The Buick Y-Job, considered to be the first futuristic concept car, is the latest vehicle selected by the Historic Vehicle Association for inclusion in the National Historic Vehicle Register.
The car, designed Harley Earl and his General Motors Styling team, joins such vehicles as the New York-to-Paris winning Thomas Flyer, the first Meyers Manx dune buggy and the GM Futurliner in the register, a project being done in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Historic American Engineering Record and the archives of the Library of Congress.
The Y-Job’s inclusion in the register was announced last week during the Buick Club of America’s 50th anniversary celebration and the opening of HVA’s National Laboratory in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where the club held its annual gathering.
“The Buick Y-Job is a true American design treasure and an incredibly appropriate vehicle to document during our National Laboratory grand opening,” Mark Gessler, HVA president, said in a news release.
“Harley Earl and the Buick Y-Job expanded the boundaries of car design and drew the blueprint for concept vehicle design and execution,” said Michael Simcoe, GM Global Design Vice President and the latest successor to Earl. “We thank the HVA for ensuring the world’s first concept car is documented and preserved for future generations.”
The HVA announcement noted that GM’s design and engineering teams worked together in the late 1930s on the car, which included such features as a rain sensor on the center console so the convertible top would close automatically while parked should inclement weather develop.
“The Buick Y-Job was created under the direction of GM’s legendary design chief, Harley J. Earl,” the HVA said in its news release. “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.
“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.
“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 announcement of the Y-Job joining the register was made at the grand opening of the HVA National Laboratory, a purpose-built facility for automotive photography, photogrammetry, 3D scanning, videography and the HVA’s growing physical and digital archives. The HVA said its laboratory was built to standardize and streamline the expansion of the National Historic Vehicle Register program and includes a 40×40 foot white room with infinity walls on all sides and a turntable integrated into the floor for documentary photography of historic vehicles.
“The facility is believed to be the only facility of its kind in the world,” the HVA said, “The work done here will provide current and future generations a highly detailed, accurate and consistent record of some of the nation’s most significant automotive treasures.”
The new lab is located next to the new 27-acre NB Center for American Automotive Heritage, Nicola Bulgari’s facility that features a half-mile circular track, conference facilities, as well as his automotive restoration and preservation staff and collection curation.