Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Red Elephant- 1953 GM Futurliner

I know it's not a muscle car, but I thought this thing was really cool.

The name "FUTURLINER" was spelled without the "E" in FUTURE so GM could copyright or trademark the name.


In 1940, 12 first-generation Futurliners were built to replace the original eight Streamliners. The Futurliner caravan consisted of 24 trucks, 11 passenger cars and three station wagons. The old Streamliner caravan consisted of 25 trucks and 19 different passenger car-units. The early show had five major exhibits, while the latter had 15, plus two Army trucks which formed part of the Defense Exhibit. The most spectacular of the new pieces of equipment was the Aer-O-Dome tent. It seated 1,500 people and was built like an inverted umbrella with ribs exposed. In 1946, after a WWII hiatus, several of the Futurliners were in a Detroit parade to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the automobile.


In 1953, the Futurliners were rebuilt into their second-generation form. In 1956, just three years after their rebuild, the popularity of the show waned and the Futurliners were either sold or donated. Approximately 13 million people in nearly 300 cities nation-wide saw the 12 vehicles roll into their town and enjoyed a free show that provided them with a glimpse into the future.

Twelve Futurliners were built and used by GM to transport the GM Parade of Progress show throughout the United States from 1941 to 1956.

The Futurliners transported dioramas and exhibits, featuring futuristic things such as: a microwave that fried an egg without burning a newspaper; a Ping-Pong game in stereophonic sound and; sound traveling over a beam of light produced by a flashlight.

The Futurliner is a massive bus like vehicle, 33’ long, 8’ wide, 11’-7" tall vehicle with a whopping 248" wheelbase. An unusual feature of the Futurliner is its dual (side by side) front wheels. Each wheel has its own set of brakes, brake drums and bearings. Nearly all of the Futurliners had problems with their power steering pumps failing, presumably because of the tremendous force required to turn the wheels.

The 1953 version, however, is powered by a 302 inline 6 cylinder OHV GMC engine. The engine is coupled to a Korean War vintage four speed Hydramatic automatic transmission that is bolted to the backside of another two speed gearbox. This gives the driver the option of selecting from 8 forward speeds. Complicating this a bit more is another 3-speed PTO gearbox. To shift this gearbox, the driver must leave the cockpit (presumably with the vehicle stopped) and travel to the rear quarter of the vehicle and manually select one of the three gears. With this combination, the driver now has 24 selections to choose from. The restoration crew reports that the rear-end has yet another gear reduction, but they haven’t figured out quite how that works yet. In spite of the gearing ratios, some of the original "Paraders," as they referred to themselves, recall attainable speeds of not much more than 40 mph! The Futurliners packed two 45-gallon gasoline tanks!

The vehicle has an incredible 19 access and display doors on it. Two massive 16x5’ doors open to expose the display housed within the vehicle. A 16’ lighting panel is attached to the top of the overhead doors and a large light bar rises from the roof another 7’ up above the Futurliner for additional illumination. To provide electricity for all this lighting, a massive twin 6-71 200KW Detroit Diesel generator was used.

Because the brakes were so poor, one Futurliner rear-ended another and consequently they were instructed to stay 300 feet apart. They all had radio receivers but only the lead and tail vehicle had transmitters. (source- futurliner story)

On January 14, 2006 a 1953 Futurliner sold for a whopping $4.3 million. The sellers were hoping for about $600,000, a figure roughly double their investment to restore it. They were no doubt happy to say the least!

I wonder what it would sell for today, not that it matters to the owner. If they could pay that much for it just to add to their collection of vehicles, I'm sure they are not concerned with any drop in value with todays economy.

The Lady


  1. Remember watching this sell at the B&J action a year or so ago. They also showed a clip of driving it to the guys museum in AZ and the trouble they went though getting it under power lines and such. Pretty cool and forward thinking for it's time.

    One another note. Do you have any idea why your blog won't play nice in my (and others) blog roll? Every time I link to you it gives some sort of a feed link when I click on it and I can't get here. Here is the URL that it wants to link to.

    If I had to guess it has something to do with your feed burner. Just a guess.


  2. Hi Fasthair :-)

    Thanks for the comment.
    I have tried to comment on your site also, but something didn't take. You think we might not be compatible??? Lol, naw that can't be.
    Try this feed address:
    I just don't know, I would think you could just add my address and "presto!" you'd have it...but life isn't always that simple.

    I hope it works for you (and me), I also plan on adding a blog roll so hopefully yours will link fine to mine, if not, then it must be something cosmic :-)

    The Lady

  3. Well lookie there!!! That did work darling. See we are meant for each other :) You are now in my blog roll and it is updating.

    I think you should add a blog roll to your great blog. That is how I've found so many cool blogs to visit is from other people’s lists including yours.

    As far as the comments on my blog I did see one from you about my little ride to the small town with the car show. So if you left others I don't have a clue why it didn't take. I think blogger has issues at times because I know (or thought) I left a comment only to go back and see it wasn't posted. Got to love high tech!


  4. I learned something new today. I have never seen or heard of these vehicles before, and I always thought I was pretty "up" on retro stuff. Very cool...thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Joker,

    Hey congrats on your published article, thats too cool! I'm very happy for you.
    I see that you saw, that Fasthair posted the fix to my feed on his blog.

    Thanks for posting the feed info on your blog Fasthair sir.


  6. This was at the Sloan Museum this summer. It has a slide show and good reading with it. It was pretty cool.

  7. I got to see one of these in Coopersville, Mi. two years ago at the Dell Shannon Car Show. A bunch of guys in the Zeeland, Mi area rebuilt it. What a neat piece of Americana. I walked up the tight stairs to sit in the drivers seat. Second floor! I also saw the one sell on the auction. 4.3 million is huge! I spoke to one of the people who helped build this one and he was amazed at how much it went for. Please visit me at Scroll down my posts to see some pretty amazing West Michigan Classic Cars! Mustang Mike (I liked the video!)