The reveal of the Buick Avenir concept introduced in Detroit earlier this month prompts us to take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the most influential concepts borne out of the carmaker’s design studios.
Buick, under the direction of then GM’s first design director Harley Earl (pictured above), was the first company to create a concept car, the now exceptionally famous 1938 Buick Y-Job. As head of the Art and Color Section in Warren, Michigan, Earl created the car and used it as his daily driver.
“From designs that push the boundaries of graceful, elegant proportions and progressive interior designs, Buick’s concepts have always inspired with the relevance of a future that is not too far away,” says current VP of General Motors Global Design, Ed Welburn.
Here’s a look at five of the most influential concepts that advanced Buick’s design proficiency.
Buick Y-Job (1938)
Considered the industry’s first true concept car, the Y-Job was developed by Harley Earl, GM’s first design chief. It was designed solely to gauge the public’s response to the innovative styling and features rather than foreshadowing a new production model. The media immediately hailed the Y-Job as the “Car of the Future.” In many ways it was, as it previewed features that would become common throughout the industry, including power windows, flush-mounted door handles, disappearing headlamps, a concealed convertible top and more. The sleek roadster is a landmark of automotive design and represents the blueprint for concept vehicle design and execution.
Wildcat Series (1953-55, 1985)
The Wildcat series of concept vehicles pushed the brand’s design language forward and showcased new and innovative technologies, starting with the first Wildcat concept in 1953. It was a two-seater with a fiberglass body and four-wheel disc brakes. The 1954 Wildcat II – a smaller, sportier two-seater – introduced a more radical design, with open front fenders, while the 1955 Wildcat III showcased elongated front fender openings and the brand’s signature sweep-spear cue. The grille design of these early concepts influenced the new Avenir concept.
In 1985, Buick introduced a futuristic Wildcat concept that served as a test and data platform. Distinctly styled with a long rear deck, the Wildcat had no traditional doors, but a canopy that raised and lowered to allow access for two passengers. The body was made of fiberglass and carbon fiber. Behind the cabin and driving all four wheels was a unique engine based on the Buick 3.8-liter V6, featuring 24 valves, dual-overhead camshafts and an early version of electronically controlled port fuel injection. A head-up display cast a wealth of vehicle information onto the large windshield – a feature available on today’s LaCrosse.