To mark Barrett-Jackson’s half-century in business, in this special series we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite moments from the past 50 years – as well as some little-known facts about The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions.
Most are familiar with the Tucker name through Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 film, “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” starring Jeff Bridges as the titular character. But the 1948 Tucker Torpedo – later renamed Tucker 48 – has a big history at Barrett-Jackson. Much of the car’s desirability among collectors can be attributed to the film, but that’s only part of the story. The Tucker Torpedo was an automobile unlike any other, an exceedingly rare vehicle. “With only 51 built, the opportunity to buy a Tucker only comes up every so often,” said Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson.
The Torpedo was billed as the “Car of the Future,” a direct challenge to Detroit’s big three automakers and an innovative design that Tucker boasted was “the first completely new car in 50 years.” It had three headlights, six tailpipes, an aircraft-derived flat-6 mounted at the rear and was full of innovations not yet seen in an American automobile. The Torpedo boasted a swooping body styled by former Auburn Cord designer, Alex S. Tremulis. Preston Tucker boasted that his new Torpedo was the most aerodynamic car in the world. He was right. The body featured a mathematically computed drag coefficient of 0.30. The Tucker featured revolutionary safety features, some that wouldn’t be seen for years to come.
In 2002, a Tucker crossed the block at Barrett-Jackson’s auction at the Petersen Museum. A decade later, at Barrett-Jackson’s flagship 2012 Scottsdale Auction, Torpedo #1043 took its turn at center stage. Stunning in its Waltz Blue finish, the Tucker rolled onto the auction block, its signature directional third headlight, the “Cyclops Eye,” capturing the imaginations of collectors everywhere. “This is the best Tucker in the world, in my opinion,” said Barrett-Jackson President Steve Davis as he addressed the auction arena. Bidding took off, the massive crowd standing and cheering as the race to seven figures was on. When the hammer finally fell, not a soul was seated in the packed auction arena. The Tucker set a new record sale with a final price of $2.91 million – a record that still stands today.
Barrett-Jackson is honored to have hosted the sale of such an iconic machine, and contributing to the lore and history of Preston Tucker and his revolutionary automobile.