Cadillac V-16

The 45° V-16 was indeed the first “production” automobile engine to be professionally styled. It is no surprise H.J. Earl played a significant part fathering its rise, and this engine would go on to set up a tradition of engineering excellence in GM.

One of the best modernist photographers of the day, Anton Bruehl, was contracted to supply his camera portraits of a mechanical masterpiece that was part of a large promotional print ad campaign behind the first production automobile to have a sixteen-cylinder engine: the 1930 Cadillac (actual print ad featured below).

Bruehl’s photographs of the product, one in a series of unique ads, describes better than any words the beauty – both aesthetic and mechanical – behind the new direction Harley Earl had convinced other significant shareholders of GM to head in and use as a sales weapon to gain market share...STYLING LEADERSHIP. In which case, another one of Harley Earl's many jobs was to clean up the interior engine section on GM’s vehicles, too. The V-16 engine compartment would serve as a model of clean lines for GM’s future generations of engines.

Along with being an artist and an engineer, Harley Earl was also part scientist, writer and philosopher. For example, after he pioneered a new profession, he then applied what was under his hat to marveling impressive line-ups of new products. He was the one to first go down a new road…creating the demand and starting a titanic movement of professionally sculpting America’s mass-produced industrial products that were marvels of high quality engineering: True motoramic masterpieces.

Keeping his methodology a secret allowed him to win unique contracts (many of which are featured around the website). By the end of his career some 40-years later, he had been responsible for GM and it’s major competitors hiring thousands of new hybrid “appearance engineers” or often called industrial designers specializing in the transportation sector. One could trace almost every American “ace auto designer” of the last 65-years back to the origins of this creator and his seed vision originally started inside GM.

Uniquely alone in position, he created Detroit’s dependency on design—raising the standard how all things coming off any modern assembly line would look and run. No one in western civilization has ever done anything like it.

From Stylist Fancy To Drivers Dream

Every year there are more books and more articles on unique products H.J. Earl was personally involved with. Often enough, these works hail the pioneer of Automobile Styling / Design, and then quickly bury him and the origin of his “new profession” under an avalanche of hearsay. For example, most auto world and design professionals today are not completely cognizant of the behind-the-scenes historiography of the modern automotive design movement from Harley Earl’s standpoint of beauty, style and the highest standard of engineering in Detroit.