This General Motors Futurliner was one of only 12 such vehicles ever built. They were introduced in 1940 as part of GM's "Parade of Progress," spun out of the 1933-34 World's Fair, themed "A Century Of Progress." There are nine known Futurliners that have survived. Three are in operating condition, including this 1950 model which sold at an auction last week for US$4,320,000. From the vehicle Web site:
Their sides opened up to form 16-foot self-contained, fully-lighted exhibits and stages which allowed the large crowds to tour the displays at their own pace. Many of the displays were animated and ran continuously. In the 1954 "Parade of Progress" the Futurliners' animated displays showed the evolution of communities, high compression engines and an automobile assembly line. Others displayed a cutaway jet engine, household appliances, powdered metal technology, "binaural" sound, microwave cooking, Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild concept car models and precision measurement technology among many others.Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)
The Futurliners are imposing vehicles, 33 feet long, 8 feet wide and standing 11 feet 7 inches tall at the top of the driver's canopy. The driver's eyes are about 10 feet off the ground and in front of the steering wheels. In 1953 the driver's position was modified with a closed roof and air conditioning; the 1940 bubble-top version sat atop the front-mounted engine with no shade or air conditioning and was like riding in a heated greenhouse. Dual tires on both the front and rear axles were a unique Futurliner feature that made power steering a necessity. Power was provided by a 302 cubic inch inline six-cylinder GMC gasoline engine driving through a four-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission used in Korean War-era Army trucks.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.