Unusual Automotive Treasures
Sold for $1,567,000 on August 15, 2014
166 bhp, 335 cu. in. OHV horizontally
opposed six-cylinder engine, Tucker Y-1
four-speed pre-selector transmission,
four-wheel independent suspension,
and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.
Wheelbase: 130 in.
1948 Tucker 48
Tucker’s concept for his car was
revolutionary. He intended to use a Ben Parsons-designed rear-mounted
engine with all-independent Torsilastic rubber-sprung suspension and
disc brakes on all four wheels. Drive was to be by twin torque
converters, one at each rear wheel. The body design was penned by former
Auburn Automobile Company designer Alex Tremulis, and it incorporated
numerous safety features that Tucker promoted, including a windshield
that would pop out in an accident, a wide space under the dash pad into
where front seat passengers could duck before a collision, and a
center-mounted third headlight that would turn with the front wheels.
Early in the production cycle, the Tucker saw some of those dreams evaporate. The safety features survived, but the Parsons 589 engine and direct torque converter drive proved impractical. Tucker purchased Air Cooled Motors, a New York manufacturer of small aircraft engines, and reworked their product for water cooling. He installed it in his car, along with a four-speed transaxle borrowed from the Cord 810 and 812.
Eventually, 51 examples of the Tucker 48 were assembled, and of those were the original “Tin Goose” prototype and 50 pilot-production cars. Public acclaim and desire for the new design was at a fever pitch. Unfortunately, it was all for naught. The Tucker Corporation came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The wheels of government ground slowly, and by the time Tucker and his executives were eventually declared “not guilty” in early 1950, the public had lost faith and Tucker had lost his factory. The car once nicknamed the “Torpedo” had been, effectively, torpedoed.
A little knowledge about cars can be dangerous, but it can also result in something so full of passion and fascination that it can survive bureaucracy and time to become an icon of its age and the ultimate validation of its creator. It is the American dream on four wheels.