When you look into the history of American automotive design, the name Harley Earl consistently pops up. Earl worked in his father’s automotive shop in Hollywood, California as a young man fresh out of Stanford. Through a series of incredible synchronous events he wound up working for General Motors during the early days. He was involved in the creation of many different important and historic vehicles, including the Chevrolet Corvette.
General Motors actually created a design department called the Art and Color Section around the talents of Harley Earl. One of his first projects after joining the company was the creation of the LaSalle.General Motors had a segmentation strategy on a marketing level. They wanted to have a brand of automobile that was perfect for each respective segment of the population. They had Cadillac at the top of the line, and the Buick line came next, followed by the Oldsmobile division. They needed a line that would fit between Cadillac and Buick, and the LaSalle became the solution.
The LaSalle was first introduced for the 1927 model year, and it was a well-built car that set a new stylistic standard. The car was offered in a number of different body styles, and it was powered by a Cadillac V-8 engine. It had the Caddy power, but it was more lithe and maneuverable.
When a car that has groundbreaking performance capabilities enters the picture, it is often put to the test. A 1927 LaSalle was taken to the track, and it covered over 950 miles at an average speed of just over 95 miles per hour. That is pretty impressive when you consider the era. To put the speed into perspective, it is comparable to the average speed of race cars that competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1927.
The LaSalle was reasonably popular with the buying public at first. After all, you were getting Cadillac-level quality at a lower price. In 1929, over 22,000 units were sold, and that was the top sales year. At that point, the Great Depression hit, and people were not in a position to buy brand-new cars. By 1932 sales of the La Salle plummeted to just under 3,300 units.
The LaSalle brand was able to hang on through the 1940 model year, but that was the end of the line. These days the LaSalle is a classic that is coveted by many collectors.