As it is the case with pretty much any industrial sphere, auto industry too is – when it’s all said and done – simply a business. And many business ventures are threaded by often unexpected turn of events which may or may not influence their outcome. Being one of the largest and most important industries overall, auto industry has given us thousands upon thousands of nameplates over more than century of production. Needless to say, with so many models and automakers around; some of their ventures were bound to end up with undesired consequences. This time we’re reflecting on vehicles that missed production by a whisker, or ended up axed at their very beginnings. All of them were promised as more or less revolutionary vehicles and hopes were correspondingly high. When it came to crunch time, however, those promises were broken and we never got to see or enjoy the results.
Tucker 48 remains one of the biggest automotive what-ifs to this day. Most automakers back in the day thought about playing it safe and continued production where they left off before the war. Preston Tucker had a different vision. He intended to revolutionize the market and eliminate the technological status quo that’s become a routine after the WWII. All his hopes and dreams were aimed at Tucker 48 – innovative sedan with safety features galore. With safety and new technology being the emphasis, Tucker 48 was supposed to get the standard disc brakes, four wheel independent suspension, fuel injection, numerous crumple zones, safety cage and all instruments at hand’s reach. Mind you, that was way back in 1948. Sadly, Tucker’s dream never became a reality. Instead, it became one of automotive industry’s unfulfilled promises.
Before introduction, Tucker 48 was supposed to be marketed with a $1,000 sticker. After it was made, though, selling price stood at $2,450. And all that without cornerstone features like the fuel injection, disc brakes, and direct drive transmission. These had to be dropped or Tucker 48 would have been much more expensive. Even the way it was, it was already out of average Joe’s reach. Only 51 units were made before the company folded due to bad image created by media at the time. Preston Tucker was brought to court for alleged stock fraud by Securities and Exchange Commission. Although SEC failed to prove their case, and Tucker was acquitted of all charges, the company never recovered and become extinct by March 3, 1949.
In the end, Tucker 48 powered by 166-horsepower Aircooled Motors’ horizontally opposed flat-six ended up being one very fine car that goes for seven digits today. Since only 51 of them were made, it’s not hard to figure out why this is the case. Tucker even bough Aircooled Motors in order to secure the supply of engines for his own company. Needless to say, aircraft engine producer needed to cancel most of their then-current contracts, and they held no less than 65% of the post-war US aviation market’s demand at that time. The irony is that in one fell swoop, Tucker doomed, not one, but two companies as Aircooled Motors never recovered from this imposed short absence from the market.