By Craig Moore
Scottsdale, Arizona - March 9, 2015
Photo By Rob Moore
The 44th annual Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction held in North Scottsdale over 10-days in January broke records, wallets and hearts (if you were outbid) while featuring the Ron Pratte Collection, which alone brought-in over $40 million in sales!
But the belle-of-the-ball was Ron Pratte’s 1950 GM Futurliner, the Parade of Progress touring bus that raised $4 million from the bidding and another $650,000 from the record breaking crowd on-hand who witnessed history. All proceeds were donated to the Armed Forces Foundation (AFF) donate, a charity that assists military members and their families. Soldiers from all branches of the armed services were on-stage to participate in the event as the giant bus went on the auction block.
Celebrity attendees included hometown rocker Alice Cooper and NASCAR race team owner Rick Hendrick, a regular Barrett-Jackson bidder and seller. It was Hendrick, owner of 4 Chevy racing teams, who was outbid for the famous GM bus by an anonymous phone bidder!
The giant buses were originally created by GM executive Harley Earl, known as Mr. Corvette. (Earl is famous for designing the original concept car that became the Chevrolet Corvette).
The 1940’s traveling expo known as the “GM Caravan of Progress” featured over-sized art deco buses that toured the country promoting not only GM’s auto & truck brands but future design projects and technologies from such diverse fields as aeronautics to refrigeration. Few baby boomers can forget the family “Frigidaire” refrigerators, manufactured by the GM subsidiary, which became so famous the word “fridge” originated from its popularity.
Part of a fleet of 12, there remains only three 1950’s era 2nd generation Futurliners that have been restored and none reportedly as beautifully completed as the Ron Pratte vehicle. Measuring 33 ft. long, 8-ft. wide and 12-ft. tall, the vehicle sits on a 248-inch wheelbase!
Arizona real estate mogul Ron Pratte was high-bidder for the same vehicle at the 2006 Scottsdale auction, bidding a record-setting $4.3 million! He then spent the preceding years and major dollars fine-tuning the restoration to bring the vehicle to its current condition.
By the 1950’s, with WWII behind us and the future looking bright, the newly designed Futurliners, like the one in the auction, continued touring the country and drawing crowds to the re-branded “Parade of Progress” up until the mid-fifties.
By then, television was becoming the primary advertising medium for automobiles and remains true today. But back then, sponsors didn’t just buy commercial time, they owned the shows!
“See the USA in your Chevrolet” was a commercial theme made popular by actress/singer Dinah Shore and was featured on the “Dinah Shore Chevy Show.” The catchy jingle became so popular every kid in America could sing it and even adults could be heard joining-in!
With this year’s auction in the history books, Bob Dylan may have sung about the “times-a-changin’” but nostalgia for the good ol’ days never seems to wane especially when Barrett-Jackson comes to town!
- Craig Moore, a freelance writer, works as a consultant to the auto industry and is a former GM employee. He can be reached at: www.pageonedone.com
Photos courtesy Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction