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The golden age of General Motors design

Autocar Logo By Richard Bremner of Autocar | Slide 1 of 21: GM turned car design into a discipline, an art form and at times even a mass entertainment show. The company was one of the earliest to recognize the selling power of attractive design; it wasn’t always good design, but it was often potently desirable. It was the first company to devise the studio system of competing design teams, and the first to use clay for full-size modeling and more. Driving this period of rapid innovation were a few of the most visionary and effective design bosses the industry has seen, their personal impact at least as important as some of the landmark designs they nurtured and launched. Many consider that the golden age of GM design – and perhaps for the whole US car industry – was from the 1940s through to the early 1970s, during the tenures of Harley Earl, and then his successor Bill Mitchell. Though initially derided internally as the ‘pretty picture department’, the Art & Color Section, later renamed the Styling Section, would be instrumental in helping GM become the world’s largest company and one that earned a staggering $1.5 billion profit in 1962, when it held a mighty 51% of the US car market. Here, then, is a look at some of its greatest designs, but we start with a brief look at the design chiefs behind them:

General Motors will turn 110 years old on September 16 2018.

GM turned car design into a discipline, an art form and at times even a mass entertainment show. The company was one of the earliest to recognize the selling power of attractive design; it wasn’t always good design, but it was often potently desirable. It was the first company to devise the studio system of competing design teams, and the first to use clay for full-size modeling and more.

Driving this period of rapid innovation were a few of the most visionary and effective design bosses the industry has seen, their personal impact at least as important as some of the landmark designs they nurtured and launched. Many consider that the golden age of GM design – and perhaps for the whole US car industry – was from the 1940s through to the early 1970s, during the tenures of Harley Earl, and then his successor Bill Mitchell.

Though initially derided internally as the ‘pretty picture department’, the Art & Color Section, later renamed the Styling Section, would be instrumental in helping GM become the world’s largest company and one that earned a staggering $1.5 billion profit in 1962, when it held a mighty 51% of the US car market.

Here, then, is a look at some of its greatest designs, but we start with a brief look at the design chiefs behind them:

© GM

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