What is it?

Way ahead of its time! That was the main point our readers wanted to get across when identifying last week’s car, the 1948 Tucker, one of the shortest chapters in the American automobile industry.

 

For details about the tragic sedan – Preston Tucker was able to roll out only 51 cars before he was shut down – check out our readers’ comments below. So many readers recognized the Tucker that we had to shorten the entries to get everybody’s name in.

Other guesses included Studebaker (they did favor each other) and Kaiser-Frazer.

Chosen randomly from the correct entries was Thomas Lee, of Washington, Ga., who wrote:

“The Tucker was the vision of Preston Tucker and was called the ‘Car of Tomorrow.’ Fifty-one were built and 47 survive today, many on display in car museums. Mr. Tucker and his dream came under attack by the Big Three auto industry, and his business was destroyed because of this.

“Many innovations were introduced by Tucker that were far ahead of other American cars, and the car was affordable, and this created quite a problem for the Big Three. Tucker’s story was featured in the 1988 motion picture Tucker: The Man and His Dream, starring Jeff Bridges as Tucker.”

Lee wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle. Others identifying the vehicle:

AIKEN: Jack Maier

AUGUSTA: Carolyn Ogles wrote: “Fifty-one cars were completed in Chicago. It was a new concept with a rear engine and rear-wheel drive but it seems as if the press gave bad reviews.”

Jerry Murphy wrote: “Although I have never seen a real Tucker, I remember seeing one in my collection of Tad Burness’ auto album pictures that he drew. His collections were a series of panels he would have published in newspapers to sell along with his comic strips. His works were published in The Augusta Chronicle from 1973 to the early 1990s. They were fantastic, and I collected practically all of his pictures … they are real treasures.”

Barry Dickson wrote: “Rare car!”

Lowell Fritsche cited the car’s features, including “rubber torsion tube suspension, no springs, with shock absorbers.”

Also, Shirley Serrano, Gary Fuller and George Drake.

CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “I know of no other car manufacturer that can claim to know the disposition of 100 percent of its production run. Tucker Automobiles can absolutely make that claim. The culmination of flamboyant Preston Tucker’s imagination only saw a total production of 51 cars; one prototype known as the Tin Goose and 50 ‘production’ cars all built more than sixty years ago in 1948. Forty-seven of those cars are still around today and the demise of the remaining four has been documented.”

EVANS: Sally Ecklund said her husband, David Blair, “took one look at this week’s ‘What is It?’ and immediately said 1948 Tucker Torpedo.”

Bill Harding wrote: “The Tucker Torpedo was conceived by Preston Tucker and designed by Alex Tremulis. The car was built in a former Dodge plant in my native Chicago. Drew Pearson (a muckraking journalist of the era) and Homer Ferguson (then a Michigan senator) appear to have been ‘inspired’ by the Detroit automakers to sink the Torpedo. They were successful.”

Jerry Paul wrote: “The car of the week should bring a barrage of comments, especially since there was a documentary about Preston Tucker and his dreams and financial problems – and also the Big Three did not want the competition since the 1948 Tucker was way ahead of its time in design, safety and performance. It’s difficult to imagine a rear-engine, horizontally opposed six-cylinder rebuilt helicopter engine rated as 160 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque. In 1948!”

Wayne Wilke wrote: “As a 9-year-old playing stickball in the street in New York in 1955, one day I saw a beautiful car driving toward me. I knew I had never seen one like it, but I knew it was special. At first I thought that I was imagining it. I never saw that car again. Much later in the ’70s, I saw a picture of the Tucker and I then knew that was the very special car that I had seen many years earlier.”

Also, Jim Williamson and Allan Aldridge.

GROVETOWN: Jack Williams said: “This car’s headlight in the middle – you turn it, it turns with you.”

Also, Walter Evans and Robert Martin.

HARLEM: Robert Powell wrote: “1948 Tucker, nicknamed the Tucker Torpedo.”

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner wrote: “Preston Tucker was ahead of his time, or was he a smooth-talking shyster? Only about 51 were made, and whenever one comes up for sale now, it sells for millions.”

LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert wrote: “It was highly innovative, so much so the Big Three drove him out of business but adopted many of his ideas. Only 50 were produced, but several are still running the last I heard.”

MARTINEZ: Joe Bert said Preston Tucker “was professionally discouraged” from building his revolutionary car.

Jeff J. Miller wrote: “With $8 million collected from more than 1,800 franchised dealers, at least 300,000 pre-orders, and a braggadocio statement claiming: ‘You’ll step into a new automotive age when you drive your Tucker ’48,’ we arrive at one of the auto world’s most iconoclastic cars.

“Preston Tucker and five of his associates ran afoul of the Securities Exchange Commission and were charged with fraud. Although 37 Torpedos had been built by the summer 1948 Chicago plant shutdown, volunteer workers managed to assemble 14 more cars from remaining parts.”

Jim Muraski wrote: “This week’s car is a 1948 Tucker (Torpedo), although most were actually built in 1947. This limited-production car was the brainchild of Preston Tucker and had many innovative features. These include a full perimeter (roll cage), type frame that had a roll bar concealed in the roof. Other features were doors that extend partially into the roof for better access, a rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive train that was mounted on a separate subframe, which could be removed from under the car by unfastening just six bolts.

“Of course, the most unusual feature was the third headlight in the front center of the hood that turned in conjunction with the front wheels. This feature was actually illegal in 17 states, so all cars came with a custom cover for this third light so the car could be operated in those states”

Christopher C. March Sr. wrote: “There were only 51 of these cars made before the company folded on March 3, 1949. The car had a rear-engine/rear-wheel drive; it was a horizontally opposed OHV 166-horsepower engine. This car had among other things a directional third headlight known as the Cyclops Eye.”

Also, John Hayes.

NORTH AUGUSTA: Frank Odom wrote: “The car is a 1948 Tucker automobile named after Preston Tucker.”

Also, Bob Shimp and Wendell Hall.

PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “The prototype was called the Tucker Torpedo but when they produced the auto, Mr. Tucker decided not to use the Torpedo name. He didn’t want people to associate it with memories of World War II.”

THOMSON: Ken L. Richards wrote: “The name was the last name of the man who came up with the design, and built the car. The light in the center of the grille turned with the steering wheel. I think it had an air-cooled engine, and was big and loaded with horsepower. There were not very many produced, but I think a lot of them survived. It was ahead of its time. I remember this car because this was the year I graduated from high school and joined the Army.”

Also, Hank Jordan

NO CITY LISTED: Archie Black said the last Tucker that went on the auction block sold for $2.2 million.

Also, George Taylor, Dalton Brannen, Tom Wall and Willie Thomas.

THIS WEEK’S CONTEST

Can you tell us the year and make of this vintage auto? If you know what it is, call (706) 823-3419 or send an e-mail to glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.

Please tell us your name and telephone number and the city you live in. It helps if you spell your name for us so we can include your response along with everybody else’s.

You have until noon Wednesday to respond. A winner will be chosen randomly. If you win, let us know when you would like to pick up your prize.

– Glynn Moore, Staff Writer

William Robert Spehd 2 days ago
The Tucker considered the best-preserved unit extant is displayed in the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, and is part of the largest classic vehicle collection in the world. The Tucker, as with virtually all of the 500-plus vehicles in the museum's collection, is in running order. It is completely original, including the immaculate factory paint. 
The museum's rotating display of vehicles contains many American and European classic cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles, concentrating mostly on American-made vehicles, and most are all-original and as beautiful as they were when they came out of the factory.
Harold Lemay, freshly mustered out of the army at Fort Lewis in Tacoma after WWII, and with little money in his pocket, liked the area. He started to think of a profession that would pay his bills and never go bust. What came to mind: Garbage. There'll always be garbage.
Starting small, it wasn't long before more and more garbage trucks in the area had the name LeMay on them. It was a good business -- good enough that he could buy a few old cars. His drivers would sometimes see a nice old car on their routes and alert LeMay to them, and he picked up some nice ones that way. His collection eventually would consist of more than 3,000 vehicles, and he would buy only the best -- a couple Duesenbergs, a Cord, and many Fords, Chevies, Pierce-Arrows, Cadillacs, Kaisers, Packards, steamers and electrics, you name it. Oh, and of course that Tucker.
The cars were stuffed into several barns on some property LeMay owned south of Tacoma proper, and when that wasn't enough room he bought property that started out as a convent and later served as a military school. There was lots of room, including a large display area that once had been the school gym.
After LeMay died in 2000, his wife and others started talking about establishing a museum. It took more than a decade, but with help from the family, sale of some of the less important specimens, money from the State of Washington, car companies and enthusiasts such as Jay Leno, who served on the foundation board of directors, the museum opened in downtown Tacoma.
The family foundation,  which operates separately from the museum, kept a good number of family favorites, and that collection is also on rotating display at the former military school. That's where you'll find the finest existing Tucker. Both the LeMay Museum and the family collection also display some of the cars at car shows and other events around the country -- wherever classic cars are people magnets..

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Sat, 06/24/2017 - 21:04

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