1959 Chevrolet Impala poster

Chevrolet Impala Route 66 poster

Harley Earl holding a model of his first LaSalle in front of a drawing of one of his many ‘concept’ cars.

1959 Chevrolet Impala poster. The flamboyant styling of the 1959 Chevrolet Impala, in particular the ‘bat-wing’ tail fins and ‘cats-eye’ rear light cluster, carried the recognisable signature of General Motors’ chief designer Harley Earl, and this model was to be his final dramatic statement before retiring. The 1959 model was a complete redesign from the debut styling of the previous year and soon emerged as the best-selling automobile in the United States.

Harley Earl was born in Hollywood, California in 1893. His father owned a coachbuilding company, initially building horse-drawn vehicles but soon progressed into automobiles, and Harley joined the company as a young enthusiastic designer. The company created customized automobile bodies for the Hollywood movie stars of the day.

When Harley’s father retired, the business was bought by a Cadillac dealer on the condition that Harley remain as a director. When Cadillac’s general manager, Lawrence Fisher called by as part of his tour of American Caddy dealers he saw Harley’s work and was profoundly impressed.

The 1927 LaSalle

Fisher commissioned Earl to design the 1927 LaSalle, a vehicle that revolutionised automotive design, and Harley Earl was taken into General Motors as the first director of their new design studio. He went on to create some of the industry’s most striking and influential concept cars.

The Impala, as Chevrolet’s most expensive passenger model, was given the status as Chevrolet’s top-of-the-range automobile and was graced with all of the luxury options that could be thrown at it, including power brakes and steering, electric windows and air conditioning, and could also be ordered with any of Chevrolet’s most powerful engines, although the handling was a tad suspect.

But there were mutterings behind the scenes within General Motors concerning the rock ‘n’ roll appearance of Harley Earl’s creations, and a more sober, middle-class target market was favoured by many executives. It was suggested that maybe this was time for Harley Earl to call it a day.

The departure of Harley Earl heralded a new era across the board for General Motors and 1960 marked the taming of many of the styling excesses of previous years.

It would be nice to say that this was the fabled ‘Red Shark’ owned by Hunter S Thompson and featured in his book, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’ Sadly, that beast was a 1971 Impala. But the “fine ‘59” remains a classic among American automobiles, and Route 66 the iconic road to ride.

You can view this poster in our shop HERE.



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