The Tucker 48, otherwise known as the Tucker Torpedo, was a car that embodied the anything-is-possible spirit of post-WWII America. Sadly it was killed off by an intrusive SEC investigation after just 51 examples had been built, it’s widely thought that one or all of the “Big Three” US automakers was behind the investigation.
Some have drawn parallels between the Tucker Car Corporation and Tesla Motors – both companies have visionary leaders, both developed revolutionary automobiles and both created unique new ways of selling cars to the public. Fortunately, Tesla never had to face a brutally expensive and public government investigation – and today the company is thriving. Perhaps an indication of what could have happened with Tucker in an alternate timeline.
Preston Tucker had designed the Tucker 48 to incorporate a broad range of safety features that were either unheard of or very rare on production cars at the time. The most famous safety feature was the “Cyclops Eye” – a third centrally mounted headlight that turned left and right in synchronisation with the steering wheel.
The 48 also used a perimeter frame for crash protection, a roll bar was integrated into the roof, the steering box was mounted behind the front axle to protect the driver and prevent the steering column from turning into a javelin. Ergonomics played a big part in cabin design, and all controls were within easy reach of the steering wheel, the windshield was made from a more expensive shatter-proof glass and interestingly, it was designed to pop outward in the advent of a crash.
One of the most famous safety features was the use of seat belts throughout, and Tucker also specified that the dashboard be padded to protect occupants – he also designed a padded “safety cell” for passengers under the dashboard.
Interestingly, the Tucker 48 had its flat-6 engine mounted in the rear. It was fastened to a subframe requiring only 6 bolts to remove or reattach – with the idea being that customers who needed mechanical work could have a loaner engine fitted in a matter of minutes and be on their way.
The car you see here is the original factory test chassis for the Tucker automatic transmission, it was partially completed and driving by the time Tucker went bankrupt, and it spent the next few decades passing from collector to collector before finally being completed to exact original specification by Tucker expert Martyn Donaldson before being restored by Classic & Exotic Service of Troy, Michigan.
Today it enjoys the same fame enjoyed by all the Tucker 48 cars, perhaps a little more so thanks to its Tucker Y-1 pre-selector transmission and interesting backstory. If you’d like to bid on it you’ll need to make your way to the Fort Lauderdale auction, due to be held by Auctions America on the 1st to the 3rd of April.