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The First-Ever Concept Car: 1938 Buick Y Job Makes an Appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage

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This week, Jay Leno’s Garage welcomed a 1938 Buick Y Job, a rare gem brought in by General Motors’ Vice President of Global Design, Michael Simcoe. The vehicle was originally created by Harley Earl and functioned as his daily driver until 1950.

“[This is] probably the most famous car in the history of General Motors,” said Leno about the Y Job. There are a few theories surrounding the name’s origination. First, some believe Harley Earl wanted to stray away from the ever-popular “Project X” name, so he went for Y as a way to stand out. However, Simcoe believes that the name came from Earl’s experience in the aerospace industry, where the letter Y was used to indicate a prototype.

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The 1938 Buick Y Job was the first-ever concept car, then referred to as “dream” cars. Concept cars are not meant to be production cars; rather, they are designed to show off up-and-coming technology and designs prior to their release. The vehicle featured on Jay Leno’s Garage is one of only seven Buick Y Job models.

The framework of the Buick Y Job concept came from the Buick Century. From there, the vehicle was modified for a longer and lower body, redesigning it for a sleeker look. Harley Earl wanted this vehicle to stand out and bring back the enthusiasm many customers had for cars before the Great Depression hit.

True to the concept car purpose, the 1938 Y Job showed off several brand new technology features, revolutionary for the times. The Y Job was the first car with power windows, beginning the end of literally rolling down your window. It was also the first model to have a power-retractable roof. 1938 was also the first year vehicles lost the clutch pedal and included an automatic transmission; however, the Y Job was not the only vehicle to make this shift.

“This is way more exciting than anything I ever did on The Tonight Show,” said Leno. “Cause this is the Y Job. This is the first [concept car]; this is the actual one. Not one just like it, the actual one.”

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Watch the full episode of Jay Leno’s Garage here: