At one point in the early 1900′s the future was a wondrous thing. It was filled with the promise of a new world where leisure time was abundant because amazing machines took away the tedium of ordinary tasks. The concept went something like this: new scientific developments would free up so much time that people would be able to spend more time with their families, get more involved in their communities, travel and learn about new cultures, and greatly enrich their lives and enjoy themselves.
The Chicago World’s Fair in 1933/34 showcased these new technologies, but the enterprising folks at GM wanted to take the show on the road to bring progress directly to the people. They came up with the Parade of Progress, and created twelve so-called Futurliners, modified and streamlined buses to transport and display amazing inventions to the masses. Out of the remaining nine in existence, one has been restored and is up for auction.
From the auction description:
From microwaves, televisions, radar, and jet engines, the technology displayed in each Futurliner gave the millions who clamored to see the Parade a glimpse into the future. Designed by Harley Earl, a visionary artist and engineer considered a 20th century DaVinci, this work of art is a national treasure that animates a dramatic chapter of history.
The auction is attracting the attention of collector car enthusiasts around the world. The last time a fully restored Futurliner went up for auction, the final price was $4.1 million.
eBay Motors is celebrating National Collector Car Appreciation Month featuring interviews with Harley Earl’s grandson, Richard Earl, who talks about his grandfather and the innovations he brought to automobile design, specifically for General Motors. Of all his design process modernizations, his use of three dimensional clay models to illustrate design concepts is the most important. Although it is now standard, his idea of marrying design to function was unheard of at that time. This innovation distinguished GM from their main competitor, Ford, whose founder Henry Ford was famous for saying “the customer can have it any color as long as it’s black.”
You can read more about the Futurliner, Parade of Progress, and more here.
Ironically, one of the items on display in the Futurliner, the television, was partially to blame for the demise of the Parade of Progress and the Futurliner. More people could access the wonders of the future by simply switching on their TVs at home. And some would argue that the wonders that gave us free time resulted in more time spent vegetating on the couch, watching TV instead of actually getting out and enriching our lives (and that of our communities).
The future is often not what people expected.