The radical 1950 GM Futurliner is a whole-lot-of bus. It’s quite fitting that it also commands an equally ginormous price tag. This pristine example drew a substantial amount of fanfare when it went up for auction at the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale event on Saturday, and even more when the gavel fell for $4 million.
The story behind the futuristic hauler is no less exciting. In 1936, General Motors created the Parade of Progress – a campaign to exhibit GM’s vision of the future to the American public in the form of a traveling exhibition.
By 1939 at the New York World’s Fair, GM raised its own bar with the introduction of the Futurliner bus, which would become the new packhorse of the traveling show. Imagine seeing one of these cruise through your rural town in the 1940s.
On its flank, a 16-foot side panel opens up to reveal a retractable stage, complete with lights and its own PA system. A scant 12 Futurliners were built under the direction of GM design boss Harley Earl, of which only nine remain and three are said to run. This stellar example is one of that coveted trio.
The Futurliners originally drew power from a four-cylinder diesel engine; however this bus was restored and given a livelier beating heart in the form of a 400ci GM truck engine.
This example came up for auction in 2006 and in quite the memorable fashion. The owner had been hoping to get more than $600,000 for the brute. It hammered for a formidable $4.1 million.
New owner Ron Pratte then set about having the Futurliner re-restored, now gaveling for the aforementioned $4 million bid. More spectacular than the bus itself, Ron donated all the proceeds to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. A great vehicle and a great cause.