Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1951 General Motors LeSabre

1951 General Motors LeSabre Development

Many took part in developing the 1951 General Motors LeSabre. Buick's General Manager, Harlow Curtice, suggested that Harley Earl work with Buick's chief engineer, Charles Chayne, because this new car should be just as much an engineering feat as a styling tour de force.

Whereupon Earl, to ensure himself the right to keep the LeSabre for his own use, suggested to Chayne that they build two cars, one for GM Styling (Earl) and one for Buick Engineering (Chayne). Chayne agreed, but supposedly rather reluctantly, perhaps because he realized he'd soon be leaving Buick to become GM's vice president of engineering.

Either way, Chayne realized that this project would take up lots of engineering time and would cost 10 times more than the $50,000 spent in creating the Y-Job.

Earl codenamed his own car XP-8 and Chayne's XP-9. To satisfy Curtice, the XP-9 would predict the look of future Buicks, whereas the XP-8 would foretell all GM cars and would be a no-holds-barred vision of absolutely everything that Earl, Curtice, and Chayne could dream up to make it the most-advanced car possible.

Vertical "bullet" taillamps were just one of
designer Edward Glowacke's contributions
to the 1951 General Motors LeSabre.

On May 19, 1947, after Curtice agreed to underwrite the two experimentals, Earl appointed Edward E. Glowacke to supervise a newly formed studio called Special Automobile Design and set him to work on what became the 1951 LeSabre.

Glowacke, one of GM's most beloved and talented designers, deserves at least as much credit for the LeSabre as Earl. Both men had great respect for each other, and they worked almost symbiotically on this project.

Glowacke's significant contributions to the LeSabre were the pointed bumper bullets; the oval "kiss-mouth" grille; and the finely wrought cockpit, with its many aircraft borrowings. Glowacke raced cars and boats, flew his own private airplane, and had the ability not only to design but also to literally build an automobile body. He knew how far to take a design idea and still keep it doable.

Engineer Charlie Chayne was equally imaginative in creating engine prototypes for the two cars. Get information about these in the next section of this article.

For more information on cars, see: