The Buick Y-Job was the first ever concept car in the automotive industry, first made by the company in 1938. It had electric windows, concealed headlights, and the signature Buick grill, among other notable features. It’s iconic status is cemented in automotive history because of it being the first concept car, but also because many of its features became a mainstay in the industry for years after. (Buick’s 2001 Blackhawk draws heavily on inspiration from the early Y-Job concept car.)
The Historic Vehicle Association, founded in 2009, partnered with the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2013 to help draw up guidelines that would be crucial in developing the National Historic Vehicle Register. The HVA is one of the biggest organizations in the world representing owners and enthusiasts of historic vehicles and is also the North American representative for the Federation Internationale Vehicules Anciens (FIVA).
They Buick Y-Job’s place in history is an interesting one since everything from the name to the design to the lack of production raised questions. It existed only as a concept car because it was the brainchild of Harley Earl (later the vice president at GM), who sought to make a dream car with style. Featuring a crosshair hood ornament and electric convertible top, it was something that few people had seen anything like.
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Influence & Aftermath of the 1938 Buick Y-Job
It could be argued that 1938 Buick Y-Job had as much impact on the future design of cars as any in its time. Many of the models put out by American manufacturers in the decades that followed showed heavy doses of influence from the Y-Job.
The design of the vehicle certainly broke from tradition in a number of ways, particularly in regard to the exterior of the car. It lacked the running boards that were standard on all automobiles at the time, mainly because they weren’t necessary because the Y-Job sat lower and wider than other cars during that time.
The signature Buick waterfall grille might be the most recognizable modern component from the Y-Job. In fact, it’s still used on many of their models today and has become a hallmark of the brand. The retractable top on the convertible was also something that would stick in the auto world, along with power windows.
The Y-Job also had headlights that were power operated and hidden from view until needed. This was not necessarily as new of a twist as some of its other more noteworthy components–hidden headlamps had previously been used on vehicles manufactured by Cord a year prior. There is some speculation that Mr. Earl could have gotten the idea for the headlights from the rival automaker.
The Buick Y-Job is just the 14th automobile to be added to the Historic Vehicle Registry, firmly and rightfully establishing its place in the history of automobile development.
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