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1948 Tucker 48

1948 Tucker 48

1948 Tucker 48

In the 1940s Preston Tucker set out to make an entirely new vehicle. His goals were to build a safe car free from traditional design. Initially known as the Torpedo and later the Model 48, this car is an icon of American film and culture.

Tuckers were immediately recognizable with their triple headlight arrangement a sloping fastback design. Along with unusual details, Tuckers offered a host of safety features and industry firsts.

One of the most interesting parts of the Tucker is its opposed, six-cylinder power unit. The engine was made mostly with Tucker designs and was loosely based off a helicopter engine. Large venture capital funds enabled Tucker to develop this distinct power plant.

An impressive 372 ft lbs of torque come from the engine which was placed at the rear of car. Having the engine rearward helped maximize interior space, especially taken that there was no driveshaft or transmission tunnel to intrude.

Safety was a large concern for Preston Tucker. As such seatbelts were standard and most surfaces were padded. Interestingly enough, the windshield was actually designed to pop out during any impact.

Passenger space in the Tucker was easily accessible. All four doors reached toward the roofline, aiding in entry and exit. Such doors were necessary as the Tucker was a very low car. The floorboards run just nine inches from the ground for a total height measuring just 60 inches.

Sadly, the Tucker program was somewhat of a financial failure. Tucker spent over 20 million dollars to develop his dream and in the end, only 51 cars were produced. Although the company did fold, these 51 examples offered a host of revolutionary concepts for the owner at the reasonable price of $2450 USD.

In Detail

tags torpedo
submitted by Richard Owen
type Series Production Car
built at USA
production 51
price $ $ 2,450
engine Tucker, Opposed-6
position Rear, Longitudinal
aspiration Natural
displacement 5473 cc / 334.0 in³
bore 114.3 mm / 4.5 in
stroke 88.9 mm / 3.5 in
compression 7.0:1
power 123.8 kw / 166 bhp @ 3200 rpm
specific output 30.33 bhp per litre
bhp/weight 87.14 bhp per tonne
torque 504.36 nm / 372.0 ft lbs
front brakes Drums w/Hydrualic Assist
rear brakes Drums w/Hydrualic Assist
f suspension Independant
r suspension Independant by Trailing Arms
curb weight 1905 kg / 4200 lbs
wheelbase 3251 mm / 128.0 in
length 5563 mm / 219.0 in
width 2007 mm / 79.0 in
height 1524 mm / 60.0 in
transmission 4-Speed Preselector
top speed ~193.1 kph / 120.0 mph
0 – 60 mph ~10.0 seconds


Auction Sales History


1948 Tucker 48 – sold for $2,035,000 One of Just 51 Factory-Built Examples Including “Tin Goose” Prototype. The Third “Pilot-Production” Car. Numerous Early-Production Features. Recent Extensive Mechanical furbishment. Overseen by Tucker Expert Martyn Donaldson. Undisputed Landmark of Postwar American Automotive History.
Auction Source: 2014 Pebble Beach Auctions by Gooding & Company


1948 Tucker 48 1003 – sold for $1,475,000 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.
Auction Source: 2013 Amelia Island by Rm Auctions


1948 Tucker 48 1034 – sold for $1,320,000 One of the Finest Examples of the Hallowed Tucker. One of 12 Originally Finished in Waltz Blue Metallic. Approximately 5,200 Miles and Just Four Owners from New. Believed to Have Been a Promotional Car for the Tucker Company. Maintained in a Family Collection for 27 Years. An Important Example of Automotive History. Featured in the Film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
Auction Source: The Amelia Island Auction 2012 by Gooding & Company


1948 Tucker Torpedo 33550 – sold for $2,915,000
The 1948 Tucker sedan was an advanced automobile conceived by Preston Tucker and briefly produced in Chicago in 1948. Only 51 examples were made before the company folded on March 3, 1949. Studebaker was first with an all-new post-war model. But Tucker took a different tack, designing a safety car with innovative features and modern styling. His specifications called for a rear engine like Porsche, disc brakes, fuel injection and a padded dashboard. The final car was only 60 inches (1524 mm) tall, but was very roomy inside. It featured a directional third headlight, dubbed the “Cyclops Eye,” for use in turns. It lit up whenever the car was steered by more than 10 degrees. The body design came from Alex Tremulis and was called the most aerodynamic in the world. Although it still sported pre-war type fenders, it was startlingly modern. Mathematically-computed drag coefficient was only 0.27, though this was ’rounded up’ publicly to 0.30. Today, the ’48 Sedan has fame far greater than would be expected from its modest production run. Of the 51 cars built (50 production and 1 prototype), 47 still exist, the majority in excellent condition. This particular example is professionally and correctly restored to show specifications. From the Ron Pratte Collection.
Auction Source: 2012 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction


1948 Tucker 48 – sold for $797,500

An Astonishing “Barn Find”. Single Ownership for over 50 Years. The Only Known Tucker with Special High-Speed Rear End. Considered to Be the Famous Bonneville Tucker. Intriguing Southern California History. Very Solid, Complete Example.

The car is offered here largely as it left the Wright’s property. Tucker 1010 remains very complete and quite solid. The odometer reads under 10,000 miles and many of the tell-tale signs of a low-mileage car are present. Further evidence of the car’s integrity is that the doors close extremely well.

Auction Source: 2011 Scottsdale Auction by Gooding & Company


1948 Tucker Sedan 1038 – sold for $1,017,500

According to historical records, S/N 1038 was completed on Oct. 25, 1948, finished in #300, Moss Green. The car was in inventory when the company entered receivership, and was without a transmission. At some point, a correctly modified Cord transmission was installed.

Although the early ownership is not known, by 1971 S/N 1038 was in the hands of Bill Goodwin of Frankfort, Indiana, who had the car restored by Tucker expert Bill Hamlin in Ontario, Canada. Goodwin sold the car in January 1974 at auction to William E. Beard, of Albany, Georgia. The previous owner purchased the car from Beard in February of 1989, before beginning a second restoration in California in early 1997.

Today, serial number 1038 is restored in the correct color of Moss Green. A comprehensive professional restoration carried out on a 3,100 mile original car has resulted in an award winning Tucker. The correct factory tan interior also sports a practical, yet novel innovation, as the front and rear seats can be interchanged to reduce wear. All interior fixtures were replaced or re-plated in durable and correct brushed chrome and nickel. Upon completion of the mechanical restoration of the engine, the water-cooled Franklin was tested on a dynamometer, where it generated a peak of 154.9bhp. At the same time, the electric pre-selector transmission was restored, including its vacuum/electric shift mechanism.

S/N 1038 is well equipped, including both the factory AM radio and a set of new old stock luggage (men’s luggage in leather, women’s luggage in vinyl.) Currently, the car is in very good overall condition. Cosmetically, the car is in nearly as new condition. The paintwork is lovely and the panel fit exceeds new standards. Similarly, the car’s brightwork, interior and detailing are very good. The underbody is clean and detailed, and the engine compartment offers a high quality appearance. The correct tan interior is excellent, and in near new condition throughout.

Auction Source: 2008 Monterey Preview



1948 Tucker 48 4Dr Sedan 1045 – sold for $1,127,500

Purchased in 2006 from Robert Pass, founder of Passport Transport, this Tucker 48 has a long heritage within the Tucker community. In the 1950s, it was owned by Nick Jenin, a Florida entrepreneur who amassed a collection of ten or more cars and various memorabilia. Jenin created a traveling Tucker show, which appeared at fairs and car shows. After about ten years, he dispersed his collection, and Tucker #1045 was sold to Walter Bellm, who put it on display at his Bellm’s Cars and Music of Yesteryear museum in Sarasota, Florida. It subsequently had a number of owners, ending up in Ohio about ten years ago before being acquired by the current private collection.

Overall, the car has nice paint and chrome. With the exception of slight misalignment of the doors, the car has very few cosmetic issues and presents very well indeed, finished in Navy Blue with blue cloth upholstery. The instrument panel and steering wheel show no blemishes; the odometer reads 608 miles. The engine compartment is clean and correct without being excessively detailed. This is a very nice example of one of America’s most innovative automobiles, however, it has been part of a large private collection and may need some mechanical reconditioning prior to road use.

Tuckers have a loyal following and are well documented by their enthusiast owners. In the years since the construction of his cars, Preston Tucker has entered the history books as a visionary car builder. His design and safety concepts were decades ahead of their time and are clearly in evidence in this very rare Tucker 48.

Auction Source: RM Auctions’ 2010 Sports & Classics of Monterey