The GM Futurliners were a group of custom vehicles, styled in the 1940s by Harley Earl for General Motors, and integral to the company's Parade of Progress—a North American traveling exhibition promoting future cars and technologies. Having earlier used eight custom Streamliners from 1936 to 1940, GM sponsored the Parade of Progress and the Futurliners from 1940 to 1941 and again from 1953 to 1956.
Restored Futurliner #10 in 2007
|Built By:||GMC Truck and Fisher Coach & Body.|
|Height:||11 feet 6 inches (3.5 meters)|
|Width:||7 feet 10 inches (2.4 meters)|
|Length:||32 feet 10 inches (10 meters)|
|Wheelbase:||20 feet 8 inches (6.3 meters)|
|Weight:||30,000 pounds (14 metric tons) (approx)|
|Fuel Capacity:||90 U.S. gallons (340 L) (2x45 gallon tanks)|
|Powertrain(1940–1946):||4-cylinder diesel/manual transmission|
|Power Train (1953–1956):||GMC 302ci 6-cylinder /4-speed Hydramatic plus 2-speed manual gearbox|
|Top Speed:||40 mph (64 km/h) (1940–1946)
50 mph (80 km/h) (1953–1956)
At 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, more than 11 feet tall, and weighing more than 12 tons, each Futurliner featured heavily stylized art deco, streamlined bodywork, deep red side and white roof paint, large articulated chrome side panels, a military-grade 302 ci GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission, whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield.
Twelve Futurliners were manufactured, with nine known to exist as of 2007. There are two Futurliners that have not been located.
Parade of ProgressEdit
Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World's Fair, the Futurliners were later featured in GM's Parade of Progress, a promotional caravan travelling a 150-stop route across the United States and Canada. The Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, were driven by 50 college graduates, who also staffed the exhibitions along the route.
Typically arranged at each stop around a large tent and an information kiosk, each Futurliner featured a self-contained stage as well as a prominent deployable light tower, and each vehicle featured a particular subject. The mobile exhibition covered such topics as jet engine technology, agriculture, traffic engineering, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television and other innovations. In 1955 a miniature automobile assembly line display named A Car Is Born was constructed for one of the Futurliners. A display titled Our American Crossroads was also used in 1955. This display was narrated by Parker Fennelly and featured a complicated animated diorama that transformed to show progress in road and infrastructure improvements from 1902 to 1953.
Interrupted by World War II, the vehicles were refurbished by GM and the Parade of Progress resumed in 1953. The reborn parade was discontinued in 1956 for the last time, displaced by increasing popularity of network television—one of the very technologies the Futurliners themselves had once promoted.
After the ParadeEdit
Of the remaining nine Futurliners, one was wrecked (considered totaled) during the 1956 parade year and was not replaced. Futurliner Bus #11 sold for a record US$4,000,000 (plus premium) to Arizona-based real estate developer Ron Pratte on January 21, 2006 at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona and was driven to its new home in Chandler. Mr. Pratte sold the same bus on January 17, 2015 at Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona. The selling price was again US$4,000,000 (plus premium), the proceeds from the sale benefiting the Armed Forces Foundation, a charity that assists military members and their families. Bus #10 was restored and is in the NATMUS museum in Auburn, IN. Bus #9 was restored and in use as a motorhome. In 2008, Futurliner #8 was delivered to its new home in Sweden. The new owner plans to restore it over a 10-year period; it was the first and, to date, only Futurliner to be relocated to Europe.
Futurliner #5 was rebuilt and restored from leftover parts as a Flatbed Hauler.
The restoration of Futurliner #3 was the subject of two episodes of the Velocity Channel show Bitchin' Rides. Number 3 underwent a 19-month restoration in 2013–2014, intended to be the most complete and period-correct restoration of all that have been attempted so far. Bitchin' Rides (also known as Kindig Customs in territories airing Discovery Channel's DMAX) is a reality show about the activities at Kindig-It Design in Salt Lake City, Utah.
List of FuturlinersEdit
The following table lists the original displays and the current status of the units. The three vehicles listed as unknown under Fate does not mean that they no longer exist but rather that the identity of some of the existing Futureliners has not been matched to their original display. Changes in some of the displays also makes it difficult to trace the lineage of some of the buses.
|Number||Image||Original Display||Fate/Status/Current location|
|1||Miracles of Heat and Cold||Unknown|
|2||Our American Crossroads||Display is located at the General Motors Heritage Center. Location of vehicle is unknown.|
|3||Power for the Air Age||Restored by Kindig-it Design 2013–2014|
|4||Diesel Power Parade||Unknown|
|5||World of Science||Donated its rear to No. 8 and its front axle to No. 10; converted the rest into a custom flatbed hauler, powered by a 230 Cummins diesel.|
|6||Energy & Man||Restored owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines They have a 2nd futurliner, in poor condition, in storage.|
|7||Out of the City Muddle||Found in storage, in a backyard in Maine in December 2016 by German collectors who shipped it to Ilmenau, Germany.|
|8||Around the Farm House Clock||Owned by Nicklas Jonsson of Sweden. Under restoration, scheduled for March 2018 completion.|
|9||Reception Center||Owned by Bob Valdez of Sherman Oaks, California. Converted to a motorhome. Now with a collector from Germany.|
|10||Opportunity for Youth||Donated to the National Automotive and Truck Museum in 1993. Restored by Don Mayton.|
|11||March of Tools||Sold to an anonymous donor at the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, AZ.|
|12||Precision and Durability||Unknown|
- "1936, The Parade of Progress". GM Heritage Center. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Futurliner No. 10 to go on National Historic Vehicle Register, finds permanent home". Hemmings Motor News. November 19, 2014.
- "G.M.'s Futurliner to Take Its Place Among Historically Important Vehicles". The New York Times, Nov 26, 2014.
- "1936, The Parade of Progress". GM Heritage Center. Retrieved 26 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
- "City Welcomes Big GM Parade of Progress". Janesville Daily Gazette. 16 Sep 1955. p. 1.
- "Complicated Exhibit Is Feature of Show". Galveston Daily News. 8 February 1955. p. 15.
- "Safetyliners". Futurliner.com. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
- "Cathedral Cruiser". Futurliner.com. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
- "Bortz Auto Collection". Retrieved 5 March 2014.
- "4 million dollar bus". Azcentral.com. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
- "Giant GM bus from the '50s sells for $4 million". CNN.com. 2015-01-18. Retrieved 2015-01-18.[permanent dead link]
- "Futurliner #8 Restoration Project" (in Swedish). Jonsson Power Entertainment Cars.
- "Futurliner". Classic motor (in Swedish). Retrieved 12 August 2017.
- "Other GM Futurliners". GM Futurliner Restoration Project. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "Velocity Introduces Bitchin Rides". Velocity Channel. Retrieved 2014-10-28.
- GM Futurliner Restoration Archived 2013-09-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- Berghoff, Bruce (2007). General Motors Parade of Progress & A Futureliner Returns. Futureliner Restoration Team. ISBN 978-1604022513.
- "Seltener Futurliner von GM nun in Ilmenau beheimatet" [Rare Futurliner from GM now resides in Ilmenau] (in German). Retrieved 2017-03-09.