Tucker: the Man and His Dream
The public had not seen a new car design from the automakers of Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler since 1941. This gave some other automakers an opportunity to design and manufacture new models. Preston Tucker saw that as an opportunity to provide a new car to the public. Mr. Tucker’s vision was of an automobile that included safety measures and offering a more modern style. He wanted to offer a vehicle with a water-cooled aluminum block flat-6 rear engine, disc brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, fuel injection, and the location of all instruments within reach of the steering wheel with a padded dashboard.
Mr. Tucker’s vision was ahead of the times but he believed in his vision to the point of hiring a stylist, Alex Tremulis, to sketch a design of the car and named “Tucker “48”. Advertisements for the car ran in several national newspapers in 1947. Advertising prior to the actual prototypes being built is risky but innovative. Mr. Tucker hired a New York designer firm, J. Gordon Lippincott, to create a different body style for the body of the car. The design of the car was such that it provided a third headlight which came known as “Cyclops Eye”.
The headlamp would light up the path for the driver if the steering angle was greater than 10 degrees. Tucker knew that some states had a law against vehicles having more than two headlamps, so he devised a cover for the center light to be used in the states outlawing more than two headlamps. Vehicle safety issues were one of the major concerns of Mr. Tucker. The steering wheel and dash board was padded for safety. The windshield was manufactured using shatterproof glass and would pop out if a collision occurred to protect the passengers.
The car also featured a first which were seat belts. The premiere of the prototype was to take place in June 1947 at the Tucker factory in Chicago. Several problems surfaced that delayed the time but not the event of the unveiling of the prototype. The first problem was the independent suspension arms snapped under the heavy weight of the car. There were also a few minor problems with the engine which were fixed prior to the unveiling. The car would not go in reverse and was also pushed up the ramp to the display area instead of driven.
A journalist by the name of Drew Pearson began to snoop around and found out the flaws of the prototype and reported them to the public in the newspapers. Mr. Tucker tried to bid on two steel mills to provide materials for his cars. The bids were rejected by the War Assets Administration. They questioned Mr. Tucker concerning the validity of his car and all that it advertised of offering. A setback to the manufacturing of the car was the engine. Mr. Tucker wanted to put the 589 engine in his cars and promising 150hp but that didn’t happen.
The engine had problems and would only produce approximately 88hp. Other alternatives were being reviewed after working on the 589 engine for a year. They tried an aircraft engine but it wouldn’t fit in the rear engine compartment. Mr. Tucker found an engine manufactured by Air Cooled Motors that could be modified to work in his cars providing up to 166hp. The engine was tested and proved successful. Tucker bought Air Cooled Motors for $1. 8 million and cancelled all of the aircraft contracts of the purchased company so manufacturing of car engines could begin.
Cancelling the aircraft contracts proved to be a huge income loss to Mr. Tucker’s company. Mr. Tucker raised $17,000,000 in stock issues to continue development of the car. He developed a waiting list for the Tucker automobiles by requiring future buyers wanting a guaranteed spot on the waiting list to purchase accessories, called the Accessories Program, such as a car radio and seat covers before the car was built. This raised another $2,000,000 for his company. Once the final design of the car was completed, Mr.
Tucker traveled across the country trying to sell orders for his cars. It proved to be a success. Mr. Tucker’s Accessories Program came under fire by the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Attorney citing the program wasn’t providing an equal opportunity to everyone, including Veterans, to purchase a Tucker car. He also sold dealerships before car was being produced. An indictment was issued to the executives of Tucker’s company but the charges were later dropped. The negative publicity destroyed the company and ceased production of the cars.
Only 50 cars were manufactured in the plant before the production of the vehicles were halted. There were several lawsuits filed against the Tucker Corporation from dealers complaining about production delays of the cars. Mr. Tucker’s team consisted of individuals he had met in his different places of employment. His various positions with automobile manufacturers and dealerships along with his outgoing personality made him well known in the automotive industry by 1939. Some of the engineers he worked with and met became part of his team.
Preston Tucker was a man that liked to make deals for a profit. He appreciated the free enterprise system within the United States. This led to follow his dream of manufacturing a car of the future. Mr. Tucker tries different ways to raise money but fails. He is persistent in fulfilling his dream by running an ad in a magazine showing the Tucker car. Letters from the magazine readers indicate a desire to have a Tucker car. Mr. Tucker meets with a stockbroker to gain financial backing. His spirit as an entrepreneur encourages the stockbroker to back Mr. Tucker.
Robert Bennington, experienced in the automobile industry, is brought into the picture to run Tucker’s company. The meeting with the War Assets Administration is established to convince the Administration to use the world’s biggest plant to manufacture his cars. Mr. Tucker doesn’t let a deadline of 60 days to have a working prototype discourage him. He expressed confidence in his team to build the prototype. Unfortunately, Bennington is running the company and demands a higher price for the cars and deletes some of the features from the car. With all of the setbacks, it doesn’t derail Mr.
Tucker from pursuing his dream of building a car of the future. Mr. Tucker is an entrepreneur but doesn’t always portray things for the truth that they are. He hides the fact at the unveiling of the car that it cannot go in reverse. He misleads the public by advertising something that doesn’t even exist. Yet, he is a big dreamer and acts on those dreams. He never lets a setback affect his dreams. His marketing of the car was innovative in that he builds a prototype to drive across country to generate interest from the public in his dream of manufacturing the car of the future.
His way of raising capital could be construed as a bit deceiving but very intellectually done. The business operations and organizational structure were not developed into a well-planned business plan. Having a well written business plan would have helped Mr. Tucker to be more successful as an entrepreneur. Works Cited Tucker: The Man and His Dream. (1988). Retrieved from YouTube: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=ziAXmTCeapE&feature=related. retrieved 2/20/12.