When the Buick Y-Job was conceived by design legend Harley Earl in1938, its purpose wasn’t to go into production but rather to highlight items and features that would be seen on future General Motors vehicles. Today, we’d call it a concept car, but 80 years ago it was the first of its kind.
GM Vice President of Global Design Michael Simcoe is Earl’s modern-day equivalent, so it’s appropriate that he brought the Y-Job to California so Jay Leno could take it for a spin.
As a concept car in 1938, the Y-Job traveled around the country to show future design elements that would be incorporated in upcoming GM products. It featured power-operated hidden headlights, electric windows, flush-mounted door handles, and the then-new Buick waterfall grille design—trick tech for the time. It later served as Harley Earl’s personal car for a decade and was fondly remembered on Detroit’s streets..
With Leno, Simcoe waxes a bit poetic about Harley Earl himself while walking the entertainer through all of the lines of the Y-Job. Eventually though, the hood is closed, the key is placed in the ignition, and the duo venture out onto a nearby airfield to drive the car.
Leno remarks that it rides and drives very nicely. That’s even though the car has no power steering and is clearly a heavy machine. Also, at the 17:34 mark in the video, you’ll see a perfectly timed bit of GM past and future. As Jay talks about American luxury back in the day, a 6th-generation Camaro roars through the shot in the background.
We have to assume this Y-Job was driven on the airfield because it’s far too valuable to drive on the street. Click play and treat yourself to a wildly rare machine being let out into the world for a bit.