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.