Jump to content


Photo

Preston Tucker


  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 ian senior

ian senior
  • Member

  • 2,139 posts
  • Joined: September 02

Posted 14 September 2004 - 09:35

Perhaps our American friends can help with this one.

ITV 1 over here in the UK showed Francis Ford Coppola's film about Preston Tucker and his Tucker 48 on Sunday. I missed it, but I remember reading a book called "The Indomitable Tin Goose" which purported to tell all about Tucker and his car. I'm not sure if it did, as I have heard that certain things were glossed over.

Anyway. To the point. Tucker, it seems, was well in with American motor racing luminaries such as Harry Miller, but apart from sponsoring the "Tucker Torpedo Special" that ran at Indy in the late 40s, I don't really know how much he was actually involved in racing in the States pre and post war. Was Preston Tucker a figure that genuinely had some influence and something to offer, or was he just a bit-part player?

And yes, I have used the "search " button, which was very helpful on the Gulf-Miller "Tucker Torpedo Special", but couldn't find much else.

Advertisement

#2 ry6

ry6
  • Member

  • 521 posts
  • Joined: October 00

Posted 14 September 2004 - 18:34

Will we ever know the real truth behind the Tucker?

It appears that Tucker was a devoted race car fan - pages 34-48 of the "Goose" book.
Miller & Tucker Inc was formed in 1935 to build racing cars and marine engines.



There are photos in the "Tin Goose" book - page 130 of Tucker & Harry Miller; page 131 of Tucker with Henry Ford Senior, Harbey Firestone, Henry Ford II and Edsel and Benson Ford.

The man moved in the right circles it seems.

Pg 136 shows Geogre Barringer in the impressive looking Tucker Torpedo Spl. Pgs 68 on tells of the Indy attempt.

Something's jogging my memory - was Tucker not involved in some Ford racing car called the Fronenac or something like that?

#3 McGuire

McGuire
  • Member

  • 9,218 posts
  • Joined: October 03

Posted 15 September 2004 - 01:10

Originally posted by ry6
The man moved in the right circles it seems.


Some of this info appears in Pearson's book: Among other things, in his youth Tucker reportedly worked as D. McCall White's office boy at Cadillac... then he became a Lincoln Park, Michigan policeman, while also owning a gas station. He quit the police and became a car salesman, then worked his way up to sales manager and district sales manager with several manufacturers. In the 1930s he was the manager of the Packard dealership on Meridian in Indianapolis and a regular at the Speedway.

Tucker later dreamed up a high-speed combat car. The govt. took a pass on the car but liked the turret and gave him a big development contract during the war, where he landed in Ypislanti. It is said the real mechanical talents behind Tucker's various schemes were Eddie Offutt and Jimmy Sakayuma, if you have ever heard of those guys -- famous race mechanics around Indy. Arthur Chevrolet worked for Tucker as well. Tucker was close to Harry Miller and they combined on various projects over the years, including the "Tucker Torpedo" deal (a former Gulf Miller car, remarkable design).

Anyway, it was Tucker who somehow talked Henry and Edsel Ford into entering the 500 in 1935, with the well-known disastrous results. Miller was commissioned to build the cars, hence "Miller and Tucker Inc." with a shop on West Lafayette in Detroit.

These were the gorgeous two-man cars with front drive, Ford V8 engines and cut-down 1935 passenger car grilles. The styling of these cars is pure Bob Gregorie/Edsel Ford but that has never been documented to my knowledge. One interesting feature: instead of a tach these cars had a large 160 mph speedometer on the dash. Ten were built; they were of top quality and they and their bits and pieces were passed around for years. One eventually ended up as the chassis for the first Novi in '41, and the Granatellis ran another one at Indy in '46 and '47.

#4 WDH74

WDH74
  • Member

  • 1,127 posts
  • Joined: March 03

Posted 15 September 2004 - 19:35

McGuire-those were the Miller-Ford V-8s, right? I did not know that Preston Tucker had a hand in getting those onto the track.

I can add a smallish bit of trivia to your post-apparently Tucker got into some trouble during his tenure as a policeman. He'd gotten tired of freezing his bum off in unheated police cars, so he rigged a heating system that recycled engine and exhaust heat. His superiors found out and Tucker got a chewing out for messing with the car.

-William

#5 dmj

dmj
  • Member

  • 1,956 posts
  • Joined: August 01

Posted 15 September 2004 - 21:26

IIRC a sports-racing car to be called Talisman should be the second Tucker model, if Torpedo had succeeded. I believe I have a picture of clay model somewhere. (OT, in a Stephen King book, "Needful things" there is a character actually driving that stillborn car!)

#6 McGuire

McGuire
  • Member

  • 9,218 posts
  • Joined: October 03

Posted 15 September 2004 - 21:46

Originally posted by McGuire


It is said the real mechanical talents behind Tucker's various schemes were Eddie Offutt and Jimmy Sakayuma, if you have ever heard of those guys -- famous race mechanics around Indy. Arthur Chevrolet worked for Tucker as well.


I did a poor job connecting the dots. The Chevrolet Brothers (Arthur was the youngest) founded Frontenac, while the actual design of the Fronty DO Ford racing head has been attributed to Jimmy Sakayuma, by Griff Borgeson and others.

#7 McGuire

McGuire
  • Member

  • 9,218 posts
  • Joined: October 03

Posted 15 September 2004 - 22:00

Originally posted by WDH74
McGuire-those were the Miller-Ford V-8s, right? I did not know that Preston Tucker had a hand in getting those onto the track.

I can add a smallish bit of trivia to your post-apparently Tucker got into some trouble during his tenure as a policeman. He'd gotten tired of freezing his bum off in unheated police cars, so he rigged a heating system that recycled engine and exhaust heat. His superiors found out and Tucker got a chewing out for messing with the car.

-William


Yes, those are the ones. Beautiful cars. There is probably much more to that story which has never been told. Ford Motor Co. quickly distanced itself from the effort after the embarrassing failure at the Speedway in '35, but you can still see the factory's handprints all over them. Junk-formula homebuilt specials they are not.

There must be hundreds of stories about Preston Tucker -- a true character, a larger-than-life personality. Charming rogue, etc.

#8 vintagerpm

vintagerpm
  • New Member

  • 29 posts
  • Joined: December 03

Posted 16 September 2004 - 01:41

And then there was this racer...
http://www.vintagerp...ges/tucker7.jpg

#9 dbw

dbw
  • Member

  • 993 posts
  • Joined: October 00

Posted 16 September 2004 - 06:11

i guess i have been involved with mr. tucker by proxy...i owned one of the miller fords[car#5] and in my opinion the car reeks of harry miller...ford picked up the tab and the r&d group completed them but aside from the flathead the number of innovations embody the late flights of harry's fantasy.....and yes, the car is indeed beautiful in person...tho the cars may have resembled some of edsel's specials ,emil diedt is credited with the bodies and aside from the reference to a 35 ford in the nose, the shape is very reminicent of later miller two man cars...the overwhelming design factor is the airfoil suspension arms coming magically out the side of the total envelope body and the resulting in visual[ and actual]lowering of of the whole car....i also had one of the four cylinder gulf cars... late in their career tucker bought them and used the engines for mockups of his armored car fiasco...

along the way i also aquired the remnants of the miller-tucker a510 aero engines....here's the fun part...after extensive study of the existing parts it was evident that no engines were actually completed or run... parts were being made for an impressive display for the government inspectors..just enough to keep the checks coming! a typical tucker move....

#10 McGuire

McGuire
  • Member

  • 9,218 posts
  • Joined: October 03

Posted 16 September 2004 - 14:01

Originally posted by dbw
i guess i have been involved with mr. tucker by proxy...i owned one of the miller fords[car#5] and in my opinion the car reeks of harry miller...ford picked up the tab and the r&d group completed them but aside from the flathead the number of innovations embody the late flights of harry's fantasy.....


dbw,
Thanks sincerely for the authoritative firsthand info. Contributions such as yours are what makes this board so great. My apologies for suggesting that mechanically these cars did not represent the pure inspiration of Harry Miller. I would revise my comments to say that I see big factory dollars and resources at work as well. As for the bodywork, I think I better study the cars some more.... while holding my hand over their '35 passenger car grilles. Perhaps I am misleading myself. Still, as you say, the cars do seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the Edsel speedsters, particularly the surviving car now owned by Bill Warner.

Do you know how many of the Miller-Fords survive?

#11 Ivan

Ivan
  • Member

  • 6,646 posts
  • Joined: March 99

Posted 18 September 2009 - 02:43

Found this on online
Tucker

#12 TrackDog

TrackDog
  • Member

  • 335 posts
  • Joined: August 07

Posted 19 September 2009 - 03:25

Preston Tucker's biggest shortcoming was that he was, first and foremost, a promoter. He really didn't seem to know just how difficult it would be to make the vast majority of the promises he made to the motoring public a reality, and that was one of the reasons the Securities and Exchange Commission was so interested in him. He did everything on a grand scale...did he really NEED the Willow Run factory...and he tried to do too much too quickly. He ran short of money, and had to come up with inventive(and questionable) methods of financing his car company, i.e. the radio sale...

I read someplace that the idea behind the rear-engine sedan that became the Tucker 48 was actually a Harry Miller design that Miller shared with Tucker during their partnership in 1935 at Indianapolis. Tucker liked what he saw, and after Miller died in 1943, simply decided to build the car himself. So, the design wasn't really Preston Tucker's at all.

The 1935 Ford Indy program was a typical Tucker production. He persuaded Henry Ford to bankroll the project, and it was a grand effort, but the problem was a lack of time...the whole deal, from the first boardroom meetings to putting the cars on the track took place over the span of just a few months. There wasn't enough time to iron out some very important details, namely placing the steering box next to the left-side exhaust manifold. This was the Achilles Heel of the entire project. The heat from the exhaust manifold boiled out the grease in the steering boxes, and one-by-one, the otherwise magnificently crafted Miller-Fords dropped out of the race, one after only about 10 laps. Ted Horn, driving the prototype car with bronze steering gears instead of steel, made it to the 400 mile mark before he had to retire; bracing himself against the sides of the cockpit with his feet and manhandling the car into the pits.

Henry Ford was rightly furious, and demanded restitution...Miller tried to pay and went bankrupt. Tucker somehow walked away from the whole mess.

As for the movie, there are some inaccuracies, but it should be remembered that it's just that, a movie. The idea that the Big Three "froze Tucker out" of materials is overplayed...the Tucker car, while inventive and novel, wasn't really a threat to the automakers because it would never have been profitable. The car was comparable to a Buick or maybe an Oldsmobile, but Tucker would have had to have sold it at a Cadillac price(or more) to make money, and the market wouldn't have stood for that.

Preston Tucker deserves credit for building a fascinating and innovative car that is still popular and contemporary today. But, the design wasn't really his, and he was a lousy businessman, in over his head in the car-building business. But, he followed his dream.

He may not have done things well, but he did them.



Dan

#13 Gary C

Gary C
  • Member

  • 4,525 posts
  • Joined: January 01

Posted 19 September 2009 - 06:43

Great looking cars though!

#14 Ivan Saxton

Ivan Saxton
  • Member

  • 62 posts
  • Joined: January 07

Posted 21 September 2009 - 12:34

Great looking cars though!

You will find that the designer of the Tucker's bodywork was Alex Tremulis. He was Guest of Honour in 1984 at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival in Auburn. He was ACD designer after Gordon Buerig, if I recall correctly. He obviously had a very active mind and high basal metabolic rate; and it was clear listening to his address to the gathering that he had work plans for many years ahead. The most I had known of him previously was by an account of a trip he had to make urgently to gather hardware items for a couple of Show cars. He was driven on this high speed tripthrough several states by Ab Jenkins in a V8 Cord, and he regarded Jenkins as a top rank high speed road driver.
Griffith Borgesson's book Miller, ISBN 087938-814-5 is a fairly comprehensive reference to the Miller-Ford cars. Everett Stephenson was summoned from California to Detroit to do the drawings. The whole project was attempted with impossibly short time from start to race. The equipment that Tucker borrowed from Ford for the workshop where the cars were built arrived on March the 12th; and the ten cars had to be ready by a deadline of May 10! The cost of the cars was shared by the Ford dealer network, and apparently cost Ford Motor company nothing.
Ernie Weil is quoted as responsible for mechanical execution, and Emil Deidt made the body panels. Borgesson said that only four of the ten cars were able to qualify; and the steering box problem that eliminated these would certainly have shown up, and been corrected had there been reasonable time for testing. Ford seized all ten cars, but appreciated them and did not destroy them. All still exist. And it seems that Ford did not lay blame on Millers. Harry was probably already a man with serious health problems; and Harry Bennet offered Ted Miller (Harry's son) a good job at any Ford plant he would like, anywhere in the world. It looks as though Tucker's most notable ability was as a snake oil salesman, and that the impecunious Harry Miller was one of the victims bitten.
I have never seen Mark Dees'book "The Miller Dynasty", but this is undoubtedly another prime source of information on the Miller-Fords, because Dees was very thorough.

#15 Ray Bell

Ray Bell
  • Member

  • 53,754 posts
  • Joined: December 99

Posted 21 September 2009 - 13:51

Nice to hear from you again, Ivan...

Interesting information here. I guess there was at least a passing similarity between the FWD race car transmissions and those used in the Tucker?