Naive and weak-willed, Preston Tucker wanted to dismiss the “big three” of American industry (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) by launching a revolutionary car in 1947. The industrial utopia fizzled and the business was put into liquidation judicial.
How did this courteous industrialist end up in the dock with thirty counts sweeping a full spectrum of scams, thefts and frauds.
Preston Tucker’s journey has been that of an ambitious, but not a trickster. His first job had taken him to Cadillac, but young Preston wasn’t cut out for leather jobs: he imagined delivering the mail on roller skates…until the day he collided with his boss at the bend of a hallway.
After dipping into a sports fiasco and accepting military derivatives during the war, Tucker inherits the premises where the flying fortresses were manufactured. This allows him to realize his project: to produce his own automobile. Not just any automobile. A revolutionary object, confusing in its form, ambitious in its technique.
For styling, Tucker hires Alex Sarantos Tremulis, a fringe designer; for the mechanics, he chose an original architecture by placing a 5.6-litre six-cylinder “boxer” engine at the rear.
On June 19, 1947, Tucker summoned five thousand people to Chicago to discover his prototype. The first customers sign with their eyes closed, but the financial situation is alarming. In August 1948, everything had to be stopped. Fifty-one cars only left the factory, and the case was put into compulsory liquidation.
Forty years later, he inspired Francis Ford Coppola who in 1987 directed “Tucker The man and his dream” with Jeff Bridges in the title role. Not a masterpiece, certainly, but certainly a film to see.