Preston Tucker’s story contains more than the one big “What if?” We know he planned to build a revolutionary rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive sedan with state of the art components. He even managed to build 51 of the Tucker ‘48s, the car of tomorrow, but he had ideas for other cars that never saw the light of day What if the company had survived a few more years? Would there have been other revolutionary products produced by the Tucker Corporation?
Tucker left behind some clues which now reside in the archives of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. One particularly interesting find there was the description of the Tucker “Excelsior,” a proposed ¾ ton truck. We don’t know much about the idea other than what is found on a single-page brochure of sorts with a drawing of the vehicle and some details on how the vehicle might have be configured. Other than that small taste, it does not appear that much more became of the idea. But, as with all things Tucker, the Excelsior was a fascinating idea.
From the rendering, the most obvious feature is how the “New All Loading Above Frame Design” was radically different from a typical pickup truck. The Excelsior had a narrow cab which sat off-center, to the left. It would allow for cargo to be placed alongside the cab as well as in the bed in the back of the vehicle. This would allow for easier loading and safer weight distribution according to Tucker. It would also give the vehicle more cargo area, presumably at the cost of passenger room in the cab.
The pamphlet also described the proposed powertrain and suspension – to an extent – although there is no indication that anything was done with the project other than to imagine it and create a single drawing. The proposed vehicle was going to have a flat-four, independent suspension all the way around, and either a manual or automatic transmission, depending on what the buyer wanted.
Keeping with Tucker’s style, the written description of the proposed vehicle was a bit over the top. “This is the first major improvement made on a pickup since the beginning of such vehicles. Not only a safer unit but also a more practical loading for balance and weight distribution.” Bullet points hinted at other advantages but did not explain exactly how this design would provide them. Safety, cost, ride and a longer “life” of the vehicle were all touted.
We’ll never know how close the Excelsior came to production. But the eccentricity of the Excelsior’s design – the narrow cab and the payload area down the passenger side of the truck – would have seemed at home on a dealer lot alongside the Tucker ’48 with its Cyclops center headlight.
What could have been.
Steve Lehto is a writer and from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include , and . He also has a where he talks about these things.