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1948 Tucker

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SAN FRANCISCO:  This beautiful pale yellow Tucker is owned by Bev Ferreira of San Francisco. Ferreira was practically raised in a garage. His father, John, started working on bicycles and motorcycles in the Pacific Northwest around 1910. He soon learned to repair and maintain farm machinery and truck fleets. One of San Francisco's premier department stores, The White House, lured the senior Ferreira to the city to maintain the store's fleet of delivery trucks in 1918.

By 1920, the White House Garage had moved to 3rd and Geary in the Richmond District and John had become an independent contractor for the department store and was taking on additional work. This successful operation continued in various locations until 1985, long after The White House store went out of business and its beautiful building was demolished.

Bev started working around dad's shop while just a tyke and was cleaning and fueling the trucks at the Larabaru bakery as an after school job by the age of 14. He worked at his dad's shop both before and after the war and then opened his own garage in the Cow Hollow district in 1955.

Bev's Auto Repair, though a general repair facility, became a well-known repairer of antique and classics. Bev was willing to scout down parts and sort out Rube Goldberg mechanicals. This garage was in full swing until Bev retired in 1970, though he's done a lot of parts chasing for former customers since.

The Tucker itself is a piece of San Francisco history. Thought to have been a factory demonstrator used for cross-country excursions, it had racked up 90,000 miles by 1954, when it was purchased by the Sutro Museum at the Cliff House. There it sat on the museum floor among the artifacts of Tom Thumb and his wife as well as an assortment of out of tune nickelodeons. The museum pieces were removed and stored in the mid-'60s and the building burned to the ground a while later.

In 1970, Bev and Dorthy heard about an auction of the old Sutro collection and went looking for antiques. They came home with a Tucker. Bev states, "I'd never even seen a Tucker before, I don't remember if I'd even heard of one. It was clean inside and seemed pretty complete." The car was delivered to Bev's "hobby" shop on Magnolia St. for inspection.

The compression was great and a new condensor was all that was needed to get the car on the road. Bev drove the car daily for over three weeks sorting and tuning until he was satisfied enough to disassemble the car for a partial restoration.

The interior was, and still is, in remarkable original condition. Only the carpeting had to be replaced. Everything else still looks near new. An interesting fact about Tuckers is that the front and back seats are interchangeable. This not only cut production costs but would allow the owner to exchange seats when the driver's seat began to wear, a bit like rotating tires!

While the engine was deemed acceptable, the Cord based transmission and vacuum actuated pre-select shifter needed attention. Bev maintains that the trans was too weak for the Tucker's power, " it wasn't even very good for the Cord!" He found parts to rebuild it from a Cord shop in Kansas. The all rubber suspension was disintegrating so Bev located a, now deceased, Tucker enthusiast in San Diego that had contracted a small number of re-vulcanized underpinnings. After this was installed, the car was fitted with some wide whitewalls and more authentic hubcaps.

The Tucker's body was straightened and re-sprayed yellow. All of the chrome and rubber was removed, save for the absolutely unavailable windscreen and backlight seals that were left intact. The bumpers and trim were replated before reassembly. After the final assembly, the Tucker was ready to roll.

And roll it has. Bev and Dorthy have put on an additional 30,000 miles since restoration bringing the total to 120,000 miles. Its longest trip to date has been to San Diego and they've made two trips to Las Vegas. In fact, on the Tucker's first trip to Vegas was where Bev learned about a major difference between the Tucker's aircraft based and standard automotive engines.

The car consumed copious amounts of oil. Upon return to SF, Bev pulled the engine down and discovered a lack of even provisions for oil control rings. Seems that airplanes are always under power (or they'd fall) and never encounter the oil sucking condition that exists when one is decelerating in a car. Bev found some proper automotive pistons and rebuilt the flat six. Though it's run well since, a brand new "in-the-crate" Tucker engine was located and purchased as a backup.

Most of the long distance mileage was done on Interstate 5 where Bev cruises along at 80 mph plus but has goosed the Tucker to 120 or so and swears there was even more on hand. Most of the time this writer put in the car was on the streets of San Francisco where speed runs are near impossible.

The Classic Drive

Turn on the ignition and you're greeted by the ticking of the non-standard electric fuel pump Bev has fitted for quicker more positive starting. Hit the starter and the Tucker roars to life. The engine produces an aircraft-like syncopated popping that settles down to a loud whir similar to that found on a Corvair or six-cylinder Porsche until it warms. Getting a cold pre-select gearbox into reverse is a bear, but soon we are out of the garage and onto the street. As the engine reaches operating temperature the engine gets even quieter. It's obviously a six, but light years ahead of any of its contemporaries.

The size of this car is deceiving. The Tucker looks huge until you walk up to it and realize how low it is. When you finally get it into perspective you discover that it's not much bigger than a Studebaker except for the long, wide aft section covering the big six. The styling except for the tapering fastback top, looks a lot like cars that were produced a decade later. The interior is incredible. The quality of the materials and the fit and finish is way above average. Though a bit spartan, this is definitely an up- market car. The original plastic faceplate on the instrument "pod" in front of the driver is still spotless.

It's hard not to try to draw comparisons with the Corvair since both cars have whirring sixes, 60% of the weight on the tail and very light and direct non-power steering. The difference is that the Tucker is a bigger, heavier car that was built at a quality level that could not be afforded the cost conscious little Chevy. The Tucker rides smoothly and softly without that large "lumbering" feel that plagues most mid-market cars of the late '40s.

Yes, this is a car that was well ahead of its time. It is said that Preston Tucker and his boys had their own transmission developed and one of the remaining cars is actually fitted with an experimental automatic. Tucker also had disc brakes in the works.

It is doubtful that the Tucker Motor Company, even if they had been able to put this car into serious production, would have lived through the 1953 "big three" price wars that killed Kaiser-Fraser and Willys and wrought havoc on Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Packard. Though it's academic, it's interesting to speculate of how far ahead in time Preston Tucker could have pushed his car until the beancounters pulled the plug.

While the Ferreira's also own a '56 Bird, a pair of pre-war Packards, and a mint '57 Ford Ranchero, the Tucker is obviously the "crown jewel" of their collection. It was featured in the Tucker film and has been displayed at a number of local shows and the International Auto show at Moscone Center in San Francisco. By Rick Feibusch AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Byline:  By Rick Feibusch AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   Classic Drive
Topic:  1948 Tucker
Word Count:   1340
Photo Caption:  1948 Tucker
Photo Credits:  Rick Feibusch
Series #:   1999 - 31








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