Since the invention of the automobile, vehicle manufacturers needed to study different concepts of future vehicle designs. After reviewing different designs, final approval is made for the upcoming year’s production or new design cycle.
The earliest days of car design were done mostly as 2D drawings. Automobile design was a low priority because it was limited by engineering needs, metal forming technology, and cost concerns. Furthermore, demand outstripped supply and consumers didn’t prioritize design as a purchase criteria. Therefore, cars simply looked alike, lacked variety, and didn’t change design frequently. As car designs were updated more frequently, wood scale models or larger wood frame models covered in plaster were used.
In the late 1920s and 1930s, legendary GM designer Harley Earl is credited with groundbreaking achievements that ultimately lead to the invention of the claymill. These include transforming GM’s “Art and Color Section” to a first-of-its-kind car design studio we would recognize today. At GM, Harley pioneered product differentiation via compelling industrial design.
Harley created the first full size 3D models for all new car designs as standard practice. He created the first concept car, the Buick “Y Job”. He also pioneered the concept of annual updates or “dynamic obsolescence” to drive consumer demand.
Helping weave all of these breakthroughs together, Harley Earl introduced clay as a medium for car design concepts. Once clay became established as the medium for car models, a wide variety of techniques and tools were used to develop vehicle shapes in clay.