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 Tucker Torpedo is one of the great what-if stories of automotive history. Preston Tucker hoped to revolutionize the industry with a car unlike any other on the road at the time. However, due to a variety of problems, he only managed build 51 vehicles before closing shop. Over time, they have become highly sought-after; In 2012, one sold for $2.65 million at auction.
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.
Most, if not all, know the story of the 1948 Tucker sedan. Yes, there was a movie, and it's well worth watching. But even if you've never seen or heard of a the machine, one look at Preston Tucker's Torpedo is all it takes for you to realize it's something special.
Allow us to clarify: the Tucker Torpedo Convertible we wrote about recently should herewith be referred to as the purported Tucker Torpedo Convertible. The droptop claiming to be a Torpedo will be up for auction in Scottsdale soon, offered by Russo and Steele. A note from the Tucker Automotive Club of America, however, states that it knows of no such car ever having been made by the Tucker Corporation. The statement says, in part:
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.
Tucker, undoubtedly one of the most famous of the many failed automotive companies the world has seen, was way ahead of its time in automotive technology. Featuring a rear-mounted engine that first designed for helicopter use, a full perimeter frame, a padded dash for safety and – lest we forget its most iconic design element – the cyclops front headlamp, the Tucker Torpedo stood apart from the crowd. As you probably already know, though, Preston Tucker's dream came crashing down aft
When you think of the early days of NASCAR, brands like Oldsmobile, Hudson and Chrysler come to mind. What you don't usually think of is Tucker. In fact Tucker usually isn't associated with motorsports at all. With only 51 examples of the Tucker Torpedo having been completed before the lights were switched off, racing probably wasn't top of mind for owners of the time.