HARLEY GREW UP IN HOLLYWOOD
The Earl automotive story didn’t begin with Harley, but rather with his father, Jacob W. (J.W.) Earl, a late 19th Century coach builder, who started the family’s auto heritage in 1889 — seven years before Henry Ford built his first car in 1896; see a four-part online series on the Earl's "California Years” at theoldmotor.com. No wonder J.W.'s great-grandson has so much auto passion, Richard Earl is part of one of America’s first families on wheels.
CAR INDUSTRY DISRUPTOR
Who was the team leader behind the largest industrial company in the world built through design leadership? With all its major ups and downs, General Motors still remains this nation's largest car company. The following quote from a "Best of America" news article sets the record straight behind the founder of Detroit's Dependency on Design, "His drive to execute his vision turned Harley Earl into a car industry disruptor, 70 years before disruptors became cool. GM's competitors didn't want to redesign their cars every year. But Harley Earl's success forced them to."
Earl was the first person to bridge the art world to mass production in the auto industry and this pioneering engineer of desire called it, “the Modern Art of Industry.” Through Harley's studio doors rolled the cars that would ignite a nation's love affair with the automobile, establishing Detroit as the auto design capital of the world, creating a huge contemporary art market, and enabling the auto industry to become mid-twentieth-century America’s economic backbone. During the mid-twentieth century, the innovative team of leaders at GM stood behind Pioneer-Earl and created the modern Car Design soul that ignited the meteoric rise of today's global automotive economy.
Harley J. Earl (HJE) didn't become America's Car Design Pioneer without putting up a fight, and winning, against legions of traditional Detroit engineers and finance guys. What was his ongoing goal? Building 10s of millions of sexy hi-tech beautiful vehicles. Doing so landed him in the rarefied spot of becoming the auto industry's first design superstar who turned car designers into the rock stars of the auto industry. Leslie Kendall, chief curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Ca., puts it this way, "Harley J. Earl is one of the most hotly collected artists of the 20th Century, whose name is ironically often unknown among collectors of his work." Sounds like the icing on the cake of this man’s long career.
Harley's accolades are as numerous as they are diverse: inventing the concept car, being the first to use full-size clay modeling, first on-board computer in a car, hiring and advancing women car designers, the Corvette, first hands-free autonomous cars, creating the landmark Car Design Scholarship program, and supplying the auto design curriculum to such universities as Art Center College of Design and Pratt Institute.
From university students to Vietnam veterans to Fortune 500 executives and Nonprofits, the story behind this American auto heritage is as important as it is inspiring.