Meet the man building the first new Tucker in 64 years
Inside a garage in New Jersey something remarkable is taking place. Sitting in the center of the shop is a full-size wooden model of a long-forgotten concept car called the Tucker Torpedo. The original design of the car, conceived by automotive entrepreneur Preston Tucker and designer George Lawson in 1946, would eventually evolve into the legendary Tucker '48 Sedan, of which 51 were built before the Tucker Corporation went belly up in 1949 amid accusations of stock fraud. Consequently, the Torpedo Concept, as it was originally envisioned, was never built -- until now.
Rob Ida, the builder tackling this ambitious project, is co-owner of Ida Automotive and Rob Ida Concepts, a design studio specializing in building and creating custom cars. He is a highly-regarded designer and customizer who first received international attention for his bold and meticulous recreations of the infamous Tucker '48 Sedan. Ida's inaugural Tucker, built in 2005 and dubbed the 'Lower 48', won a coveted Design Excellence award at the SEMA show that year.
Ida, 40, works with a crew of six, including his father, Bob, out of a small, unassuming shop in rural New Jersey. Finding the shop can be a challenge for first time visitors and clients; there are no neon signs, no million-dollar cars parked out front, just a garage nestled in the woods at the end of a long dirt road. "We keep a very low profile," said Ida. "Most GPS systems don't even know we are here; we kind of like it that way."
Ida has a particular fondness for Tuckers largely because his grandfather, Joe Ida, briefly owned a Tucker dealership in 1949. "He opened the dealership in Yonkers, N.Y., and took orders for three days before the Tucker Corporation was permanently shut down," Ida said, noting that what Preston Tucker promised was a nearly impossible dream. "He couldn't do it in time, he didn't have enough money, and he had too many things working against him," he said.
The Torpedo project, commissioned by noted car collector Bob Kerekes, is the most complicated, labor intensive project Ida has undertaken. “We’re trying to build it is as if the clock was turned back - as if it’s 1946, and Tucker got his wish.” To further complicate matters, the only known evidence of the Torpedo is a handful of crude drawings from 1946 and an original, quarter-scale plaster model built by designer George Lawson. "We're basically trying to create this car out of nothing," Ida said.