Monday, 5 February 2018

Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo

Preston T Tucker was a maverick.  And cars were in his blood!  He started 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 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 down to the War.  The last few years had seen an ocean of blood shed.  The Tucker Torpedo would save lives!  There would be 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 caught up.  The 'bottom line' of the real world!  For some customers, seat-belts smacked of danger.  Why did the car need them, they asked ... prior to opening their wallets.  The marketing men got 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 might well 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 there was a problem looming - and a big one, at that!  Tucker was accused of fraud.  He had, it was claimed, been paid by dealers - before subsequently altering the car's design.  Tucker reached out to the industry - categorically refuting the allegations.  But - though he was subsequently cleared - the mud stuck!  Shortly thereafter, the Tucker Corporation filed for bankruptcy.  It was a sad end to all that idealism.  Preston T Tucker's mission had been to make the world a safer place.  The Torpedo was designed to protect life - not destroy it!

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