Lincoln’s Tucker: How an ultra-rare car wound up in Nebraska
There were 51 Tuckers built in 1947. The last one sold at auction for $2 million. So how did one of them end up here?
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – On June the 19th of 1947, Preston Tucker revealed his much-anticipated namesake automobile to the world. Three-quarters of a century later, and the 51 original examples he made before shutting down are as impressive as ever and command equally impressive numbers. One sold at auction last year for $2,040,000. The year before that, and two were auctioned off, one went for $1.9 million, the other for $1.6 million. So how on earth did one end up here? It’s all thanks to Museum of American Speed founder Bill Smith.
“He was always looking to purchase a Tucker Torpedo automobile, and the chance finally came in 2000”, explains curator Tim Matthews. “I remember when Bill bought it he was told by all of his friends he paid way too much money for it. Of course, we all look back at that now and we all laugh, and I hope Bill is somewhere smiling down, too, because we’re so lucky to have it.”
Why are they lucky? What’s so special about this old car? For some, it’s the design. It certainly is distinctive, with that third headlight in the middle. For others, it’s what the car represents: a mix of success and failure, and dreams made reality.
“When the Tucker Corporation folded, it didn’t take a lot of wind out of his sails”, says Matthews. “He was ready to go on and do the next thing, and he has a famous quote that he said, ‘Hendry Ford failed his first time, too.'”
Unfortunately, Tucker would succumb to illness before his next big chance came along. But his dream lives on in film, in print, and in each of the cars he built. It’s a story that’s retold each time someone sees one of those 51 cars.
“When you come into a car museum, you think you’re just going to see a bunch of stuff, but what you’re really doing is you’re learning about people and their stories of triumph, and maybe failure, and I think that relates to all of us”, says Tim Matthews.
That certainly related to Preston Tucker. Looking at his car, you feel a bit of it yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about the surviving Tuckers, check out the Tucker Automobile Club of America. They have each car’s location, as well as whether or not it’s available for public viewing. Luckily, Lincoln’s Tucker is available to check out for yourself. You can read about the Museum of American Speed’s hours, admission prices, and see what else is hiding in their collection on their website.