Another piece of automotive history is up for grabs next month through Mecum, an auction house in Chicago, and this one could be a sale for the record books. General Motors legendary designer, Harley J. Earl, owned this customized 1963 Corvette Stingray, and soon you could too.
Earl joined GM in 1928 as head of the Art and Color Section. He was like no other designer in the industry at that time. By introducing tools and creative processes from the art world, like modeling clay and free-form sketching, he took the car from utilitarian to work of art. His unorthodox methods revolutionized the industry and led to some of the most iconic cars in GM history. We have him to thank for the wildly popular tail fins on 1950s cars. He also invited the idea of the ‘concept car’ as a marketing tool and a way to experiment with design.
Earl wanted to bring European-style sports car to the American market. When he offered his secret ‘Project Opel’ to GM it was sent it into production without hesitation. In 1953 ‘Project Opel’ was released with a new name –- the Chevrolet Corvette. Earl was eventually elevated to vice president, the first designer to earn such a title in an automotive company.
He retired in 1958, but not before adding his signature touches to the '58 and '59 Corvettes. GM was now one of the largest companies in the world thanks in part to its unique styling. In 1963, Earl’s old design team gifted their former chief a brand new Corvette Stingray, fully customized to Earl’s liking. They added side exhaust and a second instrument panel on the passenger side, disc brakes, and a wild electric blue finish. It became Earl's personal driver and even used it as a lap car when he was Grand Marshall at the 1965 Dayton 500.
Earl’s Corvette sold for just under a million in 2010. Since then, classic cars have become popular for their investment value. With enough enthusiasm, this ‘Vette could beat the record-breaking 1967 L88 Corvette convertible which sold for $3.2 million at a Mecum auction earlier this month.