The Car of Tomorrow

        From Preston Tucker







By Megan McKinney


Preston Tucker was your Near North Side neighbor, reportedly at 999 North Lake Shore Drive. But he was also a national figure living the dream of a small boy, as well as that of the many grown-ups who craved “the car of tomorrow” at the end of World War II.

999 North Lake Shore Drive

Young Preston, who learned to drive an automobile at age eleven and had “begun purchasing late model automobiles, repairing and refurbishing them to sell for a profit” at sixteen, was in advance of those in the business. Oddly the Big Three auto manufacturers were not developing new designs and had not done so since 1941.



Preston, above, with a sketch of his Tucker Torpedo, later the Tucker 48, “which introduced many features that have since become widely used in modern cars.” Among his specifications for the revolutionary car was not only a rear engine, but also “a padded dashboard, self-sealing tubeless tires, independent springless suspension, a chassis that protected occupants in a side impact, a roll bar within the roof, a laminated windshield designed to pop out during an accident, and a center headlight, which would turn when steering at angles greater than ten degrees in order to improve visibility around corners during night driving.”


Mr. Tucker with his automobile front and back

And now for the glamour shot.

There would be fifty-one of the above final prototype, each of which would include most of the earlier stated innovations.

However, is it a convertible you wish to have? There is one—and only one—Tucker 48 convertible in existence and the price is $2,495,000.



Francis Ford Coppola began envisioning his 1988 film TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM in the late nineteen-seventies. Along the way he considered starring Marlon Brando as Preston Tucker, then he contemplated making it as a musical, with music and lyrics written by Leonard Bernstein and Betty Comden and Adolph Green.



The Coppola film, “based on Tucker’s spirit and the saga surrounding the car’s production,”  featured Joan Allen, Martin Landau, and Frederic Forrest in support of Jeff Bridges. It is perhaps more a delight for Classic Chicago readers than reality. Preston Tucker’s true story was laced with scandal and “controversial accusations of stock fraud”, of which, in 1949, Mr. Tucker was acquitted. Let’s stay with the Hollywood version.


Author photo: Robert F. Carl