I know it is the Monday Holiday celebrating MLK's life. There have been several diaries about him, so I hope you'll forgive me for not making tonight's KTK about Rev. King. Instead I'm going to write about an innovative automobile a bit because I actually have a personal connection of sorts to this through a friend of mine.
I became very good friends with a women named Kim when I lived in Santa Cruz. She had grown up in Colorado Springs and I in Denver, so we had the Colorado connection going on. We worked at a factory that made leather belts and wallets for big department store chains. Kim and I actually worked in the shipping department.
Kim married her long time boyfriend who's last name is Tucker, so Kim is now Kim Tucker. I spent many hours with them talking, playing poker, partying and just plain goofing off. Kim's hubby was the grandson of Preston Tucker (September 21, 1903 – December 26, 1956) who created the Tucker Automobile, which was far, far ahead of any other car at the time. Take a look at this baby, the Tucker Torpedo.
Boy did I ever hear the real scoop about how Preston Tucker got royally shafted all because his car was a serious threat to the Big Three auto makers in Detroit. There were only 53 Tucker Torpedos made before the company went bust. Of those 53, 47 still exist and are owned by collectors. The last one bought that I've been able to find any info about was sold at auction in 2012, and went for $2.195 million. Wow! The original price was $2500.
Preston Tucker was a very innovative young guy. He got a job as a police officer when very young, but he got fired because of taking a blow torch to the area under the dashboard to make a hole through the firewall. Why on earth would he do that? Because he'd figured out all the heat the engine makes could heat the interior of the car if it was let in. I admit the way he went about this was not really smart. But it amazes me that no one had ever thought about that before Preston Tucker.
In WWII Preston invented something that truly changed everything for the allies. His invention was the movable turret for the guns on our airplanes and boats. Prior to his invention a plane or boat could only shoot its guns in the direction they were immovably oriented. With movable turrets, planes and boats could shoot in all directions thus being able to defend themselves from other planes or boats coming at them from all angles. Such a simple invention really and yet so profound it changed everything!
After the war was over, Preston tried to get financially compensated for his invention to no avail even after years of pursuing what was owed him in court. This was unfortunately how Preston Tucker's life went for the most part. He had a great mind which created things constantly but others made the money off of his inventions or were so threatened by his cutting edge innovations they felt they had to shut him down.
Before WWII Preston had sold cars. He'd worked at Ford on the assembly line. He made race cars and even came up with plans for military aircraft and armored vehicles. This guy was really something. After WWII market research discovered that more than 80% of Americans wanted to buy a new car. Preston, of course, having already made race cars and knowing how cars were manufactured decided to make a car that was more amazing than any other car that existed to this point.
Since he was unsuccessful in getting financially compensated for his invention of gun turrets, he raised money to start his new car making company by issuing stock and offering buyers a guaranteed opportunity to buy one of his cars once they began to be made. Why would people pay him in advance for a car that hadn't even been made yet? The reason was for what these cars were going to have. They were going to be aerodynamic to slip through the air with less resistance compared to the typical box-front shape of other cars of the time.
Another reason is there was a lot of shady stuff going on at car dealerships after WWII. You'd have to pay them money so they'd put you on a list to be able to buy a car. The problem is this list was a very fluid thing. People would get moved way down the list all the time as others who could pay more moved to the top of the list. There were thousands and thousands of people that paid to be on these lists that never were able to buy a car.
In order to do something about this, Preston Tucker had folks pay him money in advance to buy a component of the car, normally the radio. These components were numbered to correspond to a specific car he would later build for you. In this way you got the specific car to which the radio belonged. People were very glad to pay him that money up front instead of paying money to be on a list of some slimy car dealership that often just kept the money without ever selling the person a car.
Here's a list of the features for the Tucker Torpedo, all of which were brand new ideas in 1948.
•Four wheel independent suspension
•A user-friendly instrument panel
•A padded dash
•Rotating headlights that saw around curves
•A crash frame similar to today’s unibody construction
•Direct drive torque converters instead of a conventional transmission
•A power train that could be removed and replaced in half an hour
•A parking brake locked by a separate key to discourage theft
The Big Three automakers in Detroit felt threatened and so they did what all corporations do to competition. They went about destroying Preston Tucker. Historians argue this wasn't the case, but believe me when I tell you I heard a lot about this from Kim Tucker and her hubby. According to Kim Tucker, these Detroit car companies used their money and political contacts to both ruin Tucker’s name and attempt to have him imprisoned on fraud charges. It seems crazy to think they tried to put Preston away because he sold stock in the company he was creating. It's totally normal practice for a business to get financial backing.
This whole legal crap was done by Otto Kerner, Jr., US attorney for the northern district of Illinois. This went on for quite sometime which drained Preston Tucker of tons of money to defend himself. There actually was no evidence at all about fraud no matter how much Mr. Kerner tried to prove it. Eventually the entire case against Preston fell apart, but Mr. Tucker was so thoroughly drained financially and emotionally he simply gave up his dream of building cars in the USA. He knew the Big Three just wouldn't let that happen. He moved to Brasil and tried to build cars there, but that venture never got off the ground.
Otto Kerner, Jr. later became the Governor of Illinois from 1961-1968 and ironically was found guilty in 1973 of 17 charges including perjury, bribery, and stock fraud. All of these things were exactly what he was trying to pin on Preston Tucker to no avail.
Preston tinkered around the remaining days of his life creating new and better things. He died young at age 53 from lung cancer. You can read more about Preston Tucker here: http://en.wikipedia.org/... There is also a movie about him. I've never seen it and must check if it's on NetFlix.
What's Up? What ya want to talk about, the upcoming Pot Bowl?
Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate.
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