The Tucker, still an enigma


The short film Tucker: The Man and the Car (not to be confused with Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which debuted 40 years later) introduced the Tucker 48 to American audiences in the fall of 1948. A silver Tucker, chassis 1029, starred in the original film, and with good reason: It reputedly was the automobile selected by Preston Tucker for his personal use. Sold at auction recently, Tucker 48 chassis 1029 crossed the auction block at the RM Sotheby’s sale in Arizona, where it sold for a fee-inclusive $1.79.

Prior to 1029’s time with the Tucker family, it was used for high-speed testing and development of the chassis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Tuckers kept the car from 1948 until 1955, and during this time it reportedly appeared in home movies and was driven to early Classic Car Club of America events. In 1955, Preston Tucker sold the car to Winthrop Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller’s younger brother and then-chairman of the Arkansas Industrial Development Corporation. Later, from 1967-’71, Winthrop Rockefeller would serve as governor of Arkansas.

By his election, however, Rockefeller had long since parted with the Tucker. In 1959, chassis 1029 was offered for sale by Albert Gayson of Los Angeles, and Gayson sold the car to a Max Novak of Omaha, Nebraska. Novak owned the Tucker until 1967, when it sold to British Motor Car Distributors, the San Francisco dealership owned by Kjell Qvale. Its next owner of record was Jack Bart, a car collector perhaps best known as the long-time representative of singer James Brown.

Bart owned the car for more than 20 years, and during this time it appeared on the big screen in 1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream. A year after the film’s release it sold to Todd Werby, who temporarily exhibited the car in the Blackhawk Museum, and it remained with Werby until acquired by the consignor in 2005.

As offered for sale, the car displayed 19,199 miles on the odometer, believed to be original. Repainted and reupholstered during Bart’s ownership, the car was accompanied by a history file compiled by marque expert Jay Follis, detailing its history and ownership over the decades. Described by the auction house as “the ultimate Tucker automobile, the final selling price exceeded the pre-auction estimate of $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

Other lots in the RM Sotheby’s Arizona top-10 included a 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra S/C, which sold for $2.95 million; a 1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso, which sold for $1.68 million; a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II, which sold for $1.4 million; a 2017 Ferrari F12tdf, which sold for $1.33 million; a 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Speciale, which sold for $1.27 million; a 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe, which sold for $1.19 million; a 1987 Porsche 959 Komfort, which sold for $1.16 million; a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, which sold for $1.08 million; and a 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra, which sold for $995,000. If I had the money, the 427 Cobra would be in my garage. We are really starved for ‘class’ motor cars, I am afraid.