This is the 21st of the 51 examples of the Tucker 48 that were made, it has had just three owners from new, and it was used during filming of the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” starring Jeff Bridges.

The Tucker 48 became one of the most famous cars of its time, despite its low production run, in large part due to the larger-than-life character of company founder Preston Tucker, and the now infamous stock fraud trial he faced. He was ultimately acquitted on all charges, but it came too late to save his company.

Fast Facts – The Tucker 48

  • Preston Tucker was an American inventor best known for his eponymous automotive company. Earlier in his life he had invented the Tucker Combat Car and the Tucker Gun Turret – variants of the turret design were used extensively during WWII on the B-17 and B-29.
  • The Tucker 48 was a car known for its unusual design and its innovative safety features (for the era). The car had a unique center headlight that turned with the steering wheel, providing better visibility in turns. It also had a padded dashboard, a pop-out safety windshield, seat belts, and a roll bar integrated into the roof for added protection in case of an accident that resulted in the car rolling over.
  • Unlike most cars of its time, the Tucker 48 had a rear-engine design. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine located in the rear. The car was also fitted with four-wheel independent suspension and a perimeter frame for occupant impact protection.
  • Preston Tucker and his company faced significant legal battles, including a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. Tucker was accused of stock fraud, which added to the company’s financial woes. While he was ultimately acquitted, the negative publicity had a significant impact on the company’s reputation and finances, and it was forced into bankruptcy, ceasing operations on March the 3rd, 1949.

Tucker 48 – “The Car of Tomorrow”

At the time of its release in 1947 there can be little doubt that the Tucker 48 was the most innovative production car in the United States, maybe even the world.

Above Video: This is the original theatrical trailer for the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” starring Jeff Bridges.

After World War II had ended in 1945 America’s Big Three automakers got back to work building cars, using versions of cars that had been in production back before the war had started. What Preston Tucker tried to do was give the American people what they wanted – a car that was all-new, state-of-the-art, fast, safe, and undeniably exciting.

Preston Tucker had begun laying out his vision for his new car in 1944 as WWII was coming to an end. The car was initially called the Tucker Torpedo, and it would feature a slew of unique and futuristic design features including a perimeter frame and integrated roll bar for crash protection.

The safety of the occupants was integral in Tucker’s vision for the car, as a result he added seatbelts which were unusual in production cars at the time. He also developed a padded dashboard to reduce impact injuries, and a centrally mounted third headlight that turned with the steering to light the way around corners.

The Tucker 48 also had independent front and rear suspension, and a rear-mounted aluminum flat-six engine. A slew of other features were planned for the car but were abandoned before production, including disc brakes, fuel injection, lightweight magnesium wheels, a direct-drive torque converter transmission, and self-sealing tubeless tires.

Had the Tucker 48 reached production on time and on budget, there is little doubt it would have sold in significant numbers, resulting in the Tucker Corporation giving the Detroit “Big Three” a run for their money.

Tucker: The Man and His Dream Movie Poster

Image DescriptionThe Tucker 48 shown in this article was featured in the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.” It’s now for sale with a price guide starting at $1.7 million USD. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The Downfall Of Tucker

Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the story of the Tucker 48 seemed to be over before it ever had the chance to really begin. Preston Tucker’s approach to funding was somewhat unconventional, the company raised $17,000,000 USD in a stock issue, this was one of the first speculative IPOs in history, but it wasn’t enough, and more money was needed.

As a result, Tucker came up with the Tucker Accessories Program. This was an unusual idea whereby prospective Tucker 48 buyers could jump ahead in the queue to buy a car by pre-ordering accessories for their as yet non-existent car, things like seat covers, a radio, and matching luggage sets.

Another fund raising system the company used was the pre-sale of dealerships and distributorships throughout the country, this wouldn’t have been a problem if the car had actually entered production, but it did attract the attention of the SEC (the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) and the United States Attorney.

Rumors have persisted for decades that the targeting of Tucker was coordinated in the background by Detroit’s Big Three automakers, none of whom were particularly happy about the new upstart company that was making their brand new production cars look outdated.

The court case that followed would be highly publicized across the country and around the world, Preston Tucker’s name would be dragged through the mud and in the end, he would be acquitted on all charges. The acquittal came too late however, and the damage had already been done.

Tucker 48 Car 9

Image DescriptionThe most famous feature of the Tucker 48 is almost certainly that central headlight, it was designed to turn with the steering wheel to illuminate the way around corners for safety.

The Tucker Corporation never recovered and just 51 cars were produced (including a prototype) before the company was forced into bankruptcy, ceasing operations on March the 3rd, 1949.

The Surviving 48s

The surviving examples of the Tucker 48 are now among the most collectible American cars ever made, going for as much as $2+ million USD when they come up for public sale. The most famous Tucker owner is director Francis Ford Coppola who displays his car on the grounds of his winery.

Coppola directed the feature film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” in 1988 starring Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker. Some believe it was Bridges’ best work and the film has a positive approval rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The 1948 Tucker 48 Shown Here

The car you see here is one of the original 51 examples of the Tucker 48, it’s the 21st car made and it was completed on August the 29th, 1948. This is one of just four cars finished in Black, it’s the rarest production color for the 48.

This car has had three owners since new, it was originally sold to California dealer Charles DeCosta and it remained with him until 1967 when he sold it to Gene Clark, an enthusiast and member of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. In 2023 it was bought by Mark Liebermann, Senior Director of the Tucker Automobile Club and a noted Tucker historian.

Tucker 48 Car 4

Image DescriptionThe engine that powered the Tucker 48 was a modified version of the Franklin O-335 aircraft engine. It’s a flat-six with a displacement of 5.47 liters that’s capable of 166 bhp and 372 lb ft of torque.

The car was given a repaint to freshen it up, and the interior was re-upholstered in preparation for its appearance in “Tucker: The Man and his Dream” in 1988. It’s now had a recent service including fresh fluids, a new battery, and a new water pump as well as a rebuild of the original distributor.

The car is now due to roll across the auction block with Mecum in January with a price guide of $1,700,000 – $1,900,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

Tucker 48 Car 11 Tucker 48 Car Tucker 48 Car 20 Tucker 48 Car 18 Tucker 48 Car 17 Tucker 48 Car 16 Tucker 48 Car 15 Tucker 48 Car 14 Tucker 48 Car 13 Tucker 48 Car 12 Tucker 48 Car 10 Tucker 48 Car 8 Tucker 48 Car 7 Tucker 48 Car 6 Tucker 48 Car 5 Tucker 48 Car 3 Tucker 48 Car 2 Tucker 48 Car 1 Tucker 48 Car Keys

Images courtesy of Mecum


Published by Ben Branch -