75 Years of Tucker
2023 marks the 75th Anniversary of one of the most iconic, and rarest, automobiles of the 20th Century- the Tucker 48. Now, Preston Tucker’s descendants are celebrating the milestone in many different ways, including dreaming of what might have been. Stephanie Hart tells us more.
STEPHANIE HART: Meet Tucker Number 44. One of only 50 Tucker Torpedos produced by automotive entrepreneur Preston Tucker in 1948.
This innovative design, known internally as Tucker Model 48, was advertised as the first modern car in post-World War II.
PRESTON TUCKER: This is our new automobile, the first completely new car in 50 years.
STEPHANIE HART: 75 years later, we’re taking it out for a drive. A Franklin helicopter engine is powering this rare car worth 3 million dollars.
It’s pretty surreal to be in Tucker #44 cruising around Morganville, New Jersey. I’m here with Preston Tucker’s great grandson, Sean Tucker. Sean, you tell me this car is pretty difficult to drive…not that easy. I asked to drive it, but no.
SEAN TUCKER: It can be a little nuanced if you have never driven a Tucker.
STEPHANIE HART: Blame that on its pre-selector shifting system which adds to driving anxiety behind this one of a kind Tucker.
SEAN TUCKER: It’s an honor, but in the moment you’re really more just nervous more than anything else.
STEPHANIE HART: In 2017 car collector Howard Kroplick bought it at auction. It was his dream to own a Tucker.
HOWARD KROPLICK: I buy these cars, really, to expose people to the history of the car. And this car, when you bring it onto a field…the looks are amazing. You know, that “wow, what is that car?”
STEPHANIE HART: There are no seatbelts in this car so if we were in an accident, what would I do?
SEAN TUCKER: Well, there is a crash compartment that’s in front of you. And this is– this is one of the Tucker safety features, but the idea is that you would see an oncoming, you know, accident about to happen and you would dive into this chamber that’s in front of you and in an accident it would protect you.
STEPHANIE HART: Your reflexes would have to be almost supernatural…
Some of the safety features are a little hokey, but make you think. Others set the standard for today’s automobiles. Innovations such as aerodynamic styling.
When Howard bought Tucker Number 44 it needed a full restoration. He teamed up with the Tucker twins and restoration expert, Rob Ida, to restore Tucker #44 in only eight months just in time for Pebble Beach.
ROB IDA: Usually when we restore an old car we’re dealing with rust or damage and its usually a condition problem. With a Tucker it’s more of a build quality problem.
MIKE TUCKER: It took hours and hours and hours of research trying to figure out exactly what are we restoring back to and, when those parts weren’t available, could we find them? And if we couldn’t, that’s when my brother would get involved and we would make them.
STEPHANIE HART: Using old blueprints, the Tucker team produced the most accurate Tucker in existence today-Tucker number 44. It was awarded ‘Second in Class’ at the 2018 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance.
From the beginning, the Tucker brand was more than just cars. It was about daring to dream and pushing the boundaries of what was possible. 75 years later, the Tucker team is fully embracing that mantra by tackling two new big projects: A full-on restoration of Tucker Number 29 which was Preston Tucker’s personal test car.
While simultaneously, using old renderings from 1955 to build the first Tucker sports car, the Carioca! It was Preston Tucker’s dream to create a unique sports car with steerable fenders! A dream that is still very much alive today!