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The Tucker Torpedo 48


Officially called the Tucker 48, but more commonly referred to as the Tucker Torpedo this automobile might just hold the title of the most successful unsuccessful car ever designed and made. With a remarkable backstory they only ever produced 51 of them, but next week you can pick one up at auction……if you have a huge chunk of change that is.

Preston Tucker was a Michigan policeman turned car salesman who always had an eye for innovation. As the Second World War loomed he got the idea of developing a high-speed armored combat vehicle with an automated gun turret. The vehicle failed to sell (although a 155 mph army vehicle sounds scary and awesome in equal measure) however the weapons systems caught the eye of the US military and the Tucker Turret was fitted to various Navy boats and bombing aircraft.

After the war, the public was ready for totally new car designs. However the big three Detroit automakers had not developed any new models since 1941, and were in no hurry to introduce them. This provided great opportunities for new small, independent automakers who could develop new cars more rapidly than the huge legacy automakers. Tucker saw this as his opportunity to develop and bring his "car of tomorrow" to market, and the wheels were put into motion for the Tucker Torpedo. He developed plans for a car packed with so many innovations that it would leave all rivals looking like they had been designed in the last century.


Although a lot of the innovations didn’t make it to the production stage, the finished article looked like something never seen before, and broke the mold of the cars from yesteryear.
Sadly the launch was hit by problems from the start, with a prototype that was actually not in fact finished, which caused a press backlash. Then Tucker himself became embroiled in legal troubles, and although he was found innocent of any wrongdoing his company closed before it had properly started trading. There is a rumour that the big three motor companies had now become worried and contributed to Tuckers downfall, but it’s now all confined to the annuls of time.

The Torpedo’s that were sold originally went for in the region of £2,500, however if you happen to have one now you can expect to become a millionaire should you chose to sell it.

Each Tucker built differed somewhat from the previous car, as each car built was basically a "prototype" where design features and engineering concepts were tried, improved, or discarded throughout the production cycle.

Amazingly only 2 of the 51 are no more, meaning 49 are still going strong. Only one Tucker has made it over to Europe – the second last one ever made – it has resided in Old Oxted, Surrey with a private collector for many years, however next week will be auctioned off at RM Sotheby’s in Monaco, Monte Carlo, and as you might expect has garnered a whole lot of interest.