1948 Tucker 48 $1,475,000107
1948 Tucker 48 $1,475,000
3rd Highest Bid RM Auction Amelia Island 2013
166 bhp, 335 cu. in. OHV horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine, four-speed pre-selector transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 130 in.
•An American legend
•One of 51 built
•The third Tucker pilot-production car
•Formerly owned by Bill Pettit and film legend George Lucas
•Extensively and authentically restored, with notable attention to drivability
Road & Track magazine founder John R. Bond once said, “A little knowledge about cars can be dangerous.” Preston Thomas Tucker was an industry veteran with a lot of knowledge about cars, and he used that knowledge to dream bigger than just about anyone else in the U.S. automobile industry after World War II. The reasons why he did not succeed remain controversial, but success is not only measured in dollars and production numbers. It is measured in lasting memories, and for many, the Tucker 48 remains a rolling symbol of the American dream, as well as one of the most advanced, early post-war automobiles.
Tucker’s concept for his car was revolutionary. He intended to use a Ben Parsons-designed rear-mounted engine, with all-independent Torsilastic rubber-sprung suspension and a disc brake at every wheel. Drive was to be by twin torque converters, one at each rear wheel. The body design was penned by former Auburn Automobile Company designer Alex Tremulis, and it incorporated numerous safety features that Tucker promoted, including a windshield that would pop out in an accident, a wide space under the dash-pad into where front seat passengers could duck before a collision, and a center-mounted third headlight that would turn with the front wheels.
Early in the production cycle, the Tucker saw some of those dreams evaporate. The safety features survived, but the Parsons 589 engine and direct torque converter drive proved impractical. Tucker purchased Air Cooled Motors, a New York manufacturer of small aircraft engines, and reworked their product for water-cooling. He installed it in his car, along with a four-speed transaxle borrowed from the Cord 810 and 812.
Eventually, 51 examples of the Tucker 48 were assembled, and of those were the original “Tin Goose” prototype and 50 pilot-production cars. Public acclaim and desire for the new design was at a fever pitch. Unfortunately, it was all for naught. The Tucker Corporation came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The wheels of government ground slowly, and by the time Tucker and his executives were eventually declared “not guilty” in early-1950, the public had lost faith and Tucker had lost his factory. The car once nicknamed the “Torpedo” had been, effectively, torpedoed.
Since so few Tuckers were produced, the cars often varied, with running design and engineering changes implemented along the way. Serial number 1003, the car offered today, was the third car built, and it was the first to have the valance panel between the body and front bumper. Of the six factory colors available, this car is one of 12 originally painted Maroon (paint code 600).
Number 1003 was sold new by the factory to Arkansas Tucker Sales Corporation. Not long after, it was returned to the factory in exchange for car 1002, and it was sent by Farber Motor Sales, of Columbus, Ohio, to Cincinnati, where it was displayed on the streets and at the Music Hall there. It was promoted in Cincinnati by local dealer Eddie Numerich, and apparently, it remained in the Queen City until June of 1950, when it was sold there by the Watson Auto Auction.
Apparently Art Watson was the buyer of the car, which he took to Florida in 1951 and displayed at his dealerships there. Research points to a 1962 transfer from Watson to William C. Pettit III, of Louisa, Virginia, brokered by the late Paul Stern, who drove it from Pennsylvania to its new home. The Tucker was a visitor favorite at the Pettits’ Museum of Motoring Memories, open for several years near the tourist mecca of Natural Bridge in the 1960s. Bill Pettit cared for his family’s cars for decades, and even after the museum closed, he sentimentally maintained the collection. In the late-1980s, his retirement resulted in the sale of many of the cars, including the Tucker, which was purchased by none other than George Lucas.
Robert Myrick Photography