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Ok, I’m going to face this at the start. Y-Job is not a good name for a car, concept or otherwise. The connotations are legion, but this is now and that was then, and then it was a cool name. So no more sniggers, ok? Besides, look at it, it’s a damn cool car.

The Y-Job was the first concept car. At the time the term “concept car” hadn’t even been coined. It was a “dream car.” It was designed by the Harley J Earl, GMs design chief, built on a production Buick chassis and powered by a Buick 320 inch straight 8.

These days it looks a little like lots of other droptops from the 50s. But this was made in 1938. Heck, Ford only stopped making the Model T in 1927. Bolt upright windscreens and running boards were the order of the day. This thing must have looked like the future. And that fact was what set up the whole concept car business; style, performance, luxury and great dollops of the future. Whether they’ve been winners or stuff that shouldn’t have left the napkin they were drawn on, everyone in the concept car world since is trying to fill in those checkboxes.

Many of the styling cues from this car found their way into GM production vehicles. Flush door handles, electric windows and a powered convertible top. Recognize that wide grille with those thin chrome strips? Yep, they’ve lasted to this day on Buicks.

Think of it. You pull up alongside this thing in your Model T. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’d have flying cars in just a few years. It must have seemed like it came from outer space.

The interior was a sleek as the exterior. This car was forgotten for a long time, but was eventually loved, sympathetically restored and now resides in GM’s Heritage Collection.
I think Mr Earl would be pleased.

So, back to the name. Why was it called the Y-Job? Buick wanted to get one up on other car and aircraft makers who commonly used the prefix “X.” It all sounds a bit cheesy until you realize that NASA and the Air Force designate their experimental planes X-planes and prototypes Y’s. For example, the YF-22 was the prototype for the F-22.

There you go. The first concept car. The one that started it all. And one that has so many genuine concepts in it. I’d buy one now, let alone trade-in my Model T for one back in 1938. What about you?


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