Motoring Trailblazers - Tucker Torpedo

Sat 20th Jul 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Tucker 48
The Tucker Torpedo, or the ‘48 to give it its production name was visionary inventor Preston Tucker’s Car of the Future in the 1940s, but despite the car having a host of innovations and groundbreaking ideas, the car will be best remembered for the fact that the car proved to be a first and last grand hurrah for the Tucker motor corporation.

Conceived in the after-glow of the Second World War, Tucker hired one of the foremost car designers of a generation, George S. Lawson, to style his new car. 

The design features included a rear drive and headlamps that turned with the front wheels, car tech that whilst may have been available in Europe had never been seen on an American production model before. But Tucker 48 also had a third ‘Cyclops Eye’ which could be activated when the steering wheel reached angles of 10 degrees, this helped the car have better vision when driving around corners. Unfortunately, the laws in many US states prohibited the use of more than two headlights, so Tucker also fabricated a cover for the light in those states.

One of the Tucker 48s most innovative features was the so-called ‘safety windshield’ which had shatterproof glass and was designed to pop out in event of a collision to protect occupants of the vehicle. Driver safety was at the very heart of the 48, with a padded dashboard that was placed in a more conventional position to allow for the famous ‘crash chamber’, a space ahead of the passenger seat, free from obstruction, to protect front- seat passengers in the event of an accident.

Sadly the story of the Tucker 48 is short-lived, only 50 car were ever produced before the company ceased operations in March 1949. A series of allegations and insinuations were made against Preston Tucker’s company and the negative publicity proved to be poison to sales. 

So the man and the myth of Preston Tucker and the famous 48 were consigned to history, but Francis Ford Coppola remained a huge fan and he told the tale of the time with his movie ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ - a critical success, that almost in tribute to its subject matter almost failed to make any money.