On Nov. 4-7, Vintage Camper Trailers attended the SEMA show in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Specialty Equipment Market Association convention attracts over 130,000 fanatics that come and see the best rides in the world; including lowriders, classics, imports, 4X4s, UTVS – and one vintage camper-esque vehicle that towered over the monster trucks.
Enter the 1939 GM Futurliner
“After 19-months of build,” Kevin Schiele said, “we unveiled the Futurliner at SEMA 2014.”
Schiele is the shop foreman of Kindig It Design from Salt Lake City. He lead the team to restore the vehicle to its current state.
“90% of the build is period correct,” Schiele said.
From 1940-1956, it was one of the main attractions for the Parade of Progress, an exhibition which toured the USA and Canada. A total of 12 of these use to parade together and each had a unique theme. This was “number three” and it showcased the “Power of the Air Age” motif.
The large side panel still operates and was powered by “the 110 motors and worm-gears” to expose the cross section of an original J35 jet engine. A three dimensional science display was created to help the children better understand the technology.
“We had the great-grandchild of the original model-maker recreate the airplanes and the planet earth (display),” Schiele said.
The attention to detail was evident throughout the re-build: the whitewall tires, the functional manual-transmission, the staircase that leads to the cockpit, and the newly installed panoramic windshield.
Every piece by the driver’s seat was intact too; just like when the Futurliner allegedly debuted at the 1939 New York World Fair. The montage of buttons and gauges; lit-up. The cream leather headliner and center-positioned vinyl seat – provided a “brand new car” scent.
The art-deco inspired vehicle stands 11 feet tall and 33 feet long.
“He (Harley Earl – the original designer) would be proud,” said one of the spectators at the show, “and it even looks fast.”
“The Futurliner is slow, it tops out at 40 MPH,” Schiele said, “but it’s got the 302 Chevy gas-motor which was put in in 1954.”
The extra power was needed for the new modifications back then.
After WWII, they removed the bubble top to make all 12 of them hardtops and added air-conditioners.
“Only 12 of these vehicles were ever made, and of the nine that still exist,” Schiele said. “This pristine example is the most accurate and period-correct restored Futurliner to date, even more so than the ‘number 11 – March of Tools’ unit that sold for over $4 million at the Barrett Jackson auction in 2006.”
Schiele said that they purchased the vehicle from a guy in Michigan who owned another Futurliner which was converted into a hauler.
Photographer / Author: Mike Madriaga
Featured in the Vintage Camper and Trailers Magazine (1/2015)