Not very many hot rod builder achieve the status of “coachbuilder”, but one shop in New Jersey has by pursuing a dream passed down through three generations. Rob Ida of Rob Ida Concepts, along with his father Bob, is creating the first ever Tucker Torpedo concept car. With only fifty original Tucker automobiles produced in 1948, they have become some of the most highly sought after and collectible American made cars. The Tucker Torpedo concept car was never built and currently exists only as a scale model in the Peterson Automotive Museum.
The task that Rob has undertaken is fueled by a passion starting with his grandfather, Joe Ida. In 1948 Joe started a Tucker dealership in Yonkers, New York which was only open for three days when the Tucker brand folded. Joe sold one hundred and thirty cars in this short time but never took delivery of the goods and was forced to refund each customer’s money. Joe was even unable to obtain a model for himself and spent the rest of his life wishing he had. The Tucker created quite a stir when Preston Tucker introduced the space age design as it incorporated revolutionary concepts from racing and aircraft technology. The sleek aerodynamic shape and unique features such as disc brakes, rear mounted engine, independent suspension, pop out windshield and a third headlight made this car a stand out in it’s day intended to put the big three auto makers out of business. The auto makers responded with negative publicity and dirty politics that cast much suspicion on the start up company and led to the investors pulling out and ultimately the demise of the company. See the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)” for the Hollywood version of this story.
Rob Ida Concepts has produced five 1948 Tucker replicas to date utilizing composite body panels, hand fabricated components and modern Cadillac drivetrains, but the Tucker Torpedo will be different. The Tucker Torpedo was the concept that Preston Tucker originally wanted to build and was featured in most of the advertising when the brand was announced to the public. The body of this car is being built entirely out of aluminum, formed with an English wheel. The wooden buck used as a pattern was created by scanning the original hand sculpted plaster model from 1946. This scan was then dissected and used to create full size plywood profiles that fit together to ultimately form the three-dimensional shape of the car. Thousands of hours of work will go into this project before it is completed and literally miles will be put on the MetalAce English Wheel in the metal shaping process.
Stay tuned as this project progresses with completion of the Tucker Torpedo currently slated for sometime in 2015. Based on the excitement already surrounding this build and the Ida family, the launch of this one off car should do justice to Preston Tucker and that of original Tucker ’48.