Welcome to the first in a new, regular, series of features in which we highlight an important, forgotten or just plain cool concept car each week.
Concept cars have thrilled and inspired for decades, testing the limits in terms of technology and design and shaping the ways cars are designed today. They're the pinnacle of our art and probably the thing that first piqued your interest in car design.
We thought it only fitting, then, that the first car we bring you is the first true concept: the 1938 Buick Y-Job.
The Buick Y-Job was designed in 1938 by George Snyder under the direction of Harley J. Earl, GM's first design chief. It was never intended for production but was a showcase for some of Earl's more experimental ideas. It embraced the era's obsession with streamlining through its retractable headlamps (not the first – that accolade goes to the 1937 Cord), recessed tail lamps, a flush roof cover and retractable handles for the doors and trunk.
Even though it wasn't widely shown to the American public after the end of the Second World War it was still unbelievably futuristic. Many of its features eventually filtered down to the cars average Americans could park on their driveways.
Earl actually drove the car himself for some time, after which it was packed off to a warehouse before being moved to the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan. It was later restored and became the centerpiece of a concept car revival at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
In 1993, the Y-Job came home to the GM Design Center in Warren, where it now resides as an honored member of GM's heritage collection.
First shown New York 1939
Designer Harley J. Earl/George Snyder
Engine 5,244cc Dynaflash straight-8