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Futurliner News

GM Futurliner Restoration Project

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Newsletter #20

April 2004

This is the 20 th newsletter to keep our supporters, volunteer workers and other interested people informed on the status of the restoration project. This is an all-volunteer effort with one goal - restore one of the twelve GM Futurliners to an original and functional condition. The vehicle is owned by the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States (NATMUS) in Auburn , Indiana and is being rebuilt under the volunteer direction of Don Mayton in Zeeland , Michigan .

We want to mention again that this vehicle was donated to NATMUS in the mid-90’s by the Bortz AutoCollection in Highland Park , Illinois . Thanks to Joe and Mark Bortz for the donation that provided the basis for this restoration project. For more information on this collection, check out their web site at www. BORTZAUTOCOLLECTION.COM.

What’s Happening:

  • The hundreds of loose ends, some small and some large, are continuing to be attacked diligently these last few months. The hardy work crew of 20-25 guys continues to plow through snow, rain and wind to spend a day each week on the project.
  • The cab new upholstery is being installed and is looking great. This involves the drivers seat, 2 passenger seats, headliner and all other trim.
  • Electrical work for the 12 volt systems is one of the larger jobs in process for the cab, interior lights, head lights, running lights, display area lights and engine controls and has been a long standing job for Wally Snow and others.
  • The 110 Volt AC circuits are being designed and built by Jeff Dornbush.
  • Other areas they are working on include weather seals, passenger seats in the cab, finishing the display area interior walls, rebuilding the powered step at the cab door, insulating the exhaust system as it makes it’s way to the top of the vehicle behind the cab.
  • Many of the exterior panels have been repainted and/or buffed.
  • One of the more trouble some aspects has been a sag in the upper doors when they are open. Several types of additional supports have been tested to alleviate the situation but it appears new upper doors will have to be fabricated.
  • The second engine has been rebuilt by Bill Bicknell in Ohio and delivered to Zeeland. This is pl anned to be part of an operating driveline and powertrain display when the vehicle is finished.

Shows and Trailer Requirements:

  • Although numerous requests are beginning to come in for the Futurliner to be at particular shows, only two are being committed to this year. This is due to two primarily reasons – the vehicle is not finished and the need to acquire a special lowboy trailer to transport it. With a top speed of 40 MPH, driving it is out of the question in addition to the wear and tear on a new restoration. It also requires several members of the crew to be on site to drive and operate it.
  • The two shows tentatively committed to so far include the grand opening of the new GM Heritage Center (date yet to be ann ounced) and a Truck Show in California in May at the request of a major supporter Brad Boyajian. The later is contingent on having the trailer available and a means to pull it to Calif. and back.
  • After searching for a suitable trailer and acquiring one for free that they thought might be modified and restored, it became evident that a new one was required built to these unique requirements. Quotes were obtained, a vendor selected and one is on order for delivery this spring.
  • HOWEVER, it has been ordered on faith that the money will come thru because at the moment, the NATMUS account for this project is well short of the $30,000 needed.
  • Bruce Berghoff composed a letter to the Paraders and all Futurliner enthusiasts that was sent via e-mail to all on the list. For those that did not see it, we’ve included it below.




February 6, 2004

Good morning Paraders & Futurliner Enthusiasts,

How many of you have longed to be out there on the Futurliner restoration project in Don Mayton's backyard sweating it out in the 90 degree heat of September or cooling your heels in February but for one or more of the following reasons haven't been able to make it:

+ Live more than 70 miles from Zeeland

+ Wished you lived more than 70 miles from Zeeland

+ Don't have the required talents to contribute to the restoration

+ Getting too old to climb ladders and crawl under chassis

+ Enjoy watching work from a distance

Well, there's still an opportunity for you to become a partner in the Futurliner program ..... and it's almost painless!

The volunteers are on the home stretch, but they need a little help to wrap it up - about $30,000 worth. That's what Don estimates it will take to build the trailer andput finishing touches on this five year project. Thirty thousand sounds like a lot of cookie sales, but let's call it the "Treat the Futurliner Volunteers to Lunch (or Dinner) Program". Here's how it goes: There are about 30 regular volunteers on the restoration project donating their time and travel each week. So if 100 of us supporters agreed to donate the equivalent of a $10 lunch in honor of each volunteer for a total of $300 per supporter, NATMUS would have the $30,000 necessary to complete this funding project.

If, on the other hand, 50 of us supporters were to pop for a $20 dinner honorarium for each volunteer and send a check for $600 to NATMUS, they would reach their goal that much sooner.

Don Mayton and his partners have put out a call for FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, and they need it NOW! Their talents are much better placed doing what they have been doing with the Futurliner, and not chasing dollars. But that's something we can do.

Won't you join me in honoring them by writing a check for $300 or better yet $600 or more, made out to: NATMUS, Futurliner Restoration Project, 1000 GordonBuehrig Place , Auburn , Indiana 46706 . And remember, all donations are tax deductible!

Project Needs:

  • Trucking firm with a tractor that can pull the new trailer to Calif. and back in June of this year as noted above.
  • Additional contributions to pay for the trailer on order. As of 3/31, we were about 20% of the goal so there is still and opportunity (and a need) for any on you so inclined to help the project.

Financial status + Poster & Hats:

  • Posters and hats are available thru NATMUS for $10 each plus $3 shipping. Quantity orders will have a break on shipping and will be approximately 20% above the single item shipping charge. Contact Bobbie Smith at NATMUS for specifics for your quantity. An order form and additional info is on the web site and the mailing address is below on the Donation Form. Please use the full street address and not the PO box. Credit cards are accepted at the museum.
  • You can also see the poster (along with its history) and the hat on the web site (

Misc. Notes:

  • As we had reported some time ago about the possibility of one or two of the missing Futurliners being used by Oral Roberts in his ministries in Mexico and farther south, Howard Sullivan did extensive research on the subject while visiting his son in Oklahoma this winter. Howard visited the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Assoc. in Tulsa . After talking to a number of people there and looking thru their library, and came up with a lot of interesting information. In their “Abundant Life” magazines in the 1960’s, they uncovered photos and articles about the use of a Futurliner in the ministry with the American Indians in the US and then moving into Mexico . Original photos (21) were loaned to Howard and are being added to the historical file that Mike Ball continues to expand. Another piece of the puzzle in place and probably a rusted out Futurliner somewhere in Mexico these days.
  • We (Don, Jim Crame and your editor) put together a comprehensive summary of the overall project at the request of Old Cars Weekly for just an update. We sent them the complete 4-page document and they published all of it in their Feb 12, 2004 issue along with 2 color photos, one on the front page. If anyone would like a copy of the article, please let us know. You are free to use any of the material for other publications or publicity. We would only appreciate mentioning where it came from and letting us know where it is being used for the file.
  • Various magazines continue to publish articles on the project by using info off the web site, from visits to the work site, conversations with Don and the crew, etc. and these provide good visibility and information on both the project and on the history of the Parade. We are grateful for their efforts. One unique magazine is one devoted to tents – yes tents! In the Dec 03-Jan 04 issue of “In-Tent”, there is an excellent article about GM’s Aer-O-Dome Tent. It describes the futuristic design without interior poles, with all exterior supports and stakes and the fact the structure had the feel of a giant ribcage.
  • The company Retro 1-2-3 is building a model of the Futurliner that should be available by June of this year. If you are interested, contact Don Mayton. They will handle these directly to you and NATMUS will receive a portion of the proceeds for this project. It is 1:12 scale and cost will be approximately $1400. Their web site is for more info on the company.

Futurliner News
c/o Dean Tryon
2516 Laurelford Lane
Wake Forest , NC 27587