FAMED TUCKER CARS RETURN TO TUCKER'S HOMESTATE
On June 19, 1947, a revolutionary new "car of the future" the "Tucker '48" was dramatically unveiled in Chicago, IL to an enthusiastic crowd of over 5,000 by entrepreneur Preston Tucker. The auto-buying public of west Michigan, Tucker's home state, would have to wait a full year after the unveiling to get its first glimpse of the sleek, rear-engined car.
Nearly to the day fifty-five years later, the famed Tucker '48 is returning to west Michigan amongst great fanfare. The Tucker Automobile Club of America has selected Grand Rapids, MI for its national convention June 19 - 22, 2003.
The radically designed Tucker sedan, of which only 51 prototype cars were built, still draws attention today. Features such as the use of a rear-mounted helicopter engine, its pop-out safety windshield, padded dash and center headlight, which turned with the steering wheel, put the car years ahead of the competition.
For the nearly 600 Tucker Club members, made up of enthusiasts, collectors, historians and Tucker owners, visiting Michigan in 2003 holds great significance. Michigan is the home of the club's Historical Collection and Library, the archives of the Tucker, and the place were the legacy began. Michigan and the Midwest were important to Preston Tucker as well. Born in the small town of Capac, MI near Flint, Tucker eventually made Ypsilanti, MI his hometown, and it was there that his vision for building "the first completely new car in fifty years" developed.
"We felt it was fitting to hold our Grand Celebration in Michigan for 2003", said Bill Pommering, President of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. "With it being the home of Preston Tucker, the Tucker Historical Collection and Library" he continued, "and holding our main festivities on the ground of the Gilmore Car Museum adds to the historical significance of what we are trying to accomplish."
Preston Tucker got his start in the automobile industry as an office boy for Cadillac, and years later, hired his old boss, D. McCall White, to work for Tucker Corporation. Tucker had worked on the assembly lines at Ford, was a salesman at different times for Chrysler, Studebaker, Stutz, Packard and Dodge, and eventually worked his way up to regional sales manager for Pierce-Arrow.
He was a regular at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and in 1935, formed Miller-Tucker, Inc., with the legendary race car builder Harry Miller. Tucker then began building front-drive, streamlined Indy racers for Edsel Ford.
During World War II, automobile assembly lines ceased and factories began producing badly needed war supplies. From his shop in Ypsilanti, Tucker built the Tucker electric gun turret that would see wide use during World War II. Forming a partnership with Andrew Higgins of the famed Higgins Boat Works, Tucker Turrets were mounted on thousands of PT boats and landing crafts, such as those used during the landing on the beaches of Normandy.
No new automobiles were being built during this period, which meant most people were still driving cars nearly ten years old at the end of hostilities, and found "newer used cars" selling at a premium. Preston Tucker was an entrepreneur and innovator with a clear understanding of what the American public really wanted in a car, if only someone would build it.
The public was "car-hungry", and found that most new models were nothing more than dressed up versions of 1942 automobiles. The Tucker '48 combined styling, performance, handling, safety and comfort unlike any American car of that day and the public swarmed to get glimpse of it.
Billed as "the first completely new car in 50 years" the "Tucker '48" became an automotive legend for being years ahead of its time with it's many innovative safety features. Along with the pop-out safety windshield and padded dash, it borrowed a feature from Indy racing - a safety crash chamber. Its most distinctive feature is the infamous "Cyclops eye" headlight, which turns with the steering wheel to light the way around corners. Powered by a Franklin Aircooled Motors helicopter engine mounted in the rear, the Tucker is said to be capable of reaching speeds of 120 mph with ease. Drawing heavily on the initial designs of George Lawson, the Tucker was styled by a team headed by Alex Tremulis, and was a clear departure from contemporary thinking.
In June of 1948, the Tucker motorcar debuted in New York City with crowds that averaged 15,000 per day, with each person paying an admission price of 48 cents. Variety Magazine announced that the first public showing of the Tucker '48 in NYC had out-drawn every Broadway show, including unseating Ethel Merman in "Annie Get Your Gun" to become the "number one" draw at the box-office. After being held over in NYC, several Tucker cars crisscrossed the nation to be unveiled to the public at local dealerships. The "Tucker '48" first appeared in West Michigan on June 24th, 1948 for a three-day showing sponsored by two Grand Rapids dealerships. One of those is still selling cars today - Van Andel & Flikkema - a prominent Chrysler products dealership.
From there, the car moved on to Kalamazoo Tucker Sales for a two day showing at the downtown Armory. The doors opened early and the show extended due to the enthusiastic crowd that had gathered outside hours before the scheduled opening. On its first day in Kalamazoo over 21,000 people waited for their chance to glimpse the car that was sure to change automotive history.
The Tucker Convention, held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI June 19-22, 2003, will be celebrating three milestones:
·100th anniversary of Preston Tucker's birth
·15th anniversary of the release of the George Lucas & Francis Ford Coppola movie "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" starring Jeff Bridges
·The 30th anniversary of the Tucker Automobile Club of America
The public is invited to a very special "Tucker Motorcar Day" at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI on Saturday June 21, 2003 from 10 am to 3:00pm.
The Tucker Club established the Tucker Historical Collection and Library, the national repository of the Tucker archives, at the Gilmore Car Museum in 2000. Guest can see a faithfully re-created 1940s Tucker Sales office, reminiscent of what one may have found at Tucker Corporation or at one of its dealers nationwide, and Tucker #1047 on exhibit. Currently, at least four restored Tucker automobiles, nearly 10 percent of total production, are expected to be displayed during the Tucker Day event. Noted author and former Tucker employee Phil Egan will be at the museum for a book signing, and several Tucker family members are anticipated to be on hand for as well.
Preston Tucker's dream ended after the completion of only 51 cars, following a Federal Securities and Exchange Commission investigation for what it deemed fraudulent marketing. Although acquitted of the charges, bad press and lack of funds put the brakes on the Tucker project. With the 1999 induction of the late Preston Tucker into the prestigious Automobile Hall of Fame, it is apparent that the interest and respect of the "Tucker '48" remains strong after 56 years. For more information visit www.TuckerClub.org.
Sample JPG photos attached - please email for higher resolution of each
47B.jpg and 47FULL.jpg - "The Gilmore Car Museum's Waltz Blue Tucker '48
is the 47th of only 51 produced, and it shows only 35 actual miles on the
hcl3sm.jpg - "Preston Tucker sitting behind the wheel of his creation, the
1948 Tucker sedan"
hcl4sm.jpg - "Preston Tucker looks on as his daugther Mary Lee christens
the first Tucker sedan before a crowd of thousands on June 19, 1947"
hcl6sm.jpg - "A Tucker '48 sedan swarmed by a crowd of curious on lookers
at one of the many dealer shows nationwide"