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No doubt, he played fast and loose.

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So do most entrepreneurs. Unlike GM or Ford or Chrysler, each of which had a bottomless well of money to draw from WW II defense contracts had been very good for business and the postwar years were even better Tucker had financial holes in his floorboards and getting anyone to front him cash took persuading that probably included a little fibbing.


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Regardless, His dream of becoming a major player in the auto business quickly became a nightmare. Just over 50 cars saw the light of day before everything imploded. Creditors descended like hungry vultures; the SEC was doing its best to put him in prison. The Chicago plant where B29s had been built during the war and all company assets were sold off at auction for 20 cents on the dollar.

Tucker died a broken man less than eight years later, on December 26, — at the age of DeLorean … without the coke. And the Tucker automobile has only grown in stature since the death of the man whose vision inspired it. Today, surviving examples are high-dollar collectibles, typically selling for seven figures. Each one featured pop-out safety glass, seat belts, a padded dashboard and a body structure specifically designed to protect occupants in the event of a wreck. These safety features were decades ahead of their time.

The 1948 Tucker Sedan: a Car Ahead of its Time

Industry marketing types long believed that installing seat belts in cars implied the cars were not safe. The Tucker also had a separately locking parking brake — so you could still stop the car even if the primary braking system failed — as well as large protective bumpers at each end.


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Interior knobs and controls were rounded off to limit the potential for injury to occupants in a crash. For the late s, this was superior performance.


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Few cars of the time were capable of triple digit speeds, but the Tucker achieved them easily. The Tucker was actually supposed to have been fuel-injected, too — but cost constraints nixed that in favor of a more conventional — and much less expensive — carburetor. The Corvair, meanwhile, had an engine half that size — and then later cubic inches — and it was designed from the get-go as an automotive powerplant.

It was light enough that two reasonably strong men could remove it by hand for servicing. As the coolant got hot and boiled over, the excess would drain into the expansion tank, where it would be drawn back into circulation as the coolant cooled and pressure decreased. There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Conceived in the after-glow of the Second World War, Tucker hired one of the foremost car designers of a generation, George S. Lawson, to style his new car. The design features included a rear drive and headlamps that turned with the front wheels, car tech that whilst may have been available in Europe had never been seen on an American production model before.

Unfortunately, the laws in many US states prohibited the use of more than two headlights, so Tucker also fabricated a cover for the light in those states. The driver was to sit in the middle, a notion brought to life years later by Gordon Murray and his McLaren F1. He also wanted 4-wheel disk brakes, lightweight magnesium wheels and a very innovative automatic transmission dubbed the "Tuckermatic" that had only 27 parts, 90 less than typical slushboxes.

Only there was no way it could handle the mountain of torque served up by the Franklin motor. Ironically, the Tuckermatic box did as much to sink the company as anything else. The engineers never bothered to put a reverse gear in the prototype. Tucker always claimed that he was being spied on, and when word of this leaked out, the motoring press had a field day making fun of the car that couldn't go backwards.

Tucker Torpedo First Public Appearance | AACA Museum

Sort of reminiscent of Tesla and their transmission woes , no? In the end, Tucker was forced to go with a conventional Cord tranny. But the real innovations had to do with safety. Preston Tucker was obsessed with building a safe car.

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To that end, he fitted a padded dashboard, decades before the rest of the industry was mandated to do after the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed. While the moving headlights and fenders never panned out, a third headlight was added — dubbed the "Cyclops Eye" — that moved with the steering wheel illuminating the road in the direction the car would be traveling.

Today, 60 years on, moving headlights are only now becoming the norm, and only on upscale makes. All of the controls, including the radio, were grouped around the steering wheel ensuring that in the event of an accident protruding bits wouldn't impale passengers. The vehicle also had a perimeter frame that surrounded the passenger compartment. As the engine was out back, there was a large carpeted box ahead of the front seats that passengers could dive into when an accident was imminent. OK, so that last one is a little silly. Tucker also wanted to fit seatbelts to the 48 but his staff convinced him that doing so would give off the impression that the car was unsafe.

Tucker's car was anything but. When a test driver crashed and rolled one at mph during a public demonstration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then walked away with only bruises, the public was sold.

Tucker Torpedo

And then became angry at the press and the government for essentially slandering the Perhaps most importantly of all, the Tucker 48 was beautiful. Tremulis was given the lets just say far fetched task of completing the design in just six days because of promises made to investors to reach timelines, everything at Tucker was done on a frenzied schedule.

The results not only aesthetically speak for themselves, but were pretty aerodynamic, too. In fact, the 48 had a drag coefficient of just 0.

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Just for comparison's sake, Tremulis's design was pen drawn under duress and the finished cars were hand formed with hammers. The Toyota Prius, designed on lots of computers and whose modus operandi is to generate as little wind resistance as possible, has a drag coefficient of 0. Calling a stillborn machine a tragedy may seem a touch insensitive or like an exaggeration. Though in the case of the Tucker Torpedo, I think it is warranted. Forward thinking, powerful, safe and utterly gorgeous, Americans and car lovers around the world were robbed by corporate shenanigans, government incompetence and an overzealous press.