GM Futurliner

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GM Futurliner
GM Futurliner01.jpg
Restored Futurliner #10 in 2007
Built By: GMC Truck and Fisher Coach & Body.
Number built: 12
Built: 1939
Overhauled: 1953
Retired: 1956
Height: 3.5 metres (11 feet 6 inches)
Width: 2.4 metres (7.9 feet)
Length: 10 metres (33 feet)
Wheelbase: 6.3 metres (20 feet 8 inches)
Weight: 15 tons (30,000 pounds) (approx)
Fuel Capacity: 340 litres (90 gallons) (2 45 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: 65 km/h (40 mph)

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.[1] Having earlier used eight custom Streamliners from 1936-1940, GM sponsored the Parade of Progress and the Futurliners from 1940 to 1941 and again from 1953 to 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 bodywork, deep red side and white roof paint, large articulated chrome side panels, a military-grade 302-cu.in. GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission,[2] whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield.

12 Futurliners were manufactured, with nine still known to exist as of 2007. In 2014, Futurliner #10 was nominated for inclusion in the National Historic Vehicle Register.[3]

Parade of Progress[edit]

Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World's Fair,[citation needed] 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.[3] The Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, were driven by 50 male 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,[3] 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.[4] A display titled Our American Crossroads was also used in 1955.[5] 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[edit]

Following the Parade of Progress, General Motors sold the Futurliners and donated two to the Michigan State Police. Rechristened as "Safetyliners", the latter were used to promote road safety.[6]

At least one Futurliner was purchased by Oral Roberts and used as a portable stage during evangelical crusades of the 1960s. This vehicle may have been taken to Central or South America.[7]

Today[edit]

Of the remaining nine Futurliners, one was wrecked (considered totaled) during the 1956 parade year and was not replaced.[8] Futurliner Bus #11 sold for a record US$4,000,000 (plus premium) on January 21, 2006 at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona; as it was too large to ship, it was driven to its new home in Chandler.[9] 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;[10] it was the first and, to date, only Futurliner to be relocated to Europe.[citation needed]

As of late 2013, Peter Pan Bus Lines in Massachusetts has one Futurliner painted to original livery and has a second Futurliner in storage.[11]

Futurliner #5 was rebuilt and restored from leftover parts as a hauler.

The restoration of Futurliner #3 was the subject of an episode of the Velocity Channel show "Bitchin' Rides". Number 3 was a 19 month restoration to be the most complete, and period correct of all so far. Bitchin Rides is about the goings on at KindigitDesign in Salt Lake City, Utah. [12]

Futurliner #7 is currently being restored or has plans in place for a restoration in Maine.[11] There are still two Futurliners unaccounted for.[13]

List of Futurliners[edit]

The following table lists the original displays and the current status of the units.[14] The five vehicles listed as unknown under Fate does not mean that they no longer exists but rather that the identity some of the existing Futurliners 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 vans.

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; about 80 percent of the way through converting the rest into a car hauler, powered by a 230 Cummins diesel
6 Energy & Man unknown
7 Out of the City Muddle currently owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines
8 Around the Farm House Clock owned by Nicklas Jonsson of Sweden. Under restoration
9 reception center currently owned by Bob Valdez of Sherman Oaks, California. Converted to a motorhome.
10 GM FuturLiner front at Flint.jpg Opportunity for Youth donated to the National Automotive and Truck Museum in 1993. Restored by Don Mayton.
11 March of Tools currently a parts shell owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, Massachusetts.
12 Precision and Durability unknown

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "1936, The Parade of Progress". GM Heritage Center. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Futurliner No. 10 to go on National Historic Vehicle Register, finds permanent home". Hemmings Motor News, Nov 19, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "G.M.'s Futurliner to Take Its Place Among Historically Important Vehicles". The New York Times, Nov 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ "City Welcomes Big GM Parade of Progress". Janesville Daily Gazette. 16 Sep 1955. p. 1. 
  5. ^ "Complicated Exhibit Is Feature of Show". Galveston Daily News. 8 February 1955. p. 15. 
  6. ^ "Safetyliners". Futurliner.com. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  7. ^ "Cathedral Cruiser". Futurliner.com. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  8. ^ "Bortz Auto Collection". Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "4 million dollar bus". Azcentral.com. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  10. ^ "Futurliner #8 Restoration Project" (in Swedish). Jonsson Power Entertainment Cars. 
  11. ^ a b "Other GM Futurliners". GM Futurliner Restoration Project. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Velocity Introduces Bitchin Rides". Velocity Channel. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  13. ^ GM Futurliner Restoration
  14. ^ Berghoff, Bruce (2007). General Motors Parade of Progress & A Futurliner Returns. Futurliner Restoration Team. ISBN 978-1604022513. 

External links[edit]