Genius Innovators

The Other Tucker


The film about Mr. Preston Tucker always intrigued me as a kid.  Perhaps it speaks to the quality raising that I got that it was a movie we owned and watched frequently, but even today when I think of Tuckers I think about that stylized version of his life, and how The Man kept trying to keep him down.  One thing from the movie that I thought was awesome was the armored car he develops first, which really has only a bit part in the movie.  I think, though, that I wanted one of those about as much as I wanted a Tucker car, because it was faster than anything else on the battlefield!  Too fast for the government to buy!  Nothing is cooler to a 10 year old, well, very little anyhow, than a fighting machine that doesn’t get built because it is too fast.

I recently came across the lead image you see on the Modern Mechanix website, and it jogged my memory on this machine, and I decided to find out more.  Hit the jump, and let’s discover the other Tucker!


As the story goes, Mr. Tucker came up with the idea for his combat car while recovering from an appendectomy in late 1937.  With nothing to do but lay around and read the news, with war seeming inevitable in Europe, he saw a niche for a high speed armored combat vehicle.  Later, as he started up the Ypsilanti Machine and Tool Company in Michigan in 1939, the opportunity came about to try to develop and sell his idea.  The Dutch government was looking for a vehicle that would perform well in their muddy terrain.

Continuing his working relationship with Harry Miller, Tucker and Miller began designing a narrow-wheelbase armored combat car, powered by a Miller-modified Packard V-12 engine.  The car was nicknamed the “Tucker Tiger”.

At least one prototype of the combat car was built.  Production of the car was to be done at the Rahway, New Jersey factory owned by the American Armament Corporation.  The Germans invaded Holland in the spring of 1940, before Tucker could complete the deal, and the Dutch government lost interest, so he completed the prototypes and opted to try to sell the vehicle to the U.S. government.  The car could reach over 115 mph (185 km/h), far in excess of the design specifications.  The U.S. military felt the vehicle was too fast and had already committed to other combat vehicles.  The highly-mobile power-operated gun turret featured on the Tucker combat car, which became known as the “Tucker Turret”, earned the interest of the U.S. Navy.  Harry Miller would later take some of the designs from the Tucker Combat Car to American Bantam where he was involved in the development of the first Jeep.  (Wikipedia)

The turret turned out to be the only part of the vehicle that made it big, going on to be used in Navy PT boats, landing craft, and B-17 and B-29 bombers.  I haven’t been able to find any info on what happened to the prototype.  Since at least one of the now famous Tucker automobiles has been rebuilt, perhaps someone would like to take on the challenger of re-engineering a Tucker Tiger.  We have the technology, we can rebuild it!



Info and pictures from Wikipedia and Modern Mechanix (second article here), videos via Youtube.

  • skitter

    Was the sound on your copy of the movie messed up? Back in my day, when I had Nexflix, and they finally got me a copy on DVD, the sound seemed to cut in and out. Seemed like it would be an easy enough thing to fix with all our go-go technology. Still, it's a good film, worth a repeat viewing, especially the courthouse scene.