GM Futurliner No. 7 – Back from the Future.
A long-lost GM Futurliner was discovered in the USA and exported to Germany by ChromeCars. This news was quite a sensation and not only in the local classic car scene. The find is a special one in many ways: only 12 of these giants, which are also called “Red Elephants” due to their size and color, were ever built.
GM Futurliner on the PARADE OF PROGRESS
In 1941, General Motors put 12 futuristic Art Deco trucks on the road. The vehicles were designed to be used as platforms to present future innovations in research, business and science to a broad audience. A road trip through 150 North American cities was planned to show the population the progress and technical future of the country. But the Second World War stopped the project, which was only taken up again in the 1950s. From 1953 to 1956 the second attempt was made and the freshly restored trucks completed the entire “Parade of Progress” through almost 300 cities. One of the 12 elephants fell victim to a crash at the end of the tour and was scrapped. Another was turned into a mobile cathedral used by a wandering preacher, and two by the Michigan State Police for advertising purposes. Most of the others just disappeared and probably found their way into private hands.
GM FUTURLINER – THE LIFE OF NUMBER 7
The “Elephant” found is number 7, which was actually thought to be owned by a bus company. The 10-meter-long, 3.5-meter-high and 2.4-meter-wide moving showroom contained displays that could be opened to both sides of the truck. The displays vividly depicted the future of innovative traffic concepts and transport options in cities under the motto “Out of the City Muddle”. The two displays are now in the General Motors Museum. After the “Parade of Progress”, No. 7 came into the possession of a large electrical company that sent it on tour in its original form as a promotional truck. From 1960 onward it toured the country as a service vehicle for a racing team. In 1964 the racing team ran out of gas in front of a scrap yard in New Hampshire. Completely inexplicable from today’s perspective, the racing athletes simply left the Futurliner there under a tree. It seems they had no particularly close connection to the “Red Elephant” they had been using for several years. The truck just stood there, battered by the elements for 20 years, until 1984. A restaurant owner looking for a mobile salad bar stumbled upon the vehicle. He contacted the scrap yard and bought No.7 and parked it behind his house. The GM Futurliner was in his possession until 2005, when he asked a towing contractor in Poland Springs, Maine, if this “bus-like thing” could be towed away as his wife insisted that it finally had to go.
GM FUTURLINER – NEW HOME IN THURINGEN
No.7 spent another eleven years at the tow truck company until the ChromeCars team learned of the treasure and appeared at their doorstep. The team didn’t give up until the owner released the vehicle for purchase. “Between old tractors and tow trucks, we recovered the Futurliner under harsh weather conditions of minus 15 degrees in December and shipped it to Germany,” said ChromeCars’ Michael Gross. “This Futurliner is absolutely No.7, we checked all documents and numbers on the vehicle.”
No.9 has already been restored in great detail by ChromeCars. No.7 will most certainly be restored just as carefully and be led into a bright future by the ChromeCars team. With quiet satisfaction, the automotive archaeologists from Jena will watch the future steps of these two Futurliners. Two “Elephants” they were able to save from extinction. Changes are these will be the only two. On the other hand, who would have thought No. 7 would appear at all and find its way to Thuringen just like his next of kin No.9 ?!
Text Paolo Ollig Photos Chromecars, S.I.H.A.
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