We never get tired of seeing these vehicles. Produced in 1939 for the coming World’s Fair and used into the 1950’s for the Parade of Progress (with a break during the war) these vehicles still turn heads 80 years later. If you are not impressed here is the score card.
A nearly 12 foot tall art deco beast modeled after the Steamliner trains of the time (and the Streamliner truck that came before it). You cannot miss this vehicle going by whether you are a car fan or not. To see 12 of these coming down the road at once must have looked like a train went off the rails. Photos show them stretching 2 city blocks.
Let’s start with ease of transport. They hired a group of college grads to drive and setup the 12 Futurliners as well as the tent and other displays that were part of the show. So while the driver had limited visibility and sat with eye level being around 11 feet off the ground the Futurliner could be driven by an average but skilled person. (That said, one driver did rear end another but that was blamed on the under equipped brakes.).
The setup consisted of legless side stage and canopy systems opening on each side to reveal the display area. No tools required. Night time was no problem for these vehicles. With the push of a button (we guess?) a 16′ long integrated light bar extended from roof to light up the area around the vehicle completing the Steamliner look.
The fact that the Futurliner still looks ahead of it’s time is amazing. The original domed cockpit looked more space age than the 1950’s version. The 1950’s version still looks futuristic but less sci-fi (and lets in a little more fresh air, no a/c in these). The massive truck has dually tires on both front and rear axles. At around 26,000 pounds these things were mostly steel but somehow powered by 150 horsepower engines. There are 19 hatches and doors on this vehicle. The entry to the driver’s seat has 2 doors and seats 2 passengers. The engineering and creativity on the Furturliner was top notch.
The Futurliner was a nimble, self contained head turner built in 1939 that trades at a price tag of over $4,000,000.00 today. It may have only gone 45mph and taken the length of Rhode Island to stop but for it’s day it was an amazing achievement and would still make a solid event vehicle today. Units went on to be concert stages, pulpits, bars, and mobile homes.
If you are ever in Auburn, Indiana you can see a fully restored #10 at the National Automotive and Truck Museum.
A good portion of existing units have been shipped to Europe for restoration.