December 9, 2023

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Could a camper based on the 1939 GM Futurliner be the future of fun-looking RVs?

Could a camper based on the 1939 GM Futurliner be the future of fun-looking RVs?

“I really like the design of your motorhome” is a phrase you hear about as frequently as “I wish they kept making the Murano CrossCabriolet” or “Why wouldn’t Jason Turchinsky be more interested in the amber turn signals on 70s cars?” The truth is that most campers today are boxes covered in bright colors and graphic stripes in an attempt to make them more attractive. I think in some cases it is bought Although From their appearance.


I’m not choosing Jayco or any of the manufacturers out there now. Making these things in the most cost-effective way tends to drive this kind of approach, but that doesn’t mean that a handful of well-designed, aesthetically pleasing mobile homes didn’t exist in the past.

In the 1980s we had an agreement Vixen mobile homea low-profile, rear-engined machine that can fit in the garage.

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Vixen Motor Company via The Autopian

The 1970s brought front-wheel drive GMC motorhomewhich was a landmark design that showed what a white paper approach could do:

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General Motors Via eBay

Airstream, typically known for its aluminum trailers, has manufactured self-powered motorhomes that use its distinctive silver lozenge shape that refuses to be described with words like “modern” or “retro.”

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Air stream

However, when we go back in time, we find some mobile homes (and buses that have been converted into mobile homes) that can still stop traffic with their beauty. the film RV It was a film of lesser quality than the 2006 Oscars, and one that is watchable in part thanks to the talent of the late Robin Williams and the presence of a wonderful vintage 1948-inspired mobile home. Flexible bus.

Columbia Pictures via IMCBD

Even non-cars people who watch the movie are fascinated by this amazing piece of rolling sculpture. It’s surprising how a type of vehicle that is usually frowned upon by homeowners’ associations can actually be an object of desire. I would love to make a modern version of the wagon like this, but in doing so we may have the basis for arguably the greatest bus or truck concept ever: the GM Futurliner.

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As cool as the GMC motorhome was when it debuted in 1973, the… Futurliner It makes that car look somewhat pedestrian. Now that I’m ninety years old, I can’t imagine how people would have reacted in 1939 when a dozen of these things rolled into town. Yes, that’s right: the Futurliners were introduced to the World’s Fair, touring a “Progress Show” tour of 150 cities where they gathered at each stop around a central tent. Telescopic lights rose from the roof, and the side of each Futurliner opened up to reveal an exhibition of new technologies. Electrical appliances! Advanced agricultural equipment! “March of Tools”! Entertaining people was much easier in the past, wasn’t it?

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Motorsport Auctions Group

The Progress Show ran until 1956 when the new magic shows promoted by exhibits like televisions were already in most people’s homes, and they weren’t about to stop watching honeymoon A diorama set of objects resembling large red metal elephants. After the final run, one of the Futurliners was destroyed in an accident, while the others went to the fate you’d expect from an abandoned commercial craft. Most of them ended up in junkyards or were left in fields, but remarkably, nine of the original dozens are still missing. The ‘March Tools’ bus was sold at a price 2015 Barrett-Jackson auction for $4 million; For once you can look at a stratospheric price like this and think the buyer got a lot of vehicle for his or her money.

A mobile home is just a metal frame and a fiberglass or aluminum body, so why not have a more sophisticated and attractive look? With a few modifications, can the Futurliner shape be adapted to our modern retro interpretation? These classic GM buses look enormous in photos, as if you could fit a semi-trailer inside them, but a quick check of the dimensions had me nearly falling to the ground. Each measurement is within one foot of the average size of a Class A motorhome.

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Hum 3DJayco

It’s like Harley Earl— GM’s famed design chief who penned the Futurliner — is reaching out to us from beyond the grave to make this throwback happen. I think he needs to; Look at the current carriage below the Futurliner in the photo above. I completely understand the need to make things economical but is that the case truly What does more than eighty years of progress look like?

We still have to switch many things. Firstly, the Futurliner’s lack of lower windows looks cool but is completely impractical, so we’ll add lower glass but with a graphic stripe to help tie it all together and stay as true to the original as possible. I’ve also added more standard aluminum wheels and tires to make replacements easier, but full spun aluminum covers would certainly be possible.

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Barrett Jackson

The rounded shape has no benefit in space usage, but I think the sacrifices of a fair nose, tail, and top edge will be worth the trade-off for aesthetics. In the back, the very rounded tail presents the same challenges, but since this is just a full-width bed back there, I think we can make it work.

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Along the middle of the roof and down the rear is a multi-piece “Mohawk”-shaped skylight, somewhat similar to a feature found on some Nissan Maximas from several years ago. The power cover can be closed for privacy and light control. You can see in this view when you look at the master bedroom how the sunroof wraps around under the back of the bus (the beam above is for the steel structure that holds the fiberglass body).

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One of the standout features of the Futurliner is that it takes the idea of ​​“controlling driver vision” and pushes it to the level of “terrifying driving from a basketball hoop.” Steps inside the corner-mounted front doors give the bus access to the steering wheel and dashboard, eight feet off the ground. I think driving around the block would take ten years off my life, if not an age. It’s a bit reminiscent of the bridge on the 747 that was decades away from existing.

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Wikimedia/bransonifans, Wikimedia/Bransonivans

There is no way we could drive this thing from a high place and from the dead center of the vehicle. In our design the driver would sit at a “normal” height behind the lower windshield, but the overhead windows could still surround the upper sleeping area (which lowers when the motorhome is parked, just as on many current models).

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The original Futurliner was powered by a supercharged 4-71 Detroit Diesel four-cylinder engine, pumping through a four-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels (after the war, the powerplants were replaced by 302 cubic inch straight-sixes) so it’s probably just Kind of gained momentum instead of real acceleration. Our home will be built on either a standard RV chassis with a Detroit V8 engine or an EV “skateboard” chassis. The fiberglass moldings and steel support structure can sit on top of anything.

I hope better looking mobile homes become a thing; With a six-figure investment on a car, I want to be pretty sure that my machine won’t look out of place in twenty years. Although I’m as tired of “retro” design as everyone else, I’m all for showing a forgotten masterpiece from nearly a century ago some of the appreciation it deserves.

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