Preston Tucker's sedan: Showcasing a beautiful business failure
Excerpted from O Say Can You See? Stories from the National Museum of American History [Link to article]
By Peter Liebhold, August 10, 2016
"Given an opportunity to suggest a landmark artifact outside the entrance to American Enterprise, the museum's new business history exhibition, our staff eagerly came up with numerous fascinating ideas. In the end, the ultra-modern 1940s Tucker automobile was chosen. The sleek silver sedan is certainly beautiful, but does it also represent an iconic American business story? You betcha!
The rare Tucker automobile draws visitors into the new "American Enterprise" exhibition where the story of the rise and fall of the Tucker Corporation reinforces the exhibition’s themes of opportunity, innovation, competition, and common good. (Image from the quoted blog.)
"In the summer of 1944, with the end of World War II in sight, Preston Tucker sensed a business opportunity. After recovering from the Great Depression and surviving the privations of war rationing, Americans had money in their pockets and were primed to go on a spending binge. There had been no new car production during the war and the demand for automobiles was high. Tucker was not an automotive engineer, but he was a super salesman—visionary, charismatic, driven, and maybe a little sleazy. He channeled the nation’s post-World War II desire for innovative design and new technology, exciting the nation with the prospect of his “Car of Tomorrow.”"
Additional information from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Preston Tucker's automobile was promoted as "the first completely new car in fifty years" because of its novel engineering and safety features and its unique styling. The rear-mounted engine and rubber suspension were designed to improve performance and reduce noise, fumes, and vibration. Safety features included a center headlight that turned with the front wheels and collision protection provided by a pop-out windshield, padded dashboard, and "safety chamber" for the front passenger. Tucker's styling gave the car a futuristic appearance and an impression of power and speed. Fifty-one cars were built before production was halted due to financial problems. (Image and description: Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 1948 Tucker Sedan. Catalog Number: 1993.0484.01)