When I was a teenager my parents took us to an automobile museum near Detroit. The car that fascinated me the most was the Tucker automobile. The futuristic design of the Tucker caught my attention.
The Tucker was built in 1947 – 1948 by Preston Tucker. Only 51 cars were actually manufactured before the company was shut down by bad press and allegations of stock fraud.
But I’d like to focus on the car itself. It had a lower body profile than cars commonly had during those years. So, Tucker overcame this difference by designing the doors into the roof for ease of entry.
Of course, one of the first differences observed when one sees a Tucker is the cyclops-like headlight in the center of the front of the car. More intriguing is the fact that Tucker designed this headlight to turn from side to side with the turning of the car.
The engine was a modified aircraft six cylinder motor installed in the rear of the car. Rear engine automobiles were still very uncommon at that time.
Tucker included many safety features in the car that were also ahead of their time. The windshield was designed to pop out in a crash, and was made of shatterproof glass. The chassis had a perimeter frame which surrounded the car to protect the passengers, and a rollbar was built into the car. The dash was padded. Although it never went into production, Tucker had designed a collapsible steering column to protect the driver. The steering box was mounted behind the front axle for further safety.
Other safety innovations planned by Tucker, but not put into production included magnesium wheels, disc brakes, fuel injection and self-sealing tubeless tires. Preston Tucker was indeed ahead of his time in the auto manufacturing world. His direct-drive torque converter transmission was developed but only installed in 2 of the 51 Tuckers manufactured.
Yes, I was right in my first memory about the museum where I first learned about and saw a Tucker automobile. It was at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Preston Tucker died in 1956 at the age of 53. He was a visionary, and as visionaries are impatient with the process of implementation, Tucker probably got ahead of himself in the production of his automobile. There are suspicions that the Detroit automakers were able to stop the production of the Tucker automobiles through allegations and through an investigation by the SEC.