(Originally posted at http://joelnoche.multiply.com/journal/item/100/Tucker-Torpedo on June 1, 2012 2:24 AM)
I first learned about the Tucker Torpedo when, as a child, I read the March 1983 Popular Mechanics article “Automakers who Dared–and Lost,” excerpts from which I’ve included below. (The complete article can be found here.)
Preston Tucker tried to bring another revolutionary car to market but ran into problems of a different sort. Unlike the Airflow, public enthusiasm for Tucker’s 1948 Torpedo sedan ran high. The car had greatly advanced styling, with a “cyclops” central headlight that turned with the front wheels. It used an aluminum, opposed, six-cylinder, 334-cu.-in., 166-hp engine built by Franklin for Bell helicopters. The engine was converted to liquid cooling and lay lengthwise at the rear of the car, mated to a remanufactured version of the old Cord preselector transaxles from wrecking yards.
The Tucker car stood very low for its day, and it had some other revolutionary eye-catchers, among them a “basement” or crash compartment that the front-seat passenger could throw himself into just before a crash. Doors lapped up into the roof for greater head clearance. And the trunk, of course, was under the hood.
Preston Tucker built some 50 cars before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission closed him down on purported stock fraud charges. Meanwhile, his auto venture had put Preston Tucker some $28 million in debt. He died in South America in 1956 while trying to start up another auto-making company.
I had never seen a scale model of it until I found a Hotwheels Boulevard Tucker Torpedo a few weeks ago. Hotwheels first released a Tucker Torpedo in 2009 as part of its Classics Series 5 collection. It was then released as a Treasure Hunt in 2011 (regular and super). The Boulevard version has Real Rider wheels, a metal body, and a metal base.