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TUCKER TORPEDO

gkelly3gkelly3 Posts: 38
edited March 9 in General
I just saw the F.F. Coppola movie "TUCKER THE MAN
AND THE DREAM". The movie was fairly well done-I
have a few questions for the auto historians out
ther (Mr. Shiftright for one!):
-was the car in any way revolutionary? (eg. in
terms of safety). I know it was FWD, and had rear
drive.
-was Preston Tucker put out of business by his
"Big 3" rivals? I know even tough businessmen like
H.J.Kaiser could'nt hack it in the dog-eat-dog auto
world of the early 1950's. Just a few points for
discussion
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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,834
    This is an interesting subject, filled with myth and legend as much as facts, but I've done quite a bit of research and I can tell you what I know.

    Was the car revolutionary?

    In concept, definitely, but by the time the car actually got built, it had been made much more conventional. But still, having a powerful rear engine, (it is RWD, like a Porsche, and water-cooled) padded dash and pop-out windshield were rather innovative for the year 1948. But plans for a radical new automatic transmission and for headlights that turned with the steering wheel were scrapped.

    I would hardly call the car safe. It is, in fact, very tricky to drive...."scary" is the term often used by owners, but this is because the car had no time for real development and further engineering. It was rushed to production, and as such is less than ready for prime time.

    But the car still performs prodigiously in a straight line at least, with that honker of a 6-cylinder helicopter engine in the rear, coupled to an aging, rebuilt Cord transmission (they never had time to develop a Tucker transmission).
    It is a credible car, or could have been.

    Was Tucker driven out of business by the Big Three? No, I don't think so. He was hardly a threat to their business---BUT he had a big mouth and he certainly did make a lot of powerful people mad at him, which was not smart. So indirectly, I think he was put down (rather too harshly) for his arrogance, not for his business acumen or secret technology. It's like when Heidi Fleiss told the LAPD that they couldn't touch her. Oh, yeah?

    But Preston Tucker did deal fast and loose, and some of his business practices were highly questionable, like selling accessories for his cars (radios, etc) to raise money to actually build the cars!

    Tucker was acquitted of charges of stock fraud but ruined in the press, which was really the whole point.

    I like Tuckers, been driven around in them too, and they are quite valuable today. Of 51 made, I believe just about all of them survive, 49 or so. But I can't say as I would have given Mr. Tucker any of my money.

    I think your point is well taken. It takes enormous capital and skill to succeed in the car business, which is why no one has *successfully* put his name on an American car since Walter Chrysler in 1924.

    MODERATOR

  • dranoeldranoel Posts: 79
    I remember while growing up in Youngstown, OH, that a Tucker dealership opened his doors. I convinced my father to drive me over to the dealer when a real Tucker was in the showroom for a day or so before it went to another dealer. I was real excited seeing this radically designed new car-----it was never to be--oh well, memories are great.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,834
    Yeah, when that car came out it was a HUGE media event in the US. Of course, that was before MTV...:)

    MODERATOR

  • gkelly3gkelly3 Posts: 38
    Mr. Shiftright:
    Thanks so much for the info on the TUCKER. As you so ably make the point, it was (and is) damn near impossible to enter the automobile business, with so many well-entrenched firms to compete with. However, let us suppose that a well-financed firm decides to introduce something really radical (say an all-aluminum body, electric-drive design).
    In your opinion, given that most people are quite conservative-would such a vehicle ever have a chance? I for one would love to see more diversity in cars-some of the "concept" cars that the Big 3 have come up with look really great-but they never get built (sigh!).
    Last question-how are the efforts to revive the Studebaker AVANTI going?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,834
    I think the last 50 years has proven that it is virtually impossible for a small firm to field a new car or type of car that would succeed. The start up costs are incredible, the competition savage, and the public fickle.

    First of all, as Tucker himself found out, aside from business acumen, you need a car that actually works, and works a lot better than anyone else's. In this regard, electric cars cannot compete with gasoline vehicles, so they will be just a small speck on the automotive landscape unless a big manufacturer can produce a really good one. Right now, the only reason the electric vehicle is selling is because the companies are subsidizing their cost, or in some cases only leasing them.

    Bringing back the Avanti would be crazy...it's a car completely out of touch with the times, I believe.

    There is an interesting story about starting up your own car company. When Henry Kaiser introducted his new car, he held a lavish dinner to announce his new car line and brag a bit. Many auto industry execs were there from GM, Ford, etc.
    Anyway, when Kaiser announced how many millions he had invested in this grand new venture, someone from the back shouted "Give the man one chip!"

    The auto biz is a very high stakes game, and the casino it takes place in is littered with corpses.

    MODERATOR

This discussion has been closed.