Showing posts with label Concept Car. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Concept Car. Show all posts

Saturday, March 4, 2023

1951 Buick LeSabre Concept | Harley J. Earl Advanced Technology The World Wasn't Ready For

1951 Buick LeSabre Concept

Back in 1951, this convertible Buick LeSabre was not just extreme looking, it was way ahead of its time. It had technology advancements that weren't even thought of yet and would give us a sneak peek into the future of the automotive industry. 

Harley J. Earl was the lead designer of this beautiful piece of machinery. From 1927 to 1958, he was General Motors' Head-of-Styling and had his hands in the cookie jar of many breakthrough designs and technology projects that would change the auto industry for years to come. 

One of the first things that really set this car apart was that it could function on gasoline and methyl alcohol. There were separate fuel cells for both sources and an easy way to switch between the two from the convenience of the driver seat. It also had one of the first smaller engines that could produce high horsepower, much like what we see in today's vehicles. This Buick used a 215 cubic-inch V8 HEMI aluminum block topped off with dual carbs, aluminum heads, and a supercharger that produced 29.5 PSI. All these goodies made the engine good for 335-hp @5,500-RPM. In 1951, that was an outstanding number for such a small engine.

The styling was nothing short of artwork for this concept Buick. Earl designed the first wraparound windshield that gave the driver a panoramic view of the road and surrounding areas. It also saw the likes of GM's first rear brake coolers that used functioning rear scoops on the back quarter panel. The scoops were designed and positioned to cool the brakes and the battery located in the back.

One of the very noticeable features that people hadn't seen too much of was the hidden futuristic headlights that would pop out from behind the grille with a flip of a switch. Also, the Buick LeSabre had a feature on it that, to this day, is only really used on Indy and Formula-1 cars. The automatic jack system was the first of its kind and allowed you to work under your car without a floor jack or jack stands. Maybe today, the feature doesn't sound like much but think back to 1951 and the stock emergency jack that would be provided for you if you had an unfortunate flat tire. Remember, in '51, there were no cell phones to call AAA or a friend and no OnStar-type systems.

Another feature that would really stun you back in 1951 was the automatic sensors that could recognize rain and put your rag-top and windows up without you being around to control them. The Buick even had a backup source of power, so if your battery died, you could still at least control features like the radio, windows, and the rag-top.

This concept was designed from Earl's imagination and his love for jet airplane designs. The sleek styling lines and the flamboyant curves are what really sets this Buick apart. The interior even showed a little bit of aeronautical passion, with a dashboard that included an altimeter, tachometer, and a compass.

Earl adopted this 1951 Buick LeSabre as his own and drove it till he had about 50,000 miles on it before handing it over to the GM museum in the 1960s. Earl was a well-respected engineer who became a legend along with his creations like this one.

Monday, December 23, 2019

1987 Record-Breaking Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner

1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner

'87 Recording-Breaking Oldsmobile Aerotech

Like with most kids who are fascinated with cars, there is always that one car or vehicle that captures your imagination. Be it a Corvette, Lambo, Ferrari, Monster Truck, low rider, or something else major awesome, there is always one that just makes you want to go fast and look cool. Mine was the 1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner

The spaceship-looking, aerodynamic silver bullet as I called it, made me wonder just how cool and how much faster will cars be when I got old enough to drive. 

By the time I was seven, in 1987, my father had already worked for Buick for 20 years give-or-take, so I already knew about the advancements in turbo technology and what it could do for smaller engines. (e.i. Grand National, T-Types, etc.) But it was really the 2.0-liter Aerotech Oldsmobile that put out astonishing recording-breaking speed numbers that made me realize that with the right technology, the sky was really the limit.

Designing And Building The Oldsmobile Aerotech     
Oldsmobile and GM knew they had to have three major components to get the Aerotech vision designed, engineered, and ready to hit the track for record-breaking speeds. The first component was they needed a designer/developer. For that, they put their trust in Ed Welburn, Oldsmobile’s Assistant Chief Designer back in the ‘80s and now Vice President of GM Design North America. 

The next component they needed was a place to design and build the rendering and the finished products. They choose a basement in one of Oldsmobile studios where they knew they would be out of the prying eyes of the public and even Olds and GM employees that were not to know what was going on. 

The third component was choosing a pilot for this spaced ship looking beast, and they choose the best. Since the Aerotech Streamliner was going to be tested at a famous track near Fort Stockton, Texas, Oldsmobile decided to go with a Texas native and one of the best race car drivers of all time, four-time Indianapolis winner, A.J. Foyt.  

Structure And Stats
For the chassis, a March 84C carbon fiber kart racer that had already won an Indy 500 was chosen. For the driver, a cockpit that looked more like an F16 fighter jet cockpit was designed with digital instrument panels and HUD technology.   

For the powerplant, there were two designed. Both were based on the 2.0-liter Oldsmobile Quad-4 engine. One was boosted by a single turbocharger and pumped out 900-hp, and the other was a twin-turbocharged that pumped out 1,000-hp. 

When it came to the body style, Oldsmobile brought in more designers from the GM staff to help design an almost completely aerodynamic, closed cockpit body. Two versions were designed and built: the Long-Tail (LT) and the Short-Tail (ST). Both versions used specially designed automatic adjusting underbody sections to control the distribution of downforce from front to back.  

Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner

Major Records Broke
The first record that was broken was on August 26, 1987. Originally set by Phill Hill in 1959 in an MG Streamliner, the 2.0-liter class “World Flying-Mile Record” would get crushed by A.J. Foyt with the Aerotech Long-Tail (LT) with a two-way average speed of 267.399 mph (431.10 km/h). During the run, at certain points, the Aerotech reached speeds of 278.357 mph. 

The next day, the second record that was broken was the Closed-Course Speed Record which was set by a Mercedes-Benz Streamliner in 1979. A.J. Foyt, again, drove the Aerotech Streamliner to a top speed of 257.123 mph (413.788 km/h) breaking the previous Closed-Course Speed Record. 

290 MPH Oldsmobile

Altogether, this four-cylinder beast broke the 290 mph barrier.

The Fourth And Final Version Of The Aerotech
The fourth and final version of the Aerotech was a Long-Tail version designed and created sometime in between ‘87 and early ‘92. The biggest changes were an engine upgrade from the turbo 2.0-liter Olds Quad-4 to a turboed-up 4.0-liter Oldsmobile Aurora V8. The Aerotech also received a set of working head and tail lights for its next adventure. 

That next adventure would come on December 7-15 1992. The Aerotech Streamliner was brought back to the same Texas track, not to just break one-or-two records, but to break 47-speed endurance records in a short span of eight days with a team of racers and mechanics working day and night. 

Funny Thing About The Project
The 1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner project was originally designed to get younger buyers interested in Oldsmobiles. Olds even used commercials with slogans in them for their campaign like “Not Your Father’s Olds”. 

Unfortunately, the campaign never really took off, and the younger generation still saw the cars as hand-me-downs or grocery-getters. But one thing is for sure, the Oldsmobile Aerotech Streamliner will go down in history as one of the most technically advanced, record-breaking vehicles of its time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Harley J. Earl: Four Important Contributions Given To The Automotive Industry

Harley J. Earl

Harley J. Earl

Harley J. Earl started his career at General Motors in the design department as Head of Design. After proving his skills to be invaluable, General Motors appointed him to become Vice President of the corporation.  

The move by GM made Mr. Earl the first-ever appointed top executive of a major corporation in American history. Every executive prior to Earl was grandfathered into their positions.

So what made him so desirable?

What made General Motors go so far out of character to appoint Mr. Earl and his abilities to a Vice President position?

Not only was Earl’s ability to design vehicles incredible, but he also had a knack that no one else did, he could tap into what the consumer wanted.  

Instead of designing vehicles that General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford deemed as profitable, he wanted to design and build vehicles that consumers wanted to see and drive. This idealism made General Motors nervous, but ultimately they trusted in Earl with good outcomes. GM saw the rise in public excitement, vehicle sales, and of course, profits.

Here are just four of Harley J. Earl’s important contributions to the automotive industry.    

Harley J. Earl


1. Freeform Sketching and Hand Sculpted Clay Models: Harley J. Earl was a coachbuilder by trade. By honing and adjusting his craft, he became a pioneer of car design by introducing the use of freeform sketching and hand-sculpting clay models. Bringing this skill to the industry helped create some of the finest bodylines that we’ve come to know and love today.

1954 Corvette

2. Chevrolet Corvette: Earl decided that America needed a real sports car, one that resembled the English and European sports cars that were getting built overseas after WWII.

With Earl’s already established reputation in the automotive industry, he didn’t think he would get too much pull from other executives by presenting the thought of taking on such a risky project as creating a sports car, and he didn’t.

He went to Chevrolet’s general manager, Ed Cole, with a secret project called “Project Opel." With complete confidence in Harley Earl, Mr. Cole gave him the okay with no hesitation. Not more than a year later, in 1953, America would get its first glimpse at what would become the most iconic American sports car ever built, the Chevrolet Corvette.  

Buick y-job 1938

3. First Concept Car: The 1939 Buick Y-Job was the first-ever concept car built. Earl recognized early the need to get the public's reaction to a vehicle's appearances and performance before one is put into production.

Under Earl’s supervision and direction, the General Motors styling division created something similar to what they hoped would become the next production car for Buick. With enough interest and feedback from the public, GM put a vehicle into production that turned out to be very successful. With such success with the “concept car”, to this day the concept is used every year by every large automotive corporation in the world. 


Automotive Tailfins

4. Tailfins: If you like the look of classic cars, then you know you like the look of tailfins. They’re stylish, they’re sexy, and the design of them are credited to Harley J. Earl. First appearing on the Frank Hershey 1948 Cadillac, they became an iconic look that was used throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Automotive Tailfins

After the public accepted the look, Detroit car builders, especially Chrysler, competed to see who could design the most complex, biggest tailfins that could fit on the back of a car while still looking awesome.

Automotive Tailfins

An American Automotive Pioneer

Harley J. Earl

Some of the coolest inventions and designs the public gets to enjoy in the automotive industry today are credited to Harley J Earl. Without him, who knows if we would have the Corvette, the ‘57 Chevy, and concept cars among many other great things we get to enjoy credited to Earl. 

1951 Buick LeSabre

You don’t hear about him too much, but we should always remember one of the great pioneers of the automotive industry.