If you have one, you could sell it for at least a million dollars. After all, only 51 were ever produced. With its innovative features and unique design, it is considered a landmark in the automobiles' evolution, even if it never reached mass production. We're talking about the Tucker 48, an extremely rare vehicle that was way ahead of its time.
A Unique Car for a New World
World War II had just ended, and the U.S. was ready for new cars. The Big Three automakers, however, hadn't produced any new vehicle models since 1941, having switched their focus to helping with the war effort.
Small companies stepped in to fill the gap. Preston Tucker was one of those fearless entrepreneurs who decided to give the American people what they wanted: the car of the future. He created the Tucker 48, which featured a host of innovations, both in safety and design, that were new to the United States, such as:
- Rear Engine/Rear Wheel Drive. Tatras and Volkswagens had been employing this design for quite some time, but the Tucker 48 was the first car in the United States to feature it.
- Integrated Roll Bar. A roll bar was integrated into the roof to protect passengers in rollover accidents.
- Easy Access Instruments. Perhaps one of the most influential innovations of the Tucker 48 was putting all of the instruments within reach of the steering wheel. This greatly enhanced driving safety.
- Pop-Out Windshield. The windshield was constructed out of shatterproof glass and was designed to pop out if there was a collision to protect drivers and passengers.
- Locking Brake. The parking brake had a separate key that locked it in place, intended to prevent theft.
- Larger Doors. This might seem obvious now, but the Tucker 48 was one of the first cars to extend doors to the top of the vehicle to make entry and exit much more effortless.
- The Crash Chamber. Perhaps one of the most notable features of the Tucker 48 was the crash chamber. This is a padded area in front of the passenger seat that is completely free of obstructions, giving front-seat passengers a way to stay safe in a collision.
- A New Engine. Tucker worked with engineers to design a brand-new engine for the vehicle that would've been revolutionary, but it never left the prototyping phase. The design ended up being more complicated in practice, and it became too costly to develop.
You might not notice all of these features on every Tucker 48 out there. That's because every new car produced had slight changes from the car made before it. Essentially, every Tucker 48 is a prototype.
A Promising Car with a Business That Never Started Up
While the car's design and engineering had some issues, it was ultimately an extremely promising vehicle. However, Preston Tucker made a crucial business error that led to being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Even though the charges were dismissed, the damage was done; the Tucker 48 was never mass-produced.
With innovations in safety features and overall design, the Tucker 48 was well ahead of its time. Unfortunately, a questionable investigation destroyed the company before it was able to officially launch the vehicle.