Futurliner on display

September 25, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- One of 12 large vehicles built by General Motors to shuttle examples of modern advancements -- like the jet engine and microwave oven -- across the nation in the 1940s and '50s has returned to West Virginia for the first time since 1953.

Futurliner No. 10, one of the "Parade of Progress" fleet built in 1939-40, has been fully restored to original condition, according to Don Mayton, who led a seven-year restoration effort in western Michigan, where he retired after 42 years with GM.

The 33-foot long, dual-wheeled vehicle is on display this weekend at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds during the Norwalk Festival, which is being held to benefit another unique antique vehicle, a 1914 Norwalk Underslung Six that was built in Martinsburg.

"We added up the value of all the services that we got (for the Futurliner) and if we allowed ourselves $20 an hour, plus all the cash donations and the free services, it came up to just short of $1 million," Mayton said.


Since 2005, the Futurliner team of about 30 volunteers has traveled with the vehicle to more than 30 shows, Mayton said. It will be taken to shows in Carlisle and Hershey, Pa., in October, then spend the winter at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey.

Futurliner No. 10 is owned by the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States in Auburn, Ind.

The caravan of the 33-foot-long streamlined coaches made stops in Wheeling, Huntington and Charleston in October and November of 1953, according to the volunteer group's research, which is included in a book about the restoration project.

The Parade of Progress' demise in 1956 was attributed to the arrival of television, which had been featured in one of its displays, according to Mayton. No. 10's 16-foot side panels were opened to show displays about the All-American Soap Box Derby and the Fisher Body Craftman's Guild scholarship competition, Mayton said.

The Futurliners were sold to various interests, including the Michigan State Police, Oral Roberts Ministries and Detroit-based Goebel Brewing Co., according to the volunteer group's research.

Norwalk Festival organizer Chris Breeze said Mayton contacted him after reading about the only known surviving Norwalk's trip home to Martinsburg from Colorado and offered to bring the Futurliner to the Eastern Panhandle for a show.

The festival at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds is a fundraiser to help pay for the Norwalk, which cost $300,000. A group of people interested in the vehicle's return formed The Friends of the Norwalk Foundation Inc., collected $20,000 in donations for a downpayment and took out a $280,000 loan for the remainder, according to Breeze.

The group has since paid about $60,000 toward the total cost and was awarded a $50,000 state grant.

The Herald-Mail Articles