Before there was a Tucker 48, there was a Tucker Torpedo. The boldly styled coupe, shaped by designer George Lawson, never progressed beyond a quarter-scale model, but that hasn’t stopped Rob Ida, his father Bob, and Sean Tucker, great-grandson of Preston Tucker, from building a full-size version. On October 4, the under-construction Tucker Torpedo will be revealed to the public for the very first time at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, as part of its “Night at the Museum” gala fundraiser.
A passion for Tucker automobiles runs deep in Rob’s veins. His grandfather Joe was a Tucker dealer in Yonkers, New York – for three days, until scandal brought down Tucker’s company – and circa 1998 Rob built his first Tucker 48 replica in homage to his grandfather. The project connected him to Sean Tucker, himself an automotive engineer, and the two have collaborated on Tucker-related projects ever since. After building a series of Tucker 48s for customers, Rob and his dad turned their attention to the unfinished Torpedo project circa 2008.
Without blueprints to work from, Rob’s only alternative was the original scale model of the Torpedo, now owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The facility agreed to give Rob access to the artifact, and a three-dimensional scan was taken of the model for reference and for the creation of full-size wooden bucks to create a body. The Tucker family gave the Idas access to their archives, which in turn yielded other design sketches of the Torpedo coupe. A unique feature seen in these sketches was the central driving position, which Tucker felt delivered an optimal view of the road, hence adding to the driver’s safety.
Working from the model presented its own challenges, as it was rendered in asymmetrical form by Lawson to give Preston Tucker options. The passenger side of the model depicted a car with a fixed front fender and headlamp, while the driver side used a fender – and headlamp – that moved with the front wheels. For either design, a central “cyclops” headlamp provided additional illumination of the road ahead.
Ultimately, neither design was chosen, as Preston Tucker opted for a sensible sedan over a sexy and futuristic coupe. In postwar America, the Torpedo name wouldn’t have played well, either, so the Tucker 48 moniker – depicting the year of its anticipated launch – was chosen instead. Roughly 36 prototypes were assembled before a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation diverted Tucker’s attention and funding, and though he was ultimately cleared of all charges, negative publicity sealed the company’s fate, along with its doors. Today, roughly 51 Tucker 48s exist, the remainder having been assembled from leftover parts after the factory was closed, or in some cases, years later.
As envisioned by the Idas, the Tucker Torpedo will feature moveable front fenders and headlamps, with a fixed “cyclops” lamp mounted amidships, atop the grille. With no guide to designing and building a central driver’s seat (plus two passenger seats), Sean Tucker was entrusted with the design of the Torpedo’s seating. His innovative solution involves a motorized turret, which rotates each seat into position for easy entry and exit.
Bob Ida confirmed to Hemmings that the car is powered by an air-cooled flat-six engine, liberated from a Porsche 911, and that owner Bob Kerekes has yet to specify a color for the exterior or interior. Today, the bare metal car is partially skinned, and will likely be shown in a similar form to highlight features like the seating turntable and movable fenders. Our last conversation with Rob about the car was in 2014, and back then he expected the Torpedo to be finished in two years or so; that’s probably not a bad estimate today, either, and while quite a bit has been achieved over the past three years, there’s still a lot of work to complete before Kerekes takes delivery.
This will be the collector’s third Ida-built Tucker, and of his other two examples, Kerekes said, “My Tucker vehicles have brought me more joy than any other cars in my life.” That’s a particularly bold statement considering his collection also includes a variety of hot rods, Ferraris, Porsches, and racing cars.
The Tucker Torpedo will be on display from October 4 through October 10, timed to coincide with Fall Meet Week in Hershey. Another Tucker, also built by Rob Ida, is set to join the AACA Museum’s Cammack Tucker Gallery at the same time; this one will be an interactive replica of a Tucker 48, designed to give visitors a more immersive Tucker experience while viewing the museum’s three original Tucker 48 models.
Proceeds from the Night at the Museum event go to support the AACA Museum, as well as the Children’s Miracle Network at PennState Health Children’s Hospital. Racer and team owner Bobby Rahal will also be on hand to receive the museum’s first-ever Automotive Heritage Award. For additional details, or to purchase tickets, visit NightAtTheMuseum.org.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.