I’ve had the chance to ride in many neat automobiles, but I literally jumped at the chance to take a spin in this pristine 1948 Tucker ‘Torpedo’ this afternoon.; Sadly, like the Tucker’s history, the ride was painfully short-lived.
With only 51 cars ever manufactured and approximately 47 still in existence, a Tucker certainly isn’t a common sight.; Nor was it in its day; the triclops-like front fascia, gentle fastback and rear-mounted engine were considered radical in the post-war automotive market, and shaky funding prevented the company from starting series production.
So when RM Auctions offered up rides in car #38, a beautiful sedan finished in a metallic moss green paint, I threw my hat in the ring.; Although it won’t be up for grabs this weekend, the car may make an appearance at the 2008 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance – which is how I stumbled into an opportunity for a quick spin.
After waiting my place in line, the ‘Torpedo’ rolled up; I popped open the suicide-style rear door and jumped into the backseat.; My driver fired up the Franklin-sourced 166-hp, 5.5-liter flat-six, shifted the Cord-based transmission into first gear, and we were….not moving.; We were, however, sampling the scent of hot brake pads.
It so happens that, when left in sweltering July heat, the Tucker’s parking brake isn’t easily released.; We were able to limp the car around in reverse, but the car could barely crawl away when left in a forward gear.
RM’s mechanics swarmed upon the car to fix the problem, but I took my time sampling its interior.; You’ve got to wonder if Preston Tucker’s brainchild could have been a contender:; wide, comfortable bench seats could easily fit four across in back, while passengers in front, due to a miniscule dashboard, have acres of legroom – more, perhaps, than a contemporary Mercedes-Benz S-Class.;
Sadly, it was never to be.; That said, this particular car (with a well-sorted parking brake) will appear at RM’s Sports & Classics auction in Monterrey, California, on August 15 and 16.; If you’ve got a $700,000 lying around, heed the advice of the car’s ad campaign:; don’t let this Tucker pass you by.