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
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
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