A Tucker 48 Flat-6 Engine Commanded Nearly $35,000 at Auction

Helicopter-derived engine brought several firsts to production car engines

A brand-new Tucker Type O-335 engine sold for approximately $34,474 (€30,420) during the RM Sotheby’s auction in Monaco over the weekend. The engine is believed to be the first of its kind offered for sale in Europe and may be the only example on the continent.

The Tucker Type O-335 horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine was derived from an air-cooled Bell 47 helicopter engine designed and built by Franklin for use in World War II. After modifying the engine for automotive use, including the industry’s first fully sealed water-cooling system, the engine was supplied to Tucker by Air-Cooled Motors of Chicago. Preston Tucker acquired the engine manufacturer to supply engines for the Tucker 48 “Torpedo.”

Tucker Torpedo O 335 OVH Flat Six sold at RM Sothebys left side

The 335-cubic-inch flat-six engine featured overhead valves (OHV) and produced 166 hp and 372 lb-ft of torque. Tucker claimed the engine was capable of accelerating the Torpedo to 60 mph in 10 seconds and up to a 120-mph top speed. Total engine weight was just 320 pounds.

While only 51 original cars were completed (including the initial prototype), Tucker intended to build more cars and had a total of 98 engines produced. The remaining new engines were sold at the factory bankruptcy auction and are generally displayed by collectors. The engine sold in Monaco is build number 335-78.

Not only did the O-335 engine introduce modern water-cooling, the Tucker Torpedo introduced several other innovations, including a fully independent suspension, perimeter frame, padded dashboards, collapsible steering columns, a pop-out windshield, and more. The principle of the car’s characteristic centrally mounted swiveling headlight lives on in modern-day adaptive headlights.