A Caravan of Science 
GM Futurliner Restoration Project
National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States

'33 World's Fair

1936 Parade
1938 Previews
1941 Parade
'53-'56 Tour
1953 Parade

1954 Parade
On Parade
  Page 2
  Page 3
On The Road
  Accident Rpts.
Ops. Center
  Ops. Report

Appreciation Letters
In-Line Six
Other Futurliners
Oral Roberts Cathedral Cruiser

L. to R.: M. M. Roberts, vice president of General Motors and general manager of the Frigidaire Division: (In 1902 Oldsmobile Runabout), Charles A. Chayne, General Motors vice president, with Mrs. Bonetta Judd; and Edward R. Godfrey, vice president of General Motors.

CHARLES F. KETTERING, General Motors director, and research consultant; Charles L. McCuen, General Motors vice president, general manager of the research laboratories division; and M. M. Roberts, General Motors vice president, general manager of Frigidaire Division.

PAUL GARRETT, vice president of General Motors, center, and Harley J. Earl, left, also a General Motors vice president, examine a cutaway Allison jet engine which was one of 26 major exhibits on display in the big traveling science show.

CHARLES F. KETTERING, right, and John E. Ryan examine a model of the Wright brothers first plane. among objectives of the show is "to set a boy to dreaming."

This article was take from the June, 1953 issues of Automobile Topics, a Floyd Clymer Publication. The article was written by John D. M. White

As General Motors staged at Dayton, Ohio, the world premiere of its new Parade of Progress -- "a caravan of science", designed to explain the meaning of research and better engineering to the man-in-the-street, a GM executive predicted at America's opportunities for further progress are greater now than ever before.
    The later statement keynoted the remarks of Paul Garrett, vice-president in charge of the GM public relations staff, who 'emceed' on May 12 a noon press-radio-TV preview of the big exhibition which has begun a cost-to-coast tour.
    Previously, the non-commercial Parade had completed 'shake-down' shows at Frankfort and at Lexington, Kentucky, initiating its tour to the accompaniment of what John E. Johnson, consultant to the Parade, termed "frog-drowning" rains. These persistent downpours made the young crews of lecturers and drivers red-eyed with "round-the-clock" experience in tent raising and de-bugging of exhibits, but apparently did not completely dampen the ardor of the curious, for a gratifying attendance was attracted.
    Charles F. Kettering, of Dayton, famed inventory and 'father' of the original Parade of Progress in 1936, spoke on some of the scientific advances expected in the near future. Now a GM director and research consultant, Mr. Kettering formerly headed the company's research laboratories.
    President Harlow H. Cutice could not be present, due to other engagement and wired his greetings, but a battery of other GM executives attended, including vice-presidents Charles I. McCuen, general manager of the Research Laboratories Division, and Charles A. Chayne, in charge of the engineering staff.
    The evening was marked by an invitational civic preview, held in the caravan's silver-colored Aerodome 'big top', a special tent seating 1,250 people. Several hundred educators, scientists, civic and industrial leaders and their families attended.
    Mr. Garrett, speaking at the preview in the Aerodome, asserted: "Few people stop to realize just how dramatic our progress has been. For example, it is difficult now to appreciate what has happened to highway transportation within the memory of men still living.
    "The first horseless carriage made its debut in this country not so very long ago, as we look back. Living in a small town out west, I was 18 before I saw my first automobile. Yet today, there are more than 50 million of them in America alone.
    "And what this revolution has meant in terms of jobs is even more amazing. Two generations ago highway transportation was relatively unimportant as a source of employment in this country. Today, one out of every seven workers owes his livelihood, directly or indirectly, to the vehicles that roll on highways.
    "Through the Parade of Progress we hope to bring home to people the fact of such change, of such increased opportunities for jobs.
    Outlining the aims of the Parade of Progress, Garrett said:
    "We think it would be worth a great deal to all of us if there were a better understanding of why America has come so far in the world and within so short a time.
    "We also want our audiences to understand how this progress has been achieved -- in other words, the role played by science, by research, and by engineering -- backed up by an economic and political system that over the long run has given people the freedom to think, create and compete and has rewarded those who make better products and help people live better."
    Mankind in the old days was limited by the number of men and animals that could be put to work," he pointed out, adding:
    "Today, the only limit is the amount of power that can be coaxed from machines. And the power potentialities of the future are virtually unlimited.
    "That is another point we want our audiences to get: not only is the world definitely not finished, but opportunities for further progress are greater now than ever before."
    "To set a boy to dreaming," is another major objective of the Parade, Garrett concluded:
    "Because technological progress has been so rapid over the past few years, with new discoveries opening up so many new avenues of research, the available supply of young scientists and engineers falls far short of the demand.
    "If in the near future we don't get enough new scientists and engineers to enable the demand to be met, our rate of progress will lag. And so the Parade seeks to interest youth in making a career in the technical progressions."
    The initial Parade played before about 12-1/2 million people in 251 cities from 1936 to 1941, and was disbanded after Pearl Harbor in 1941. The new Parade, now starting out, has been rebuilt to show some of the outstanding advances in science in recent years.
    The Parade, operated by 55 young men, includes a 40-minute stage show of science, presented six to eight times daily in the Aerodome. In addition, the caravan features 26 major exhibits, displayed in a dozen Futurliners. These are 33-foot long vans with 16-foot sides that open to reveal the exhibits or to form small lecture stages.
    Ten tractor-trailers, four other trucks, and 18 new passenger cars complete the Parade, which moves from city to city, in a three-mile procession at abut 35 mph. The vehicles maintain a separation of 300 feet. The men of the Parade drive all the vehicles and give the lectures, put on the science demonstration, and conduct the stage show. Mechanics and a service trucks accompany the Parade.
    In the stage show and the exhibits, which are free to the public, the Parade dramatizes progress in such fields as transportation, aviation, electronic, chemistry and power. Lecturers operate some of the exhibits. Others are animated models with synchronized sound. Several exhibits can be operated by visitors.
    Preview guests at the tent show saw such scientific advances as:
    - A model jet engine, that operates with an ear-splitting roar.
    - A small microwave tower setup, such as used in radar and TV, that "broadcasts" across the stage.
    - A glass bottle so tough on the outside that a lecturer uses it to hammer a spike through a plank; yet the bottle is so weak on the inside that a pea-sized abrasive, dropped into a bottle, smashes it to bits.
    In brief, the Parade's purpose is to show basis principles of science and what they mean to people -- at home and at work.
    GM spokesmen explained that in capsule form the Parade displays products of modern engineering, research and science that do not bear a General Motors trademark. Rather, they represent engineering in a broad sense. They illustrate basic science principles that both engineers and researchers deal with in their daily lives.
    Vice-president McCuen has pointed out that, this "newness" of these products lies in the application of the principles, declaring: "It is virtually axiomatic that there is nothing new in engineering.
    "Almost every modern development can be traced back either to some crude apparatus of an imaginative inventory or to the recorded speculations of some scientists, philosophers or observers -- men ahead of their times," he said.
    "Other developments have sprung from accidental discoveries of investigators searching for something far removed from the  objective they attempted to attain. But they were keen enough to capitalize immediately on their un-expected discoveries."
    Pointing out that one of the featured exhibits is a small motor -- a sun motor -- which converts into electricity enough power from the sunlight to spin a light balsa wood wheel, McCuen said:
    "It generates enough power actually to do little more than illustrate a principle, the principle that sunlight contains energy. Nature knew this before the beginning of time. All our fuel in the form of coal, oil and natural gas is the result of nature's method of storing energy in plants.
    "Perhaps some day, either by accident or by continuous, unrelenting research, an alert engineer or scientist will discover the way to convert solar energy efficiently, directly from the sun so we may use sun power for everyday utility purposes.
    "When a commercially efficient method is developed," he said, "it will have more far reaching effects on civilization than any engineering development which has been made up to this time.
    The executive explained that the principle of jet propulsion, dramatized with an Allison turbojet cutaway exhibit, harks back to 130 B.C. That was when Hero of Alexandria, Egypt, built a device to move symbolic figures on an altar.
    Centuries later came the 'smoke jack,' a windmill device in a chimney. Hot gases rising from the chimney base or hearth caused it to rotate. The rotational power was used for such tasks as turning the spit over a fire.
    The crude predecessor of the gas turbine engine or turbojet is the 'smoke jack.' The draft effect of the chimney is reproached by an air compressor, the chimney hearth by a burner or combustion chamber and the 'smoke jack' by a turbine wheel.
    From Mr. McCuen and his aides at the laboratories come other interesting examples of the growth of science in our modern living.
    In discussion about automobiles these days, the term 'high compression' is part of the language. More than 65 years ago an Englishman, Dugald Clerk, observed that by raising compression ratios it would be possible to raise efficiency of internal combustion engines.
    Also, he recognized 'knock' or 'pre-ignition,' as he called it, would be a limiting factor, a ceiling to further increases in compression ratio. At that time, however, he could not recognize the role that modern antiknock fuels would play in permitting engineers to raise  automotive engine compression ratios.
    The GM executive reminds us that today's automotive engines with their increasing compression ratios are providing the validity of Clerk's theories. The elementary principle of increasing compression ratios for greater efficiency (more miles per gallon) is relatively ancient, but current application of it is relatively new.
    It wasn't applied in Clerk's time to the extent it is today because over the past few decades both engine designers and fuel chemists had to learn more about combustion, the behavior of various fuels and engines.
    "The designer, to cope with high cylinder pressures, had to learn how to develop 'stiffness' in the structure of an engine," Mr. McCuen said. "In his early experiments he found that as compression rose, engine roughness increased. A rough engine never attracted passenger automobile customers."
    "Meanwhile", he explained, "the fuel chemist had to examine, step by step, the molecular structure of fuels. They learned that fuels with long, stringy molecules showed a tendency to knock, to limit the engines power output. When molecules were closely and compactly arranged, the fuels burned smoothly. this meant more efficient use of fuels in high compression engines."
This leads to the interesting conjecture that no doubt, unwittingly, a tribe of ancient Polynesians fathered the Diesel engine. To start their fires they used a bamboo cylinder, a plunger and dry moss. By thrusting the plunger into the cylinder or tube, they generated enough heat from air compression to ignite the dry moss on the end of the plunger.
    This Polynesian fire-maker utilized the principle of compression ignition. This same principle today is used by the Diesel engine which has the highest efficiency of any internal combustion engine in commercial service. This is another instance of a relatively new application of an old principle.
    And Mr. Chayne sums up the answer to the query "What does 'better engineering' mean to the average person?" in this fashion:
    "Better engineering means better living. The exhibits in the Parade of Progress provide many specific answers to the question. They show several ways in which engineering helps to improve our living standards.
    "One of my favorite examples naturally concerns automobile engines. With 53 million cars in this country today, engines are important to almost everybody.
    "A good automobile engine of, say, 40 years ago, was about five feet long and developed around 60 horsepower. It was in a car listing at over $4,500. Yet all you got out of this engine was six or seven miles per gallon of gas.
    "Today's engine, in a comparable model, is less than half as bulky, but it turns up nearly three times as much horsepower. Moreover, it gives from 15 to 20 miles per gallon. And despite inflation, the car's price -- including the new engine and hundreds of other improvements -- is only about half as much as in those early days.
    "The reason -- better engineering -- coupled with extensive research -- both in the automobile industry and the petroleum industry.
    "For the man, or woman, behind the wheel, the significant aspect to this engineering progress is that today's car gives more comfort, performance, and pleasure for far less money."
    Mr. Chayne has been with General Motors for 23 years. Before being appointed to his present position, he was Buick's chief engineer for 14 years. He comes from Harrisburg, PA and received his engineering degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
    Commenting about the Parade of Progress, Mr. Chayne noted that it presents the story behind many outstanding engineering achievements.
    "My hobby", he said, "is antique automobiles, but my business is to make today's models obsolete tomorrow -- through constant improvements.
    "The old cars I collect are fascinating, for they constantly remind me that there is always an opportunity to build better ones.
    "At the same time, in addition to designing better cars, we continually seek to improve our manufacturing methods. In these days we try to offer more value to the public each year.
    "That, essentially, is the philosophy of engineering -- do the job in a better way and make a better product."
    Post war years, Mr. Chayne pointed out, have seen such automotive, engineering and production milestone as these:
    1. New types of automotive transmissions -- to do away with hand-shifting.
    2. High compression engines -- to increase mileage and performance, while giving smoother operation.
    3. Increased use of power equipment -- to make steering easier, braking safer and quicker.
    4. Air-conditioning, better heating and ventilating -- for greater comfort and safety in all types of weather.
    "One of the exhibits in the Parade," Mr. Chayne noted, "provides another illustration of what research and engineering can do for the entire nation.
    "The exhibit is titled 'High Compression -- Power and Economy." Here you can see how progress in fuels already has saved us a third of our fuel resources and how science and engineering can save us another third.
    "For example, raising the compression ratios in our modern automobiles to 12 to 1 would save a million tank cars of gasoline a year. It would take 144 hours for those million tank cars to pass one spot if they were traveling at 60 miles per hour.
    That's a lot of hours, a lot of gasoline, and a lot of economy -- but it can be achieved. We're headed that way now."

    Following a trend established earlier this year by the Chrysler Company, Kaiser Motors Corp., announced reductions on the delivery prices of the Henry J Corsair and Corsair DeLuxe, of $100 and $125 respectively.
    Roy Abernethy, vice-president and general manager of the Kaiser-Frazer Sales Corporation, announced that reductions will take place immediately. This will make the Corsair $1,399.00, F.O.B. Detroit.

If you have any additional information about the history or whereabouts of additional Futurliners, we would like to hear from you. Our objective is to capture as much of the history of these vehicles as possible.

Copyright 1999-2018. All rights reserved.