Tucker created little more than memories

It was dawn on Labor Day 1947, my last day of freedom before beginning classes in the seventh grade at East Junior High. Dad and I climbed into our 1947 Chevy and drove to Rocky Santo’s place to pick him up for the ride to Cleveland. (Some of you, dear readers, will recognize Rocky as my hero barber who gave me my first haircut.) We were going to the 1947 Cleveland National Air Races for its second annual postwar event.

On the way, Rocky began to expound about a new automobile called the Tucker. He, another local barber, and maybe two other guys were going to open a Tucker dealership on South Street. They had invested heavily in the enterprise.

Wow! I had read in Mechanix Illustrated about this new futuristic wonder car, and we kids had talked excitedly about it. It had three headlights! Here I was, riding along with a guy who actually had seen a prototype at Preston Tucker’s premiere of it in Chicago!

Rocky spent the entire time we rode to the Cleveland municipal airport–now Cleveland Hopkins — talking in grandiose terms about this revolutionary new automobile. Dad was hooked. So was I, as if you didn’t know.

The air race was extremely exciting, with Cook Cleland winning the Thompson Trophy Race in a highly modified Goodyear F2G Corsair. On the way back home all three of us had two very exciting topics to talk about — but mostly about the Tucker.

Dad was so enthused that he bought seat covers, a radio and fitted luggage in the Tucker Accessories Program for a car he had never even seen. Much to Mom’s indulgent dismay, he had also invested money in the dealership.

At the barber shop, Rocky showed me a press kit about the Tucker. It had a trunk in the front, a pop-out windshield and an engine in the rear with an industry-leading 166 horsepower. The styling was very pleasing and ultra-modern. Here I was, the son of a guy who would soon own one of the first, if not the first Tucker to be delivered in Warren!

In the late spring of 1948, the much ballyhooed Tucker — a demonstrator — arrived in Warren. We hurried to the dealership. There it was! It had a beautiful, deep maroon finish, and six exhaust pipes! The engine burbled menacingly. Oh, be still my heart!

Since Dad was an investor, I had the privilege of getting a demonstration ride. I sat in the middle in the back. Even though I was nearly adult-sized, I could just barely see out over the high window sills. I was disappointed that it didn’t have the promised automatic transmission.

We drove from the dealership out Niles Road, turned around at Thomas Road, and returned. Hmm. Not too thrilling.

We patiently waited for Dad’s Tucker to be delivered. Meanwhile, the projected price kept going up. No car. Then there was some trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission that had alleged stock fraud. There would be no Tuckers other than about 50 early production vehicles. None of these cars would be Dad’s. Tucker folded on March 3, 1949.

Dad and I continued to get our hair cut at Rocky’s barber shop. Dad, who was always such a tease, would have Rocky give him a haircut, and just say “Thank you,” and leave without paying. However, rumor had it that Dad may have helped Rocky out just a bit in climbing out of that hole of debt that Tucker had left him in.

Just the other day, I drove by what I think was once the site of the Tucker dealership on South Street. It appears to be just an empty corner lot between Dollar General and Elm Road. I pulled into the Dollar General parking lot to take a long look. I thought I heard the deep-throated burble of that powerful Tucker engine. It was probably just a big truck going by.

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