Automotive genius Preston Thomas Tucker had a dream that consumed most of his life. He was completely driven to become an independent car maker and break into the market dominated by the big three American automobile manufacturers. Here’s the amazing story of Preston Thomas Tucker.
It all started during a time of world war. During World War II, virtually all US automobile companies had stopped producing automobiles and switched to making war machinery. By the end of the war (1945), the American public had been without new cars for almost 5 years and a great deal of demand had built up. Knowing this was could be a great time to be in the automobile business, Preston Tucker established the Tucker Motor Corporation.
The first order of business was to obtain financing for his automobile company but Tucker soon discovered that securing loans from investors meant he would to give up a fair amount of control of his business. Tucker felt that this could potentially slow him down so he resisted that route and decided to raise the money himself. It was an unusual technique but what he did was to sell dealer franchises in advance of sales. This “unusual practice” attracted the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in late 1946. They started to watch closely what this automotive maverick was doing.
With lots of cash on hand, Tucker forged ahead with the design of his car. He wanted the best design possible and commissioned famed designer Alex Tremulis to build his first car. It was called the “Tucker Torpedo” and it many radical features. The first car was completely hand-made and affectionately dubbed the “Tin Goose” by Tucker employees. It was received very well by the general public and the motoring press. He was on his way.
By the spring of 1948, Tucker had a pilot production line started. Soon, though, he ran into some money problems and realized that he was some $5 million short to keep it going. What did he do? Using his creative genius, he began a pre-purchase plan for Tucker automobile accessories such as radios and seat covers. This, of course, was before any cars were actually built!
Although he raised $2 million in advanced payments for these accessories, this was the final straw for the SEC. On May 28, 1948, they launched a full-scale investigation and Tucker Motors was soon forced to stop production and lay-off more than 1600 trained workers.
Unfortunately, more money never came through from any other investors and the SEC forced the company into bankruptcy. Thus ended a remarkable chapter in automotive entrepreneurship and the fate of the Tucker Torpedo. Today several Torpedo prototypes exist and are highly valued by automobile collectors.