In September 1951, Harley took the LeSabre to the Watkins Glen sports-car race where he was impressed not only with the Jaguars, Ferraris, and Alfas, but also with the passion these marques' enthusiasts had for their cars. Drawing influence from these European sports cars being raced on road circuits after WWII, Misterl decided that General Motors needed to make a sports car and since conception, the Corvette is still the flagship and benchmark for American performance. Starting out as secret ‘Project Opel’, Harley first offered the project to Chevrolet general manager Ed Cole who accepted the project without hesitation, with the ‘Vette going on sale in 1953.
Miserl’s most enduring design detail is arguably the tailfin, a look that became an icon of the '50s. Harley authorized the Frank Hershey design for the 1948 Cadillac, which incorporated the first automotive tailfin with inspiration for the fins allegedly coming from the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, but extended beyond the war during the age when space rockets captured popular imagination (1950s and '60s). The style caught on throughout Detroit and eventually led to competition between Harley and Mr. Virgil Exner (at Chrysler) over the size and complexity of tailfins, ultimately peaking with those on the iconic 1959 Cadillac models.
In December 1958, when General Motors was the largest corporation in the world, Harley reached GM's mandatory retirement age of 65 and thus retired from his position as chief stylist after overseeing the design of the 1959 models. He was succeeded as vice-president with responsibility for the Design and Styling Department by Mr. Bill Mitchell, under whose leadership GM design became less ornamental and voluptuous.
Earl died, aged 75, in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 10, 1969, suffering a stroke, leaving behind a universally adored legacy.
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