Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This Month in Tucker History

1946 - It was in November of 1946 that articles detailing concepts for the “Car of the Future” appeared on newsstands in both Mechanics Illustrated and Popular Mechanics magazines. A year later in November 1947, the Tucker Corporation was well on its way to bringing the Tucker ’48 to the car-hungry public.

1947 - The company launched a national advertising campaign featuring full-page (or two-page) ads in Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Life, The New Yorker and Time magazines. Its ten-year lease of the former Dodge Chicago plant formerly began and the company was awarded six different patents. The day after the failed testing of the 589 engine, Tucker Corporation contracted with Hoffman Motor Development Company of Detroit, MI to build six engines. In the arrangement, Borg Warner Corporation would also develop three experimental transmissions for Tucker. The development of each would end just four months later when the Aircooled Motors 335 engine was selected to power the Tucker ’48.

1948 - By November of 1948, Tucker Corporation sees the value of its stock fall to an all-time low and suspends plant operations. In less than a year, criminal indictments are issued against Preston Tucker and seven associates, and a trial begins in October of 1949. By the following January all defendants in the case are found NOT GUILTY.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This Month in Tucker History

1947 - After working on the 589 engine for several months, an August 1947 engineering report deemed the cost for the starter would be prohibitive. The report also pointed out that the piston load was three times greater than that of any competitor’s engine.

1948 - After a rather difficult July, August 1948 seemed to hold some promise for Tucker Corporation and the fulfillment of Preston Tucker’s dream. Renowned automotive journalist and regular contributor to Mechanix Illustrated, Tom McCahill test-drives a Tucker ‘48 and writes a glowing review on the auto for the magazine. Work continues swiftly on the less expensive helicopter engine, the 335, with 91 units being delivered by Tucker Corporation’s newly acquired Aircooled Motors of Syracuse, NY.

The War Assets Administration awards a Cleveland blast furnace/steel plant to automaker Kaiser-Frazer even though Tucker Corporation’s sealed bid proves to be the highest. The second Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Tucker Corporation officially ends.

1988 - The Tucker auto again captivates America’s interest in August of 1988 when the movie Tucker: The Man and His Dream is released nationwide. The Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”) and George Lucas (“Star Wars”) production stars Jeff Bridges and his father, Lloyd.

The 1960 Charles Pearson book The Indomitable Tin Goose: The True Story of The Tucker Auto is re-released in paperback following the release of the movie.

1995 - August of 1995 finds the Tucker Automobile Club of America on the internet with a website created by member Chris Miller.

1996 - Larry Clark, automotive historian and TACA member, nominates Preston Tucker for induction in the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI.

2010 - The Tucker Automobile Club of America expands its internet presence even further with the introduction of a blog (Tucker Tribune) and a Facebook page.

Tucker No. 1045 sells for a (then) record $1,127,500 at auction in Monterey, CA on August 14, 2010, and is relocated to Melbourne, Australia, making it the fifth Tucker to be located overseas.

(Post credits: Jay Follis and Kit Fox)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This Month in Tucker History

1946 - It was July of 1946 that Preston Tucker signed a lease agreement with the War Assets Administration (WAA) for the wartime Dodge B-29 engine plant on South Cicero Avenue in Chicago. Known as the largest and best equipped manufacturing plant in the world, it covered 484 acres with 22 buildings, the largest of those covering 84 acres by itself. The WAA agreement stated that Tucker Corporation would take possession if Tucker could raise $15 million by April 1947. An article in the July 25, 1946 issue of Business Week announced that Tucker moved in and took possession of Dodge Chicago plant.

1947 - July 1947 was a busy time for Tucker and those around him. Philip S. Egan, a member of the design team at J. Gordon Lippincott & Company, was hired as a full-time staff member of the Tucker Corporation working under Chief Stylist Alex Tremulis (Phil’s book, Tucker: Design & Destiny, on his Tucker experience, is a MUST read).

The deadline for the $500,000 payment by Tucker Corporation for its first year lease on the Chicago plant also came due during this month.

Max Garavito, president of the Tucker Export Corporation, met with officials of Aircooled Motors on the prospect of using the Franklin 335 helicopter engine in the Tucker if it could be converted to water-cooled.

Preston Tucker was still confident that company Vice-President and Chief Engineer (fuel injection specialist) Ben Parsons’ engine design would power his “Car of The Future.” Parsons, however, released a statement on the 28th of July saying that there would be “no fuel injection until the 589 engine is satisfactory.”

1948 - In mid-June 1948, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas for all Tucker Corporation operating papers from as early as 1946, and effectively made it impossible for work to continue. Nearly 2,200 factory workers were laid off and the plant was closed. However, in July 1948, Preston Tucker rehired 300 workers and reopened the plant with a simple goal--complete assembly on as many Tucker automobiles as possible.

(Post credit: Jay Follis)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Location for LeMay Museum in Tacoma, WA

The Lemay Museum - "America's Car Museum"
On June 2, 2012, the LeMay Museum - home of Tucker No. 1007 - opened in its spectacular new location near the Tacoma Dome and the Museum of Glass in downtown Tacoma, WA.  See the LeMay website for more information.

UPDATE 6/23/12 4:46 PM: We're told that Tucker No. 1007 actually remains at the LeMay Family Foundation's collection at the former Marymount Military Academy in Tacoma, WA.  We apologize for the confusion.

(Post credit: Kit Fox; photo credit: LeMay Museum website) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MISSING: Tucker No. 1042

No Photos of
Tucker No. 1042 are
Known to Exist
The story of Tucker No. 1042 is perhaps the most bizarre of any of the missing Tucker 48s.  Rumors abound and the documented truth as eluded researchers for years.

Records from the 1950 auction of the Tucker Corporation assets indicate that No. 1042 had no engine at the time. Some believe that the car was vandalized in the 1960s and no longer exists.  Another story is that a veterans' organization used the car in a "Bash a Tucker" fundraiser.  Yet another story is that the remains of Tucker No. 1042 were found along the banks of the Mississippi River near Memphis, TN in the 1960s, only to later disappear under mysterious circumstances (possibly involving a disgruntled tenant at a rental property where it was being stored).  To this day, all of these stories have led to dead ends and the few remaining parts attributed to this car cannot be positively matched to it.

(Post credit: Jay Follis and Kit Fox; image credit: TACA website)

Friday, June 1, 2012

This Month in Tucker History

1947 - The month of June 1947 saw work completed on the Tucker prototype-the "Tin Goose"-and its unveiling to the world at the Chicago plant. The dream of owning the "First Completely New Car in Fifty Years" was enthusiastically embraced throughout the nation.

1948 - June of 1948 is seen as a busy time in Tucker history. While the first production design transmissions based on the Cord model are delivered in June of 1948, things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. James D. Coolidge, council for the Tucker Corporation, receives a summons to appear at the Chicago offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission and is informed that the "company is under investigation." Three days later, well-known radio personality Drew Pearson leaks SEC details of the investigation on his radio program. Tucker becomes the buzz at office water-coolers throughout the nation as the details of this "secret and confidential" SEC report led to wild gossip, conjecture and hearsay.

By June 14th, the SEC subpoenas all Tucker corporate operating papers from as early as 1946 and effectively makes it impossible for work to continue. Preston Tucker lays off nearly 2,200 factory workers and keeps only a skeleton crew on. That crew begins work on the less expensive 335 engine, while Preston publishes an open letter to the auto industry that appears in several national papers.

1949 - June of 1949 doesn't fair much better for Tucker Corporation as Collier's magazine publishes an article attacking Tucker.

1974 - While it can certainly be argued that the SEC and others helped put Tucker Corporation out of business, it needs to be noted that dealerships closed as well. It wasn't until June of 1974, some 25 years later, that former Tucker dealers received settlement checks through the United States District Court for the investments they made in 1947.

(Post credit: Jay Follis)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MISSING: Tucker No. 1027

Tucker No. 1027
Tucker No. 1027 is perhaps one of the better known of the missing Tucker 48s, thanks to a dramatic scene in Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

In the early fall of 1948, seven cars were driven from the Chicago Tucker Corporation factory to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 24-hour endurance testing.  At 3:00 AM on or about October 18, 1948, chief engineer Eddie Offutt was behind the wheel of Tucker No. 1027 when it spun out and rolled twice into the infield. The car's safety features (including the pop-out windshield) functioned exactly as designed and Offutt suffered only a bruised elbow.  In the movie, these events were re-created with the famous "Stucker" stunt double car, which was actually a modified Studebaker.

Tucker No. 1027 was not scrapped, but was returned to the Engineering Department and eventually sold at auction in 1950, listed as "no engine, wrecked."  Today, although it is not clear what happened to the body and chassis of No. 1027, some parts have been used in the restoration of other cars, while other parts are in the hands of private collectors.

(Post credit: Jay Follis and Kit Fox; photo credit: TACA website)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Month in Tucker History

1947 - It was May of '47 that the J. Gordon Lippincott & Company design team completed its work on a full-sized clay model. The Lippincott group had been brought in not as automotive engineers, but as product designers and setup next to Alex Tremulis' model. The friendly competition wasn't to change any of the Tremulis fundamentals - wheelbase, basic body, center headlight, but was purely for styling.

May of 1947 also found work beginning on the first Tucker prototype - the "Tin Goose."

1948 - It was in 1948 that Herbert D. Wilson published a glowing review of the Tucker in the May 2nd edition of the Chicago Herald-American.

Tucker Corporation ordered 500 engines from Aircooled Motors of Syracuse, New York, the new Tucker-owned subsidiary. While the location of the Aircooled Motors is referred to as Syracuse even on Company letterhead, the plant was actually located a few miles to the west in Liverpool, NY. It was also in 1948, during the month of May, that the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated a second investigation of Tucker Corporation.

Those highly sought-after Tucker promotional ashtrays featuring a model of the car were first offered to dealers from the pages of the TUCKER TOPICS, the Company's dealer newsletter in May 1948. The price then - painted for $10 and gold-tone plated for $12.50. The price today - in the $800.00 to $1,200.00 range!

On May 18, 1948 veteran racecar driver and Tucker Corporation's West Coast regional manager, Ralph Hepburn, was killed when his NOVI Special struck the wall during a practice lap for the Indy 500. Preston Tucker, a close friend of many years, was at the speedway when the accident occurred.

(Post credit: Jay Follis)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MISSING: Tucker No. 1023

Tucker No. 1023
Tucker No. 1023 was completed in September 1948 and ended up in Massachusetts and New York as a company demonstrator car. Nearly 30 years later, No. 1023 ended up in Florida, primered, showing its age and sitting in storage awaiting restoration.

In September 1978, a fire broke out in the Allied Van Lines warehouse in Deland, FL where No. 1023 was stored. The 20,000-square-foot building burned and collapsed, destroying its contents. Only a few parts of Tucker No. 1023 were salvageable; Tucker historian Richard Jones eventually brought home what was left of No. 1023 after it had been crushed, and buried the remains under the garage in his backyard.

(Post credit: Jay Follis and Kit Fox; photo credit: TACA website)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This Month in Tucker History

1948 - The month of April has proven to be a very busy time in Tucker history, particularly April of 1948.  By then, Tucker Corporation had selected an engine for the Tucker ’48 and even purchased its manufacturer, Aircooled Motors of New York. That meant the cancellation of Tucker Chief Engineer and fuel injection specialist Ben Parson’s 339-engine after only 30 days of development.

The War Assets Administration gave assurances to Tucker Corporation that its bid for the Cleveland Blast Furnace would be given “serious consideration.” By August, the facility had suspiciously been awarded to rival automaker Kaiser-Frazer, even though Tucker Corporation’s sealed bid proves to be the highest.

A Company press release in April 1948 announcing that “five Tucker ‘48s per day by July 15 could be expected” was sent to all major new outlets.

April of 1948 was also when the Tucker Corporation’s weekly radio show and contest began on 85 American Broadcasting Company stations with an overwhelming response.

Secundo Campini of Italy, inventor of the first jet-engine airplane, joined Tucker Corporation as Vice-President of Turbo-Jet Motor Research and Development in April of 1948. Tucker Corporation also acquires all post-war Campini engine patents, which included one for an automotive gas turbine.

Four Star General Jonathan Wainwright, who had been a POW during World War II, was given a VIP visit of the Tucker plant in Chicago and ends up signing a purchase agreement for the very first car to be delivered in Texas.

1949 - A headline in the April 17, 1949 issue of the Chicago Herald-American announced “Tucker Shows Speed – Fined.” The small article states that Officer Fred Reno of the Gary, Indiana Police department had pulled over a Tucker ’48 and issued its driver, Preston Tucker, a speeding ticket.

1989 - Fast forward to April 1989 and the book “Design and Destiny: The Making of the Tucker Automobile” is published by Philip S. Egan, original member of both the Lippincott and Tucker design teams.  Also in April of 1989, Paramount Studios releases the Francis Ford Coppola movie “Tucker - The Man and His Dream” to video.

(Post credit: Jay Follis)