate, side exhausts, wire wheels, and a special two tone color scheme. All of the special trim on this car was hand made. It is being restored by a private owner in Michigan. 

Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrow was a constantly evolving automobile. It was literally a rolling test laboratory for new ideas and underwent many changes at Mr. Mitchell's command. It has a stretched hood and front fenders, chopped top, and a hand sewn silver leather interior including handmade gauges on the dash. It survives in the Sloan Museum in Flint, MI today.

Silver Arrow III was created in 1972. Like the first Silver Arrow, it became the personal transportation of Bill Mitchell. It features a chopped top, six Cibie headlamps, wire wheels and an interior of hand sewn silver leather. It survives today and is housed in the GM Heritage Collection. 

Reynolds Buick GMC congratulates GM Design on 85 years of outstanding and innovative products. Keep those beautiful Buicks coming!

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