Tucker Torpedo (1948)
Preston Thomas Tucker is one of those fascinating, entrepreneurial characters who crops up frequently in the early days of motoring. Tucker was at various points a gas station owner, builder (with Henry Miller) of racing cars, armaments and aviation designer. Post-war however saw Tucker at his boldest, launching his eponymous corporation and taking on the Big Three with his ’48’ or Tucker Torpedo.
Undoubtedly the first truly modern looking car to be designed after the War, the Torpedo was the same under the skin with a rear-mounted flat-six aircraft engine, disc brakes, all independent suspension, fuel injection, a central headlamp that turned with the front wheels and an integrated roll cage. In practice that meant it was overly complex and rarely worked – the first prototype lacked a reverse gear for instance. Ever the salesman, Tucker was selling dealerships and even accessories for the car before it officially launched and this brought him to the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission. A trial followed and although Tucker and all his executives were cleared, the damage was done and just 50 cars made it out of the factory.