Salisbury car buff ‘babysitting’ Futurliner, featured vehicle at Charlotte Auto Fair
By Steve Huffman
Benny Myers surveyed the huge creation parked in his garage, struggling to find words to describe it.
“It was,” he finally managed, “somebody’s concept of what the future was going to be like.”
The monolith occupying space in Myers’ garage off Briggs Road is a 1953 GM Futurliner. It was one of 12 (this being the 10th to roll off the assembly line) produced by General Motors in the 1940s and 1950s.
The vehicles ó which measure almost 12 feet tall and stretch from here to a week from Friday ó were curiosities produced to participate in a Parade of Progress through which advances in science and technology were touted.
Those advances included jet engines, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, televisions and other modern marvels. (This was, remember, a parade that rolled into town more than 50 years ago.)
Twelve Futurliners and 32 support vehicles toured the country from coast to coast in the 1940s and ’50s. The Parade of Progress was discontinued after 1956, falling victim to one of those marvels it featured ó the television.
Turns out, in the late 1950s, watching Davy Crockett on black-and-white TV was more exciting than seeing a parade of futuristic vehicles roll down Main Street.
But nowadays, the Futurliner is about as cool as cool can be.
“Benny’s like a little boy with a new toy,” said Myers’ wife, Vickie.
Benny grinned before agreeing.
“I’m babysitting it,” he said of the Futurliner.
Benny and Vickie are members of the American Auto Club of America’s Hornets Nest Region, host of this week’s Charlotte AutoFair.
The event is one of the largest auto shows in the country, staged annually at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The Futurliner housed at the Myers’ place is one of the show’s featured attractions. The show starts Thursday and continues through Sunday.
When the couple learned that the caretakers of the Futurliner were looking for a place to house it, they volunteered their garage.
Benny is the owner of Myers Septic Tank Co. He’s an old-car buff and has plenty of garage space.The Futurliner is owned by the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States in Auburn, Ind. Caretakers are responsible for the vehicle as it’s trailered to a variety of auto shows across the country.
The Futurliner ó which resembles something of a cross between a diesel locomotive, a bus and a truck ó was brought to the Myerses’ home last week.
The only time its motor was cranked was when its caretakers fired it to life to pull it up a slight incline leading to the Myerses’ garage.
“I remember he expressed concern about it not being able to pull the hill,” Vickie said.
Benny said the Futurliner is powered by a mere six-cylinder motor, although he also noted that the vehicle’s design allowed space and motor mounts for the installation of a second engine.
The contraption’s top speed is 35 mph, meaning that while it may garner more than its share of attention on the highway, it’s not going to impress many people with its ability to accelerate.
The Futurliner housed in the Myerses’ garage had fallen into a sad state of disrepair before undergoing a restoration in 1998.
“It was pretty rusty,” Benny said, basing his assessment on pictures he’d seen of the vehicle.
Thirty volunteers labored for years to bring it back to its original shape.
Only nine Futurliners are known to exist and five of those are in need of restorations. Benny said one of the few restored versions recently fetched $4.2 million at auction.
Vickie said her husband has been enthralled with the vehicle since it rolled into their garage.
“He’s threatened to sleep out here with it,” she said, laughing.
Benny said that over the years, he’s been known to fetch home an old vehicle or two without getting the purchase approved by his wife ahead of time.
“I used to tell Vickie, ‘Look what followed me home,’ ” Benny said, laughing as he recalled the various classic automobiles that have taken up residence in his garage.
“She wouldn’t believe me on this one.”
The Futurliner’s visit with the Myerses will be relatively short. The couple said the caretakers are returning for it this morning, then transporting it the speedway for this weekend’s show.
“It’s different,” Benny said, stepping back in order to admire the Futurliner in its full glory.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.