GM Futurliner

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GM Futurliner
GM FuturLiner at Flint 2011.jpg
ManufacturerGMC Truck and Fisher Coach & Body.
Production1936–1941, 1953–1956
  • 4-cylinder diesel (1940–1946)
  • GMC 302ci 6-cylinder (1953–1956)
  • Manual (1940–1946)
  • 4-speed hydramatic and 2-speed manual gearbox (1953–1956)
Wheelbase20 feet 8 inches (6.3 meters)
Length32 feet 10 inches (10 meters)
Width7 feet 10 inches (2.4 meters)
Height11 feet 6 inches (3.5 meters)
Curb weight30,000 pounds (14 metric tons) (approx)

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][2] 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.

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,[3] 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.

In 2014, Futurliner #10 was nominated for inclusion in the National Historic Vehicle Register.[4]

Parade of Progress[edit]

Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World's Fair,[5] 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.[4] 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,[4] 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.[6] A display titled Our American Crossroads was also used in 1955.[7] 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.

List of Futurliners[edit]

The following table lists the original displays and the current status of the units.[8] 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 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 buses.

There are still two Futurliners unaccounted for.[9]

Number Image Original Display Fate/Status/Current location
1 Miracles of Heat and Cold Displayed the “Miracles of Heat and Cold” exhibit, featuring Frigidaire products.

Current whereabouts unknown.

2 Our American Crossroads Displayed the “Our American Crossroads” exhibit. GM retained the exhibit at the end of the Parade of Progress. The exhibit of this Futurliner is kept at the General Motors Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The whereabouts of the vehicle itself are unknown.[10]
3 Futurliner 3 Front.JPG Power for the Air Age 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.

In 2011, Boyajian sold it to Rick and Amy White, who employed Kindig-It Design in 2013-2014 to restore it.[11] Rick White is the co-founder of Fusion-IO, a computer hardware and software company, and then co-founder of Primary Data.[12] Rick had previously had Kindig-It Design customize a VW 23 window bus with a Fusion-IO theme. The restoration of Futurliner No. 3 was the subject of two episodes of the Velocity Channel show Bitchin' Rides. The 2 shows where Season 1 Episodes 9 & 10 and originally aired back to back on Oct. 28, 2014.[13] It underwent a 19-month restoration, intended to be the most authentic, complete, and period-correct restoration of all that have been attempted so far. In August 2016 the Futurliner was consigned to Motorsport Auction Group's inaugural Hot August Nights auction in Reno. At $2.6 million it failed to meet reserve. Negotiations reportedly continued afterward.[14] In 2017 No. 3 was offered for sale in the classifieds by Ardell Brown Classic Cars for an undisclosed asking price. As of 2018 No. 3 resides in the Dennis Albaugh Collection.

4 Diesel Power Parade Displayed the “Diesel Power Parade” exhibit; also displayed the “Power for the Nation’s Lifelines” exhibit, which also focused on diesels.

Current whereabouts unknown.

5 World of Science No. 5 displayed the “World of Science” and “Versatile Metal Powder” exhibits.

Purchased by Brad Boyajian in 2002. Boyajian said he believes that the Futurliner that he converted into a custom flatbed car hauler is No. 5, powered by a 230 Cummins diesel. Futurliner No. 5'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.

As of 2018 Futureliner #5 has been sold to ChromeCars in Germany, the 3rd Futurliner they have purchased and transplanted to Germany.

6 Energy & Man Displayed the “Energy & Man” exhibit; also displayed the “High Compression Power & Energy” exhibit. This bus is believed to have been restored and owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines. They have a 2nd Futurliner, in poor condition, in storage. Which buses they are, is still largely in question. Two Futurliners are owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines in Springfield, Massachusetts. The restored Futurliner was bought out of a cornfield in upstate New York in 1997. Peter Pan rents the Futurliner out for events as a promotional vehicle. The overhead pod light that extends out of the roof needs to be repaired and parts may be used from the other Futurliner which is described as a carcass according to John Cieplik, general manager of Peter Pan Coach Builders.[15]
7 Out of the City Muddle 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 motorsport team bought it to use the Futurliner as a service vehicle. That team then ran No. 7 until 1964 when it 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 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 ChromeCars in Germany, the same owner of No. 9, who shipped it to Ilmenau, Germany.[16]
8 Around the Farm House Clock 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 it was 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, scheduled for March 2018 completion.

9 Reception Center Hosted the exhibit reception center.

No. 9 was previously 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 ChromeCars in Germany. As of 2018 it remains at ChromeCars of Germany, who is currently working on restoring No. 9.

10 GM FuturLiner front at Flint.jpg Opportunity for Youth 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 beginning in 1999. Currently on display at NATMUS except for occasional excursions to auto shows.

11 March of Tools 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 No. 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.[17] Mr. Pratte sold the same bus on January 17, 2015 at Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale, AZ to an anonymous donor. 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.[18]
12 Precision and Durability Displayed the “Precision and Durability” exhibit. Current whereabouts unknown[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1936, The Parade of Progress". GM Heritage Center. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ "Futurliner No. 10 to go on National Historic Vehicle Register, finds permanent home". Hemmings Motor News. November 19, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "G.M.'s Futurliner to Take Its Place Among Historically Important Vehicles There is one on display in Auburn Indiana at the Auburn Chird Dusceburg museum". The New York Times. 2014-11-26.
  5. ^ "1936, The Parade of Progress". GM Heritage Center. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  6. ^ "City Welcomes Big GM Parade of Progress". Janesville Daily Gazette. 16 Sep 1955. p. 1.
  7. ^ "Complicated Exhibit Is Feature of Show". Galveston Daily News. 8 February 1955. p. 15.
  8. ^ Berghoff, Bruce (2007). General Motors Parade of Progress & A Futureliner Returns. Futureliner Restoration Team. ISBN 978-1604022513.
  9. ^ GM Futurliner Restoration Archived 2013-09-21 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "G.M.'s Futurliner to Take Its Place Among Historically Important Vehicles". New York Times. November 27, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  11. ^ Strohl, Daniel (June 21, 2013). "'Most original unrestored' Futurliner goes under the knife for full restoration". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  12. ^ "Rick C White, Primary Data: Profile and Biography". Bloomberg News.
  13. ^[user-generated source]
  14. ^ Strohl, Daniel (August 9, 2016). "A tale of two Futurliners: One fails to sell at auction while another goes overseas". Hemmings.
  15. ^ "How an Ultra-Rare 1930s GM Futurliner Got Street Parked in a Small New England Town". 24 September 2021.
  16. ^ "Seltener Futurliner von GM nun in Ilmenau beheimatet" [Rare Futurliner from GM now resides in Ilmenau] (in German). Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  17. ^ "4 million dollar bus". 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2011-09-18.
  18. ^ "Giant GM bus from the '50s sells for $4 million". 2015-01-19. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  19. ^ Strohl, Daniel (July 3, 2013). "So which Futurliner is which? An initial effort toward a Futurliner registry". Retrieved June 12, 2018.

External links[edit]