Fifty Year Sleep: 1948 Tucker Barn Find

The 1948 Tucker was the most innovative new Post-WW2 car offered to the car-hungry American public. Created quickly in a 6-month period as a ‘safety’ car, the goal was to market a brand new design at a time when the established Detroit carmakers were selling what were essentially pre-war models. In the end Preston Tucker’s effort failed, with only 51 examples produced. This car, the 10th one built, shows less than 10k miles on the odometer. Find it on AutoTrader Classics in Seattle, Washington for an undisclosed price.

The story of this Tucker is told in the seller’s listing and it’s an odd one: decades of slumber interrupted now and then by would-be buyers being run off the property. As often happens, didn’t move until the owner died. The car was then offered at the 2011 Gooding & Co auction in Scottsdale and was sold for $797,500. This seems high, but all things are relative… in this case relative to the fact that there were only 51 ever made, with fewer remaining, and that fully restored Tuckers sell for around $2.5 million. With those numbers, you may be able to come out okay. But are all of the ultra-rare Tucker specific parts present and accounted for?

The answer to the parts question is…. maybe. The listing ad shows many photos of the car and bits and pieces on the ground nearby and in cardboard boxes. The basics seem to be there: body, bumpers, hub caps, interior, engine, engine accessories, and so on. The most obvious item missing is the central ‘cyclops’ headlight, which was designed to swivel as the car turned around corners to light the way at night. You won’t find one at your local auto parts store, but cars have been restored with more items missing than that. Just be sure you know a skilled fabricator.

The photos show a fairly complete interior. Amazingly, some unique and unobtainable pieces are still with the car – items like the horn ring and button, and a Motorola radio faceplate. The fabric in the interior is in poor shape. Preston Tucker’s project was rushed through the design, prototype, and production stages and there was probably no time to design or seek out unique interior materials, so a bit of searching will probably turn up a good alternative fabric.

The Tucker engine was unique in American car design: a water-cooled flat six cylinder with overhead valves. It was mounted Porsche 911-style at the very back, which might be expected to give tail-happy handling, but the Tucker was a very heavy car and the engine was designed to produce lots of torque at low revs, so the opportunities for handling problems are probably rare. This unique barn find Tucker requires total restoration. Given it’s low mileage and original, near-complete condition, do you think it is worth investing the cash necessary to buy and restore it? Or should it go back in the barn?

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Comments

  1. Bobby

    Hell yes its worth restoring….I would love to have one to restore

    1
  2. scot c

    ~ too cool ! hold that tiger !

    1
  3. g-slice

    id drive it as is!

    1
  4. Charles

    I thought this car was reassembled and sold at auction last year for somewhere around $200,000.

  5. ML

    This car was sold at Gooding & Co auction. It is currently in Nebraska. This is an OLD ad.

  6. Chris

    Here’s a link to a video which gives the whole story of this Car. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGxIvLFpnSE

  7. James Wallhauser

    Sorry folks, but you’re way off on one point…the interior fabrics and coordination were aptly handled by the capable designer Audrey Moore and were in no way “rushed through”. In fact, like so many wonderful aspects about the Tucker the interior benefited from the vision of only a small number of people, thereby insuring it’s uniqueness.
    While the overall situation in the marketplace forced Preston Tucker into a decidedly hasty process, the design and engineering inside and out were nothing short of amazing, given the times. These cars were also heavily built as you attest, and their survival is testimony to their quality.

  8. Buster

    I smell a rat !!! That barn does not look like its 50 years old !!!

  9. Mark E

    I thought all that were produce (but one or two) were accounted for. It would be the automotive news of the year, if not the decade, if a previously unknown Tucker showed up somewhere…

    1
  10. slammedsled

    IDA automotive are the experts on these cars!

  11. TVC15

    Lost me on this one guys …Sold at auction last year ????? It’s late here in England maybe I’m missing something but do we send the money to Nigeria

  12. Dave Danielson

    I too thought all the Tucker’s were all accounted for. I also remember reading an article about a warehouse having a lot of extra Tucker parts laying around. Enough to possibly build a couple or so more Tucker’s if they wanted. What became of those?

  13. Simon Willins

    Simply, MUST BE RESTORED. Would be automotive heresy not to!

  14. J. Pickett

    I actually know a guy who could fabricate what was needed. Too bad I don’t have a mil or two lying around.

  15. Anonymous

    Such an awesome car. If I was given a choice to have a rare classic car this would be the one. It needs to be restored to show how advanced the Tucker was in 1948.

  16. bob_o

    I believe that all but 1 or 2 were accounted for. There’s a historian in Hawaii who’s been trying to track down each and every car, plus their individual histories. Here’s a link to a thread on the HAMB with a TON of great pics and info: http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=534872

    There are still a decent amount of N.O.S. Tucker parts and accessories to be had, since they were producing replacement parts and accessories faster than the cars could come off of the assembly line. In fact, being the genius salesman and marketing wizard that he was, Preston Tucker was selling accessories before ANY cars were produced, in order to stimulate buyer interest.

    And I’m curious… How is the rear-mounted engine “Porsche 911-style”, when the Tucker predates any rear-engined Porsche, except the 356? Just sayin’ ;)

    • Cory

      They are all well documented and accounted for with one possible exception that was stolen and believed destroyed

  17. billy

    that is one good barn find

  18. william k daby

    This was a terrible car then and why it would be worth anything now is beyond my comprehension.

  19. Tony

    Check this out. Giant Tucker collection of prototype and rare parts.
    http://vimeo.com/40808381

  20. Rick Rothermel

    What is ‘custom’ about it, and why is it listed as a 2-door?

    Sorry, but if you have a purported bazillion dollar car, how about a GOOD write-up instead of ‘garage talk 101’.

  21. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    All Tuckers are accounted for, including some that were destroyed and are not around anymore. Below is a link to a list that shows this car as #10 on the list.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Tucker_Sedan

    I’m with Rick R…..the AutoTrader Classics sales writeup of this rare car is pretty lame.

  22. Tom S.

    Golly, those things are just hideous.

  23. Steve

    Rat Rod??? (Just kidding) :)

  24. Stick

    Drive as is wild car

  25. Justin R.

    48 were accounted for, this is my dream car, while this may not be number 10 it has the signature H6 helicopter engine that would do 160 mph in 1948. If someone wanted to fake this barn find…they did a damn good job, and spent some cash to do it. The way this vehicle sits, and granted they verify it’s authenticity, could easily bring 1.5 million or more. The Tucker Torpedo that was auctioned at Barrett Jackson went for 2.6 million dollars. I think Preston Tucker was innovative, precise and very scary to GM, Ford, and Plymouth, so they protected their interests by destroying his superior vehicle, and name.

  26. SanityFactor

    as a long time reader and fan of this site that has never posted, I must interject on a couple comments……William K.–lets see you not only design and yet produce a car in the lean times following WW II, Preston Tucker was already a know entity (read:Millionaire) by the time the war ended, the design was cutting edge, and you can owe both the laminated and tempered glass , your seat belts, knee bolstering on the dash, lowering the center of gravity for better handling (look at a ’48 Ford or Chevy), the center headlight alone has evolved into what Mercedes and Audi are touting as “Brand new” design, that you are even in your car (whatever the make) you should praise this man for his pioneering ideas…..just stayin……Sanity……

  27. SanityFactor

    The optional Motorola radio was break away and the underdash was meant to not only slide u under but the first example of crumple/protect technology, this car was not only ahead of its time buts its way beyond the safety of anything on the road today (with the exception of airbags, although, given a couple of years……..) just sayin……..Sanity……

  28. Michael

    The steering wheel looks like a Lincoln part.
    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4116/4735257393_8368b29bd9.jpg

    • Cory

      Because it is. And it is correct.Tucker sourced parts from a lot of the same suppliers as other manufacturers

  29. Karl

    Preston Tucker was a visionary and a rainmaker, but it takes more than that to make it in the auto business. The idea that he would have made it if Ford/GM/Chrysler/the Fourth Reich had only let him alone is farcical. Kaiser-Frazier entered the auto industry at the same time, with all the prestige and credit of the Kaiser industrial empire behind it, and went ten years before the gushers of red ink became too much even for the deep-pocketed Kaiser family. The Fifties were a period of serious shakeout in the auto industry from which all of the independent manufacturers (read not Big 3) emerged dying or deeply wounded. It is a romantic daydream to believe that Tucker would have fared otherwise.

  30. Duck Canuck

    I am curious. Does anyone know approximately how much money changed hands when the owner’s widow let it go?

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