Preston Tucker – former Cadillac office boy, car salesman and police officer – entered the car-building business in the 1930s with famed race car engineer Harry Miller. The famous Miller-Ford in 1935 was a result of their combined efforts. Miller died in 1943 and two years later, Tucker launched the Tucker Corporation to build a revolutionary car based on engineering principles pioneered by Miller and with a body designed by Alex Tremulis, who had been with Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg. The result, the Tucker Torpedo sedan, was an advanced automobile briefly produced in Chicago in 1948.
Studebaker was the first with 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 rear engine like Porsche, disc brakes, fuel injection and padded dashboard.
The final car was only 60 inches tall, but it 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.
Today, the 1948 sedan has fame far greater than would be expected from its modest production run. Of the 51 cars produced (50 production and one prototype), 47 still exist, the majority in excellent condition.
Tucker was not wealthy, and to fund the company he sold stock to investors. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of fraud. Though he would be cleared of those charges, it didn’t save him or the company before bankruptcy ended production. Only 51 examples were made before the company folded on March 3, 1949.