Futurliner speeds ahead

Nov 9, 2001

Restoration of '50s era Futurliner helping automotive giant recall glory days

Restoration of '50s era Futurliner helping automotive giant recall glory days

Ask anyone these days what a General Motors (GM) Futurliner looked like when it rolled off the production line in the 1940s and 50s, and the most descriptive response one will receive is a look of bewildered puzzlement.

After all, the GM Futurliner-a specialty vehicle created by Charles "Boss" Kettering and former GM Board Chairman Alfred P. Sloan Jr. that traveled throughout the U.S. to exhibit the latest technological advancements of American industry to small towns across the country-is something of an anomaly in American industrial history. Today very few of these vehicles even exist and only a handful of people can recall their appearance. Perhaps a Greyhound bus best represents the closest example of what the Futurliner looked like.

But for Kettering/GMI alumnus Don Mayton '60 and his dedicated group of volunteers, the restoration of a 1950s era Futurliner might help more than the automotive giant recall the glory days of the 20th Century.

The GM Futurliner restoration project, which is overseen by Mayton, a crew of 10-14 volunteers, and the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATMUS) of Auburn, Inc., continues making significant progress toward completion. The project began in 1999 and the group still meets at Mayton's home in Zeeland, Mich., each Tuesday to work on making the once rusted shell of the vehicle look brand new and operate as if it just came off the line.

To date, a number of major restoration areas are complete, some of which include the following:

  • installation of the rebuilt brake system is underway, with parts compliments of Bendix;
  • GM will rebuild the vehicle roof at the company's Pre Production Operation in Detroit;
  • most of framework is sandblasted and primed;
  • windshield installation is underway;
  • installation of gas tanks is complete; and
  • the lower cargo/storage doors are rebuilt and finally assembly is in process.

This project would not have been possible without donations of parts, services, funds and volunteer assistance from many individuals. However, additional support is necessary to rebuild side doorframes, provide chrome plating for various parts and purchase electrical components and wiring supplies. To learn how you can help the restoration team complete this project, contact NATMUS at P.O. Box 686, Auburn, Ind., 46706-0686, or visit the project web site at www.futurliner.com.

 To support the GM Futurliner Project, please send donations to

GM Futurliner Project
P.O. Box 686
Auburn, IN 46706-0686

Written by Gary Erwin
(810) 762-9538