GM Futurliner – An Alien Bus

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It looked like a street version of the Jumbo-Jet in Art Deco style. Only that Boeing did not exist yet, so unique and progressive was this GM Futurliner. Almost alien.

That certainly applied to his turning circle, but that was not so important. Its function did, it was a rolling showcase for the technical developments and progress at that time. And we're talking about the 40s to 56s, when the last GM Futurliner retired. Twelve units were built, as successors to the eight Streamliners used in the then popular Parade of Progress† With purpose-built, beautiful trucks, resembling dense buses with a rather high forehead, this caravan traveled across the United States, showing and demonstrating novelties in all kinds of fields to the common people. Which at the time was wonderfully ignorant and that remained without this caravan, for lack of a smartphone at the ear and a few laptops at home.

The GM Futurliner took over this task in 1940, four years after the first Parade of Progress. From 1941, the big GMs remained unemployed for several years due to a crackling world quarrel. It was not until 1953 that they were dusted again and immediately provided with newer technology. Initially, the GM Futurliner was equipped with a four-cylinder diesel engine, in 1953 they were renovated and six-cylinders were built in that delivered a power of 145 hp. Not too much for a weight of just under fifteen tons. With that, such a giant only reached a top speed of barely 50 mph. But that was still 10 mph faster than the first generation of show buses. And that was already scary.

The driver probably had a tendency to bend over at every viaduct or bridge, sitting at a height of about ten feet, constantly wondering if everything was all right on the street. He saw almost nothing. In a small cockpit in the middle of the mastodon, he gambled the device through the streets as best he could. Hopefully with power steering, because it gave up excessively often. The GM Futurliner not only had double wheels at the rear, but also on the steering axle at the front. Those forces regularly destroyed the pump of the necessary steering aid and then a lot of muscle was needed to stay on course. Let alone take a turn. So hard work, as if it wasn't hot enough up there already.

Also downstairs by the way. Once the GM Futurliner was standing and all 19 (!) doors, walls and hatches opened, all kinds of things were exhibited and demonstrated. A kind of microwave, for example. He did fry an egg, but left the newspaper in it undamaged. Super handy of course. Or a ping-pong game with stereo sound. Because that was the future. Beautiful novelties, packed in a truly beautiful bus. And all put in the spotlight by a variety of lighting. Above the folding side panels, for example, and from the roof, an enormous additional light installation rose. To keep this and the rest of the spectacular show going, a large, 200 kW diesel generator was installed. There was still enough space: it was 10 meters long, 3.5 meters high and almost 2.5 meters wide. You can build a nice camper from that.

That's what happened. In 1956 the Futurliners became redundant. In any case, a GM Futurliner was indeed converted into a camper around 1984. Three of these have been demolished and the rest still exist today, in various stages of decay, restoration and sometimes even in their original mint condition. There is now a price tag attached to it: a few years ago such a copy was sold for more than $ 4.000.000. And that was without the microwave.


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  1. Three or four years ago saw a good report on Discovery of the restoration of such a mastodon. Built from scratch to as new by the well-known Kindig It Design!

  2. Wonderful, that futuristic vision from the 50s
    Also nice to see on YouTube is the restoration in Germany of such a copy. Almost everything has to be rebuilt. Futurliner #7 (2/8) – Es gibt ihn

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