Preston Tucker (1903-1956)
was a car-crazy kid who hung around auto speedways and grew
up to create an automobile--the Tucker--that was years ahead
of its time. He was a man of pioneering spirit, ingenuity
and daring, who revolutionized Detroit in the 1940s with
his stunning "Car of Tomorrow." It was streamlined,
futuristic and fast--the car every American dreamed of owning,
at a price most people could afford. A man of endless enthusiasm,
Tucker publicized his model all over the country to wild
acclaim. He sold stock, set up a factory... and as the historians
say the rest is history but no one will know the history
of Preston Tucker and his "Car of Tomorrow" unless
you read about it below.
The Tucker Car was equipped with a 166bhp, 335 cu. in. horizontally-opposed
six-cylinder Franklin engine, four-speed electric pre-selector Cord type transmission,
front and rear rubber torsion suspension with equal length, parallel A-arm
front suspension and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 130"
The name Tucker strikes a chord in the hearts of the public as well as car
enthusiasts as Preston Tucker's saga has been depicted as one man's dream to
build a revolutionary automobile. Although his company was short-lived with
just 51 cars produced, Tucker's legacy lives much larger, as one of the most
famous auto manufacturers of the twentieth century.
Preston Tucker's interest in automobiles was
sparked by his friendship with famous race car driver and designer
Harry Miller. As a result, innovative engineering is perhaps
to be expected. While the Big Three were busy dressing up old
prewar models in 1946, Preston Tucker set forth to produce
an entirely new breed of car that would proudly bear his name.
Hiring gifted Alexander S. Tremulis (1914 - 1991) and chief
mechanic John Eddie Offuttas well as other skilled artisans
and automotive engineers , Preston Tucker acquired the enormous
Dodge aircraft engine plant in Chicago as the manufacturing
site for his dream car.
Two clay mockups were built, each identical in mechanical dimensions, yet different
in style and character, and both were brought to full scale. The car's final
appearance was decided by Preston Tucker who selected what he saw as the best
features from each clay model and combined them into a final version - a metal
prototype, affectionately coined the Tin Goose, unveiled on June 19, 1947.
With production plans moving ahead, Preston Tucker's much anticipated 589 cubic
inch engine was plagued by adversity. Company engineers found it too noisy,
woefully underpowered and required multiple batteries to get it started. In
addition, the ideas of utilizing fuel injection and fluid drive were also abandoned.
Finally, Tucker's engineers considered the 6ALV 335 Franklin helicopter engine
as a replacement. They converted the engine to liquid cooling and employed
a modified Cord 810 transmission. To their delight the modified 6 ALV 335 engine
produced 166 horsepower and delivered an astounding 372 foot-pounds of torque.
From a standing start, the engine could provide enough torque in first gear
to strip teeth off the transmission.
The innovative 1948 Tucker automobiles remind automotive historians of Tucker's
innovative thinking in mechanical engineering and design. Spearheaded by Preston
Tucker's own demand for vehicle safety, the cockpit was created using a padded
dashboard and carried instrumentation that was grouped around the steering
column, to ensure that protruding buttons or gauges would not harm passengers
in the event of a collision. Of course, Tucker's center-mounted steer able
headlight has long been held up as an example of the car's innovative features.
By spring, Tucker '48s began rolling off the assembly line. Reviews from automobile
magazines praised the car effusively. Unfortunately, the Securities and Exchange
Commission was not joining in the praise, targeting the Tucker Corporation
with allegations of mail fraud and other violations. Negative publicity from
the investigations caused the company's stock to fall overnight. While investigations
were underway, Preston Tucker struggled to reopen the facility, with a skeleton
crew of production workers continuing to manufacture his automobiles.
Production lasted for several months until early March of 1949, when the corporation
fell into receivership and its assets were seized. Although ultimately acquitted
of every charge against him and the company, the damage was irreversible -
and the loss of his dream absolute. As Preston Tucker's advertising slogan
said, "Don't Let a Tucker Pass You By." The Tucker Corporation built
51 cars, of which 47 survive now.
At the time of his death Preston Tucker was working on yet another car, The
Carioca: a sports car to be built in Brazil.