Classic Cars A to Z

Tucker Automobile History (1947-1948)

Article by Mark Trotta

An iconic automobile as well as one of great controversy, the many innovations of the Tucker include aerodynamic styling, rear mounted engine, four wheel independent suspension, and a host of safety features.

history of the Tucker automobile

Although commonly referred to as the Tucker Torpedo, the car's name was officially "Tucker 48".

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Back Story

Preston Tucker (1903-1956) was an entrepreneur and car designer. Shortly after World War II, he began to obtain funds to design and build his dream car. In several years time, he had franchised over 1,000 dealerships to launch his new vehicle.

Tucker Safety Features

Among the many safety features was the car's frame, which was designed to deflect a collision rather than absorb the force. It would also protect passengers in a side impact collision.

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The front passenger area was designed as a crash zone, giving passengers safety in the event of a crash. The roof featured a built-in roll bar, and a laminated windshield was designed to pop out in the event of a collision.

Other unique features include a third, center headlight, which turned with the front wheels. This was designed to cast light around corners. The dashboard was padded for safety, and tail lights were visible from the side for safety.

Tucker Engine

The horizontally opposed, overhead valve 6-cylinder engine was rear-mounted. It was adapted from a helicopter and converted to water-cooling. Displacement was 334 cubic-inches.

history of the Tucker automobile

Producing 166 horsepower and 372 lb/ft of torque, the Tucker sedan could reach speeds of 100 mph with ease.

Transmission

Most Tuckers were fitted with either a Cord manual transmission or a modified version called the Y-1. An automatic "Tuckermatic" transmission was designed to better handle the power of the Tucker's torquey engine.

history of the Tucker automobile

Concerns of how Tucker raised his company's capital came under government scrutiny. The Securities and Exchange Commission began a probe in February 1949, resulting in a trial that brought car production to a stand-still.

Some enthusiasts contend that the 'Big Three' Automotive Corporations (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) were threatened by the innovative car, and had conspired to cause trouble for Tucker.

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SEC Trial

A trial began in October 1949, and by the time the trial ended in January of 1950, Tucker was exonerated, but at great cost. The negative publicity damaged the company and production of the car was halted. Following his acquittal were numerous lawsuits by dealers who never received a single car.

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In all, just 51 Tucker cars were originally produced. Surviving examples bring a very high price in today's classic car market. In 2010, Tucker #1045 sold for 1.1 million, and in 2012, Tucker #1043 sold for 2.9 million.

Tucker 48 advertisement

This green Tucker is a 1948 model and currently resides at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum in Florida.

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Tucker Movie

history of the Tucker automobile

The 1988 movie "Tucker, The Man and His Dream" is a dramatized account of Preston Tucker and his car company. The movie is directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who is a Tucker enthusiast and collector.

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