There is a fairly simple formula to figuring out a car’s worth. The more original and rare something is, the more someone will be willing to pay for it. At least a majority of the time. We’ve all come accustom to this formula and seen it play out on eBay, car lots and TV auctions time and time again. However, nothing could have prepared us for the price one of the remaining Tucker Torpedo models ended up fetching at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction in the middle of January. According to Jalopnik, it was more money than most people will see in their lifetime.
As the brain-child of Preston Tucker, the Tucker Torpedo took the 1940s by storm. Created as one of the first all-new post WWII car models, the Tucker Torpedo featured a plethora of innovative components. Although testing and perfecting the initial car designs did away with some innovative features, like disc brakes, fuel injection and a direct-drive torque converter transmission, the car remained ahead of its time by years.
The final production Tucker Torpedo models, renamed the Tucker ’48 Sedans so as not to remind people of the war, were set up as a rear-engine, rear wheel drive vehicles. They were powered by custom water-cooled Franklin flat-6 “Horizontal” engines that boasted 166bhp and 372 foot-pounds of torque.
Most of cars were equipped with Tucker’s own transmission creation, the TuckerMatic, but a few slipped through while perfecting the design with Tucker Y-1 (modified Cord 810/812) transmissions.
The engine and transmission were matted to a separate sub frame that was secured to the car only by six bolts, so the whole drivetrain could be removed and swapped for another in only a few minutes.
Other unique features of the Tucker Torpedo model included a perimeter frame wrapped around the car for crash protection, an integrated roll bar in the roof, steering box placed behind the front axel for more crash protection, a padded dash, shatter-proof windshield that was designed to pop out in a wreck, a locking parking brake and seatbelts, a new concept to the automotive world at the time. Among the innovative components on the Tucker, the most recognizable is the third directional headlight, called the Cyclops eye, that would work when the steering wheel was turned more than 10 degrees and illuminate the Torpedo’s path around corners.
Unfortunately, Tucker’s money ran short fairly fast after he began production and so he began offering customers a guaranteed spot on the Tucker waiting list if they purchased accessories prior to their car’s build.
This of course came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the United States Attorney and led to an indictment. Although the charges were dropped eventually, the damage was done and Tucker’s smeared name led to his demise.
With only 51 cars ever made (one prototype and 50 production models) in the entire life of the Tucker Corporation, the cars are extremely rare and hardly ever change hands. This was made obvious when Torpedo #1043 hit the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction block and sold only after the bidding climbed to an amazing $2.65 million. With buyer’s fees, the price rose to $2.91 million, trumping the previous record for a Tucker sale, set in 2010 at $1,127,500, by more than double.
We knew these cars were rare and knew they were sought after as the only living remnants of the Tucker Corporation, but this number is astounding. While we don’t know if we’ll see another Tucker up for auction in the near future, we can only imagine what kind of price the next one sold will bring.