Not many cars were ever built that captured the public’s imagination quite like the Tucker 48. Though just fifty-one Tuckers were built, they have become some of the most valuable cars in the world. That being said, the story of what happened behind the scenes at Tucker makes for almost as interesting a story as the cars do. Jaguar of Naperville, IL, a factory-authorized Jaguar dealer, says read on and we will relate the amazing story of the Tucker Company.
The United States entered World War II in 1941, and when that happened, production of standard automobiles essentially stopped. All the major automobile manufacturers switched over to making aircraft and other war machinery. Preston Tucker was a brilliant engineer who became well known during the war as a result of his “Tucker Turret” design. This was a rotating gun turret that saw duty in a wide variety of war birds. As the war entered into its final stages, though, Tucker’s mind began to switch over to peacetime projects. He knew that when the war ended, Americans would be eagerly snapping up new cars. and this was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to pursue his dream: his own car. Thus began the design of the Tucker 48.
To start his company, Tucker took out full-page advertisements in major media around the country with bold tag lines like “The Car of the Future,” and “The First New Car in 50 Years.” Although not a single prototype existed, Tucker claimed he had been working on the car for 15 years and that it would be cutting edge. He promised that his car would have four-wheel disc brakes, a fuel-injected 589 cubic-inch engine, run-flat tires, seat belts, and bevy of other features. With demand starting to build, Tucker took his show on the road, and began a highly-publicized national fundraising tour.
Within a few months, Tucker had raised over $28 million. With this capital, he bought a plant in Chicago, appointed an impressive board of directors and started to get ready to build cars. But even at this early stage, money issues started to appear. This is where it gets interesting. In order to keep cash flowing, Tucker first took the company public and then began selling dealer franchises. Keep in mind this is for cars that hadn’t been built yet. Soon, the Securities and Exchange Commission noticed this “creative” method of financing a new business. They were concerned. After a thorough investigation, they concluded that this method of fund raising was fraudulent and they shut the company down on March 3, 1949. Soon thereafter, Tucker and his board of directors were indicted for fraud. The company’s assets, including the 51 assembled Tuckers, were auctioned off by the government in 1950. This was the end of the Tucker Automobile company.
Today, the Tucker remains a fascinating story not only because of the wildly advanced car that Preston Tucker promised but also because of the way he approached the building of the Tucker Company. With the sheer power of personality and showmanship, he was able to raise enough money to start a company that actually could have competed with the major automobile manufacturers. Unfortunately, his brilliance as an entrepreneur and businessman became his downfall.
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