Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of an unorthodox car. There have been a lot of unique cars to come out of America, with the Tucker 48 having one of the most interesting stories. The brainchild of Preston Tucker, the 48 was marked with controversy due to the company being investigated and eventually closed down. However, the 48 was a brilliantly designed machine.
After WW2, the public wanted new car designs, which provided opportunities for up and coming developers. Preston Tucker saw a chance to develop an innovative machine, hiring a designer called George S Lawson to help create his vision. He also hired several other designers, who vied for the position of ‘chief stylist.’
Originally, the car was going to be named Torpedo, but this was changed because Tucker didn’t want to remind the public of the horrors of WW2. The Tucker 48 came with several innovative features, with the most recognisable being a third headlight, known as the ‘Cyclops Eye.’ At the time, 17 states outlawed cars that had more than two headlights, so Tucker designed a cover for the Cyclops Eye.
The 48 featured shatterproof glass, with the windscreen being designed to pop out in a collision to protect the driver. The padded dashboard provided extra protection, while the parking brake had a seperate key so it could be locked in place to prevent theft. Another important feature was the ‘crash chamber’ that allowed motorists to protect themselves in case of a crash. The car’s engine, an air-cooled flat-six, produced 166 hp.
For all intents and purposes, the Tucker 48 was a beautiful car and received significant hype. It debuted on June 19th 1947, with over 3000 people showing up at the Chicago factory to see the prototype. But the premiere ran into complications because of problems with the independent suspension and the engine being overly loud.
A journalist, Drew Pearson, claimed the car was a fraud because it couldn’t go backwards. Although the problem was limited to the first prototype, the negative media backlash damaged the car’s reputation.
Only a handful of Tucker 48s were made, but they are highly prized among classic car collectors.