Preston Tucker, the man behind the Tucker automobile, was a charismatic rebel who was unfortunately possessed by his creativity and determined to do what many said couldn’t be done. His cup of creativity bubbled with activity. As his career unfolded, it became clear his destiny was to shake off his contemporaries and to do what had never been done before. He was David looking for his Goliath. He was fearless and more than a bit of a gambler. Ready to risk his fame and fortune, he jumped head first into an inevitable collision with the establishment. He was determined to capture his dream and build a car that he believed America deserved – a safer, sportier and entirely unconventional sedan with baked-in engineering that his competitors could not match.
Early in his career he and a partner worked to help Henry Ford with race car engineering and design. Tucker was the inventor of the Tucker Turret, a powered gun turret that was mounted to military vehicles in the Second World War. The Tucker Turret was an innovation that played a key role in the success of the allied armies.
Tucker is most remembered for his attempt to challenge the big three American auto manufacturers by starting his own, ultra innovative car company, the Tucker Corporation. Tucker’s goal was to apply his unconventional wisdom and common sense to build a car that excelled in areas such as styling, safety, performance, value, and engineering. If Tucker succeeded it would have taken the “Big Three” several years and hundreds of millions dollars to retrofit their cars in an attempt to compete. And as they did so they would have been relegated to the side of the road as they watched a Tucker drift by, eroding their domination of the American car industry. Tucker accomplished what he set out to do with what he called the Tucker 48.
The Tucker 48 sedan was unlike any other car in the world when it was introduced. Some of its most unique features were a “Safety Windshield”, a centered swiveling third headlight, a quick swap powertrain setup, and a rear mounted “flat six” aircraft engine that had been updated with water jackets for proper cooling. The Safety Windshield was anti-shard laminated and was designed to be easily removed in the case of an accident. The centered swiveling third headlight was synchronized to the movement of the steering wheel to help the driver see around bends in the road. Even today, synchronized headlights don’t appear in any but the most expensive cars and their appearance is a relatively recent addition to what are supposed to be “state of the art” automobiles.
The quick swap powertrain (engine and transmission) setup was designed to be easily be swapped within fifteen minutes of arriving at a Tucker service department. This system was developed so that customers could drop off the powertrain at the dealership and leave quickly with a “loaner powertrain.” This would allow an owner to avoid waiting, sometimes for days, as their car was repaired, an inconvenience common among conventional cars. Imagine the advantage of such an option if you were on a long distance trip with a car full of kids.