Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tucker '48

The 1948 Tucker Sedan is an unusual footnote on American automotive history. Just 51 examples were built in Chicago in '48, before negative press propaganda effectively forced Preston Tucker's fledgling company to fold.
After World War Two, the American public had money to spend and the auto manufacturers were struggling to catch up; the Big Three (General Motors, Ford & Chrysler) hadn't released a new model since 1941, and there were sales to be made. This gulf left easy opportunities for new companies to pinch a slice of the market, and this is exactly where Tucker slotted in. But this was no rushed-through model; it was, at the time, one of the most innovative cars the world had ever seen. Powered by a rear-mounted, water-cooled flat-six, Tucker wanted to create a 'safety car', with standard-fit features including seatbelts, a padded dash and all controls within easy reach of the steering wheel. The Cyclops Eye - a headlight mounted in the centre - turned with the wheels, the windscreen was shatterproof and a rollbar was integrated into the roof. As a safety demonstration, one car was rolled three times at 95mph; the driver walked away from the incident and, after changing a burst tire, the car was started and driven straight away.
This kind of innovation and conscientiousness troubled the Big Three, who a) didn't relish the competition and b) knew they couldn't cheaply mass-produce an equivalent. So they did the next best thing: discredited Tucker in the press, to such a vicious extent that investors withdrew and nobody wanted to be seen driving one. Which is, of course, the American way.

Given the rarity of the model, I was surprised and excited to spot this one at Chelsea Auto Legends - as the pictures demonstrate, it was absolutely pristine.

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