Preston Tucker’s great-grandsons strap down the helicopter-engined dream car and rev it up.
The 1948 Tucker 48 (often erroneously referred to as a Tucker Torpedo) was a rear-engined marvel in its day, offering unusual safety features and a crisp postwar design that should have made it an immensely popular car. But unfortunately, after producing only 51 models, the Tucker Corporation was forced to declare bankruptcy due to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a stock fraud trial, the latter of which led to a full acquittal for company founder Preston Tucker. Owing to its rarity, seeing a Tucker outside of a museum (or a film) is an uncommon delight, to say nothing of watching one get strapped down on a power dyno for testing.
Luckily for us, that’s exactly the fate that befell this example, serial number 1034. According to The Drive, Tucker No. 34 is powered by an O-355 flat-six engine, produced by Air Cooled Motors and converted to a water-cooled setup by Tucker. The big mill, originally intended to be used in helicopters, produced a claimed 166 horsepower (124 kilowatts) and 372 pound-feet (504 newton-meters) when new. The Waltz Blue Tucker (its color famously inspired by one of Preston’s wife’s favorite dresses) now rests in the hands of the company founder’s own great-grandsons, and it turned the rollers with the help of the Tucker restoration experts at Ida Automotive. Watch the video, posted by Preston Tucker's Speed Shop, above.
After a healthy dyno run – complete with plenty of pops and crackles from the helicopter engine’s exhaust – the Tucker produced 116 hp (87 kW) at the wheels, along with 212 lb-ft (287 Nm). That’s definitely down from the factory rating, but it must be said that Tucker calculated its original 166 ponies and 372 torques at the crank, not at the wheels. Calculating driveline losses is difficult for many reasons, but a safe estimate is about 20 percent, putting the Tucker 48’s crank output at 145 hp and 265 lb-ft, a healthy number for a 72-year-old car.
Gallery: 1948 Tucker Dyno Test
Regardless of its actual ratings, we find ourselves very envious of the dyno driver, as well as anyone else lucky enough to slip behind the wheel of this Tucker. An iconic design painted in an iconic color, No. 34 is a gorgeous piece of automotive history, and seeing it turn a wheel is a real treat.