There's something about the sheer audacity of the Tucker 48, sometimes also called the Torpedo, that makes this quirky American sedan so intriguing even 60-plus years after its introduction. Preston Tucker was only ever to complete 51 of them, and several of the remaining units were sold at auction after the company went bankrupt. Despite all of that, with its air-cooled flat-six engine hanging out back and Cyclops-like center headlight, the car has continued to withstand the test of time.
The story of the Tucker Car Corporation is a tragic one. Its sole model, the 1948 Tucker Sedan, had a huge number of innovations, with a particular focus on passenger safety, but a catastrophic debut and the ensuing media firestorm it created caused severe problems for the brand. Other issues followed, with an SEC investigation and rumors of troublemaking on the part of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
Many entrepreneurs have tried to break into the auto industry over the past century. Since the very early days, almost none have succeeded – or even lasted very long. Most such names have been forgotten and consigned to the dustbins of history. On the other hand, one of the most memorable failures of all time was Preston Tucker and his radically unconventional Torpedo. Only 51 of the forward-thinking sedans were built in 1948 before the company finally went belly up permanently.