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.
|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 cubic inch GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission, whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield.
Of the twelve original Futurliners, one was destroyed in a 1956 accident, and nine survive as of 2007.
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 Parade & TodayEdit
Bus #1: Displayed the “Miracles of Heat and Cold” exhibit, featuring Frigidaire products. Current whereabouts unknown.
Bus #2: Displayed the “Our American Crossroads” exhibit. GM retained the exhibit at the end of the Parade of Progress and currently keeps it in the GM Heritage Center. Current whereabouts are unknown.
Bus #3 Displayed the “Power for the Air Age” exhibit, featuring a cutaway Allison J-35 jet engine and passed through the Joe Bortz collection in the 1980s. It later sat in storage in a warehouse in Dana, Indiana, before Phoenix, Arizona, resident William Pozzi bought it and in turn sold it sometime in the late 1990s to Brad Boyajian of American Movie Trucks in Chatsworth, California. Boyajian in 2011 sold it to an anonymous owner, who employed Kindig-It to restore it. The restoration of Futurliner #3 was the subject of two episodes of the Velocity Channel show Bitchin' Rides. It 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.
Bus #4: Displayed the “Diesel Power Parade” exhibit; also displayed the “Power for the Nation’s Lifelines” exhibit, which also focused on diesels. Current whereabouts unknown.
Bus #5: Displayed the “World of Science” exhibit; also displayed the “Versatile Metal Powder” exhibit. Purchased by Brad Boyajian in 2002, Boyajian said he believes that the Futurliner that he converted into a car hauler is No. 5. That Futurliner’s rear axle and body section went with Futurliner No. 8 to Sweden, and its front axle went to the NATMUS Futurliner No. 10 restoration project.
Bus #6: Displayed the “Energy & Man” exhibit; also displayed the “High Compression Power & Energy” exhibit. This bus is believed to be owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines.
Bus #7: Displayed the “Out of the City Muddle” exhibit, focusing on urban and highway congestion. It was purchased by Square D however the company only owned it until 1960, when an unnamed New Hampshire-based motorsports team bought it to use the Futurliner as a service vehicle.That motorsports team then ran No. 7 until 1964 when the Futurliner ran out of gas and the team members pushed it under a tree at a nearby scrap yard and left it there. It remained in that scrapyard for 20 years until New Hampshire-based restaurant operator Kendrick Robbins bought No. 7 intending to transform the Futurliner into a salad bar. Robbins partially dismantled No. 7 – then powered by a GMC V-6 gas engine rather than by the GMC 302-cu.in. inline-six cylinder gas engine – but for the most part let it sit for another 20 years until he sold it to Maine-based heavy equipment operator Tom Learned. As of 2017 Learned has sold No. 7 to Chrome Cars in Germany, the same owner of No. 9.
Bus #8: Displayed the “Around the Farm House Clock” exhibit, focusing on the use of modern appliances on the farm. This bus was rear-ended while on the Parade of Progress, and removed from use. One of two (#11) given to the Michigan State Police, then later sold to Jack and Bill Braun of Spring Lake, Michigan, to promote their junkyard. In the mid-1980s sold to Brent Knight of Roselle, Illinois; in the late 1990s, found in a junkyard in Yuma, Arizona. Sold to William Pozzi; later sold to Brad Boyajian with No. 3. Boyajian sold it to Nicklas Jonsson of Sweden. Currently under restoration.
Bus #9: Hosted the reception center. Was restored and modified by Bob Valdez of Sherman Oaks, California. Valdez’s Futurliner was reportedly once used as a Makita Tool display van and possibly used as an executive motor home before Valdez bought it in 1984. In 2016 Valdez sold No. 9 to Chrome Cars in Germany.
Bus #10: Displayed the “Opportunity for Youth” exhibit, which included winning model cars from the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild contest; also displayed the Three Dimensional Sound exhibit. Initially sold to musician Vic Hyde, then later toured the Midwest promoting Goebel beer and also promoting Dreisbach and Sons Cadillac-Chevrolet-Oldsmobile in Detroit. Passed through the Joe Bortz collection in the 1980s, donated to the National Automotive and Truck Museum in 1993. Restored by Don Mayton and his team. Currently travels to car shows in and around Michigan.
Bus #11 Displayed the “March of Tools” exhibit; also displayed the “A Car is Born” exhibit. According to Berghoff and Ferris, GM sold it to evangelist Oral Roberts, who in turn sold it to preacher David Wilkerson. Later ended up in a field in East Meredith, New York. 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 #12 Displayed the “Precision and Durability” exhibit. Current whereabouts unknown
Peter Pan Bus Lines owns 2 buses, one in poor shape, and another in good condition, although which buses they are, is still hugely in question.
There are still two Futurliners unaccounted for.
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|
- "The GM Futurliner GM Futurliner Restoration Project National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States". GM Futurliner Restoration Project National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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]
- "https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2013/07/03/so-which-futurliner-is-which-an-initial-effort-toward-a-futurliner-registry/". www.hemmings.com. Retrieved 2018-06-12. External link in
- 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.