Sunday, July 03, 2016

things I learned when reading Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow

Harry Miller engines won 79% of major US races between 1922-29, and powered 27 of 33 cars in the 1929 Indy 500 starting positions

WW2 had a couple effects on the auto industry, it created more plants capable of making cars and parts after the war was over. By the end of the war, 1/3rd of the cars were barely worth 100 dollars and would have been scrapped if any new cars were available to replace them with. It was commonly accepted that 10 million buyers were ready to snap up a new car when they got back into production

The designer of the Tucker car, Alex Tremulis, had to fend off Tuckers ideas on the Torpedo, such as fenders that moved with the tires, but this went into the Carioca design for Brazil that never was even prototyped. This would prove to have been the downfall of the Stutz Blackhawk that killed Lockhart on the beach land speed races, because the fenders acted as aerodynamic rudders at high speed

When displaying the prototype of the Tucker car, the New York Museum of Science and Industry was charging 48 cents admission and was outgrossing the nearby theater plays, making 48 thousand dollars on a 10 day run, and Francis Ford Coppola's father was one of the people that came to see it, and placed an order for one. Francis was so inspired by the Tucker, he made the movie "Tucker" and owns 2 of the cars.

the 3rd headlight wasn't legal in 15 states that had laws about how many, and where the headlights must be placed on a vehicle. To counter those state laws, they designed the middle headlight to have a wire connection that could be pulled apart, or a cover with Tucker's logo cut into it, that would snap on over the middle headlight

Because Tuckers were to have rear engine and rear drive, they needed a new design of transmission which Preston was intending to have engineered to use hydraulics, like torque converters, but since that wasn't happening fast enough, the guys working on getting some Tuckers made quickly for the public, Offutt and Leabu scoured junkyards and found 22 Cord transmissions from the front wheel drive Cords that were rebuilt and resulted in 18 Tuckers getting built quickly

Tucker dithered on the steering wheel design, and when he's finally made up his mind, it was too late to get them made to go into the cars getting ready for advertising and marketing, so they installed a lot of blemished Lincoln Zephyr steering wheels instead

Because he still needed to raise more money to build the cars and get the company started, Preston tasked Cliff Noble, a New York adman with coming up with a new idea, and that was the "Accessory Program" which Cliff made 1.5 percent from sales, and included seat covers, matching luggage, and radios. A million in profit was made from preselling the accessories.

When being put on trail for fraud by the SEC, Tuckers defense team did something shocking... they told the judge since no offense was committed, there was no defense needed, as the prosecution was also extremely lousy, and most witnesses discredited the prosecutions case.

The prices the Tucker cars got at the bankruptcy auction were inline with his suggested retail price of about 2000 dollars

Due to the govt in fact putting Tucker out of business, a stockholder in Tucker sued the government on behalf of the stockholders for the malicious persecution, and leaking the confidential SEC report to the broadcaster Drew Pearson, and started rumors about fraud and corruption at the Tucker company. Pearson was known to be a corrupt person, and two presidents called him a liar, Truman and FDR

Kaiser Frazer bought Jeep, for around 60 million dollars, even though it already owed the govt 50 million dollars for startup and reconstruction after the war. It went bankrupt, and that it didn't stand a chance should have been obvious to the govt people giving KF the loan, but, they were given it due to the great amount the govt felt was owed to KF for wartime production of military equipment

in March 1952 Preston Tucker wrote an article, and pointed out that several of the 1948 Tucker cars had been driven over 100,000 trouble free miles. Then challenged the reader of the magazine article to compare them to any other car on the road. He made a good point.

22 Tuckers were used in the filming of the movie, and that is nearly half of the cars made... this must be a record for % of cars from one company in one movie.

Similar to Tucker, DeLorean was set up by the US government to fail, another independent car maker that had a remarkably unusual car. The Birmingham, in the 1920s, also was killed by the US govt for being radically better than the biggest car makers.

the prosecutor at the fraud trial, Otto Kerner, was rewarded by the powers in politics that had him persecute Tucker, by handing him the governorship of Illinois. He was corrupt of course, obviously, and was convicted of bribery, conspiracy, tax evasion, and perjury. He was the 1st sitting judge convicted in US history, and the first governor in a series to be convicted.

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