The ex-Tucker Corporation Indianapolis Test Car, ex-Winthrop Rockefeller,1948 Tucker Model 48  Chassis no. 1029

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Lot 637• W
The ex-Tucker Corporation Indianapolis Test Car, ex-Winthrop Rockefeller, 1948 Tucker Model 48
Chassis no. 1029

Sold for US$ 461,500 inc. premium
The ex-Tucker Corporation Indianapolis Test Car, ex-Winthrop Rockefeller
1948 Tucker Model 48
Chassis no. 1029
Fabulous American cars always create a stir. Cars like the Duesenberg Model J or the Mercer 'Raceabout' draw big crowds and command big dollars. Few American cars were more fabulous than the Tucker, which appeared like something from the space age in the years following World War II. Before its launch the Tucker ‘48 captivated the imagination of the American public who flocked to see the prototype and signed up in droves to purchase the cars. Shortly thereafter Preston Tucker’s dreams dissolved amid charges of conspiracy and bankruptcy.

In the late '40s there was nothing like the Tucker, and Tucker’s greatest achievement was the 'Tucker Torpedo', as it was then known. The horizontally-opposed, six-cylinder engine was mounted in the rear and produced a healthy 166 horsepower and transmitted power to the rear axle through a four-speed transmission with a Bendix vacuum-electric preselector mechanism. A novelty in its own right, the power unit for the Tucker was converted from a helicopter engine designed and manufactured by Air Cooled Motors, which was the successor to the H.H. Franklin Company. Suspension was independent at all corners and the car was conceived with occupant safety as a paramount concern. This unusual mechanical package was wrapped in a body design that was unlike anything ever seen on the roads. The work of master stylist Alex Tremulis, the big Tucker was sleek and featured a central headlamp to augment the ones at each front corner. What’s more, a Tucker could cruise all day at 100 mph and could touch 120.

With the sleek styling, many safety features, center headlight, independent rear suspension and rear-mounted flat-six engine, the Tucker was as innovative as it was fascinating. It’s little wonder that the concept came from a man who was involved with Harry Miller’s Miller-Fords, manufactured tank turrets during World War II and even developed a fighting vehicle for the United States Army that it considered too fast.

Some considered Preston Tucker a genius and others vilified him as a financial manipulator. Looking at a Tucker 57 years after its launch, it’s far easier to think of the man as a genius. Today, Tucker ’48 sedans are considered collector cars and reminders of Preston Tucker’s grand - but failed - automotive dream.

Existing records show that 1029 was completed on August 28, 1948 and on September 19th it was listed as being in the possession of the Tucker Corporation’s engineering team. In fact, a surviving engineering report indicates that car 1029 was used in testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from September 21 through October 4, 1948, during which time it clocked 1,346 miles around the banked oval.

Car 1029 was not listed on the Tucker Corporation inventory in March 1949. By October 1950 when the remaining assets of the company were sold at the bankruptcy auction, only a few dealers had received their cars. Most of the remaining cars were included in the sale. Car 1029 was not among them.

For years the whereabouts of 1029 during the period from October 1948 until 1955 has been a mystery. However, recently a letter written by Winthrop Rockefeller in 1956 was discovered in the University of Arkansas Library that sheds some light on this matter. As Rockefeller explained, in 1955 he received a letter from Preston Tucker inquiring whether the future Arkansas governor would like one of the two Tucker cars remaining in the automaker’s possession. According to Buddy Hoelezman, former director of Rockefeller’s automobile collection, “Rockefeller first met Tucker in '46 or '47 when he was first trying to promote the Tucker car. Tucker was in New York and called Rockefeller and asked if he would like to see and drive the car, which he did. He [Rockefeller] did not hear from Tucker again until 1955, when Tucker wrote and told him he had two of the original Tuckers for sale.”

It is believed that Rockefeller acquired the Tucker to use for his frequent winding 60-mile drive from his farm in Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas, to Little Rock. But with his move to the farm, the Tucker was put aside. Then in 1956, the car was sold to Albert Grayson of Los Angeles in 1956. The sale of the Tucker predates Rockefeller’s acquisition of the James Melton collection of antique vehicles. However, this Tucker is proof that before he became a serious automobile collector Governor Rockefeller appreciated fine and unusual motorcars.

Albert Grayson was a machinist and car collector who appears to have retained the car until 1963. However, an ad he placed in Motor Trend in April 1958 is proof that Grayson had attempted to sell the car some time earlier. At the time of the ad, total mileage was listed as 18,714. Although the name of the man to whom Grayson sold 1029 isn’t known, that collector retained the car until the late 'Sixties. In 1969, mega dealer British Motors Corporation of San Francisco advertised the car for sale at a price of $8,500. That meshes with the memories of subsequent owner Jack Bart, who recalls buying it from a West Coast dealer in the late-'Sixties or early 'Seventies.

The striking pearl gray Tucker, was restored in 1987 at a cost of approximately $30,000. Val Esteves at Nunes Auto Body Shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut performed much of the work. The car then returned to the West coast where Tucker '1029' starred in the movies. It is said to be one of the originals used in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, “Tucker.” In April 1989 a gentleman from California purchased Tucker '1029'. In the 18 years since it was completed, it has seen little use. Still attractive almost two decades later, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be displayed or driven extensively.

In the past 55 years, many important people have owned Tucker automobiles, including Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, and Tuckers feature in some of the country’s best auto collections and museums. However, before Tuckers became so collectible, Winthrop Rockefeller was among the most illustrious to drive a car from the ill-starred marque. And, short of the Tin Goose Tucker prototype, '1029' may, arguably, be the most important of all the Tucker ‘48s. What other car remained with Preston Tucker for seven years, was tested by the factory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and was then sold to a Rockefeller?
The ex-Tucker Corporation Indianapolis Test Car, ex-Winthrop Rockefeller,1948 Tucker Model 48  Chassis no. 1029
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