1948 Tucker Model 48
335 cid, H-6, 166 bhp
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“The Most Completely New Car in Fifty Years” was the slogan Preston Tucker decided to use to promote his fast-back, four-door sedan. Designed by Alex S. Tremlis, the car was truly ahead of its time. The exterior featured a cyclops headlight that turned with the steering wheel, a windshield that popped out on impact, cut away roof line above the doors for easier access, and a step-down interior. The interior had push-button door releases, a padded dash that wrapped around the doors, and interchangeable front and rear seats to provide for even upholstery. This “car of the future” was unique even beneath its futuristic exterior. The Tucker featured an all-independent suspension and a rear-mounted flat-six power plant which utilized the first fully sealed water-cooling system. The all-alloy engine weighed only 320 pounds, but produced 166 bhp, pushing the Tucker to top speeds of 120 mph (0-60 mph in about 10 seconds). Despite all this, the company produced just 51 cars (including the “Tin Goose” prototype) before its collapse. Forty-seven of these cars still exist; this car is number 7. Highlights:
- Number 7 of 51 built – no two alike
- Navy Blue paint color (originally Green)
- Advanced design with many safety features; Franklin Flat 6 engine, designed for helicopter
- “Cyclops” headlight turns with steering
- Top Speed: 120 mph
- Proposed price: $2,450, more like $4,000
- A total of 50 production Tuckers were built, and one hand-built, pre-production prototype, often referred to as “The Tin Goose”. Of the 50 production Tuckers built, 46 still exist as of this writing, as does “The Tin Goose”.
- A common misconception is to call the “Tucker 48” the “Tucker Torpedo”. This name was never used in conjunction with the production car, as its name was officially “Tucker 48”.
- Each Tucker built differs somewhat from the previous cars, as each car built was basically a “prototype” where design features and engineering concepts were tried, improved or discarded throughout the production cycle.
- The Tucker car was offered in six colors: Black (#100), Waltz Blue (#200), Green (#300), Beige (#400), Pearl Gray (#500), and Maroon (#600).
- There were three interior trim colors offered – Light green (#900), Light Blue (#910), and Light Beige (#920).
- The door releases on the interior of the Tucker came from the Lincoln Zephyr.
- The steering columns used in the Tucker were donated by Ford and are from the 1941 Lincoln.
- Preston Tucker held a patent for a collapsible steering column design.
- A glove box was added to the front door panels instead of the more conventional location in the dash to provide for the “crash chamber” that the Tucker is now famous for. This is a padded area ahead of the passenger seat, free from obstructions, providing the front seat passengers an area to protect themselves in the event of an accident.
- The Tucker was designed with a safety glass, two-piece windshield with rubber moldings, each panel designed to pop out in the event of an impact. Windshields in other cars of the day remained stationary, often causing severe head lacerations in the event of a crash when the occupant made contact with the stationary glass.
- The Tucker never came with factory-installed seat belts, nor did the designers seriously consider them – they were too far down “the list” to warrant serious consideration. Even Tucker’s very early publications and press releases, as early as 1946, didn’t promote seat belts as a feature.
- Tucker designers changed some major design points between cars #1025 and #1026. One of the major changes was relocating the fuel tank to the front of the car to better balance the weight front to rear (note the fuel filler door in the driver’s side front fender in the photo of #1047 above). The fuel tank was previously located in the rear with the filler located under the driver’s side grill on the leading edge of the rear quarter panel. The method of turning the “Cyclops Eye” was also changed as at this time. Tucker #1025 and below used a mechanical linkage for the Cyclops Eye, whereas #1026 and above used a new, simpler cable design. Suspension parts were also improved and revised at this point between #1025 and #1026. A previous, yet major, change was to move the rear wheel centerline one inch rearward, and the front wheel centerline ¾” forward.
- Some states had strict laws governing the number of headlights on vehicles, allowing for only two, so when a Tucker was sold in a state that prohibited more than two headlights, a cover was provided that had been devised for the “Cyclops Eye”, so the owner could cover it to comply with the law in that state.
- Some of the early Tuckers came with an under-the-seat gasoline powered heater.
- Early Tucker’s (#1001-1011) did not have ashtrays installed at the factory.
- In 1988, Francis Ford Coppola directed the movie “TUCKER – The Man and His Dream” which featured many Tucker cars. The cars featured in the movie were #1004, #1005, #1009, #1012, #1013, #1014, #1015, #1017, #1019, #1021, #1022, #1025, #1026, #1029, #1031, #1034, #1037, #1041, and #1050. Francis Ford Coppola owned Tucker #1014 and #1037 during filming, and George Lucas, the producer of the movie, purchased Tucker #1009 and #1003 after filming was complete, but has since sold #1003. The movie is credited for making the public more aware of the Tucker cars and causing an increase in the value of the remaining 47 Tuckers.
- There have been fully-restored Tuckers that recently sold for more than $1 million dollars and an unrestored Tucker in fairly poor condition sold in 2011 for nearly $800,000.
- Air-cooled Motors, eventually purchased by and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tucker Corporation, supplied the engines for the Tucker cars. These engines were versions of the air cooled engines supplied for planes and early helicopters, modified to allow water cooling, for use in the Tucker cars. Air-cooled Motors grew out of the remains of the Franklin Automobile Company, which produced up-scale, air cooled automobiles between 1902 and 1934.
- Only one Tucker (#1026) had an automatic transmission, designated the “R-1”. All other Tuckers used either the Cord pre-selector transmission, or a Tucker-built derivation of the Cord transmission, called the “Y-1”.
- Tucker #1004 is considered the “NASCAR” Tucker. During 1950, Tucker #1004 was raced in NASCAR events but was mostly sidelined with mechanical problems. The car was driven by Joe Merola. Most people think the NASCAR Tucker is #1023, which is incorrect.
- The Tucker had no separate frame and was of a unibody construction, so some information claiming that one body number was mated with a differently numbered frame is inaccurate. It is known, however, that after Tucker #1007, often times the VIN tag number did not match the hand-stamped number on the bulkhead between the luggage and passenger compartments which designated the body number.
- Preston Tucker wanted an engine that could be removed and replaced very quickly in the Tucker. With the proper tools and skills, the engine could be removed and replaced in under 30 minutes. The thought was that if the engine were to be experiencing problems, the owner could bring the car in to a Tucker shop and within a short time be sent on their way with a “loaner” engine while the problem engine was being repaired.
- The body design allowed for a drag coefficient (“cd”) reading of 0.30. When the Chevrolet engineers redesigned the C5 Corvette for 1997, they worked long and hard to produce a cd of 0.29, which was just .01 less than that of the Tucker, produced in 1948. The lowest known cd for a production car at this writing is 0.25 for a 2010 Toyota Prius.
- Tucker #1007 left the factory in the Green color (#300) with the Light Green (#900) trim on the data plate. There were only eight Green Tuckers, and only 5 remain in the factory Green color. During the early 1960’s, Tucker #1007 was painted a bright red-orange, then later painted black, then lastly painted its present deep metallic blue color in the early 1990’s.
- Tucker #1007 left the factory with engine #33507, but currently has engine #33575. Since Tucker #1007 was originally owned by Air-cooled Motors and was used for engine testing, this is most likely the reason for the engine number difference, as the original engine may have expired during testing and been replaced. Tucker #1007 was owned by Air-cooled Motors and was used in the testing of the engines, and certainly one of the tests would have been to see how far the engine could be pushed until it expired.
- Tucker #1007 was not in the movie “TUCKER – The Man and His Dream” (see general notes above for the list of the Tuckers used in the movie).
- Tucker #1007 was purchased at a Petersen Museum-hosted auction in June, 2002 and was briefly owned by The Petersen Museum, who bought Tucker #1007 with a group of cars from the collection of Bill Gouldd. The Petersen Museum did not want to keep the Tucker, as they already owned a Tucker, but were forced to buy it in order to get other cars they wanted. The sales price for Tucker #1007 in June of 2002 was $334,800.
- The hubcaps on Tucker #1007 are not original Tucker hubcaps and appear to be from an Oldsmobile, with the Tucker crest applied. Hubcaps from a Henry J are very close in appearance to true Tucker hubcaps once the Tucker emblem is applied to them.
- Tucker #1007 has a reproduction VIN tag in place of the original VIN tag, but the numbers on the tag match that of stampings elsewhere on the body.
- Tucker #1007 has the correct early speedometer, which had a hand-painted face. Alex Tremulis paid a painter $100 each to hand-paint the early speedometers before they had production facilities in place to produce them in quantity.
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