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Information about Tucker Automobiles
Preston Tucker, an automotive engineer who helped to design Miller racing cars before World War II, almost realized his ambition of producing a "completely new" passenger automobile after the war. He and his business associates leased a former Dodge aircraft plant in Chicago for this purpose. Fifty-one nearly identical Tucker automobiles, which were designed by Tucker, Alex Tremulis and J. Gordon Lippincott and Company, were built in 1948 before the Tucker Corporation became embroiled in fraud allegations. Shortly thereafter, the company was forced to go out of business.
The Tucker automobile had many advanced, innovative features, from its fastback shape to its swiveling center headlight and independent four-wheel suspension. Enhanced passenger safety was one of the Tucker's principal features. It had a pop-out windshield, padded dashboard, and a place where the front-seat passenger could crouch in the event of a collision.
The Tucker never entered full production, but its design epitomized automotive trends that were new and significant in the immediate postwar years: avant-garde styling, innovative mechanical features, awakening interest in passenger safety, and efforts by small manufacturers to capture a larger share of the new-car market. The Tucker was an exaggeration of these trends and evidence that the desire for change was strong enough to move some fairly radical ideas from the drawing board to the production stage.
The Smithsonian's Tucker Automobile
Tucker #1039 (the 39th of 51 Tucker cars made in 1948) was forfeited in a narcotics arrest in 1992 and was transferred by the U.S. Marshals Service to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 1993. From 1948 to 1993 it passed through numerous owners and has been restored. It still has the original Franklin modified helicopter engine (6 cylinders, 166 horsepower, rear-mounted). Its top speed is 120 miles per hour, and the odometer reading is 11,721 miles.
The Smithsonian's Tucker is currently not on display.
An 8X10 color photograph of the Smithsonian's Tucker is available for $25 for non-commercial use. Call Smithsonian Photographic Services (SPS) at 202-633-1933 (Monday-Friday) to order by credit card, specifying negative 96-802/16-ATIF, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering information and commercial reproduction rights forms, being sure to include your postal address. Note: If the photograph will be published or used in a film, video, or other commercial context, a Permission Request form must be completed. Commercial use of the photograph, if approved, will be subject to additional reproduction rights fees as well as a photo lab fee. Allow four to six weeks after you send your order for delivery of the photograph.
For More Information About Tucker Automobiles
Egan, Philip S. Design and Destiny: The Making of the Tucker Automobile. Orange, CA: On the Mark, 1989.
Pearson, Charles T. The Indomitable Tin Goose: The True Story of Preston Tucker and His Car. Minneapolis: Motorbooks International Publishers & Wholesalers, 1974.
Prepared by the Division of Work and Industry, Transportation