Concept Cars

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

The 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car was considered to be significant for a number of reasons. This beautiful piece of automotive art has several factors that make it rather unique, and worthy of screen time. Let’s explore the mysteries of the Buick Y-Job, the gorgeous car with the odd name.

 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

Automotive Art

If you are an automotive enthusiast, you are probably familiar with the name Harley Earl. We have discussed several of his famous designs in the past, including the Cadillac Cylcone we recently covered. Harley Earl is also the designer of the Chevy Corvette. Harley was a pioneer in the automotive world in many ways, and the 1938 Buick Y-Job was no exception.

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car
1938 Buick Y-Job. W38HV_BU001

Concept Cars As A Concept

The Y-Job was the auto industry’s first concept car, which was a ground breaking concept at the time. Previous to 1938, auto makers would simply build a car, do a little publicity campaign, and hope for the best. The thinking at that time was that building a prototype that may never go into production was a waste of money. Harley thought it a good idea to actually build a prototype, tour it around the country, and then see how people reacted to it. This would give the company an idea of what people wanted, what they liked, and what worked best from a function standpoint.

This basic idea remains the standard today, although today the concept cars are not driven around. Concept cars today spend their time at auto shows instead of driving around, but the idea remains the same. Concept cars are now largely an experiment in design and technology to showcase what the car company can do.

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

Champagne Tastes On A Beer Budget

The Buick Y-Job was meant to be a dream car that everyone could afford. The country was deep in the Great Depression, so getting every car buyer dollar possible was important. It was also important to show the public that Buick could offer a luxury car on a meager budget. The Y-Job was built on a standard Buick “Super” chassis that already existed, however they stretched it a bit. Coil springs were added for a smooth ride, and a 320 cubic inch 141 hp engine was added to move it down the road. The body was streamlined and smoothed to give it a very elegant look.

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

Innovative Design

The Y-Job was groundbreaking in may ways,  including the use of a ‘gunsight’ hood ornament, wraparound chrome bumpers, and flush door handles. The vertical waterfall grille, which was introduced in this car,  became a standard in Buicks and is still in use today. The features that really got attention were the power operated “hidden” headlights that retracted when not in use, The first power operated headlights on a production car were on the much more expensive 1937 Cord. The photo above demonstrates the concealed headlights and waterfall grille.

1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car

One feature that really stood out was power windows. Electric power windows were still optional equipment, even on Cadillac and Corvette, in the 1970s! Crowds gathered around to see this astounding feature that we take for granted today.  Another of the more innovative features was the use of a power convertible top, which was groundbreaking at that time. This car was WAY ahead of its time!

Why Did He Call It 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car?

As for why the car was named the “Y-Job”, the answer is two-fold. .Experimental cars at that time were all called “X-Job”. Harley wanted this car to be one step beyond that, so he called it “Y-Job”.  Additionally, the “Y” designation was used a lot by the aviation industry to describe their most advanced prototypes, and this one was considered to be among the most advanced cars of the era.

This beautiful piece of art never was produced, aside from the one you see here. Harley had this single car built and drove it regularly, even though it was not a production car. He only decided to retire it when he replaced it with another car he designed, the LeSabre Concept car, in 1951. Not long after that, the 1938 Buick Y-Job Concept Car was restored and put on display at the GM Design Center.

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