Some of you may recognize this car from the Hollywood production “Tucker” that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola back in 1988. It was based off the true story of how this “Car of Tomorrow” came to be, and its demise. The brainchild of this extremely rare vehicle was Preston Thomas Tucker, a Michigan born gearhead that had the gumption to create something special.
When it was first released there were plans in place to start mass producing the car ll over the country. Now had that happen, not only would we see modern day Tuckers driving on your daily commute, bu cars as we know them could be different all together. See there were a few things about the Tucker 48 that set itself apart from other vehicles made up that point.
The car was fitted with a rear mounted flat-six built by the Franklin Engine Company that was intended for use in a helicopter. The engine producing 166hp and even more impressively 372 lb-ft of torque. Normally the only time you would see an engine produce more torque than horsepower, is with a diesel. How i’ve always understood the difference between horsepower and torque is the torque is what is gets the car moving forward and throws you back into the seat. Where as horsepower is what helps you continue to accelerate up through the higher speeds.
There was also something called a Torsilastic suspension system that was setup independently on all four wheels. As far as what exactly Torsilastic means i’m not entirely sure. It appears as if it’s some sort of rubber spring system that is said to give a” Velvet Ride”.
One of the most interesting things about this car had to be its signature third headlight, also referred to as “the Cyclops Eye”. This wasn’t just for aesthetics though, it was actually a directional headlight that would only activate when steering angles reached over 10 degrees. This meant that if you came into a a sharp turn on a dark night the third light would help you see around the corner, potentially avoiding an accident.
This sort of technology is what we are starting to see now in modern high end luxury cars, but Tucker was able to pull it off back in 1948. Now there were 17 states that had laws against having more that two headlights so he was forced to fabricate a cover that could be installed on the cars in those states.
When the Tucker 48 was debuted in the middle of June 1947 it had extremely rocky start. More than 3,000 people showed up for the tour of the facility and the big reveal. However just the night before the event both prototypes that were going to be used suffered major issues. Both had the entire front suspension collapse due to the cars excessive weight and the prototype engine that was used was extremely loud and required outside power to start it.
All of these issues were address and the following models were nothing like the original prototypes. But the damage was done, one of the newspaper columnists in attendance called Tucker a fraud and a whole slew of negative media followed.
But what really did the company in also happened to be one of Tuckers most innovative business ideas. See at the time the demand for new cars was exponentially more than the manufacturers could keep up with. Most dealerships had long waiting lists for new car buyers and priority was given to returning veterans which meant non-veterans were continually bumped down the list. So what Tucker did was set it up where buyers could purchase accessories for the upcoming Tucker 48 and by doing that it guaranteed them a spot on the Tucker dealer list.
This sparked an investigation of the company by the United States Attorney, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Although many of the companies were indicted all charges were eventually dropped clearing the company of any wrong doing. But the negative press released regarding the situation had more than done its damage by that time. The timing of it all left many people suspicious of foul play, especially when all the charges were dropped. Some people feel as if the big three auto manufacturers, Ford, General Motors, Dodge, had something to do with it, but proof was never provided.
The SEC investigation was ultimately the nail in the coffin for the Tucker Motor Company. All production of Tucker 48 stopped and when all was said and done, only 51 examples were ever made. Of those its said that 47 still exist, most of which are on display at some museum or in some very rich mans collection. See because they were made in such small numbers, the rare factor is through the roof. When you add in how cool of a car it really is, the value just keeps going up. In 2013, the Tucker 48 with the serial number #1043 that had been meticulously restored set a record on the auction block selling for $2.9 million USD.
So if you ever happen to see one of these unique cars be sure to snap some pictures, or shoot a video because you just saw the “jakalope” of the car world.