1940's-era custom "Parade of Progress" bus, one of only three examples thought to be in good condition, will be crossing the auction block on August 6th.
General Motors Futurliners
Back in the 1940's, General Motors ruled the automotive world and the corporation wasn't shy about making this fact known.
To that end, in 1939, GM, along with its designer Harley Earl, developed 12 matching "Futurliner" buses as part of an exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair - an event that was held that year in the Flushing, Queens borough of New York City. Following the fair's closing, all 12 Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, made their way across the U.S. driven by 50 college graduates, who also staffed the exhibits at nearly 150 stops along the route.
The exterior of all 12 busses were identically- styled, with art deco bodywork and chrome side panels, finished in a white and deep red livery. Each Futurliner also featured an eye-catching, roof-mounted, deployable light tower.
Once their driver-side articulated chrome side panels were extended, they revealed self-contained stages that featured a different exhibit for each one: #1- Miracles of Heat and Cold, #2 – Our American Crossroads, #3 – Power for the Air Age, #4 – Diesel Power Parade, #5 – World of Science, #6 – Energy & Man, #7 – Out of the City Muddle, #8 – Around the Farm House Clock, #9 – Reception Center, #10 – March of Tools and #12 – Precision and Durability.
World War II interrupted the first "Parade of Progress" tour, but once the war was over, it returned in 1953 and continued until the program was discontinued in 1956. Once the tour was over, GM sold 10 of the custom busses and donated 2 to the Michigan State Police (that rechristened theirs "Safetyliners").
The whereabouts of 4 of them (#1, #4, #6 and #12) are currently unknown, #5 was used as a donor vehicle (giving its axles to #8 and #10) and converted to a custom flatbed hauler, #2 is currently owned by GM, #10 is at the National Automotive and Truck Museum and #7 is owned by Peter Pan Bus Lines, while the other four are in private hands.
GM Futurliner #3
Earlier today, it was announced that Futurliner #3 will be crossing the block Saturday, August 5 at 2:00 pm Mountain Time as part of Motorsports Auction Group's Hot August Nights collector car auction taking place August 4-6 in Reno, Nevada.
But before pulling out your wallet, be advised that it better be coming from a rather deep pocket. Having recently undergone a 19-month full restoration in Salt Lake City, Utah (and now, like the original, displays an Allison J-35 jet engine), Futurliner #3 is one of just three examples described as being in "good condition." Another in good condition, Futurliner #11, has crossed the auction block twice in the last 10 years, fetching $4 million or more at both sales.
That being said, those still interested can view the catalog and place bids by visiting Proxibid.
GM Futurliner specifications
Built By: GMC Truck and Fisher Coach & Body
Number Built: 12
Year Built: 1939
Height: 11 feet 6 inches
Width: 7 feet 10 inches
Length: 32 feet 10 inches
Wheelbase: 20 feet 8 inches
Weight (approx): 30,000 pounds (15 tons)
Fuel Capacity: 90 U.S. gallons (two 45 gallon tanks)
Powertrain: GMC 302 cubic inch 6-cylinder /4-speed Hydramatic plus 2-speed manual gearbox (1953-1956)
Top Speed: 50 mph (1953-1956)