Even without the personality of its mercurial sponsor, Preston Tucker, this car would have made headlines with its rear-mounted helicopter engine and storming performance. "The Most Completely New Car in Fifty Years" was the slogan Preston Tucker decided to use to promote his fastback, four-door sedan. Styled by Alex S. Tremulis, the car was truly ahead of its time.
While other auto designers of the time were using an aerodynamic theme, Tremulis used a nautical theme such as the submarine hood ornament and Chris-Craft boat-like taillights and exhausts. The exterior featured a cyclops headlight that turned with the steering wheel, a windshield that popped out on impact, a cut-away roof line above the doors for easier access (aircraft style doors), 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 seat upholstery. The dashboard is centered around the driver, leaving an open "safety chamber" on the passenger side. The concept was that in case of an accident, the passenger and driver would slide down into the safety chamber. Seat belts at the time were thought by the American public to imply that a car was less safe.
This "car of the future" was unique even beneath its futuristic exterior. The Tucker featured an all-independent suspension and a rear-mounted Franklin air-cooled helicopter flat 6 (H6 - horizontally opposed) engine converted to water-cooled, and utilized the first fully sealed water-cooling system (not vented to open air). The transmission was adapted from a Cord 810 transaxle (similar to the 1937 Cord in LeMay Hall). It was a four-speed manual with a Bendix vacuum-electric preselect shift (a fully automatic "Tuckermatic" was in development). The all-alloy engine weighed only 320 lbs, but produced 166 hp, (0-60 mph in about 10 seconds, estimated top speed 120 mph). Despite all this, the company produced just 51 cars (including the "Tin Goose" prototype) before its collapse. All were hand-built prototypes, so a production-standard Tucker cannot be defined. Forty-seven of these cars still exist. The original (projected) 1948 price was to have been $2,450, equivalent to a 1948 Buick Roadmaster. In recent values, Tucker number 1043 sold in 2005 for $750,000, and Tucker number 1038 sold for $1,017,500 in August 2008.
Harold LeMay had always wanted a Tucker to add to his collection not for its dollar value, but for its eye appeal and uniqueness. It was the one car he did not realize would become so popular. Before the 1988 Hollywood movie, "Tucker: The Man and His Dream", was released, Harold had the opportunity to purchase a Tucker for $45,000, but thought that was too expensive. The release of the Tucker movie brought more attention to those special vehicles, and Harold was unable to find another one to purchase. It was Nancy LeMay who obtained this specific car through the Barrett-Jackson Auction from The Petersen Automotive Museum in 2002. The Petersen Museum mentioned to Nancy that they had good news and bad news about this Tucker. The good news was that this Tucker was restored to fairly original condition; the bad news was that because it is fairly original, this vehicle does not handle very well, due to the original suspension system used on early Tuckers. It is also prone to overheating since the radiator is in the rear and the vehicle needs to be moving to channel air up from the frame to the engine and radiator. Plus, the coolant circulates around the engine, not within the engine block.
This vehicle is Tucker number 1007 (frame number 7, body number 9; Tucker did not match frame and body numbers). The vehicle started out in the Mid-West, Ohio area as a dealer show room car. There is no information about this car from 1950 to 1985. In 1985 it was acquired by a Japanese businessman involved in American real estate and shipped to Japan. He went bankrupt in the 1990s and as part of the settlement, the car was acquired by a Texas owner in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (hence the Texas license plate on this car). The Texas owner went bankrupt in the oil industry and it was sold to The Petersen Museum. The color of this Tucker is called Waltz Blue and is a metallic paint. When Tucker's wife gave her blessing to proceed with building the car, Tucker said he would name a color after the blue sequined evening dress she was wearing that night, thus the metallic in the paint.