GM ‘Parade of Progress’, looking at the Futurliner…

Having discovered the GM Futurliner while researching for an earlier post, we were very excited to see one ‘in the flesh’ at this years Goodwood Revival. Unfortunately it was only a static exhibit and in it’s location it wasn’t really possible to get the full effect but it was still pretty awesome. It’s main feature being, it’s so tall!  Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to look inside.IMG_6674DSC04472 DSC04475 DSC04477 DSC04521 IMG_6675

Actually seeing a Futurliner spurred us on to do a bit of research and find out a bit more about them…

streamliner streamliner2Streamliner3In the 30’s GM wanted to take their latest car models to the people and show what was happening in the industry and in research, technology was developing at a pace and they wanted the American people to know about it. This evolved into the ‘Parade of Progress’ – a travelling exhibition across the country, promoting technology. For the first event held in the 1936, GM used a group of customised Streamliners (as above). They were such a success that for the 1939 New York World Fair, the GM Futurliner was custom built and then they went on the second ‘Parade of Progress’ tour which travelled to more than 150 locations across the USA and Canada. The ‘e’ in the ‘Future Liner’ name was dropped so that GM could copyright/trademark it easily.early-parade Early2 early4

Styled by Harley Earl, the first Head of Design and later President of General Motors in the 40’s and 50’s, each Futurliner had a self contained stage, a light tower and each vehicle featured a unique subject such as jet engine technology, agriculture, microwaves, stereophonic sound and televisions.

display1 display2 sound display4They featured heavily stylised Art Deco Streamlined bodywork with the driver centrally located in a high command position with a panoramic view. Twelve were produced and it is believed that nine are still in existence.The Parade was mothballed after Pearl Harbour  but later the vehicles were refurbished and the event resumed in 1953 before being discontinued in 1956 – ironically as televisions, which they had promoted, became more popular and the parade became obsolete.cockpit-view cockpit2parade-logoParade1 parade2 parade4 parade6 parade7 parade8 parade9

The Futurliners were constructed by the Yellow Coach Bus division in Pontiac, Michigan and were 30 feet long, 8 feet wide and nearly 12 feet to the top of the high level cockpit and were powered by a 6 cylinder OHV GMC diesel engine with a 4-speed automatic transmission and 2-speed gearbox. With dual wheels front and rear they stretched bus technology of the time to the limit. Weighing 13 tonnes it would appear that the brakes weren’t very efficient, as after an incident where one run into another, the drivers were told to keep them 300 feet apart! Despite their size they could only take the driver and two passengers on a pair of upright jump seats that flank the ‘captains’ chair.

Once in situ at the exhibition site, the light bar ascended vertically above the roof and the massive clam shell side doors opened to display the futuristic exhibits. The Futurliners were accompanied by support vehicles which made the parade 50 strong and took along a huge 1500 capacity ‘Areodrome’ tent.showground showground2display5aero2 aero3 aero4 aero5

In the 50’s when the Futurliners went on the road for the final parade they were slightly modified with larger GMC straight six petrol engines and the original glass bubble canopy was replaced with a panoramic windscreen with a metal roof to shield the driver from the intense sun and added air conditioning.1941-magazine 1953-magazine

The last parade was seen by 13 million people in 300 cities. Recently the Futurliner has been added to the National Historic Vehicle Register which documents important vehicles in American History.

The twelve vehicles were sold and two of the original twelve were donated to the Michigan State Police for safety displays, one became a portable stage for the televangelist Oral Roberts who used it for his crusades in the 60’s, it was known as the Cathedral Cruiser. One bus sold for US$4 million in 2006 and again in January this year when it’s owner liquidated his entire collection. It fetched the same amount and the money went to an Armed Forces Charity. Several have been restored, one converted to a motorhome and another which was too badly damaged for a full restoration has been covered into a flat bed transporter! Reportedly more are under restoration, including one in Sweden.safetylinerOral Robertsmotorhomemotorhome-interiorPeterpan1


Futurliner No 10 is owned by the National Auto and Truck Museum in Auburn, Indiana, between 1999 and 2006 is was restored by a group of volunteers, led by a retired GM plant manager. It’s 23,000 hour restoration is detailed online. The bus now appears at events in the States.no10-before restoration


Although at Goodwood we didn’t see the inside, following our research I believe that it was the number 9 bus which was converted to a motorhome by Bob Valdez in California and is now thought to be owned by a collector in Germany. It was great to see it, just a shame we couldn’t get a ‘selfie’ with Mario!



Caravan of fun… Promo vehicles on the Tour de France

With the Tour de France such a hit in the UK it seemed the perfect time to do a post which I have been planning for some time… publicity vehicles. I’ve touched on this subject a couple of times in the past with the Tour de France parade at the Revival last year, the Rome Olympics and the Mercier Champagne promotions but I’ve come across so many brilliant images it deserves a post of it’s own.

The Tour de France was created in 1903 by the Newspaper L’Auto as a way to sell more papers. In the 20’s bicycle manufacturers became more important than the riders, and with few Frenchmen winning enthusiasm wained. In 1929 Henry Desgranges, the race director together with the marketing director of Menier Chocolates created the ‘Caravan’, made up of cars promoting products. In that first year nearly 40 vehicles were seen by nearly 10 million people on the route promoting various goods.

The size of the caravan has grown over the years and it even had it’s own competition for the best idea for advertising vehicles. As TV ownership grew it became even more important as the stand out vehicles were seen by millions worldwide.

These first two images show vehicles on the 1930 Caravan.Pathé-19301930In the 1950s and ’60s, one of the Tour’s most distinctive attractions was an accordion-playing Serbian immigrant woman named Yvette Horner, she serenaded the bystanders and played at the podium presentation following each stage. A dummy woman was carried on the vehicles between stops.*** Local Caption *** horner (yvette) caravan-1955suze1 caravan-1952vitabrill Many of the vehicles were built by the great coach builders of the time on standard chassis by French manufacturers such as Renault, Citroen and Simca. The development of electrical products led to more and more elaborate vehicles.03-1960-Butagaz-21voiturechateauIMGcaravane002Heuliez 1953Cinzanobicbase-Renault-R2165-1953base-Renault-1400-kg-1954base-Estafette-et-Fiat-1963-carrosserie-Pourtout03-1962-Butagaz-42A collection of 50’s and 60’s promo vehicles was sold at the Bonhams Retromobile Auction in Feb 2009. I believe many were purchased by one Frenchman who has built up a collection of the vehicles which he displays during the modern tour.retro9_1248006iimages-1Group shot_1DSCN4442DSCN4441fbcbb2d990062c985948238502f485feenhanced-buzz-wide-12905-1374837027-91951 Renault 1400 kg R2163 Le Nain Gourmand 5_1Interspersed between the more elaborate vehicles were fleets of branded cars, often Renault 4cv’s like Mario’s ‘brother’ Regie, vans and even motorbikes – in the 60’s the Cinzano team did acrobatics on their bikes for more than 5 hours at a 66-1952-Cinzano-01 049_001bootcarI’m not sure if this wonderful pig was actually part of the caravan but couldn’t miss it out as it’s built on a Fiat 600 Multipla – a new look for Mario! There must have been an original one in the 1960’s as it’s available as a die-cast model but with different graphics.2431487116_f62d1a0b25The modern Tour
With the modern peloton coming past in a matter of seconds the Caravan is as important today as it’s ever been as a way to entertain the captive crowd. Technology and modern materials have meant that it is more something stuck onto a car than a specifically created vehicle but they still make quite an impression…tdf10st14ed-041 tourdefrance8 DSC_0437Vittel-spray-girl-600x450 Le-tour-caravanne TdeFCaravan01 2253166 0507240093 6279420-mobile 0023ae82cb0c1334d8dd04 reuters_france_sport_cycling_23Jul12-975x650Although the tour is well known for it’s caravan it isn’t the only place that promotional vehicles show up. Here in the UK we have a few famous ones of our own… The Cadbury Creme Egg…2578743884_e3b80b8d64_b The Birds Eye Pea car from the brilliant 2005 TV commercialDSC_0135 The Outspan orange, a modified 1972 Mini, if it goes more than 30mph it risks toppling over!DSC_0154There is also the Duckham’s Q, the 10 foot high oil can was used in a commercial with Paddy Hopkirk in the early 70’s.New-Picture-163_thumb2In more modern times a fleet of Smart Cars were covered in artificial grass to promote Easigrass.New-Picture-155_thumb2

Publicity mad America had more than their fair share of wild and wacky promotional vehicles.Elektrolux 5221880d1b33496d8806dcfd3392f20aHotdog brand Oscars Mayers has been using their Wienermobile in one form or another as promotion since 1936, their drivers are known as Hotdoggers!db40faca0e744903a0b10bdb4d5ff6c5 8ee6580045fd4b19894d414d1ce23882General Motors produced a fleet of Futurliners, stylised buses designed in the 40’s. They were used on the Parade of Progress which travelled across the US exhibiting new cars and technology.d99206131b6b412ba7d3cab0015ebe4aThis amazing ‘Burger’ Chevy S-10 Pickup drives around Kansas City to advertise a bar and grill, the ‘toppings’ make it very difficult to see where you are going.New-Picture-160_thumb2New-Picture-158_thumb27e8b916a395a455a9e05988cb406f1fcNew-Picture-157_thumb2Goldfish-SnapshotThe original Zippo car was commissioned in 1947. Within two years it had visited 48 states. It vanished in the 50’s until in 1998 the company had another one created from scratch.e06d0b29d3e94965a193ecbcae0eeb87

This post could go on and on as I keep discovering more and more interesting vehicles but I think we’d better call a halt now for the time being. Apart from this cute little Multipla being used to advertise shoe and luggage repairs as a Media vehicle on the Mille Miglia.

Fiat Multipla copy

And finally before you ask – yes they did run the caravan before the 2014 Tour in the UK.Cambridge Caravan OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA tunbridge_wells UK uk2 uk3