1940 GM Futurliner No. 10

1940 GM Futurliner No. 10

HAER Number

IN- 114

Location

Auburn, IN

Date(s) of Construction

Summer 1940

Original Owner and Use

General Motors

Display and promotion with the Parade of Progress

Present Owner and Use

National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATM)

Display and exhibition

Designer / Engineer / Builder

General Motors Industrial Design and Exhibit Department – Design
General Motors Research Laboratories Division – Engineering
GMC Truck and Coach Division and Fisher Body Division – Builders

Significance

The GM Futurliner, known as Futurliner No. 10, is nationally significant based on three criteria. First, Futurliner No. 10 is associated with important events in automotive and American history. It was one of twelve Futurliners used for the General Motors Corporation (GM) “Parade of Progress” mobile science and technology exhibition in 1941 and 1953 to 1956. Futurliner No. 10 and the Parade of Progress traveled to almost 200 cities in the United States and Canada, and was attended by 11 million people. Secondly, the Futurliner exhibits significant design and construction value. Futurliner No. 10, and the additional Futurliners were custom-built for the Parade of Progress. Their design incorporated innovative styling, engineering and a space for the Parade’s exhibits. Lastly, the Futurliner offers informational value as one of only nine remaining vehicles and the first to have been restored in a manner that is authentic to its 1953 to 1956 period of use in the GM Parade of Progress.

The period of significance for Futurliner No. 10 was during its construction and use by General Motors for the Parade of Progress from 1940 to 1956.

Description

Futurliner No. 10 is a 33′ long, 8′ wide, 11′4″ high, custom-built steel- bodied truck. It features a front-mounted engine, rear-drive configuration and an airplane-like cockpit with center-mounted steering wheel and drivers seat. A divided bench seat is behind the driver. The current engine is a 302 C.I.D. liquid-cooled, overhead-valve, longitudinally mounted, gasoline inline six-cylinder built by GMC. The engine is naturally aspirated with a two-barrel Holley downdraft carburetor. The transmission is an automatic four-speed General Motors Hydra-Matic with a two-speed reduction unit. Original specifications rated the engine at 145-horsepower 262 foot-pounds of torque with a 7.3 to 1 compression ratio. The Futurliner rides on eight 20” diameter wheels and custom-made 10.00 x 20 bias-ply white-wall tires. The front of the Futurliner has a unique dual front wheel setup, where each wheel has its own hub and brake assembly. The exterior of the Futurliner is painted GM “Target Red” and “Artic White” consistent with its 1953 configuration. Each side of the Futurliner opens with an upper and lower door to provide a stage area that is 16ʹ′ long and 14’ wide. The 45” top door swings upward and in period featured a marque for the exhibit. The 36” bottom door swings down to extend the stage area. The Futurliner has approximately 900 cubic feet of internal exhibit space. The top of the Futurliner features a 15ʹ′ long lighting fixture that rises from the roof to 18ʹ′ high with thirty-six fluorescent tubes and two incandescent lamps at each end. The Futurliner originally incorporated an internal PTO driven generator but typically used an external power source during the exhibitions. Futurliner No. 10 is currently equipped with a modern, standalone generator. Futurliner No. 10 was restored from October 1998 to December 2005 retaining much of its original components and historic integrity.

History

General Motors Corporation (GM) launched the original Parade of Progress in 1936 to exhibit free public demonstrations of the scientific and technological achievements of American industry through the use of a traveling road show. The program was inspired by the 1933 World’s Fair Century of Progress and was created at the request of GM research director Charles F. Kettering. The Parade of Progress ran three times from 1936 to 1956. When the Parade first set out in 1936, it featured eight large “Streamliners” used as transport trucks and display stages for the educational exhibits featured on the traveling program. The Parade of Progress traversed the country and continent visiting Cuba, Mexico and Canada. By 1940 the first tour of the Parade of Progress had been viewed by nearly 9 million people. GM deemed it a success and created a second Parade for 1941. This included the construction of twelve new Futurliners (including Futurliner No. 10) to replace the outdated Streamliners. None of the Streamliners used from 1936 to 1940 are known to exist.

GM began building the Futurliners in the spring of 1940. They were based on styling from the Industrial Design and Exhibit department of the Styling Section at GM. The 248ʺ″ chassis were constructed by the GMC Truck and Coach Division and eleven of the Futurliners were originally equipped with supercharged two-cycle diesel engines. A twelfth Futurliner sponsored by the Ethyl Corporation used a 451 C.I.D. gasoline engine, however. The bodies were created by the Fisher Body Division and were formed using wooden bucks and power hammers. General Motors debuted the Futurliners on the second tour of the Parade of Progress in Miami, Florida on February 26, 1941.

The 1941 Parade focused on the looming war in addition to science and technology. The keynote address by Mr. Kettering stated, “The permanent defense of America, both in the immediate future and in succeeding years is going to require greater ingenuity and inventiveness…” It is thought that Futurliner No. 10 displayed a map of GM factories that housed national defense activities during this tour. The Futurliners and the Parade of Progress were exhibited in forty-three cities with a total attendance of over 3 million people before the tour was suspended in December 1941 after Pearl Harbor.

During WWII and in the years after, the Futurliners remained unused with the exception of a few events such as the Golden Jubilee of the Automobile in Detroit in 1946. In 1952, GM refurbished the Futurliners in preparation for a third and final tour of the Parade of Progress. GM equipped the Futurliners with 302 C.I.D. six-cylinder GMC engines used in Korean War military trucks. The bodies were stripped, a new paint scheme added and various new design features were incorporated. In addition, the cockpit was modified to cover the driver from the sun and air-conditioning was added to further enhance driver comfort.

The Parade of Progress re-launched in the spring of 1953. The “World Premiere” was in Dayton, Ohio on May, 7, 1953. The Parade comprised the twelve restored Futurliners, thirty-two support vehicles painted in matching livery, and approximately sixty staff members known as “Paraders.” The Paraders were mostly young college graduates and veterans employed by GM to transport the vehicles from town to town, set up the twenty-six major exhibits, and give lectures on the various demonstrations. The basic motivation of the Parade, according to GM, was to, “present, through this Parade of Progress, a picture of America on the move toward better lives for all of us.”

A large, external framed tent, called the Aerodome also accompanied the Parade of Progress and was set up by the Paraders. The Aerodome was an integral part of the Parade of Progress exhibit. It held over 1,250 people and was first used in the 1941 Parade of Progress. The Aerodome was assembled flat on the ground and then erected using a winch trucks that traveled with the Parade. Within the tent, the Paraders gave 40- minute lectures and demonstrations on scientific research.

Each of the Futurliners held exhibits within their hulls. Both sides of the Futurliners featured a pair of doors 16ʹ′ long that would open in the
middle with the top becoming a marque and the bottom becoming a stage. The exhibits ranged from a cutaway jet engine display called “Power for the Air Age” to “Our American Crossroads,” an animated diorama that changed continuously to demonstrate the effect of the automobile on American communities and the landscape.

Futurliner No. 10 is known to have presented three different exhibits from 1953 to 1956. At one time, it held the “Opportunity for Youth” exhibit, which promoted the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild scholarship competition for aspiring car designers. Futurliner No. 10 also contained the “All-American Soap Box Derby,” which displayed the winners of the Chevrolet Soap Box Derby Day at Akron, Ohio. The third exhibit housed in Futurliner No. 10 is the “Three Dimensional Sound” display that demonstrated the use of binaural sound for the incorporation and development of sound insulation for GM vehicles.

After nearly three years of touring, GM ended the Parade of Progress in July of 1956. The final stop of the Parade of Progress was in Spokane, Washington, where the last performance was held on Independence Day. Over 8 million people viewed the Futurliners and the Parade of Progress in over 150 towns between 1953 and 1956.

After the Parade of Progress ended, General Motors eventually sold all of the Futurliners. Futurliner No. 10 was purchased by the Goebel Brewing Company of Detroit, Michigan and converted into a press vehicle named the, “Goebel Land Cruiser.” It featured a stage, public address system and display board that detailed the brewing process of Goebel beer. The Goebel Land Cruiser toured the country until 1960 when it was sold to Pulte Construction of Detroit, Michigan. Pulte sold Futurliner No. 10 to Dreisbach & Sons Cadillac Co., a Detroit, Michigan car dealership. Dreisbach & Sons used Futurliner No. 10 as a large billboard for advertisement throughout the 1970s. After its ownership by Dreisbach & Sons, Futurliner No. 10 was acquired by a presently unknown owner in Chicago, Il.

Joseph Bortz of Highland Park, Illinois purchased Futurliner No. 10 in the 1980’s. In June 1992 Mr. Bortz donated Futurliner No. 10 to the Auburn, Indiana based, National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATM). Retired GM Plant Manager, Donald Mayton of Beaverdam, Michigan gathered a group of volunteers and undertook the restoration of the Futurliner on behalf of NATM in May 1998. Mr. Mayton and a large group of volunteers completely restored Futurliner No. 10 at Mr. Mayton’s personal garage. The restoration was substantially completed in 2005. The Futurliner No. 10 restoration project was, supported by donations and in-kind contributions from General Motors and many others. Since 2006, Futurliner No. 10 has been used for display and exhibition at car shows and events throughout the country.

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Then

Now

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THIS TRUCK MATTERS: GM Futurliner No. 10

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