Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo 1940s American classic car

Preston T Tucker was nothing if not a maverick. And cars were in his blood! He started out at Cadillac - as an office boy. After a stint as a car salesman, he became a partner in a motor racing business - in Indianapolis. At that point, it was time for Tucker to change the world ... well, the automotive part of it, at least! The year was 1945. The War was over - and the future beckoned! Tucker decided to create the car that had everything! Speed, style - and safety!

Tucker was an evangelist for automotive 'health and safety'. Maybe it was due to the War. The last few years had seen an ocean of blood shed. The 'Torpedo' would have seat-belts, for starters. And a padded dashboard and pop-out windscreen, in the event of an accident. But as the Torpedo went into production, the real world kicked in. Or, in other words, the 'bottom line'! For some potential customers, seat-belts smacked of danger. Why did the car need them, they queried. The marketing men were getting jittery! Seat-belts were binned ... along with swivelling headlights, disc brakes, and the central driving position. In the end, Tucker had to settle for independent suspension. Oh, and the padded dashboard!

As it was, those safety features may have come in handy - since the Torpedo could shift a bit! Its flat 6-cylinder engine gave 166bhp - and a top speed of 121mph. Rear-mounted - and water-cooled - it was state-of-the-art for its day. 1947 saw the release of the final version of the car. Just a year before, Tucker had bought what was, at the time, the biggest factory building in the world. The Chicago premises had once been an aircraft plant. But a problem loomed ... a big one! Tucker was accused of fraud. He had, it was claimed, been paid by dealers - before then altering the car's design! Tucker held out his hands to the industry - categorically refuting the allegations. But, though he was subsequently exonerated, the mud stuck! Shortly after that, the Tucker Corporation filed for bankruptcy. It was a sad end to all the idealism. Preston T Tucker's mission had been to make the world a safer - and better - place. His Torpedo was designed to protect life ... not take it away!

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