Corvette Legend Harley Earl To Be Re-Inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame


  • Harley Earl Picture

    Harley Earl Picture

    Harley Earl, the legendary GM designer and a force behind the Chevrolet Corvette, will be re-inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. | June 13, 2013

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Just the Facts:
  • Auto designer Harley Earl, a driving force behind the 1953 Corvette, will be the first member of the Automotive Hall of fame to be re-inducted.
  • The honor will be bestowed as the Corvette celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is about to hit the market.
  • Look for another re-induction to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang next year, a museum official told Edmunds.

DEARBORN, Michigan — The Automotive Hall of Fame has decided for the first time to re-induct a current member. Harley Earl, known as a driving force behind the 1953 Corvette, will be re-inducted in July.

The honor will be bestowed as the Corvette celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is about to hit the market.

Since 1939, membership in the Automotive Hall of Fame has been granted only to those who have "significantly impacted the development of the automobile or the motor vehicle industry," people with names like Benz, Buick, Chrysler, Duesenberg, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Packard, and Stutz. To be chosen for re-induction, then, would seem to be an honor on top of an honor.

Bill Chapin, president of the Automotive Hall of Fame, told Edmunds on Wednesday: "Last year, the board felt we could be doing more to promote our former inductees. We had seen press last year about a planned celebration for this summer of the 1953 Corvette built in Flint, so Earl became our obvious choice."

The 2013 induction ceremony will take place on Thursday, July 25, in Plymouth, Michigan. Others being honored this year include auto executive Bob Lutz, Formula One champion Jackie Stewart, David E. Cole, founder of the Center for Automotive Research, and the founders of Aston Martin, Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin.

Harley Earl, credited with creating and running the industry's first design studio, is celebrated for many innovations during his 31 years with General Motors, including clay modeling, the curved windshield, the concept car, and annual model changes. He was responsible for designs ranging from the 1927 LaSalle, to the Buick Y-Job, to the 1959 Cadillac — tailfins and all.

A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design, describes Earl as a seminal figure in automotive history. It said that GM Chairman Alfred P. Sloan Jr. "hired Earl partly because he recognized Earl's eagerness to be first in everything, particularly in fashion. Earl consciously tried to lead the American automobile industry in styling and did throughout most of his career."

Earl also is connected with Corvette lore. As the story goes, his attention was captured by the Jaguars and MGs being driven on U.S. roads and racetracks after World War II. Thus inspired, he convinced GM that America needed its own sports car.

The 1953 Corvette debuted at the New York Motorama in January of that year and went into production six months later. To call it a success would be the epitome of understatement. The model has been in continuous production since that time, right up to the introduction of its seventh generation, the 2014 Corvette Stingray, scheduled to be on sale later this summer.

As for future re-inductions, Chapin said that such recognition would "generally coincide with a significant event or anniversary that relates to the inductee. The anniversary of the (Ford) Mustang takes place next year. As you might expect, we already have a couple of unannounced prospects for the Mustang semi-centennial."

He added: "We'd love to solicit your readers to help us. All our inductees and their bios are listed on our Web site."

Edmunds says: Can't fault the Automotive Hall of Fame for riding on the coattails of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Ford Mustang.

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