The 1948 Tucker Sedan: a Car Ahead of its Time
They say that any creation is an expression of its creator. That’s certainly the case with the 1948 Tucker Sedan, also known as the “Tucker Torpedo.” Like its maker, it was way ahead of its time. And, like him, its legacy survives to this day, despite efforts by the powers-that-be to drive it into oblivion.
A Square Peg In a Round Hole
Preston Tucker (September 21, 1903 – December 26, 1956) was a self-taught engineer and iconoclast inventor. Like many visionaries, he was known for upsetting established authorities. In 1922, he joined the Lincoln Park, Michigan Police Department against his mothers’ wishes. His career as a peace officer was cut short when she informed the chief that he was only 19 and below the minimum age– a fact he had neglected to mention on his application.
He later rejoined the department, only to be dismissed again, when he used a blowtorch to cut a hole in a police vehicle’s dashboard. He had realized that engine heat could be used to warm a car’s interior and simply wanted to put his discovery to use. His superiors didn’t share his enthusiasm for the project, however.
Prior to designing the car that bears his name, he worked as a car salesman, entered into unsuccessful business ventures, and was employed as a line worker by Ford. Later, he designed race cars and submitted plans to the military for armored vehicles and fighter planes.
His breakthrough came during WWII, when the US Navy expressed interest in a revolving gun turret he had created. It was eventually installed on PT boats, landing craft, and both the B-17 and B-29 bombers. It allowed American gunners to shoot down enemy aircraft approaching from multiple directions, and return safe from missions that might have otherwise cost them their lives. After the war, however, Tucker spent years in court trying to collect the revenues he was owed for his invention.
The Car of the Future
As the end of WWII neared, marketing researchers polled Americans about what products they intended to purchase after victory was declared. Over 80% of them said that the first thing they wanted to buy was a new car. But Detroit had not come out with new models since 1941, so Tucker sensed an opportunity to enter the market. He set out to design what he called “the car of the future.”