1940 GM Futurliner Proves Commercial Vehicles Can Have Style
In the early 1940s, America had a fantastical vision of its future. This vision continued following WWII, but in the inter-war period was marked by fantastic optimism which drove incredible forward-thinking designs. A terrific example of this is the 1940 GM Futurliner.
Designed by the legendary Harley Earl, the Futurliners were used as display vehicles for GM’s “March of Progress,” which was a cross-country tour showcasing the latest in automotive and home technology. The tour featured innovations like the latest televisions, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens and jet engines.
12 of these incredible vehicles were created, and used in 1940 and 1941. The outbreak of WWII brought the Parade of Progress to a halt, but resumed in 1953, following a refurbishment and upgrade. The tour finally halted for a final time in 1956.
The Futurliners are 33 feet long, with a wheelbase of 20 feet, 8 inches and a height of 11 feet six inches. From 1940 to 1946, the Futurliner featured a four cylinder diesel engine, mated to a manual transmission. In the 1953 refitting, a GM 302 cubic inch inline-6 was used, sending power through a 4-speed automatic with 2-speed manual operation.
But the most impressive element of the Futurliner is its futuristic styling and unique design. The driver would sit in the middle of his high perch, and access the driver’s seat by climbing up a small set of stairs. The sides would open, turning the 15-ton Futurliner into a mobile display facility.
Large commercial vehicles these days are devoid of style. Sure, it is important for a semi truck to be functional rather than visually fetching, but the Futurliner makes us long for a time when something as simple as a toaster had to have undeniable style.