The Fascinating Journey of the Buick Y-Job: From “Fireball” to Iconic Legend

The Buick Y-Job, known as the auto industry’s first concept car, has captivated enthusiasts and historians alike. Its long and illustrious career has seen several transformations, both in appearance and identity. Let’s delve into the lesser-known aspects of this legendary vehicle’s journey.

The Birth of a Legend

In 1938, Buick unveiled the Y-Job, a groundbreaking concept car designed by GM’s styling chief, Harley Earl. Built on a modified Buick chassis, it featured innovative, forward-looking bodywork and a sleek black lacquer finish. The Y-Job made a grand entrance in Flint, Michigan, during a parade in August 1940, marking Buick’s hometown celebration.

A Shocking Transformation

Just a few months later, the Y-Job stunned audiences once again at the New York Auto Show in October 1940. This time, it wasn’t just the car’s futuristic design turning heads—it was its new metallic silver-gray paint job. Although the reason for the color change was never officially documented, it’s believed Harley Earl, who treated the Y-Job as his personal vehicle, approved the alteration.

The “Fireball” Era

Adding to the intrigue, the Y-Job was not introduced as such at the New York Auto Show. Instead, it bore the name “Fireball,” as indicated by the front license plate in period photographs. Motor Age magazine referred to it as the “Buick Fireball,” coinciding with Buick’s new straight 8 engine, also dubbed “Fireball,” which debuted in the 1941 model year.

The Return to Black and the Name Y-Job

The exact timeline of the Y-Job’s return to its original black paint is unclear. However, postwar photographs consistently show the car in its jet-black finish. By the time Buick’s 1951 XP-300 dream car brochure was published, the Y-Job was firmly entrenched in history under its now-familiar name. The brochure referred to the Y-Job repeatedly, solidifying its identity.

A Timeless Legacy

Today, the Y-Job resides in the GM Heritage Collection in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Dressed in its iconic black lacquer and sporting Y-Job license plates, this “car of the future” continues to inspire and awe car enthusiasts worldwide. Its journey from “Fireball” to Y-Job is a testament to the ever-evolving world of automotive design and innovation.


The Buick Y-Job’s storied history, marked by its brief transformation into the “Fireball” and its silver-gray phase, only adds to its allure and mystique. As the world’s first concept car, it remains a symbol of innovation and a cherished piece of automotive history.


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