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The Mystery Tucker 48s

Burned. Boxed. Buried. Warning, this story may make your stomach churn. While I’ve long been a fan of the Tucker story and the cars, this installment of that Tucker tale has evaded me, until now. I dove into this rabbit hole as soon as I laid eyes on old photos of a crispy 1948 Tucker 48 floating around the web. It wasn’t long before I learned this Tucker, one of 51 completed at the factory, ended up buried in someone’s yard. Chances are, it’s nothing but rust at this point, but if you’re on the hunt for a missing Tucker, you’re in luck.

Tucker 1023 before the fire. (TACA)

The Burned Tucker

Above & top: 1023 after the fire (TACA)

On September 29, 1978, as Tucker 1023 was awaiting restoration in a Florida warehouse, a fire broke out. The devastation was fast and fierce, turning the once beautiful machine into barbecue fit for a robot king. After it sat outside for two more years, Richard Jones, a Tucker historian, came to see the car. He took note of what the car could possibly offer and struck a deal to bring it home. Unfortunately, a restoration was not in the cards. Jones removed any salvageable Tucker parts and then sent the car to the crusher. When the cubical hulk of metal returned to his property it received a proper burial. Today, a two-car garage sits atop the poor Tucker’s remains. The whereabouts of this Tucker may be known, but others, not so much.

The history of Tucker 1023 led me to another Tucker mystery, that of the missing parts of 1027, the car which rolled at Indy during endurance testing. While many components of this Tucker, including its engine, rear bumper, doors, and seats, were used in other restorations or went into private collections, the location of its body and chassis remain unknown. Next time you’re cruising around the Midwest and catch a glimmer of metal in an old barn, perhaps go take a look. You never know what you’ll find.

The Missing Tucker

Then there is Tucker 1042. According to the Tucker Automobile Club of America (TACA), it is the only truly missing Tucker. The story goes that in 1960 a cop discovered it in terrible shape, resting in the weeds along the Mississippi River outside of Memphis, Tennessee. The officer towed to his rental property, what he intended to do with it remains unseen. Not long after he got the car home, a motorcycle accident sent him to the hospital for an extended stay. As he recovered, his Tucker disappeared. One theory involves the cop’s landlord hauling the heap of metal to the crusher, but no documentation of such an event exists. This car could very well be out there. Unfortunately, it is more likely that bits of its metal now make up your Toyota Camry.

The Tucker Convertible

One of the more current Tucker mysteries is more of a debate than anything: is the one-of-one Tucker 48 convertible authentic? While the TACA doesn’t endorse it as a real Tucker, it doesn’t say it isn’t either. Apparently built from Tucker 48 chassis and sedan number 1057, the convertible is touted by its builder as a top secret project of Preston Tucker. Finally completed from various parts in 2010, the Tucker convertible is now for sale for $2,199,000. At the time of writing, it appears this is the only Tucker of any sort for sale. Don’t worry, it’s been listed for several years in various places, so you have surely time to figure out the financials (read: win the lottery).

The authenticity of the Tucker convertible is questionable. (Accelerate Auto Group)

I, like many enthusiasts, have dreamed of finding a long lost automotive gem. A Tucker, the James Dean Porsche, the missing Bugatti Atlantic, a Vega… any will do. The chase is the thrill! Anyone have any good automotive mysteries to share?