When Harley Earl was a teenager, his family spent summers camping at Bailey's Ranch, in the mountains north of Los Angeles. When Earl was 16, the summer was particularly wet, and he fashioned a series of toy cars for himself and his younger brother from clay they found.
"What Harley J. Earl began in the clay of Bailey's Ranch, he later shaped into an industry of tremendous economic and social importance," Automobile Quarterly said in 1982.
Earl, wrote automotive historian Michael Lamm, "wasn't the first man to 'style' a car, but he did create the business or industry of designing cars," during his reign, leading General Motors styling through four decades.
He "saw its tremendous potential in terms of car sales, and ... Harley Earl had the personality to convince the engineering-dominated auto industry to recognize its importance.
"Making styling more than the frosting on the engineer's cake was Harley Earl's great contribution to the American economy."