History of Famous Automobiles The Tucker Part 1

About the history of the famous Tucker automobile, rife with problems and promise.



Advertised as the first completely new car in 50 years, the Tucker automobile had its world premiere on June 19, 1947, in Chicago. This six-passenger four-door sedan, the first American rear-engine automobile, had advance billing extolling it as the most effective power plant ever built on wheels.

The car would be powered by a six-cylinder 5 x 5 engine of entirely new design--flat with opposed cylinders and largely of aluminum so that it could be taken out and replaced in 30 minutes. The Tucker had a 126-in. wheelbase, with the front tread standing and the rear tread 2 in. wider for greater stability. The front fenders of the car turned with the wheels, and the driving lights on the fenders followed the curves in the road. A single fixed center light completed the headlight assembly, all of which was to be controlled by a photoelectric cell that automatically dimmed the light at the approach of another car. (Actually the function of the lights was reversed when the car was completed, with the fender headlights remaining fixed, while the middle light followed the curves in the road.)

These were only some of the promoted high-lights of the Tucker car. The automobile was also advertised as giving up to 35 mi. per gallon of gas, and permitting a continuous cruising speed of 100 mph. In short, the Tucker was designed to make all other cars obsolete. As long as a Lincoln, with the third Cyclops eye headlight planted dead center above the grille, the automobile looked as if it were going 60 even while it was standing still.

At the auspicious debut of the car, several shapely girls paraded down a platform with replicas of the scores of automobile parts that the Tucker would eliminate and flipped them into a waiting trash can.

Oops, there goes the clutch. So long to the transmission. Who needs a differential? The Tucker had eliminated all of these backward parts, along with the drive shaft and torque tube. Also, if you wanted, you could have the driver's seat situated right in the middle of the car.

The windshield of the Tucker was a single piece of curved safety glass, and the car doors opened into the roof so it would not be necessary to stoop getting in and out of the car. Since it was only 60 in. high, the Tucker was the lowest car in the U.S. and yet was 2 in. longer than the largest Cadillac.

As the car was driven off a ramp to be oohed and aahed by everyone in the immediate vicinity, it was announced that within four months there would be several thousand of the vehicles, made to sell for approximately $1,000.

There were one or two snags in Tucker heaven, however; namely, the Securities and Exchange Commission, while permitting Tucker stock to be sold, issued a warning to prospective investors about Tucker's claims, and the states of California and Michigan banned the sale of stock as fraudulent. This did not faze the ebullient and optimistic Preston Tucker, though. Formerly a small manufacturer from Ypsilanti, Mich., Tucker was a super salesman with the required gifts of boundless enthusiasm and mile-a-minute chatter. By August, 1948, he had promoted more than $25 million in stock investments and franchise dealerships, with people paying up to $80,000 for the latter. Incidentally, Tucker was the first person to make selling franchises a big operation.

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