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Alex Tremulis
Alex S. Tremulis (b. January 23, 1914 - d. December 29, 1991)
Associated Firms
Briggs Mfg. Co., Auburn, Tucker, Kaiser-Frazer, Ford

Although he’s primarily known for his work on Preston Tucker’s 1948 rear-engined automobile, during his 45 years in ‘the business’ Alex Tremulis worked on hundreds of automobile projects for over two-dozen clients and employers who included the Auburn Automobile Co., Briggs, Custom Motors Inc., Tammen and Denison, Crosley, American Bantam, Packard, Kaiser-Frazer, General Motors, the Ford Motor Co. and Subaru.

His talents as a first-rate illustrator came in handy while serving in the United States Army Air Corps during the Second World War, where, according to Lt. Col. C.E. Reichert, chief of the design branch at the Wright Field Aircraft Lab, Tremulis:

“Put life into dull three-view drawings [which] helped to sell many an airplane design” to the nation's top military chieftains.

Designer Audrey Moore Hodges praised him stating:

“Alex was just so far ahead. He was an absolute genius, and he could keep you spellbound for hours with his ideas.”

Design historian Penny Sparke recalled:

“His fertile imagination was clearly geared to space-age images, and it aligned him with much of the thinking in post-war car design.”

Tremulis spent his later years applying his aeronautical experience to racecars and advanced transportation systems. While working at Ford he taught a design course at Detroit’s Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts (later Center for Creative Studies - now College for Creative Studies or CCS). Later projects included designing land speed racecars, motorhomes and automotive accessories for Subaru. He was a frequent contributor to Road & Track Magazine, and was elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1982.

Alexander Sarantos Tremulis was born on January 23, 1914 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois to Sarantos Anastacious (b. Feb. 15, 1885-d. 1950) and Antoinette G. (Kokkinos, b.1894-d.1955) Tremulis, two Greeks from Sparta (now Sparti), Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Sarantos emigrated in 1898 and in 1908 he made a trip back home, returning with his new bride Antoinette. One of Alex’s 4 siblings, a brother named Socrates, died as an infant (b. Sep. 18, 1922-d. Jan. 7, 1923), while the other 3 lived survived into adulthood, those being a sister Ellie (b. Nov. 9, 1915-d. Aug. 14, 1981) and 2 brothers, Demosthenes Sarantos (aka ‘Dick,’ b. Nov.13, 1923-d. May 30, 2008) and Homer Sarantos (b. Jun. 21, 1928-d. Sep. 3, 2013) Tremulis.

The 1920 US Census lists the family at 4729 Talman Ave., in Chicago’s 26th Ward, 86th Precinct of Cook County, Illinois, his father’s occupation, physician (general surgeon/practitioner) with an office located at 162 N. State St., Chicago.

As a youngster Tremulis: “loved toy automobiles, planes and rocket ships. Everything else bored me.” His father Sarantos was an early automobilist, owning many of the fastest cars of the day:  Stutz, Mercer, and a Templar were just a few. Alex considered the latter to be the best looking of the bunch, however, his angry mother wondered aloud how the doctor was going to fit the growing family into the diminutive speedster, to which his father replied: "One at a time, mother. One at a time..."

His father’s home office was decorated with racecar photos which included a picture of Ralph DePalma pushing his Mercedes to the finish at the 1912 Indianapolis 500 and another of Tommy Milton setting a land speed record* in his streamlined Duesenberg in 1920. The later photo, taken by Richard H. LeSesne was captioned:

“Tommy Milton driving the 16 cylinder Duesenberg Special 1 mile in 23.07, a rate of 156 miles per hour on the Daytona Beach, Florida, 5 miles 2.00. Photo by LeSesne’.

(*Unfortunately Milton only completed one leg of the April 27, 1920 run as his Duesenberg caught fire at the end of the first. In order to be recognized internationally, a second run was required to make it official. However, the 156.046 mph speed would stand as the United States record, and wouldn’t be surpassed until 1926.)

Young Alex was fascinated by the latter photograph recalling:

“It was the darndest picture I ever saw and I could sit and look at it by the hour as the two men chatted. It was a picture of the great Tommy Milton, an early race car driver. He was setting a world speed record in a Duesenberg at Daytona Beach. There was something almost hypnotic about the picture and the car it depicted. I felt drawn to the very sharp nose of the racer, angled down to keep the front of the car right to the track. The appearance of the car made a lasting impression.”

Alex attended Chicago's Roosevelt High School and can be seen to the right in a 1931 class portrait – he’s the guy with the glasses in the middle of the 2nd row. In later years he boasted that he became a successful artist despite having failed his high school art class. After its opening in 1926, the Tremulis children worked as part-time ushers at Chicago's Oriental Theater, and Alex recalled meeting some of the great vaudevillians and movie stars of the day – his little brother Demosthenes even appeared onstage in a skit with Jimmy Durante. Alex also enjoyed visiting the dealerships that lined Michigan Ave., aka Chicago’s Motor Row; in particular those of the Stutz (2500 S. Michigan Ave. & 2012 S. Vernon Ave.) and Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg (2401 S. Michigan Ave & 343 N. Michigan Ave.) companies.

1930 US Census lists the family on Chicago’s affluent north side at 2739 Lunt Ave., (Chicago’s 3rd Ward, 50th Precinct of Cook County), Illinois. His father had relocated his practice to the second floor of the Loop Building, 177 N. State St., Chicago.

During his last semester in high school Tremulis built a streamlined Duesenberg scale model for the Chicago Duesenberg dealer located at 343 N. Michigan Ave. They like it so much they included it at their 1933 Chicago Auto Show (held Jan. 28 - Feb. 4, 1933) exhibit. Tremulis had christened the “Black Arrow,” most likely a reference to the picture of Tommy Milton’s 1920 Duesenberg racer that hung on his father’s wall.

While working at a grocery store after his 1933 graduaton, Tremulis began submitting unsolicited – and later, solicited – renderings of custom bodies to Don P. Hogan, the sales manager of the same Duesenberg showroom he had constructed the model for (343 N. Michigan Ave.). Hogan and Tremulis became friends, recalling:

“If it weren't for Don Hogan, I may never have become an automobile designer. Hogan was the greatest-ever salesman. He paid me $1.50 out of his own pocket for a pencil sketch and later $2.50 for each India ink rendering... He could call me at five o'clock in the evening, and I would deliver a rendering made to his specifications to him by nine o'clock the next morning.”

From then on, Alex got some fairly steady work doing very rapid renderings of Duesenbergs, somtimes in color for which he was paid $15. With some influence from an un-named benefactor Tremulis entered the General Motors Institute Training School after high school, however he lasted only a short six weeks as he was lacking the advanced mathematic and orthographic skills required for the program.

Despite this setback, for the next several years he worked at the 343 N. Michigan Ave. Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg branch as a part-time illustrator, stylist and showroom assistant. The latter position involved carefully moving cars in and out of the showroom, making deliveries and driving cars back and forth from the automaker’s various Indiana factories. It was in the latter post that he had the misfortune of being called in to meet Errett Lobban Cord. In a 1983 interview with Road & Track’s Tony Hogg he detailed the circumstances behind that eventful day:

“This particular episode remains clearly in Alex's mind, it occurred on a Sunday in September of 1935. Three Duesenbergs were being driven from Chicago to the factory in Indianapolis with Alex driving one of them. After a while, a race developed and they were all running at about 100 mph. Alex doesn't re-member who owned the three cars, except that one belonged to Mr. Sheaffer of the fountain pen company. Anyway, the lead car crested a hill, the driver saw people on the road in front and stopped. The second car arrived on the scene with Alex actually trying to pass it. The second car spun and blew a tire and Alex was forced to take to the countryside, where he jumped a ditch and rolled about six times.

“Meanwhile, all the sedate people who were on their way to church and had been nearly blown off the road by three thundering Duesenbergs, passed by shouting rude remarks, and one of them summoned the local fire department, which arrived on the scene and rescued Alex. While he was trapped in the car, Alex clearly remembers that the radio was playing a hit tune of the day - with words that went, ‘Sweet and slow, you ain't going to Buffalo, honey, take your time.’”

Despite the several thousand dollars that he had cost the automaker, he recalled that Cord was a reasonable man, and he ended up keeping his job, and soon after started working for the firm in a more direct capacity.

During 1934 and 1935 Duesenberg sold three A.H. Walker-built LaGrande Convertible Coupes (J530, J531 and J534) whose bodies featured modifications that originated with one of Tremulis’ Chicago showroom illustrations. In spite of his questionable driving skill, Tremulis other abilities brought him to the attention of Harold T. Ames who in December of 1935 offered him a job as a junior illustrator with Auburn’s engineering department, which was headed by Herbert T. Snow.

As the senior members of Auburn’s Art & Body Drafting Department* resigned or were let go during the coming year (1936), Tremulis was given more and more responsibility for design work and by the time Buehrig resigned on August, 28, Tremulis found himself in charge of Auburn styling and was tasked with applying the finishing touches on the 1937 Cord 812, which was little more than a re-numbered 1936 Cord 810.

(*At one time Gordon Buehrig’s Art & Color team consisted of Dick Robinson, Dale Cosper and Vince Gardner. Illustrator Paul Reuter-Lorenzen worked for both the engineering and Art & Color departments, as required. Philip O. Wright is sometimes listed as a staff member, but he actually worked for LeBaron – Briggs Mfg. Co., while J. Herbert Newport Jr. worked on his own designing Duesenberg coachwork in Indianapolis. Although many think it was a different company, back in 1929 Duesenberg became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Auburn Automobile Co. and although the two firm’s plants - Duesenberg in Indianapolis, Ind. and Auburn in Auburn, Indiana - were separate, its staff and assets were moved from one facility to the other as the need arose.)

Gordon M. Buehrig’s diary noted the exit of many of Auburn’s engineers and managers, most of whom left involuntarily:

“In re-reading my diary looking for clues I did see this note: ‘Date, May 4, 1936 - General house cleaning at the Auburn Company, Roy Faulkner put in command. Snow, Thomas, Ames and dozens of others were let go.’ Snow was Vice-President in charge of Engineering. Thomas was chief chassis engineer, replacing Kublin who had already left to be chief engineer of GM Overseas operation. Ames was Executive Vice-President of the company.”

Herbert C. Snow went to Checker Motors, Dale Cosper went to International Truck, Vince Gardner accompanied Buehrig to Budd and Dick Robinson went to Central Mfg.’s body drafting department. Paul Reuter-Lorenzen held on for a couple more months but eventually took an illustration job at US Steel. At the start of 1937 only two designers/illustrators; Tremulis and J. Herbert Newport - who was still working on Duesenberg coachwork in Indianapolis - remained.

Paul Reuter-Lorenzen clearly influenced Tremulis burgeoning illustrative skills and by the time he left Auburn in August of 1937 Tremulis was a very capable artist whose skill with the airbrush became legendary. While today’s airbrush artists use frisket (a self-adhering film whose adhesive leaves no residue when removed) to mask successive layers of color, Tremulis used a French curve, triangle and straight edge to guide the spray of his instruments. Buehrig briefly mentioned Tremulis during his lengthy 1966 interview with the A-C-D Club’s Ron Irwin:

Irwin: "Who was head of styling after you left Auburn? Or was there no longer a styling department"

Buehrig: "I don't know. I don't know if there was anyone there or not. Herb Newport was at Duesenberg in January of 1929 and I was there until around January of 1933. Then I left and went to G. M. for about six months. Phil Derham was body engineer at that time and Herb Newport, a designer, was a friend of his. Herb came, and Herb was there I believe, a little while before I left and went back to G.M. He was still there when I came back from G.M. When I came back from G.M. I didn't work on the model J at all. All I did was the new small job. Herb was doing the design work for the model J then. He did a coupe for Eli Lilly and some of that stuff for Ab Jenkins for the salt flats and things of that sort. Alex Tremulis was there for a little while, but I can't recall when he was there and what he did.* I don't think Alex worked for me when I was there, I think he worked for Herb. He was at Auburn for a little while but, he was not there when we did the Cord. Ames hired him, and it seems as if he was there about the second year and whether he was still there when I left or not I just don't remember."

(*22 years later Buehrig revisited the subject in a letter to the editor of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club Newsletter.)

Prior to leaving Auburn, Buehrig and Herb Newport were involved in developing the front-end design for a proposed new Duesenberg. Known internally as the E-300 project, Herb Snow was in charge of the drivetrain and 148” chassis which was to be power by a supercharged V-12 Lycoming engine. To save money Auburn outsourced the design and construction of the prototype coachwork to LeBaron’s Philip O. Wright who came up with 5 different body styles. After Snow and Buehrig left, the project was put on hiatus during which time LeBaron delivered the five completed sample bodies to Connersville, where they were relegated to an unused portion of the factory.

The Beverly sedan was the only body style to undergo extensive changes for the 1937 model year and one of Tremulis first projects was fitting it with a built-in bustle-back trunk which mimicked the bolt-on accessory trunk lids that were offered as an accessory in 1936. The option appeared after 810 sedan buyers complained of the scanty trunk space. Tremulis redesigned the rear-end sheet metal to integrate with the new lid. The new shape made it necessary to move the tail-lamps from the trunk lid to the body and if you open a bustle-back trunk lid you can clearly see where the larger trunk assembly was welded over the existing deck lid opening. Tremulis later commented that the accessory made the beautiful sedan look like it was wearing a knapsack.

Another project Tremulis was connected with was the extended-wheelbase Cord 812 Custom Berlines. The Custom Berline’s rear compartment was fitted with a wind-up division glass behind the front seats indicating it was intended to be chauffeur-driven. Un-supercharged cars had a plain rear console, with ashtray and cigarette lighter while supercharged versions added a wood vanity and cigarette case, radio speaker, and an intercom.

Tremulis was responsible for the final design of the Custom Berline’s interior recalling that in order to cut costs, the supercharged version’s intercom and radio speaker bezels were the same as the dome lights, albeit with cloth substituted for the glass lens. The ‘bustle-back’ trunk found on the budget-priced Beverlys were also available on the long wheelbase Customs, and in fact the long wheelbase became an extra-cost ($415) option on the Beverly, albeit with no divider. Although broadcloth was standard, numerous Customs were fitted with leather rear compartments and several included a window in the normally blanked rear C-pillar (designated style C-101).

Tremulis discussed the extended-wheelbase Cord 812s in the February 1968 issue of the ACD Club Newsletter:

“The Berlines were raised in height some two inches. Their added height was compensated for by the increased 5-inch longer wheelbase with the result that employees had great difficulty in determining which was what. It was quite amusing watching the employees counting the louvres. Note the 8th louvre was added to compensate for the 2-inch increase in height.

“Several of these cars were built with a division glass for the chauffeur. We built three very attractive Berlines with a cabinet behind the chauffeur division. Some idea of the Spartan ingenuity is evidenced by the rear speaker to the chauffeur and the rear radio speaker which I fashioned from the bezels of the rear interior lights, substituting cloth for the lights. Mr. Singleton, our electrical engineer was horrified. He maintained that an 8-inch speaker was the absolute minimum. I stubbornly stood my ground. What looks good is good, besides where was Ito find an 8-inch bezel with the Auto Show only 7 days away? Mr. Singleton rose to the occasion and made the first breakthrough in electronics miniaturization. His 3-inch radio speaker which I am convinced he fashioned from a drinking cup, amazed all of us with its quality of tone which actually surpassed the performance of the 8-inch speaker. I shall always credit Mr. Singleton as the inspired genius made possible the current Japanese invasion of miniaturized, transistorized pocket radios.”

Although they were generally well-received, Gordon M. Buehrig was not so enthusiastic about the “Custom” series, which he considered a bastardization of his “pure” 810 design. He discussed the subject with Ron Irwin in 1966:

Irwin: "Did you have anything to do with the long wheelbase cars or were those made after you left?"

Buehrig: "No, I was there. I was against that idea. This was a decision that management made. It probably was a result of complaints that the car was not long enough in the rear seat. I felt the proportions were not as good with the longer wheelbase and also making it higher. I am sure it was a result of criticism that the car in the price class it was in didn't have enough room in it for some people's taste.”

Neither long-wheelbase model appeared at Auburn’s display at the November 1936 New York Automobile Show as it hadn’t yet entered into production. One car that did was the new supercharged Cord 812. In numerous interviews and speaking events Tremulis told an exciting story detailing how he drove the exhaust-pipe-equipped Cord from Connersville to New York just in time, switched it with the non-pipe equipped cars on display, and of a discussion that ensued with Auburn President Roy Faulkner, as to why he (Faulkner) hadn’t been told about the pipes. He also claimed the supercharged 812s were also a surprise to E.L. Cord who first set eyes on the cars at the November, 1936 New York Auto Show. The car’s namesake pointed to the medallion on the differential cover and said:

“My name is on that car; why hadn't I been notified that these two cars were being built?”

Apparently Cord thought the exposed exhaust tubes were fake; and was relieved when Tremulis assured him they were in fact very real.

Tremulis repeated parts of the preceding story in the October 1968 issue of the A-C-D Club Newsletter while commenting on a photograph he had been sent by the Newsletter’s editor that showed a supercharged Cord 812 flanked by 3 individuals - Lou R. Jones (at left), Roy H. Faulkner (center) and A.H. “Bert” McGinnis, (at right):

“I shall never forget this picture. It was taken upon the triumphal return of one of the two supercharged Cords from the New York Auto Show of 1937, where its impact literally shook the earth. It was really the only contribution I made on the Cord. It is quite an interesting story. Ten days before the Auto Show I had convinced Roy Faulkner that the supercharged Cord would be a natural with an exposed exhaust manifold - a la Duesenberg. Instead of louvering the hood sides with Auburn ‘egg crating’, which was the most expedient route to take at the time, by throwing out the expansion chamber, I could reroute the exhaust system and force the exhaust out both sides of the hood. Sure, it would be noisy but supercharged Cords should not only be seen but they should be heard as well. He was exuberant but regretted that we didn’t have time and that perhaps next spring we could build one for Mr. Cord’s personal appraisal. Roy left immediately for New York. I walked into the experimental garage then headed by the legendary Augie Duesenberg. I said “Augie can you build three of these from scratch and have them in New York in 10 days? We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let’s rattle everybody’s cage and see what happens!” Augie said: “Let’s do it. It’s like building Indy cars again!” Well, Augie did it as no one in the world could have done. On the eighth day we got the shock of our lives. We were told that it would take 3 days by freight to ship the cars to New York. Augie worked forty hours straight through and figured we could make it in time by driving the cars to New York in 14 hours. Well, we all made it. It was sheer murder, especially for Augie. He wasn’t exactly a kid in 1937. We got the cars polished just as the show opened. When Roy first saw the cars he was simply flabbergasted and became deeply emotional with tears in his eyes. He was accompanied at the moment by Richard Bonnelli the famous opera singer who pulled out his check book and said: “Roy, how much? I want the first one!” Roy replied: “How in hell do I know what it costs? We haven’t even built it yet! If I ever wake up from this dream I’ll try to figure out something.” Bonnelli kissed me on both cheeks, called me “Maestro” which is as high as you can get in Italy and invited me back stage at the only opera that I have ever attended. Roy put his arms around me and said: “Kid, what am I paying you?” I replied: “$150 a month Mr. Faulkner.” Well kid as of now its $175 a month and what’s more you’re worth every cent of it!” Roy treated me like a king for a week. He had Man Mountain Dean the wrestler take me to a stupid play called the Wrestler and the Lady. Man Mountain enjoyed the play immensely and practically broke all my ribs on my right side elbowing me to death with his fits of laughter! What a way to make a living! Well anyway, I put those pipes on Gordon Buehrig’s Masterpiece and believe me, members of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club, I’m glad! (regards, Alex Tremulis)”

Some controversy surrounds exactly which November 1936 National Automobile Show the external exhaust-equipped (aka be-piped) supercharged 1937 Cord 812 sedan prototype was displayed and whose idea it was.

For decades the A-C-D Club and community took Tremulis account of the be-piped Cord’s debut at the November 1936 New York Automobile Show as fact. That was until late 1988 when Gordon M. Buehrig sent the following letter to the editor of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Newsletter which was subsequently published in Vol. XXXVI, No. 10 (1988) as follows, starting off with “I Beg To Differ” and ending with “So the question is, what did Alex do?”:

“Gordon M. Buehrig, 10189 W. Pineaire Drive, Sun City, Arizona 85351, Phone (602) 977-2149; 762 Lochmoor Blvd., Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan 48236, Phone (313) 881-8996

“I Beg To Differ

“September 23, 1988

“Dear Jim and my dear friends in the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club:

“The following is a very difficult article for me to write. It is about Alex Tremulis whom many of you know and are aware of the fact that he has lost his eye-sight.

“Many of you have seen the TUCKER movie which incidentally is a most entertaining bit of celluloid fiction. Alex is in it and he receives full credit for his work in designing the car. This pleased me but I am a little disappointed that the actor who portrayed Alex was a little dull. I suppose the actor who played Tucker did not want anyone else to steal a scene. Any of you who know Alex will agree that he is never dull. The movie has had tremendous media coverage and most of it is very inaccurate.

“The particular piece that prompts this letter is in the September 19 issue of People Magazine. I will repeat the one paragraph in the story that makes this letter necessary:

“‘Alex Tremulis, the man who designed the venerated 812 super-charged Cord, simply walked in the door and offered his services. By working 110 hours a week and by ruthlessly cutting corners, Tremulis and his team knocked off the job in 100 days.’

“Alex did not design the 812 super-charged Cord and I am getting tired of hearing this falsehood. When I saw this in the magazine I called Julie Greenwalt in the Detroit office of People magazine. She told me that Kristina Johnson of the Los Angeles office had interviewed Alex. She confirmed that she got the false information direct from him.

“As you all know the 810 and 812 Cords are identical and the numbers merely tell whether they were sold as 1936 or 1937 models. The super-charged engine was not ready in 1936 and was therefore only sold in 1937.

“I have never claimed that I designed these cars without assistance and I have always shared credit with the other four fellows in the design department. When I was moved from Duesenberg in Indianapolis, where I had just designed the proposed "Baby Duesenberg" to Auburn, to face lift the 1934 model, creating the 1935 model and the super-charged boat-tail speedster, I inherited two co-workers. One was an illustrator, Paul Laurenzen, and a body draftsman, Dick Robinson. I also hired two model builders, Vince Gardner who had just graduated from high school and Dale Cosper who had just graduated from Tri-State Engineering college.

“After doing the 1935 Auburn work, we designed the 810-812 Cord. I believe Alex had taken advantage, over the last few years of the fact that everyone who worked at Auburn at the time and could refute his claim of involvement are dead.

“For instance, one of his favorite stories is that he became Director of the Design Department after I left the company.

“The truth is that there was no design department at the time I left. Dale Cosper had taken a job in Fort Wayne as a body engineer for International Harvester truck division. Paul Laurenzen had taken a job as an illustrator for a steel company in Pittsburg. Dick Robinson went back to body drafting and Vince went with me to the Budd company in Detroit.

“Frankly the last few weeks that I was with the company was a period of living hell. All engineering and administration personnel (which included all who had not yet found a real job elsewhere) were moved to Connersville where we were put up in a roach infested hotel. My brother-in-law, Skeet Brandon, and I would leave Auburn on a Monday morning at four a.m. and drive to Connersville to suffer another week of useless activity and return to our families in Auburn late on Friday night.

“The only piece of company real-estate in Auburn of any value was the administration building and it was for sale.

“Writing the history of the Auburn Automobile Company over fifty years after it went out of business is difficult. I try to be 100% accurate but my memory is not infallible and I have searched my diary for bits of documentation. It contains memos of many things of no importance but very little about the automobile company. Had I ever thought that the things that were going on would be of any interest over fifty years later, I would have written a better diary.

“In re-reading my diary looking for clues I did see this note: ‘Date May 4, 1936 - General house cleaning at the Auburn Company, Roy Faulkner put in command. Snow, Thomas, Ames and dozens of others were let go.’ Snow was Vice-President in charge of Engineering. Thomas was chief chassis engineer, replacing Kublin who had already left to be chief engineer of GM Overseas operation. Ames was Executive Vice-President of the company.

“The company was crumbling very fast.

“Another story often repeated by Alex is that he was responsible for putting the outside exhaust pipes on the super-charged Cord.

“The truth is all the work on the super-charged model was done by Augie Duesenberg, and the drawings for the parts were made by a draftsman in the chassis engineering department. Even if Alex had been available to make such drawings, he did not possess the training to do such work. Actually Alex came to Auburn with no training in engineering or in art. But he was a nice guy with lots of enthusiasm.

“As far as the outside pipes are concerned, their first use in the Cord Corporation was on the model SJ Duesenberg in 1931.

“A super-charged engine produces more heat than a regular engine and the reason for the external pipes was to help keep the under hood temperature lower.

“At Duesenberg, the design of the super-charged engine was done by Fred Duesenberg, and the drawings for the external pipes were made by Walter Troemel and his chassis draftsman.

“The idea of the flexible insulating tubing was something that had been in use by Mercedes for some time.

“In 1934 when we did the 1935 Auburn design, Augie Duesenberg was brought up from Indianapolis to do super-charger work. Again the same design of outside exhaust were used and the drawings for the parts were all done by chassis draftsmen.

“So in 1936 when Augie did the work on the 1937 Cord he again used the same design of outside exhaust pipes that had been used since 1931 on the SJ Duesenberg and the 1935 Auburn. Again the drawings for the parts were done by the chassis draftsmen. Not Alex!

“So the question is, what did Alex do?”

Following the publishing of Buehrig’s letter several Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club members began scrutinizing Tremulis’ statements, in particular looking for photographic evidence of any or all of his claims. Absolutely no-one questioned why Buehrig waited so long to complain.

Josh Malks, the world’s foremost authority on the Cord 810/812, tried to find evidence that backed-up Tremulis oft-told story of how he got the cars with the external exhaust pipes to the November 1936 New York Automobile Show, where he substituted them for the non-pipe equipped cars in the display. There are no known photographs of the Auburn booth at the November 1936 New York Automobile Show; the photograph often cited as being evidence that the Cord on display there had no pipes, appeared in the November 8, 1936 issue of Time Magazine, a magazine that was prepared for publication an entire week before the New York Auto Show opened on Wednesday Nov. 11, 1936. To the right is pictured a shot of a supercharged Cord 812 sedan with pipes that was published in the November 8, 1936 edition of the New York Times, circumstantial evidence that cars with pipes existed 3 days before the show opened on the 11th.

Malks read a lot into the lack of photos of the pipe-equipped cars at that show, stating in his 2010 book, Cord Complete:

“Since the external exhausts which would grace the supercharged 812s were so showy and so easily marked even at a distance they should have drawn photographers like magnets. But there are no surviving photographs showing cars with external exhausts. The articles in the New York Times describing the New York Show don’t mention pipes either. Even a press release sent out by Auburn a couple of weeks before the New York Show is accompanied by a photograph of a cabriolet without pipes.”

By that time several other A-C-D Club members “wondered aloud” as to why there were no photos - the 3 pages concerning the subject on the official A-C-D Club blog contain some 38 entries (see The general consensus being, if Tremulis was “mistaken” about his memory of what happened at the November 1936 New York Automobile Show – what about his memories of the rest of his Auburn career, is he mistaken about those?

Buehrig’s 1988 letter (included above) is cited as substantiating Tremulis “faulty memory.” However that whole diatribe was sparked by a single statement, attributed to Tremulis by People Magazine’s Los Angeles correspondent, Kristina Johnson, who was likely only concerned with the recently-released Tucker movie.

Malks came up with a hypothesis as to why no be-piped 812s were seen at the New York Show – Alex simply got the New York and Chicago shows mixed-up – totally ignoring the fact that there are no surviving pictures showing any Cords at the New York Show. He provides the following facts to back up his hypothesis:

“- The Chicago show opened on November 16, 1936, five days after the New York show.
- A Cord could be driven from Connersville to Chicago in those days in about 6 hours. 
- The offices of the Cord Corporation were in Chicago.
- Richard Bonelli performed with the Chicago Opera Company.
- We have a photograph of at least one Cord sedan with pipes on display at the Chicago Auto Show.

Four out of the five items cited are true, however, they’re all circumstantial and the fact that a photograph was taken of a Cord 812 with pipes at the Chicago Automobile Show doesn’t prove one wasn’t at the New York Show. Additionally Malks' statement regarding Richard Bonelli is in error. During 1936 and 1937 Bonelli was a full-time member of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Co. and during November 1936 appeared on a number of radio shows that were recorded LIVE in New York City. I tracked Bonelli’s performance itinerary during November 1936. The Metropolitan Opera was on hiatus until the beginning of December, however on Sun Nov. 1 he appeared on the CBS Sunday Evening Hour at 9:00 pm, a show recorded in New York City. On Saturday, Nov. 21 Bonelli and harpist Mildred Billing, were guests on the Nash-Lafayette Speedshow which was broadcast over the Columbia Network from 9-9:30 pm EST, and like the first show broadcast live from Columbia’s New York City studios. During the week he was in the midst of rehearsals for the upcoming Metropolitan Opera Co. season, so it’s very unlikely that he was traveling back and forth to Chicago.

Keep in mind that the New York Auto Show started on Wednesday Nov. 11, 1936 and ended on Wednesday Nov. 18, 1936 while the Chicago Auto Show started on Monday Nov. 16, 1936 and ended on Sunday Nov. 21, 1936.

The smoking gun that proves Tremulis was in New York City during the November 1936 New York Auto Show relates to his new acquaintance, professional wrestler Man Mountain Dean. On Nov. 10, the Associated Press reported that Man Mountain Dean defeated Al Bisgnano in a November 9 wrestling match in Philadelphia:

“Man Mountain Dean, 305, Georgia, won the semi windup by spilling Al Bisgnano, 215, Des Moines, in four minutes, two seconds, with a back drop.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that in a November 18 match at Madison Square Garden, Man Mountain Dean defeated Chief Little Wolf:

“Man Mountain Dean was calm and collected in his bout with Chief Little Wolf and during the bout even decided to sit down and think the situation over. He nonchalantly sat his 370 pounds on the chief’s face and that was that for another Indian had bit the dust. Little Wolf had to be carried from the ring.”

On Nov. 23, Man Mountain Dean defeated Roland Kirchmeyer in Philadelphia, Pa. and it’s possible, though very unlikely, that Man Mountain Dean was traveling back and forth to Chicago in between those three matches.

However, Tremulis account of attending the play, ‘Wrestler and the Lady,’ with Mr. Dean, could only have happened in New York City. It turns out there was never a play named “The Wrestler and the Lady,” however a play called "Swing Your Lady!" opened at New York City’s Booth Theater on October 18, 1936. ‘Swing Your Lady!’ proved so popular that it was held over beyond its scheduled December 12, 1936 closing, after which it moved from the Booth to the Forty-Sixth Street Theater where it remained into January of 1937, running for a total of 105 performances.

The comedy proved so popular that in May of 1937 Warner Bros. made it into a comedic feature starring Humphrey Bogart, Frank McHugh, Louise Fazenda, Nat Pendleton, Ronald Reagan, Allen Jenkins and Penny Singleton that debuted in the nation’s movie theaters on January 8, 1938. Manhattan drama critic Brooks Atkinson gave the ‘Wrestling Ring Rumpus’ opening night a rave review in the Monday October 19, 1936 edition of the New York Times:

“Wrestling Ring Rumpus in ‘Swing Your Lady!’

“Some time having elapsed since ‘Sailor, Beware!’ first put to sea, Kenyon Nicholson and Charles Robinson have taken ‘Swing Your Lady!’ out of an adjacent cabinet. It was put on at the Booth last evening with a good deal of comic energy. For it is a preposterous yarn about the wrestling racket, which is in itself the most preposterous nebula in the cosmos of sport; and the style is again broadfaced and bawdy. Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Robinson are as funny a pair of slapstick comedians as ever rifled the American language for barroom vernacular, and they also have a taste for grotesque topics. ‘Swing Your Lady!’ is very uproarious stuff for a generous part of the evening. In the circumstances it is an ungrateful task to report that the whole prank is not so ludicrous as it deserves to be. The strain of story-telling wears pm the humor before the evening is finished.

“Without painting the lily conspicuously, the authors have assumed that a Greek wrestler is the most stupid of human beasts and that his managers are only a shade brighter. To his penniless managers, stranded in Joplin, Mo., Joe Skopapoulis, ‘the Greek Hercules,’ is also the Greek baboon, the grunt-and-groan possibility and a white zombie. HE is mentally deficient enough to be a sensational grappler. ‘Sing Your Lady!’ is an anecdote of Joe’s falling in love with a female blacksmith in the Ozark hills and of a crooked bout with a hillbilly rival to win her grimy mitt.

“That ought to be a logical subject for laughing around the play-going equator, and a great deal of it is. For Joe’s promoters and the Eighth Avenue moll who is with them are a gang of scowling ringside morons, and Sadie Horn, the mountain blacksmith, is a gargantuan Amazon with a careless attitude toward life. All these riff-raff people have been given some funny lines to speak and demented things to do in the face of common sense and reason. The saga ends with a caricature bout between the two meatballs that has been stage with a lunging sense of humor. All that keeps ‘Wing York Lady!’ from being a true successor to ‘Sailor, Beware!’ is a stalemate story which is breezy in talk but deficient in motion.

“Something loud should be said in praise of John Alexander’s cartoon of the Greek wrestler; it is a fantastic portrait of beef, brawn and brainlessness, and never so profoundly absurd as when it is amorous before the smithy. As that vigorous anvil woman of the hills, Hope Emerson is a monumental figure, though not very much of a comedienne. There are three giants in the skit, Al Ochs being the most enormous in the part of the hirsute rival. For burlesque contrast the diminutive Joe Laurie Jr. gives a racy notion of a manager, and Dennie Moore as his traveling companion makes nasal ignorance a comic pleasure.

“Nearly everything about ‘Swing Your Lady!’ is gustily diverting except the uneventful play.”

Although parts of the account Tremulis wrote about in the October 1968 issue of the ACD Club Newsletter – the story Josh Malks and others suggest is in error - may indeed be exaggerated, I, for one, feel Tremulis had absolutely nothing to gain by lying, and believe him.

As to Tremulis ‘fraudulent account’ in People magazine, the one that enraged Buehrig; I’ve been interviewed by the press on several occasions and can testify that most reporters are uninterested in off-topic subjects that I brought into the conversation. Consequently, I’ve greatly simplified seemingly off-topic details I felt important to the subject, lest the interviewer lose interest and change the subject, or end the interview.

Perhaps Tremulis may have sensed that People Magazine’s Los Angeles correspondent, Kristina Johnson, knew or cared little about cars, especially ones she had never seen or heard of (Cord 810 / 812s weren’t exactly lining the freeways of Los Angeles in 1988) and had simplified his background, realizing he was dealing with an entertainment reporter and not Automobile Quarterly.

Tremulis remained at Auburn’s Connersville, Indiana factory into the summer of 1937 where he kept busy working on proposed Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg automobiles, although he realized the chances of any of them reaching production were slim-to-none. He was given a new Cord Custom Beverly body on which to experiment, developing several front end designs which were then constructed by Central Mfg.’s metal craftsmen, installed on the Cord sample body and photographed for evaluation by Auburn executives. Tremulis recalled the work was unsatisfying and he had no idea what happened to the car, nor the photographs, once he was handed his walking papers on August 7, 1937, assuming they had been discarded when the plant was annexed by the Central Manufacturing Co. before the War.

In 1967, Connersville, Indiana native and postman Henry H. Blommel (b.1924 – d. 2001, worked for American Kitchens div. of AVCO from 1942-1956 then for Connersville Post Office) discovered 70 negatives in a portion of the former Central Mfg. Co. factory that he believed depicted some Auburn Automobile Co. prototypes that dated to 1936-1937. Blommel, who served as Fayette County’s automotive historian, submitted copies to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club who forwarded them to Gordon Buehrig and Tremulis to see if they could be identified.

Although Buehrig had worked on several of the projects prior to his leaving Auburn, he responded that he had no knowledge of the subjects. Tremulis, on the other hand, recognized them instantly and provided the following comments which were included with the editor’s comments when Blommel’s pictures were reproduced in the February 1968 A-C-D Club Newsletter:

Figs. 24 and 25. The first Supercharged Beverly Sedan? We noted the boltheads around the frames of the hood side screens and assumed this was the first supercharged car. Alex’s comment was:

“One of the first 10 supercharged Cords! I purchased enough material for the supercharged mesh grills from Nil Melior, a custom accessory house in New York, to build 10 cars!’

Fig. 26. Triumphal Return! The first Supercharged Phaeton! Both Gordon Buehrig and Alex Tremulis identified the gentlemen in this photo. At left is Lou R. Jones, Chief Chassis Engineer. Center, Roy H. Faulkner “truly one of Motordom’s greatest aristocrats!” (A. T.) and at right, A. H. “Bert” McGinnis, former Service Manager and at this time Vice President of the Auburn Company.

Alex’s comments concerning this photograph were included in the preceding section that deals with the November 1936 New York Automobile Show and won’t be repeated here.

The February 1968 ACD Club Newsletter also published pictures of the prototype LeBaron Duesenbergs*, bearing a tentative model number of 1251, that were derived from the Herb Snow’s E-300 project which dates back to February of 1935. The idea of a smaller Duesenberg dated back to early 1934 when Gordon Buehrig started developing the “Baby Duesenberg” which eventually saw production as the 1936 Cord 810.

(*Back in 1929 Duesenberg had become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Auburn Automobile Co. and although the two firm’s plants (Duesenberg in Indianapolis, Ind. and Auburn in Auburn, Ind.) Indiana) were separate, its staff and assets were moved from one facility to the other as the need arose.)

The new Duesenbergs were to be modern in concept but not so far-out that they would frighten away Duesenberg’s traditional customers. They were to be smaller than the Model J, and incorporate a supercharged Lycoming V-12 engine and rear-wheel drive. The plan was to create five body styles and a contract was signed with LeBaron to produce 5 samples, one of each body style. The car’s fenders, front ends (grill, hood, and bumpers) and running-board-equipped chassis were to be constructed in Connersville, LeBaron was only responsible for the body shells which were of composite aluminum on wood construction. In late spring 1936 LeBaron delivered the five sample bodies constructed to the designs of Tremulis and Wright: a fastback sedan, a limousine, a Berline with bustle-back trunk, a convertible phaeton and a convertible coupe. Unfortunately, by that time Auburn was in no financial position to develop any new products and the bodies languished in an unused portion of the Central Manufacturing complex in Connersville.

Tremulis recalled that E.L. Cord saw the unused LeBaron bodies while touring Connersville during the summer and expressed an interest in building a car using the limousine body for his own personal use. “Put some power in that one for me,” Cord said according to Tremulis.

Consequently Faulkner resurrected the Duesenberg E-300 project, albeit with a substantial twist – he wanted the cars to be fitted with the rear 2/3 of an Auburn chassis mated to a Cord 812’s front-wheel-drive sub-frame and drivetrain to save time and development costs.

Tremulis was put in charge of redesigning the car’s front end from the cowl forward so that the LeBaron bodies would mate up with the Cord 812’s existing front end sheet-metal which required a new grill, hood, and side panels. Slightly elongated Cord rear fenders were used as were stock Cord hubcaps, bumpers, transaxle covers and front fenders - which included the central-mounted hidden headlights.

Lloyd H. ‘Slim’ Davidson, head of Central Mfg.'s Experimental Garage, was put in charge of cobbling together the prototype chassis which yielded a wheelbase of 133 ½ inches. Ultimately five running front-wheel-drive LeBaron-bodied prototypes were constructed: a 7-passenger limousine; 5-passenger fastback sedan; 5-passenger phaeton; 5-passenger Berline and a 3-passenger convertible coupe… of which only the latter two survive. Although they used Cord 810/812 front sub-frames, the resulting cars were noticeably taller, as the LeBaron coachwork had originally been designed to fit on top of a standard rear-wheel-drive automobile frame.

Tremulis designed a distinctive mascot as well as several different hoods and grills, all of which were fabricated in the Central Mfg. shops. Since the cowls of all the cars were identical, Auburn was able to mix-and-match the grills, hoods and side panels in order to get the most pleasing arrangement in the event the cars reached production.

As the new cars shared many of their components with the Cord 810/812 it was decided that they would be designated Cords, rather than Duesenbergs, and it is believed that all five were fitted with the 812’s supercharged Lycoming V8 engine.

When completed the Cord-LeBaron Berline with bustle-back trunk was dispatched to Cordhaven where it served E.L. Cord’s immediate family until 1940 when it was placed in long-term storage. In the late 1960s the car was acquired and restored by Bill Harrah who displayed it at the 1970 ACD Meet in Auburn. It currently resides in the permanent collection of the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. The Cord LeBaron convertible coupe went to Lucius B. Manning, E.L. Cord’s longtime business partner, after which it ended up in the collection of Michigan collector Thel Horn and more recently in the stable of A-C-D Cub member John Baeke who is currently restoring it.

Blommel-supplied pictures of three of the LeBaron Cords were included in the February 1968 issue of the ACD Club Newsletter, complete with Tremulis’ captions:

“The next three cars are ‘custom’ Cords which were actually built and put into service. The first, a gigantic limousine, is explained in Alex’s inimitable style and we quote:

“Figs. 27 and 28 above and Fig. 29 at right.

“I hated to do this! One of five LeBaron bodies, we called them ‘Au-Du-Cords’. An Auburn frame welded to a Cord tractor unit, supporting the LeBaron body that was designed for a low priced Duesenberg. This was to be powered by the 12-cylinder Auburn engine super charged to 240 HP in the Duesenberg form, these cars were to be 8 inches longer at 148” wheelbase, longer flowing fenders with a front end inspired by the Ab Jenkins Mormon Meteor styling. The car shown here was E.L. Cord’s personal limousine. We didn’t have much money to work with so I had to use existing parts. I recall as I was stacking louvres to the desired height, I had the feeling that I was building a skyscraper!”

“The Cord convertible sedan!

“Figs. 30 and 31. These two views of another LeBaron body and Alex comments:

“I think this one was delivered to Mr. L.B. Manning, our President of American Airlines. Yes, I did the grill! It is indeed a shock to be confronted by sins I committed some thirty years ago!” To date we have no trace of this very unusual Cord. We just wonder if this could be the LeBaron Cord which tempted Dr. Jason Love into his amazing spy adventures in member Jim Leasor” novel “Passport to Oblivion” - - recently renamed for its movie version, to “Where the Spies Are”! (We’re just spoofing of course!) We do know that member Thel Horn of Michigan is the present owner of a convertible coupe with this very same styling!

“Figs. 32 and 33. Another LeBaron, the photo above left was published in our 810-812 Special Edition of February 1962 on the occasion of the Silver Anniversary of the Cord, We guessed at that time that it was a LeBaron and surmised that it might be a mockup for a1939 version of the Cord. However, here are three previously unknown views of this same Cord and Alex Tremulis says that:

“Mr. Cord had this radiator (shell) built by Bohman and Schwartz.” and added: “I killed it real quick; since when does a Duesenberg have to look like a Miller?”

“We are reasonably sure that this particular Cord is the one now owned by the Harrah Collection and is now undergoing a complete restoration at the Nevada facility. It is also rumored that this was another of E.L. Cord’s personal cars and was used at the wedding of one of his sons.”

The May 1970 issue of the ACD Newsletter included a cover photo and small article related to the Duesenberg/Cord LeBaron Berline that had been used by the Cord family at their Cordhaven estate:

“Cover photo, E.L. Cord’s LeBaron limousine to be at Auburn meet!

“Received as we go to press from the Harrah Automobile Collection, our cover photo for this month. We made a very last minute switch of cover photos and some rearranging of this page to get this most appropriate photo and story into this issue. The photo and story via Ron Irwin are included here through the courtesy of the Harrah organization and we quote the explanation here:

“Our car was originally built for E. L. Cord and was driven by him, Mrs. Cord, and son Charles Cord. In November 1936 the car was shipped from Chicago to Los Angeles where it was used by the Cords at their Beverly Hills estate until about 1940. The car remained in storage until 1962. With helpful information supplied by Mr. and Mrs. Cord, the car was completely restored to its original condition at Harrah’s Automobile Collection Shops. The original monogrammed lap robe, gold-capped crystal perfume, cologne, powder, and make-up jars in the rear vanity cases were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cord. Upon completing restoration of the car, Mr. and Mrs. Cord were guests for the inaugural demonstration ride.”

A-C-D Club member John Baeke owns one of the Cord LeBarons and recently covered the subject on the official A-C-D Club blog:

"The cars in question are the LeBaron prototypes for the new 1938 Duesenbergs. There were 5 built. A Limo; a Berline (presently owned by National Automotive Museum), a fastback sedan; a Phaeton (last seen circa 1960 back east) and the cabriolet shown above (which I own). The cars were originally penned by Gordon Buehrig with some contribution by Herb Newport and Phil Wright (at LeBaron in Detroit). The cars were to have been powered by surplus V-12 Lycoming engines (optionally supercharged). Dyno data shows at least one was so powered. The project was shelved in 1936. Alex Tremulis was hired Dec., 1936*. The first assignment given by him by E.L. was to dust off the LeBarons. Even using the surplus V-12 was then deemed too expensive and Tremulis (along with Davidson) were instructed to amputate the front of the LeBaron prototypes and graft on Cord stub frames with FWD power. That is what they did. The cars were completed later that year. I have notes from Alex as well as hand-written notes and tape recordings my father and I made with Alex. Alex describes what he did to the LeBarons as like ‘painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. I should have left them alone’. Just before control of Cord Corp. was turned over to L. B. Manning, E.L. conscripted the Berline and sent it to his wife, Virginia at Cord Haven where for the next 4 years she called it her limousine (even though it was NOT the limo, rather the Berline). Manning (who no one ever accused of being a true car-guy) conscripted the cabriolet (which I have). So these cars are not Cords (as legend has it) rather Prototype Duesenbergs.

"Phil Wright (of LeBaron) helped design the 5 different bodies from the firewall aft and the interiors. Buehrig and Newport designed from the firewall forward. Project was completed in 1936. Tremulis then made major modifications in 1937. The relative involvement of Buehrig, Tremulis, Ralph Roberts, et. al. is all confirmed by pay roll records.”

(*Baeke’s statement that “Alex Tremulis was hired Dec., 1936” is an error and conflicts with Tremulis’ recollections as well as Buehrig’s who had submitted his resignation on August 28, 1936 at which time he recalled that Tremulis had been working there for at least several months prior to his leaving. Most likely Baeke meant to say the Tremulis was appointed Auburn’s head of design in December, 1936, a statement which is supported by the evidence. In fact Tremulis worked pretty much alone, as J. Herbert Newport Jr., the only other designer remaining, was still working on Duesenberg coachwork in Indianapolis.)

Buehrig’s resignation is confirmed by the October 3, 1936 issue of Automotive Industries:

“Gordon M. Buehrig, chief body designer of the Auburn-Cord factory, has resigned, it became known this week. Mr. Buehrig was formerly with General Motors. He is credited with designing the bodies of the present Cord car.”

Another batch of Blommel-sourced photographs published in the February 1968 issue of the A-C-D Club Newsletter depict some of the front end mockups that Tremulis had designed for his Cord sedan donor.

“Some advance designs for the 814 (?) Cord!

“We continue with Henry Blommel’s story on Ed Rudd, this part of which fits very well with the following group of photos that are obviously of the “mock-ups” mentioned here:

“Early in 1937 several design people (probably including Alex Tremulis?) started putting together mockups of new models. Bodies were taken from the Central, fenders from stock and green modeling clay was used. These ‘idea cars’ were then painted and made ready for the local plant officials to look over. This project was halted along with all others on August 7, 1937 when the factory ceased regular production of the 812 Cords. Ed Rudd also remembered painting the Mormon Meteor II. Ditzler ‘Cigarette Cream’ was the color and blue was used on the stripe. Ed now operates the local Roto Rooter franchise in Connersville and can recall many thrilling days and nights spent building those wonderful Auburns and Cords.”

Blommel’s find also included two photographs of a new grill treatment that Tremulis designed for the 812 Sportsman (convertible):

“Figs. 36 and 37. Two views of a mockup for a proposed version of the Sportsman. Note the reversed, downward and outward, forward slant of the 8 louvre grill and the modified, rounded and simpler configuration of the transmission cover, also the variation of the winged crest above the louvres. Alex commented:

“I hated to do this but was told to get rid of the ‘coffin’ look. I think its best that it never saw the light of day. Besides there’s nothing wrong with a good-looking coffin!“

“This was supposedly cheaper to build, All I can say is, leave well enough alone!“

The prototype convertible was constructed using the same rocker panels developed for use on the 812 long-wheelbase Custom Beverlys and Berlines. The larger rockers helped counter the racking experienced on the production Cord 810/812 sportsmans and phaetons, although it required the same 8-louver hood used on the Custom series 812s. The racking or twisting of the unibody was a direct result of inadequate engineering, a common fault with open cars that had been developed from closed ones (as had the 810). Although the sportsman (convertible coupe) and phaeton included extra bracing, it proved inadequate and owners complained that their doors wouldn’t close properly, or worse yet, fly open when rounding a corner or going over a bump. Unfortunately the fix came too late and never made it to production.

In addition to making the structures more rigid, Tremulis was told to “do something about that [coffin-shaped] hood.” As designed by Buehrig, the 810’s louvers slant ever-so-slightly backwards as they go from top to bottom when seen from a side view, however when seen from the front, they slant inwards as they descend. Tremulis didn’t mess with much, he simply softened the casket-shaped corners of the louvers and enlarged the base of the grill so that it grew smaller as it reached the hood – essentially reversing what Buehrig had done – a simple trick that had found much success on certain early Renaults and Mack’s AC-series commercial vehicles.

Two more photographs supplied by Blommel showed the Cord-LeBaron fastback with a revised grill – two pictures that E.L. Cord had sent to Tremulis claiming he had the work done in England:

“Figs. 38 and 39. Two views of an English atrocity committed on one of the LeBaron bodies. We don’t have the heart to show you the third and ‘head-on’ view, which resembles an aborted clam! Alex remarks:

“This one was sent to me by E.L. Cord himself while he was in England. It was built of plaster by someone in England. The hood ornament was supposed to mean something. I can forgive the British for burning our Capitol in 1812 but this, NEVER!”

“Gordon Buehrig’s cryptic comment about this one was:

“I didn’t do this - and I don’t know who did, I think it is awful!”

The whereabouts of the Cord LeBaron convertible sedan and Cord LeBaron limousine are unknown and it’s likely the Cord LeBaron fastback sedan was shipped to England for use at Cord’s Walton Heath, Heston, estate. The fastback looks to be the same car that E.L. Cord fitted the British-built grill that he sent a photo of to Tremulis.

More Blommel photos from February 1968 issue of the A-C-D-Club Newsletter depict the various front end themes that were fitted to the Cord 812 that Tremulis was given to play around with – several of which depict what a new Cord 810-based Auburn might look like:

“An interesting series of photos showing various modifications on a basic idea. Although these mockups are incorporated in a Cord chassis, several of the name plates indicate ‘Auburn.’ It difficult to determine just what the objective was here and to date no clues as to whether these were proposed Auburns or Cords. However, it is our opinion that the fabulous Cord would never have survived this ‘desecration’ had these or any similar proposals ever reached the production stage. We have at least two and as many as four different views of each of these ‘mockups’. We are showing only two views of each which best illustrate the individual variations. The differences are minor but apparent to the discerning viewer. There is a total of 18 different views of these combined mockups. In retrospect we would have preferred to see more of the actual Cords and especially those ‘special’ and one-off jobs that make up a large part of this collection of rare photos.

“Figs. 40 and 41, 42 and 43, and 44 and 45, inclusive. Note the several variations on this theme, including the 3 and 4 top louvres, headlights ‘frenched’ and then mounted inboard, different insignia, and transmission covers etc. Gordon Buehrig commented that he had no idea who did these and had never seen them before. Alex Tremulis however recognized the photos and he remarks:

“A proposed Auburn study in which we were told to reduce the cost by $1000.00. We even proposed using the straight eight Auburn engine with a rear drive in order to reduce costs. “I don’t recall doing this bumper but if I did it’s the most violent setback I have ever experienced!” Alex adds further: “Why stylists get ulcers! I remember after doing these war surplus Pierce Arrow headlights, I went to the McFarlan Blue Room and got drunk!”

“Figs. 46 and 47. Another design study retaining the Cord bumpers. Note the extended grill housing and the shortened, simplified transmission cover. Hood ornament says ‘Cord’. We’re certainly thankful it never replaced our beloved 810 - 812 Model Cords!”

John Baeke also commented on the Tremulis-designed Auburn/Cord prototype front-end treatments in the A-C-D Blog:

"…my research supports the Connersville mockup you show, to actually be one of the proposals for a 1938 Auburn (note the stylistic "A" in the front emblem). There were several other versions. Obviously these were all done using left over parts, in a hopeless effort to stave off bankruptcy. Part of the shame of it was all the while Roy Faulkner was trying to bolster hope and optimism with the Auburn Automobile/Cord creative staff and dealer network by showing indeed a new Auburn, Cord & Duesenberg was in the hopper, Lucius Manning was (unbeknownst to many other corporate officers) drafting bankruptcy papers."

Several other Cord-related projects that Tremulis worked on were not pictured in the February 1968 A-C-D Club newsletter, the first of which was a 7-passenger limousine - manufacturer unknown - whose body was so tall it required adding louvers to get the hood to match up with the cowl. Tremulis recalled “feeling like I was building a skyscraper” while working on the car which required ten louvers to match the tall body with the stock Cord hood and front fenders.

When Tremulis was handed his walking papers on August 7, 1937 he took a short-lived position with the Oldsmobile studio at General Motors’ Styling Dept. (formerly Art & Colour). What projects he worked on are unknown, his only memory relates to the following incident which involved his Miller intake-equipped 1935 Ford hot rod:

"When Auburn-Cord folded I went to the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors. One of the first things they wanted me to do was to buy a new Oldsmobile at special employee rates. I think they offered the car to us for $600. I still couldn’t afford a new car so I kept on driving the same old 1935 Ford Roadster, the first car I owned.

“I really liked that Ford, especially after I put on the twin intake manifolds that came off of one of the 10 Ford Indianapolis race cars in 1935. At that time I had the only Ford on the street with dual intake carburetors. And because I couldn’t afford a Duesenberg, I had two exhaust pipes coming out the side. I had a lot of fun with that car. But unfortunately I did a dumb thing, which was a stupid mistake on my part.

“We had a big styling department picnic for the Oldsmobile Division. All of the stylists had just bought their new $600, 1938 Oldsmobiles. All of them had 6 cylinders except the boss’s car which had eight cylinders. On the way to the picnic, the boss went by all the six’s, and then I made the mistake of going out after him, and passing him. I guess he was pretty embarrassed.

“The next day I was called into my supervisor’s office where I was told what I had done had been in very poor taste. And that I should not have embarrassed the entire styling section with an old 1935 Ford. They even accused me of cheating because my car was practically a race car. I was told I had to give up the car. This I refused to do. In a matter of a month I was laid off.”

His next position was back in Connersville, where he spent a couple of months working on designs for the Crosley automobile:

“I guess Roy Faulkner heard about me being out of work so he called and asked me to come back to Auburn. The Auburn Automobile Company had folded up by now, but they still had a subsidiary which was steel kitchens. There was a chap there by the name of Powell Crosley who had just developed a fantastic washing machine... the one with the round window. He made this washer pretty successful and he also wanted to build an automobile. So Roy wanted me to go down there and build the car. So I went to Auburn.”

As the American Kitchens Division of Auburn Automobile Co. hoped to get the metal stamping and fabrication contracts on the minicar, Faulkner likely paid for the design and construction of the five clay model proposals Tremulis came up with for the Crosley, however they were all too modern for Powell Crosley Jr., who stuck with the original design. When introduced in early 1939 critics claimed the body of the Crosley automobile looked like it shared components with Crosley’s washing machines – which wasn’t far from the truth.

Nothing of interest remained for Tremulis in Connersville so he called in a few favors and was offered a position with Briggs Mfg. Co.’s LeBaron design department, which was headed by John Tjaarda. Although their main business was stamping sheet-metal parts and welding together all-steel auto bodies Briggs also maintained the LeBaron studio where they developed future cars for their clients, which at that time included Chrysler, Ford and Packard. The LeBaron staff consisted of Tjaarda, Ralph Roberts and Holden ‘Bob’ Koto, and they were in the midst of designing a spectacular one-off 1938 Lincoln Model K LeBaron Convertible Sedan for Lincoln dealer James H. Knox, which would include a trend-setting front end whose features later appeared on cars by LaSalle, Chevrolet and Nash.

Tremulis is often mentioned as one of the car’s designers, but exactly what he contributed is unknown. The car’s exterior is credited to Koto who modified the stock ’38 Lincoln front end with Zephyr front fenders and a vertical grill flanked by two horizontal units at the bottom. LeBaron fitted the rear compartment with an elaborate wood and glass liquor cabinet with integral cooler, table and twin footrests all of which folded out of the front divider/seatback. Other unique features include a stepped hood molding that incorporates turn signals and the initials ‘RJM’, which stand for Garwood, N.J. car dealer/collector Ralph J. Marano, its current owner. The recently restored car was featured at the 2009 Pebble Beach, 2010 Amelia Island and 2010 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance – winning best of show at the latter.

Tremulis states he was assigned to the Packard account and on occasion worked closely with Packard design vice president Edward B. Macauley. He also knew Edsel Ford whose forward-looking vision he greatly admired, recalling that if Edsel’s ‘New Era’ lightweight rear-engine car had made it to production: “the VW Beetle would never have had the audacity to invade our shores.”

Tremulis worked at Briggs for little over a year and in 1939 left to take a higher-paying position with Custom Motors Inc., a small Beverly Hills, California customizer located at 436 N. Rodeo Dr. It’s president was Sid Luft (Michael Sidney Luft b. 1915 - d. 2005), who at the time was the publicist/paramour of actress Eleanor Powell. While visiting Chicago, the beautiful dancer-actress gave Tremulis a ring:

“It was a red-hot box office name at the time so I answered, ‘Sure it is’. I figured it was one of the office girls, or maybe one of Chrissie's friends, so I kidded along and said: ‘Well, honey, I'm glad you called. I've been expecting you...’ and I guess she was used to having this happen when she called people for the first time. So she asked if I was the same Tremulis who had been with Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg and I said I was. She said to meet her at the Drake Hotel in Chicago where she was staying, that she had a proposal to make. I met her at the hotel and she explained her custom auto company operation and said that if I was interested, her public relations and partner in the company, Sid Luft, would be by the next day to fill in the details.

“Sid Luft had been her public relations man and she wanted to get him started in the customizing business. Luft and I talked about the plan which would have me design and direct the building of custom cars. It sounded great. He had tried several other things, but now was concentrating on customizing Cadillacs. The first one he built was a very nice custom Cadillac, but instead of selling it he started running around with the car. Pretty soon it got used, so when Eleanor Powell came to Chicago she hired me to go to California to put Sid’s business on a business basis. So I came to California.”

Tremulis claims he customized five Cadillacs for Custom Motors and his archives contain pictures of two different 1939 Cadillacs that feature the same custom front end treatment; a 1939 Series 60 special coupe with a chopped roof (by 3½”) and a 1939 Series 61 convertible coupe. He recalled that he got a phone call from syndicated columnist Jimmie Fidler after one of the cars (reportedly the convertible which had been sold to Bill Burlingame) was seen at the Trocadero, which at that time was one of Hollywood’s toniest night spots:

“I was surprised the next day to get a telephone call from Jimmie Fidler, the famous Hollywood reporter. He said he had seen Burlingame in the car he had purchased from Miss Powell and wanted to know what that color was called. I asked him what time he had seen it, and he said it was about 9:00 PM. "Oh, we call that Night White", I told him. He made a big thing about it in his column and over the air. Soon we got a call from the big Don Lee Cadillac sales agency wanting to know if we could furnish them with the formula of that Night White paint. I told them we couldn't let the formula out of our hands, but that we'd either paint the cars ourselves or sell it to them already mixed. I had to rush around and mix some paint in hopes it would look like the same stuff we'd used on the original Night White car. I had used some orange, maroon and purple in very small percentages and soon hit on the right proportions. We sold a lot of Night White to the Cadillac agencies in the area and we did a lot of $150 paint jobs by farming them out to paint shops nearby for $50. Many people came in with a wide variety of cars to be lowered, have fender skirts added, get louvered or to receive a touch of fancy detailing. The cars ranged from the most elegant ever manufactured down to sporty '32 Ford roadsters."

As Tremulis indicates, a portion of Custom Motors’ business involved selling paint and auto accessories like fender skirts and spot-lites. He also mentions that the shop’s paintwork was farmed out to third parties, so one assumes the lowering, chopping and other bodywork was farmed out as well.

An article that appeared in the July 28, 1943 issue of the Ravenswood-Lincolnite, a suburban Chicago bi-weekly, mentioned some of Tremulis’ pre-war projects:

“The next job he did for a notable was for actress Eleanor Powell, who transported him all the way to Hollywood to perform the work. When he got back home she wired him that the car was ‘the most beautiful automobile that stood on four wheels.’

“Seeking other worlds to conquer, he streamlined the limousine of the Maharajah of Indore and King Ghazi Ihn Feisal of Iraq. The job he did for the Indian prince thereafter won the famous Conqours-de-Elegance prize at Paris, France.”

The ‘Indian prince’ mentioned in the article was Yashwant Rao Holkar, the Maharaja of Indore. Holkar was India’s pre-eminant sportscar enthusiast and owned numerous custom-bodied roadsters and speedsters built on Alfa-Romeo, Rolls-Royce, Lagonda, Hispano-Suiza, Bentley and Duesenberg (SJN) chassis. It’s unknown exactly what car Tremulis designed/customized for the prince, however two of his cars, an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Superleggera by Touring and a Gurney-Nutting bodied Duesenberg Model SJN speedster, were known to be in California while Tremulis was working there.

Holkar’s most famous American car, a 1935 Duesenberg Model SJN speedster (chassis 2614 engine J-585), was sent to England and fitted with a one-off A.F. McNeil-designed Gurney-Nutting speedster body, after which it appeared at the 1936 London Motor Show. It was supposed to be delivered to him in India, but after Japan invaded China in 1937, shipping the cars there became problematic so the Maharaja took delivery of this car, and a recently purchased Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Superleggera by Touring, at his mansion in Santa Ana, California where he stayed from 1938-1940. Both cars were subsequently sent to India, via Singapore, after which the Duesenberg was repainted ochre and black, the state colors of Indore.

Exactly what car Tremulis did for King Ghazi bin Faisal (King Ghazi I) is also yet unidentified. The 27-year-old monarch died several months before Tremulis was connected to Custom Motors. King Ghazi was a notable automobilist who "liked to drive fast" and died while doing so in the early hours of April 4, 1939 when his sportscar collided with a light pole in Bagdad.

While working at Custom Motors Tremulis states he customized two additional vehicles; a Cadillac for Prince David Mdivani, ex-husband of silent movie star Mae Muray and a Duesenberg for Chicago ophthalmologist Jules C. Stein (who founded Music Corporation of America in 1924 - later MCA records). By the late 1930s MCA had established a Los Angeles office which was used to get its big band clients into the movies.

In reality ‘Prince’ Mdivani was not a prince, but merely the son of General Zakhari Mdivani, a former aide-de-camp to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. After he moved to California he married silent movie star Mae Muray and made a small fortune in the California oil business. He divorced Murray in 1933 and started dating several Hollywood starlets, purchasing a 1937 Series 90 16-cylinder Cadillac convertible coupe in which he escorted French actress Arletty in the late 1930s.

While working at Custom Motors, Tremulis recounts a chance meeting with a new client who had come to Los Angeles looking for him:

“One day I was having lunch at the bar in the Luau* when all of a sudden I saw a little American Bantam Roadster pull up outside. There was a man in a polo uniform and two little polo sticks were sticking up out of his small little car.  The chap comes in and sits down next to me. I looked at him and said,

‘Pretty ridiculous, big boy like you driving around in a kiddie car like that’. Of course he gave me a real funny look. He ordered a drink and then he said to me, ‘Do you know anything about those people across the street, Custom Motors?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know them.’ He said, ‘I’m looking for a guy by the name of Alex Tremulis, do you know him?’ I said, ‘I know him pretty well’. He wanted to know when Custom Motors opened up, and I told him they were probably out to lunch. He said, ‘I’m anxious to talk to Alex Tremulis.’ So I told him to finish his sandwich and then I would take him over to meet this Alex. So we walked across the street and into the shop. I had all my drawings on the wall… some real wild stuff too. He gets impatient and says, ‘When do I meet Alex Tremulis?’ I tell him, ‘You’ve already met him’. We laugh and then he introduces himself. ‘I’m Roy Evans, President of American Bantam,’ he said.”

(*The Luau, which was owned by restauranteur Al Mathes and former actor Steve Crane (at one time Lana Turner’s husband), was located directly across the street from Custom Motors’ showroom at 421 N. Rodeo Dr., however it didn’t open until 1953. Tremulis must be referring to The Tropics, a similarly-themed establishment opened at the same location by Harry Sugarman in December of 1936.)

Evans came looking for Tremulis after he saw the clay proposals for the new Crosley while visiting Connersville. For Bantam, Tremulis suggested a true convertible coupe to supplement the existing roadster. Evans was encouraged but not convinced; he shipped Tremulis a new three-bearing engine with instructions to install it in the prototype and drive it to Butler. He fabricated a prototype in just 10 days in the Custom Motors shop and floor-boarded the long-stroke four all the way to Butler averaging 75 mph. Evans loved the car and it entered into production as the Bantam Hollywood, priced at $525.

Evans asked Tremulis to stay on and design a convertible sedan as well. “That,” Tremulis told Automobile Quarterly years later, was “a tremendous challenge. Squeezing four passengers into a 75-inch wheelbase car with a slanted rear quarter and little or no money for tooling.” But he did it, and the Bantam Riviera joined the 1940 lineup, at $549. Like the Hollywood, it was upholstered in leather and well-appointed for its price. All '40 Bantams featured the new three-bearing engine which, at 50 cubic inches, produced 22 hp at 3800 rpm. Alex's busy airbrush also conjured a supercharged, aerodynamic coupe that Bantam simply couldn't afford to build. His designs for American Bantam remained in production until the firm switched over completely to the production of military Jeeps prior to World War II.

While he was busy working on the Bantam project back in his Chicago apartment he got another call from Eleanor Powell. Sid Luft had thought he could sell the last Cadillac Alex restyled for her up in San Francisco. Luft had sold the car, a 1939 Series 60 special coupe with a chopped roof, for $6,500 to somebody in San Francisco and just before Luft arrived at his destination went off the road at 100 mph, totaling it. Unfortunately the car was uninsured and Powell pulled the plug on Custom Motors, and soon-after her association with Sid Luft.

Eleanor Powell, about whom Fred Astaire once wrote, “She ‘put ‘em down like a man, no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself” would continue her on-screen career for several more years and in 1943 married actor Glenn Ford. They divorced in 1959 and she passed away on February 11, 1982.

Luft bounced back as well and in 1943 married actress Lynn Bari and after their 1950 divorce became Judy Garland’s manager/agent/paramour, becoming her third husband in 1952 - remaining husband and wife until 1965. In 1970 Luft married artist Patricia Potts Hemingway and following their 1980 divorce dated actress Marianna Hill, although they never married. In 1993 Luft married Buster Keaton’s niece, Camille Keaton, the star of ‘I Spit On Your Grave’, passing away in 2005 at the age of 89. Custom Motors’ former 436 N. Rodeo Dr. showroom has subsequently been remodeled and for the past 25 years has served as the home to a Giorgio Armani boutique.

Alex realized the small commission he was receiving from working on the Bantams wouldn’t last long so he went back to Briggs, taking an apartment in the nearby Savarine Hotel at 13115 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit.

One project Tremulis claims to have been involved with was the design of the ‘bathub Packard’ which would debut in the fall of 1941 as the 1942 Packard Clipper. Unsatisfied with the proposals Packard’s in-house styling teams were presenting him, Packard president Max M. Gilman commissioned proposals from several third parties which included Briggs Mfg., George Walker & Associates, and two independent designers; Albert Donald ‘Don’ Mortrude and William J. Flajole.

In early 1940, Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin, who had an existing agreement with the automaker to contribute design proposals for upcoming Packards, claims Gilman offered him a $10,000 cash bonus if he could create a 1/4-scale model in only 10 days. Darrin agreed and a week and a half later turned over the hastily designed and consturcted clay model to Ed Macauley.

In a letter he sent to Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin in 1971, (published in the Sept., 1977 issue of The Classic Car) Tremulis recalled seeing a quarter scale clay model at Briggs that looked very much like the designer’s work:

"March 24, 1971

"Mr. Howard Darrin

"130 Ocean Way

"Santa Monica, California

"Dear Dutch:

"Looking through some of my old papers, I came upon a photo of the Packard Clipper of 1941. I was surprised as to how the design has survived the test of time. Reflecting back I have often wondered if the automobile enthusiasts were aware of the great part that you played in its development. As you probably know I spent two tours of duty at Briggs Manufacturing - first in 1937 after I left Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg and again in 1939. I worked for the legendary John Tjaarda who headed the Briggs Styling Office. We sort of operated as a gesture of good will department to our clients Ford, Chrysler and Packard in those days and offered our services basically as styling consultants, in other words the fresh outside viewpoint as an assistance to augment each company's styling activity. 

"I shall never forget the shocker one morning as I entered the Briggs showroom, which was always kept under lock and key, and saw a beautiful quarter scale model in clay of a Packard proposal. None of us in styling knew where it came from or who was responsible for its execution. I picked up all the marbles in the guessing game by simply stating that only one man in the world could have designed this model. One, it had all the fingerprints of Howard "Dutch" Damn. There it was with the down­ward swept belt line and an inimitable Darrin blind quarter, with a Darrinized notch-back roof flowing into a beautifully swept rear luggage compartment. Two, it had a front fender flow that washed itself out at the front door that had the characteristic Darrinized angle of fender flow. It was a real shocker to all of us. Our approach at Briggs sort of emulated the straight through belt line of the Buick, Olds, Pontiac torpedo body which if anything would have only flattered General Motors by our sincere form of imitation!. My first impression was that it's too beautiful to be a production car and that it is no doubt a custom one-off Packard proposal designed to be sent to Europe to be entered in all the Concours de Elegance events where it no doubt would gamer many beautiful silver trophies, which when emptied of their contents of champagne, would find their way back to Pack­ard Detroit as symbols of Packard's supremacy in styling aristocracy.

"Several hours later John Tjaarda informed us all that indeed it was a Darrin proposal and that Ed Macauley, director of Packard Styling, had ordered that templates be taken off the model and blown up full scale and that we at Briggs were to build a full size clay model verbatim of study. As the model grew we could certainly see that it was a winner. I then recall that it was shipped to Packard Styling and Werner Gubitz, who I believe was then Chief Stylist, and Charles Yeager, his assistant, made some slight modifications by raising the belt line slightly and increased the capacity of the trunk to meet competitive require­ments. Other than these slight modifications the final design had at least 80% or more of your original thinking in your quarter size model.

"The following face lifts of the Packard Clipper certainly proved to be disastrous. How can anyone forget how ungainly and heavy looking and monstrous looking they became trying to follow a trend that was incompatible with its basic Clipper styling. Perhaps if they had only left well enough alone Packard might have lived long enough to fight another day.

"My dear Dutch, rejoice in the fact that you had the courage during your Darrin of Paris days on Sunset Boulevard to build the most elegant of Packards ever. Who can ever forget your magnificent Packard Darrins that truly represented the ‘Aristo­cracy of Motordom’.

"I simply had to write this letter as unfortunately our profession is at times most unkind to us. Our triumphs in creativity on so many occasions pass by so unnoticed while our small failures are at times amplified way out of proportion. You have had the most fantastic of careers. If you had done nothing else in your lifetime your Packard Damns have immortalized you for all time to come.

"Best regards always,

"Alex Tremulis

"Automotive Styling Consultant"

Darrin’s ¼-scale model, for which he was never paid, was long, low and wide; a marked departure from Packard’s current models, which were noticeably stuck in the 1930s. Darrin’s proposal deleted the running boards and its flowing fenders curved back into the doors with a ‘Darrin dip’ to the beltline. As Tremulis states in the letter, Briggs staff merely blew up Darrin’s car then sent it off to Packard where Werner Gubitz and Howard Yeager raised Darrin’s beltline and concealed rather than eliminated the running boards. As Tremulis states, the 1941 Packard Clipper, as it debuted in April 1941, was primarily Darrin’s vision, and looked surprisingly similar to the clay model he submitted to the firm in early 1940. Although Tremulis likely worked on the Clipper at some point in 1939 or 1940 – perhaps on the Briggs’ design that was nixed by Max Gilman – he never revealed exactly what he did.

Tremulis’ Brigg’s legacy remains the Chrysler Thunderbolt, a showcar that debuted in November 1940 at the 1941 National Auto Shows.

Named after and inspired by Capt. George E.T. Eyston's Thunderbolt Land Speed Record car, the car was developed at Briggs to serve as a peek into Chrysler Corp.’s future. Understandably, execs were nervous, their last attempt, the 1934-1936 Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge Airflows, were a financial disaster for the firm, and Tremulis believed a couple of streamlined show cars would help restore Chrysler's reputation.

When Briggs Motor Bodies Ltd. in Dagenham, England closed down in late 1939, its chief designer, Ralph S. Roberts, returned to Briggs’ LeBaron studio (5th floor of their 11631 Mack Ave. plant in Detroit), which was now headed by John Tjaarda. Prior to opening Briggs’ Dagenham plant in 1932, Roberts had headed the LeBaron studio and his return created an awkward situation that was magnified by the fact that Roberts had helped found LeBaron and had been responsible for its acquisition by Briggs. Rather than place Roberts under Tjaarda, or split the LeBaron Studio into two groups, Tjaarda remained in charge of the firm’s current designers and its existing customer projects while Roberts was left to develop his own projects. Tremulis’ drafting table was located next to Roberts’ and the two men (keep in mind the seasoned Roberts, at 43, was 18 years older than Tremulis) became friendly.

In early May of 1940 Tremulis recalled that Roberts appeared to be stuck, and was spending his days designing scooters and three-wheelers:

“One Friday afternoon, he asked me for my advice, and in a joking fashion, I told him he'd been in England too long and that Americans liked long, low, swoopy monsters. I remember suggesting to him that since he was highly regarded by K.T. Keller, why didn't he work out two or three very advanced concepts - super custom LeBarons - and sell them to Chrysler as show cars.”

To which Roberts replied:

“Whatever you say, don't call it an Airflop*.”

(*At that time Chrysler was still recovering from the commercial failure of their streamlined unibody 1934-1936 Airflow (aka Airflop) and was in dire need of getting some positive publicity.)

Tremulis recalled the start of the project...

“I thought about my suggestion all weekend, and on Monday morning I showed up with what I have always considered my greatest masterpiece in the art of salesmanship. I entitled it ‘The Measured Mile Creates a New Motor Car’… I had prepared a series of rough pencil sketches that ran the gamut of land speed record cars from Major Seagrave’s 203mph Sunbeam and Frank Lockhart’s ill-fated Stutz Blackhawk, to Seagrave’s 231mph Golden Arrow and Sir Donald Campbell’s brace of evolutionary Bluebirds. I wound up with Captain George Eyston’s sheer brute force Thunderbolt that had recently set the land speed record of 357 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Alongside each of the race cars was a quick sketch of an imaginary passenger car inspired by the land speed record automobile.”

Roberts was excited about the proposal, and after a quick phone call arranged a meeting with K.T. Keller (Kaufman Thuma Keller), president of Chrysler, and Dave Wallace - Chrysler president and vice-president, respectively - where Tremulis would make the same presentation. He recalled:

“Keller was excited about two names: Golden Arrow and Thunderbolt. Could we design and build two cars and introduce them at the auto show in less than five months? Ralph answered, ‘Yes, providing we get no interference and that the designs are left to Briggs / LeBaron's professional judgement.’

“We explained that we would need at least sixty days for quarter scale clay model exploration and three or four months to build the prototypes at LeBaron. I interjected that Mr. Keller and Mr. Wallace should be the only two men involved and aware of the project, because if more men entered the project we would still be scraping clay a year from now. They agreed.”

Tremulis recalled the subsequnet conversation he had with Captain George E.T. Eyston:

“Mr. Wallace then had his secretary call Captain Eyston in England... and turned the phone over to me. I exchanged greetings with the great man and told him we were going to build an aerodynamic masterpiece inspired by his Thunderbolt. And that we wanted to use the name. When asked about the style of the logo, I stated, ‘No logo, we will use two lightning streaks, one on each door.’ All he said was, ‘Capital. Bloody, bloody good.’ We could use the name. However, if the Thunderbolt ever reached production, then we would have to discuss a royalty arrangement. When I told Dave Wallace, he cried, ‘Promise him anything. We want that name.’ Imagine my excitement. Here I was, 25 years-old, topping off a successful top-level meeting with my first trans-Atlantic telephone call.

“People later asked me how on earth we got Chrysler - which had now retrenched in defeat to conventional silhouettes - to buy such an advanced program. Let me put it this way. Had Ralph Roberts and I walked in there with two beautiful proposals, our chances of success would have been a hundred to one against us. Because of the nature of the business, the cars would have been nitpicked to death and never seen the light of day. Instead, we walked in that day and we sold an abstraction. We had only my crude drawings. We sold a philosophy that day, not a pair of cars. K.T. and Dave Wallace squinted their eyes and tried to imagineer what we were trying to design. They bought sight unseen what we hadn't even designed yet. Their primitive Airflow philosophy - which had reached deaf ears - was suddenly rekindled when we walked in. We had them at our mercy. It was good for all of us. Perhaps Chrysler had been right when it developed its Airflow. And it gave the illustrious house of LeBaron - a tragic child of the depression - the opportunity to go out in a blaze of glory. It was an idea that couldn't lose.”

Years later Roberts recalled his version of how the two cars were conceived:

“…more or less for our own amusement… But K.T. Keller was very friendly to us. Like Edsel Ford, K.T. liked to have outside talent around to encourage Chrysler's own designers though he actually used very little of what we designed in toto.”

Roberts soon decided that turning Major Henry Seagrave’s Golden Arrow into a showcar was impossible. Tremulis, who at the time was not officially involved as he was still working for Tjaarda, suggested updating LeBaron’s Classic-era dual-cowl phaeton for the streamlined age. Tremulis recalled:

“I must have made an impact on him, because in three days of whirling away on the drawing board he had it. There it was, at least 97 percent of the final version. And he did it all himself.”

Roberts acquired the services of an experienced clay modeler named John Hampshire, a Toronto native who had been recommended by Thomas L. Hibbard, another LeBaron founder. While Roberts finalized the designs Hampshire prepared the ¼-scale bucks in the modeling room as there was insufficient time to do them in full-scale. Tremulis recalling:

“Everything now had to have four times the accuracy of a full-size clay. Actually, a full-size job is a lot easier to do, for at least it’s there in actual finalized scale where you can visualize all your mistakes and correct them. In quarter-scale, everything is reduced accordingly and only a super-critical eye such as Ralph’s could compensate for scale effect.”

The Golden Arrow’s front cowl was lower than the rear cowl so that the driver felt like he was driving a sports car, oblivious to the passengers in the rear, who were far better protected from the wind vis-a-vis the higher tonneau with its integral windscreen. Roberts and Hampshire spent more time than they anticipated getting the ¼ scale model of the car completed, as soon as one optical illusion was resolved, another one popped up. The car’s long front fender also posed hinging problems and Roberts fought the engineers who suggested ending the front fender in the middle of the front door like everybody else.

According to Tremulis, Roberts was also having problems with the Thunderbolt design:

“Ralph started working on it concurrently with the Golden Arrow. But he wanted to try one radical idea that K.T. Keller just wouldn't buy. Ralph had flown in a rainstorm with a pilot whose plane had a strange windshield that swept out at the top instead of the bottom. This pilot claimed that rain water flew right off, and that this curious design eliminated wind noise, too. So Ralph decided to try this advanced aerodynamic feature on the Thunderbolt. But the Chrysler people just wouldn't go for it. K.T. gave him an ultimatum. They would forget the Thunderbolt completely, and do only one car.”

With the deadline less than two weeks away, Roberts requested additional help, and a quick call to Robert’s long-time friend Walter O. Briggs, put Tremulis on the project with the proviso that if Tjaarda had any crisis he would have to help him out. Tremulis quickly developed some sketches of his own, which he showed to Roberts and Keller, who gave him ten days to see what he could accomplish, recalling:

“The first thing I threw out was that crazy windshield. But I kept the compact retracting roof that Ralph had planned. Along the rocker panels, I added fluted moldings. That was inspired by a streamlined Budd train that was very popular then. And in ten days, I had the Thunderbolt. Just barely, but on schedule.”

Once both clays were complete, K.T. Keller and Dave Wallace came in for a final showing. They liked the results and decided to go with both cars, providing they would be ready in time for the New York Auto Show, which opened on October 12, 1940. Luckily, Briggs Mfg. had some of the best draftsmen and engineers in the business, and their chief body engineer John Voytypka accepted the challenge, providing that there were no more changes in the designs. In order to meet the short building deadline, the two show cars were constructed using standard LeBaron composite-body construction. The firm’s skilled craftsmen applied hand-hammered aluminum panels over a solid oak framework, although several panels including the trunk and the hood were made of steel. Several Chrysler engineers worked hand in hand with LeBaron, ensuring the integrity and quality of the cars would not be compromised under the tight time constraints of the project.

Tremulis described his surprise upon arriving at the Grand Central Palace three months later:

“Up to the very last minute the phaeton was called the Golden Arrow. Imagine my surprise upon my arrival at the New York show when I saw a different sign on it. It was now the Chrysler Newport. The initial first run of brochures was thrown out, and new ones were being printed in New York. We were so late, I had come to New York with two gold arrows that had been fabricated in our shops. I was supposed to place them somewhere on the car with a bit of tape. I put the arrows back in my suitcase. Chrysler's advertising men had decided that the car in no way resembled Seagrave's Golden Arrow. Someone hurriedly thought up the name ‘Newport’ - a real stroke of genius.”

Significantly, Chrysler chose to introduce the cars with a speech based almost word-for-word on Tremulis’s presentation to Keller and Wallace, a presentation that included many a reference to the Airflow and the design philosophy behind the Airflow. A booklet based on that speech that Chrysler circulated didn’t at all shy away from heralding the Airflow as a triumph of engineering and design:

“You may wonder why Chrysler can say so confidently that (the Newport and Thunderbolt) will forecast all future design! It is because these cars, like the first Chrysler Airflow, are fashioned by function. They are not a designer’s whim, they are not mere fads of style! Like the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, they are functionally designed for the task they are to perform.”

Tremulis recalled that:

“…a very distinguished moderator in a tuxedo introduced both cars in a speech entitled ‘The Measured Mile Creates Two New Motor Cars.’ He read my original proposal verbatim. I had a large sketchpad on an easel, and I would sketch the land speed record cars as the narration unfolded. A lovely model in a glistening gown would then stamp ‘Courtesy of the Chrysler Corporation’ on the sketch and everybody, especially the kids, would start scrambling for momentos. The press coverage was tremendous. A typical headline was, ‘Chrysler, The Pioneers of the Airflow, Are Now Pointing the Way To The Future.’ In our own little way we were erasing some of the stigma of the Chrysler Airflow.”

In the October 12, 1940 issue of The New Yorker, New York Herald columnist (“This New York”), bon vivant and self-described hedonist, “Luscious” Lucius Beebe mentioned the Thunderbolt in his review of the forty-first annual National Automobile Show which was held from October 12-19, 1940 at New York City’s Grand Central Palace:

"Opening night produced a few surprises that even most auto men weren't prepared for. Two of these were Chrysler's Thunderbolt, seating three, and its Newport Phaeton, seating eight - four in front and four in back. Both look so much like some dreamy designer's glimpse of the future that I thought they had been built purely for exhibition. I was wrong... each costs about $8,200 delivered here."

While the original Golden Arrow and Thunderbolt were being constructed, Chrysler ordered five additional pairs to be used on a nationwide sales caravan during 1941.

While the two original cars were displayed at the various National Automobile Shows, once completed the remaining pairs were dispatched to select Chrysler dealerships starting in November of 1940 – one pair to the East, one to the Midwest and the third to the West Coast. Ultimately only four of the five additional pairs were completed as time was short, and surviving pictures indicate that all five Thunderbolts were painted and trimmed differently - some had all-leather interiors, some had a combination of leather and Bedford cloth. Apparently the original Newports were painted either White with a red leather interior or dark green with tan leather.

A Chrysler press release boasted:

“The first of them covered the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco and at every stop drew such crowds to the local dealer's establishment that in some cases it was necessary to turn the lights after midnight to clear the showroom.”

The figures were impressive: 8,500 people saw the car in Sacramento, Calikfornia; 6,400 in Providence, Rhode Island - despite a pouring rain - and 29,000 Denver, Colorado residents braved a snow storm to see the two cars over the course of a weekend.

Chrysler continued to promote the Newport and Thunderbolt during 1941. A white Newport was used as the pace car at Indianapolis for the 1941 running of the 500, the only pace car in Indy history that was not a standard production model. Once the cars had served their purpose they were sold off, the one exception being a Newport which was taken by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. for his personal collection.

Of the ten show cars constructed by LeBaron, eight survive, four Newports and four Thunderbolts. Manheim, Pennsylvania collector Paul H. Stern owned several Thunderbolts over the years as did Las Vegas collector car dealer Don Williams - the remaining Thunderbolts are painted copper & green, red, grey and black).

The copper & green car is the best known of the four Thunderbolts, having been originally purchased by actor Bruce Cabot* in February of 1941 for $8,250 during the western leg of the Chrysler Caravan.

(Incidentally Cabot’s was not the only celebrity-owned 1940 Chrysler showcar. During the late 1940s millionaire playboy Henry J. ‘Bob’ Topping, who at the time was married to actress Lana Turner, purchased one of the Newports.)

During his ownership, Cabot added a dual Stromberg-equipped Edmunds manifold to give it a little more power – although it looked fast standing still, the Thunderbolt’s performance was the same as the Chrysler New Yorker upon which it shared a chassis (127½” wheelbase for the Thunderbolt, 143½” wheelbase for the Newport) and powertrain; a 140 hp, 323.5-cu in ‘Spitfire’ L-head inline 8-cylinder mated to a three-speed Fluid Drive transmission with overdrive.

Cabot’s car ended up with Paul H. Stern who sold it to Bill Harrah in 1969. In 1985 it was purchased by Gerard DePersio who treated it to a concours restoration after which it debuted at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours, where it won the ‘Camille Jenatzy award’ for the car with the most audacious exterior. It was subsequently shown at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours, after which it was sold at auction to an ‘overseas collector’ in 2011 for $935K.

Without question, the Thunderbolt’s most impressive design feature was the ingeniously designed, electrically operated, retractable hardtop. The flick of one switch activated three separate synchronized operations that caused the top to retract into a space behind the bench seat. Access to the trunk was provided by a fully automatic sliding rear deck lid – truly an incredible engineering task in 1941 and one that was not seen again on a production car until the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner of 1957.

It’s interesting to note - though not surprising - that when Roberts filed for a design patent on the Thunderbolt on June 28, 1941, Tremulis name was noticeably absent from the application. On Sept. 23, 1941 Roberts was assigned US Pat No. Des. 129,618, which was assigned to Briggs Mfg. Co. Roberts also applied for a patent on the Newport on the same date (June 28, 1941) which was also awarded on Sept. 23, 1941 as US Pat. No. Des. 129,619 and assigned to Briggs.

Years later Tremulis recalled the impact of the two showcars, and how Briggs repaid him for his hard work:

“Both of our cars later exerted a tremendous influence on the direction that Detroit styling eventually took. Ironically, when I got back to Detroit after the triumphant auto show, John Tjaarda informed me that his budget had been drastically cut because of the coming war. I had been laid off.”

It was now 1941, and 26-year-old Tremulis realized that his work in a ‘non-essential role’ meant that he would likely be drafted soon and on July 23, 1941 he reported for duty at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Three days later he was assigned to the Air School at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois where his portfolio got him an interview with Lt. Col. Myron A. Sine, US Air Corps Area Air Officer. According to Tremulis:

"Once in the Air Force they took a look at my drawings and I was told to go somewhere where people really understood what I was doing. I was sent to the Fifth Area Air Corps where I was to meet a Colonel Sine. Sine said, 'There's no doubt about it, you belong at Wright Field. That's where we do all of our designing.'”

But it took Tremulis' perseverance with the personnel officer, Lt. Col. O. L. Rogers, to get there. As he recounted:

“I came to the door that had ‘Col O.L. Rogers, Commandant’ on it. I opened the door, and before I realized I had come in the back door, it was too late. So I saluted him with my portfolio. He looks at me and says ‘What’s on your mind?’ I said, ‘Well, sir, I'm at the wrong field.’ He said ‘What do you mean you're at the wrong field? Where do you think you should be?' I told him ‘Wright Field.’ I also told him ‘Colonel Sine told me that if I ever get down to Chanute Field that I should look you up because you are the only one down here that knows anything about airplanes.’ I opened my portfolio, and as it turned out the first thing I showed him was a drawing of a Packard Custom automobile, and he was a Packard owner. Then I brought out the airplanes. He took one look and started pressing buttons. He calls in public relations men; he calls in writers. Colonel Rogers said ‘Every American Mother in the world thinks we don't know what to do with her son when he gets into the Air Force...Well, I'm going to show the whole world that we know what to do with talent when we get it.’”

Seven weeks later Tremulis was transferred to the Army Air Corps Air Materiel Command, Engineering Division at Wright Field (Dayton), Ohio. On the strength of his portfolio, Tremulis was assigned to the Aircraft Laboratory’s art department where he set about creating renderings of proposed aircraft.

His first project of note was creating air-brushed renderings of a 200,000 lb. bomber that the Aircraft Lab was trying to sell to the Pentagon. Tremulis even accompanied Col. Kemmer on a trip to Washington where his renderings were used to help sell the concept to Maj. Gen. Oliver Echols, chief materiel officer of the Army Air Forces. Although the plane was selected for development, Tremulis claimed that Echols was so impressed by his artwork that he insisted that he (Tremulis) illustrate all future proposals from the Aircraft Lab.

Later that year 24-year-old Chrisanthie (Chryssie) J. Politis*, an office worker in a large Chicago restaurant whom Alex had known for five years, consented to be his bride, and on November 8, 1942 they were united in marriage at Chicago’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (the marriage certificate was issued on Oct. 26, 1942) and soon-after Chrisanthie joined her husband in Dayton.

(*Politis was born on May 12, 1917 in Columbus, Platte County, Nebraska to John Peter and Christina [Kazakes] Politis and died on August 16, 2006 in Ventura County, California.)

In addition to working on official Aircraft Lab projects, Tremulis also worked on his own concepts, the most interesting being a one-man reusable interceptor that was launched atop a two-stage liquid-fueled booster rocket that would be jettisoned once the aircraft reached altitude. Designed in July of 1944, the TVT or ‘Tremulis Vertical Take-off’ (aka Tremulis Zero-Fighter) was controlled by jeterons once the atmosphere became too thin for airfoils, and upon completion of its mission, the swept-winged aircraft would glide back to earth and land like a conventional airplane. Although the TVT never made it past the design stage, many of its concepts were revisited in the Air Force’s X-20 Dyna-Soar, a hypersonic boosted glider program developed by Boeing in the late 1950s which in turn had a direct influence on the Space Shuttle.

Tremulis’ work was formally recognized by the Aircraft Lab when he was made a Master Sergeant. The four years he spent at Wright Field were the most exciting of his life and when he returned to the airbase several decades later he was pleasantly surprised to see that some of his wartime renderings were proudly displayed underneath glass.

After his discharge from the Air Force at the end of the war, Tremulis returned to his home town, Chicago, and joined the industrial design firm of Tammen and Denison, Inc. where he tried his hand at designing a wide variety of non-automotive consumer products. One non-automotive related project was designing a line of bathroom fixtures.

Tammen & Denison, Inc. were located in the Field Building, an art deco office building located at 135 S. LaSalle St. at the heart of the Chicago Loop. The ‘People’ column of the April 1946 issue of Plastics announced the appointment of Tremulis to the design staff of Tammen & Denison:

“Alex Tremulis, automobile and aircraft stylist, has recently joined the staff of Tammen & Denison, Inc., industrial designers and consulting engineers, Chicago, in the capacity of head stylist of the organization's transportation division.”

A post on Michael S. Tremulis’ Gyronaut X-1 site reveals that Tremulis had worked with one of the firm’s principals, Glenn Tammen, in redesigning the Austin-Western Model 40 street sweeper prior to the start of the Second World War:

“Two very nice ladies headed up this company. The firm was turning out one street sweeper a week, an efficient three-wheeled unit selling for less than half of what the big companies were getting. Stylist Glenn Tammen and I got the task of improving the design and we covered up all of the exposed machinery and brushes with a streamlined cover and painted it bright canary yellow in place of the no color scheme at all.

“The result? A year later, we were invited to a company party and the two little old ladies were beside themselves. Their plant was running seven days a week, three shifts a day to turn out up to 400 units a year. ‘We had a nice peaceful life until this success hit,’ they complained, ‘now we think we may sell the whole thing.’ The streamlined street sweeper had become an American institution, the first to sweep America beautiful.”

One of Tremulis’ first projects upon his return to Tammen & Denison was a re-imagined post-war Lincoln Continental called the Monte Carlo, for which he prepared a sedan and convertible. On April 6, 1946 the design firm forwarded Tremulis proposals to Henry Ford II accompanied by a prospectus which is excerpted below:

“Tammen & Denison, Field Bldg., Chicago

“Dear Mr. Ford:

“We are now offering a styling service in our Transportation Division that we feel will be of interest to your organization. During our ten years of automotive styling experience we have arrived at the conclusion that an outside source of design will give your product a new refreshing style note. A company-maintained styling section many times is too close to the problem and the designs tend to show a stagnation of evolution…

“We have prepared two design sketches on the Lincoln-Continental chassis for your inspection. On the sedan we have retained the Continental roof line but have suggested a lower trunk line by removing the spare tire and placing it in the side mount position. We can fully appreciate the spare tire mounted on the trunk carried an attractive European flair and certainly added a great deal of distinction to your design. However, we think you will concur that the new fender design greatly accentuates the length of the car, and the absence of the spare tire suggest a closer approach to aerodynamic trends. The drawing is scaled twice size from the magazine clipping as a basis of comparison.

“The Monte Carlo design is a proposed 1/12 drawing embodying the Continental flair. This type of design exemplifies the last word in elegance and is one of the most popular European body types. The optional Plexiglas top adds an ultra-modern not to the design. Please bear in mind that chassis dimensions are approximate as we do not have a chassis print. The design is not intended to be classed as a super-streamlined sports type. We were trying to express the same qualities of dignity and ultra-smartness so eloquently expressed by your present Continental series.”

It appears that Tremulis also supplied the text accompanying the drawings, however it was all for naught as Henry Ford II had already decided to discontinue the dated Continental after the 1948 model year in favor of an all-new 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan which debuted on April 22, 1948.

Another Tammen & Denison project was the exterior design of a jet-powered car for Ab Jenkins, the May 30, 1946 issue of the Milwaukee Journal reporting:

“Jenkins Will Seek 600 Mile Speed in Jet Propelled Car Next Summer

“by Bob Gilka of the Journal Staff

“Indianapolis, Ind. — Ab Jenkins, automobile speed king of the world, will attempt to set a new international record of 600 miles an hour for the measured mile, using a jet propelled car, according to plans he discussed here Wednesday.

“Jenkins said the attempt on the record, now 369 miles an hour and held by John Cobb, London fur broker, will be made on the Bonneville (Utah) salt flats in the summer of 1947.

“The machine, it is hoped, will be powered by a TG 180. This is the plant developed for the Army’s P-80 airplane. Jenkins expects the jet engine to develop about 7,000 horse-power at 600 miles an hour.

“Gasoline Limit Reached

“Alex Tremulis, aircraft and automotive designer from Chicago, will undertake sketches of the speedster within a few weeks.

“The limits of gasoline operated engines for high speed racing purposes such as this practically have been reached, Tremulis said.

“‘The next step toward even higher speeds than gasoline driven engines can give us must be toward jet propulsion,’ he added.

“Jenkins feels sure that the machine will be the answer to his dream of finding a car with which he can beat down the challenge of the British to land speed supremacy.

“‘I am sure it can beat Cobb’s mark handily,’ Jenkins said. ‘I’m also sure that I will be able to outrun the jet propelled car the English are readying in hopes of setting a new mile record themselves.’

“13 Mile Speedway

“‘Since I have only 13 miles on the salt flats in which to attain top speed and then come to a complete stop, we plan to use rockets to assist in a faster acceleration and to help slow the car down at the end of the run,’ Jenkins explained. ‘The slowing down rockets would thrust against the car’s motion, he said.

“The Salt Lake City (Utah) driving veteran was optimistic over the contemplated machine.

“‘The jet turbine engine will eliminate many moving parts,’ he said. ‘The wheels, instead of delivering power to develop speed, will have only to roll freely,’ he added.

“Army Controls Jet

“The car, which will weigh 7,500 or 8,000 pounds when built, will be about 30 feet long and nine feet wide. Wheels will be 36 inches or more in diameter. The body will be ultra-streamlined, but will have movable flaps to assist in stowing down the car. Mounted behind the cockpit, away from the driver, will be the jet engine. Air used in the turbine will be scooped in at the front of the machine, then ducted back on either side of the driver to the turbine.

“Tremulis pointed out that the completion of the car can be carried out only with the co-operation of the Army, since it has complete control over the type of jet engine necessary.”

Although Tremulis arranged to borrow a slightly larger I-40 jet engine from the Air Force’s Col. R.G. Wilson, vice-deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research & Development, funding for the jet car project never materialized, and Ab Jenkins elected to use a Frank Kurtis-built piston-powered racecar which only made it to 174 mph, a far cry from the 367.91 mph record John Cobb had set using his twin W-12-cyl. streamlined Railton Special back in 1939.

At the end of December, 1946 a charismatic entrepreneur from Ypsilanti, Michigan paid a visit to the Tammen & Denison office. The gentleman, one Preston T. Tucker (b. Feb. 8, 1903 - d. Dec. 26 1956), had just fired his designer and was hoping they could help get his self-named automobile manufacturing project back on track.

Tucker was a former automobile salesman and small-time defense contractor who believed large profits could be realized in the post-war automobile market. Not content to make a profit selling somebody else’s car, he insisted on manufacturing his own, incorporating his own ideas, built to his not-so exacting specifications.

Although Francis Ford Coppola (who owned two Tuckers) produced a great film on the man and his machine (Tucker: The Man and His Dream - 1988), he took numerous liberties with the facts and its main premise - that Detroit’s Big Three (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors) conspired to put Tucker out of business – is pure fiction. Although the approximately four dozen cars that remain today have recently been selling for $1 million plus each, the Tucker was little more advanced than its contemporaries, and, aside from its unusual appearance and spacious interior, was in many respects a ‘streamlined lemon’.

Much has been written about Tucker the man, suffice it to say, his family loved and admired him and even his enemies considered him to be a Messianic leader and salesman. A People magazine bio described his physical appearance in great detail:

“Everything about Tucker was spectacular. He stood 6'2" and weighed 200 lbs., most of it muscle. Boldly handsome, he had large, dominating eyes and razor-thin lips. His black wavy hair was slicked back in the lounge-lizard style affected by George Raft, and a subtle effluence of Lucky Tiger hair tonic trailed him wherever he went. Invariably duded up in custom-tailored suits, jaunty black homburgs, expensive Chesterfields and two-tone shoes, he could have passed for a modish mobster—except for his screechy bow ties and the white cotton socks he wore for his athlete's foot.” 

Tucker was a shameless self-promotor who spared no expense to maintain the illusion of a successful businessman, however the facts reveal he was a disastrous manager, and all of his business enterprises ended in failure, bitterness and charges of questionable bookkeeping.

One former associate told People:

“Tucker still is a juvenile, capable of enthusiasms so wild that he cannot distinguish good from bad. Whatever his enthusiasm dictates, no matter how fantastic, is absolute fact,” and another stated: “You can't depend on his word. He will tell you a lie, know that you know he is lying, yet keep on telling it.”

Clearly Tucker would have made a great politician or TV evangelist.

Preston Thomas Tucker was born on September 21, 1903 in the village of Capac, Mussey Township, St. Clair County, Michigan to Shirley Harvey and Carrie Lorraine (Preston) Tucker. His mother was a school teacher and his father raised peppermint in the nutrient-rich muckland that made up much of Mussey Township. Preston lost his 27-year-old father to septic peritonitis (appendicitis) on Feb. 8, 1907 after which his mother moved Preston and his younger brother William to Osceola, Michigan to live with her parents, the 1910 US Census shows him in the Osceola, Michigan home of his maternal grandfather, Milford A. Preston, a local lumberman. When he was 6, a shiny new Buick ran over his toes. Unhurt but fascinated, spunky Preston reportedly stole the Buick's gas cap as a souvenir.

His mother subsequently found a job teaching in the Detroit schools and moved her family to Detroit. Tucker claimed to have learned how to drive at age 11 and while attending Cass Technical High School Tucker’s mother bought the 16-year-old a used car which he refurbished and sold off for a profit. He eventually quit school and landed a job as a $1 a day office boy for the Cadillac Motor Car Company where he became well-known for delivering the mail on rollerskates. Tucker's 1946 Torpedo brochure  claimed that D'Orsay McCall White, Cadillac's vice president for engineering, tutored him in engine  and chassis design while he worked at the firm - White left Cadillac soon after, his resignation was announced on May 12, 1919.

The 1920 US Census lists the Tuckers at 35 Hecla Ave. Detroit, his mother’s occupation, teacher, public schools; Preston’s occupation, clerk in a drugstore. It was during this period that he joined one of the post-war aerial barnstorming acts as a summer job. At the flying circus’ Monroe, Michigan appearance, Tucker lost the flip of a coin and at the last minute replaced the team’s parachutist, despite having no experience. He got out safely but missed the field and crash-landed on top of a freight car, after which he spent a short spell in the hospital reflecting on his mistakes.

In 1922, Tucker took a job with the Lincoln Park police force as a motorcycle patrolman but his mother forced his dismissal when it was revealed he was under the minimum age requirements to join the force. He subsequently took an assembly-line job at the Ford Motor Co. and on July 25, 1923 wed a beautiful Jackson, Missouri native named Vera A. Fuqua, who was working as a secretary in Detroit. The entrepreneurial pair subsequently took over a 6-month lease on a Lincoln Park gas station which Vera managed while Preston worked full-time at Ford. They also sold used Studebakers, and in the course of business met a like-minded automobile dealer named Mitchell W. Dulian* who hired Preston as salesman at his Detroit Buick distributorship.

(*Tucker returned the favor in 1937 when he hired Dulian as Tucker sales manager.)

The dealership was a long drive from Tucker's Lincoln Park home, so he quit and returned to the Lincoln Park police department as he now exceeded the minimum age requirement, but got into trouble with his superiors after he cut a hole in his police car’s firewall in an attempt to install an auxiliary heater, and was demoted to walking a beat.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Lincoln Park's chief of police Floyd M. Crichton, who served with Tucker as a rookie, recalled Tucker as a brash and nervy young motorcycle cop whose arrested several armed criminals at gunpoint during his short time on the force.

When Dulian was transferred by Buick to manage its Memphis, Tennessee distributor, he took Tucker with him as sales manager and the pair took up residence at Memphis Claridge Hotel – Tucker’s family remained in Lincoln Park.

When Buick transferred Dulian to its Bronx, New York distributorship (the 1930 US Census lists Dulian in Queens as ‘sales manager’ for an ‘auto manufacturer’), Tucker stayed put and went to work for Ivor Schmidt, owner of the Automobile Sales Co., Memphis’ Gardner, Studebaker and Stutz distributor. The 1929 Lincoln Park, Michigan (southern suburb of Detroit) directory lists him as a Manufacturers' Representative.

While working for Stutz, Tucker attended the 1929 Indianapolis 500, where he met Harry A. Miller, then the greatest innovator in American race-car design. Tucker and Miller discovered that they shared an enthusiasm for all things automotive, not to mention an ambition to turn that enthusiasm into cash.

Tucker subsequently took a position as sales manager with the John T. Fisher Motor Co., Memphis’ Chrysler, Desoto and Dodge distributor, and in the course of doing business made a connection with the sales manager of Buffalo, New York’s Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. who in 1930 invited him to serve as their mid-west regional sales manager.

The 1930 US Census lists Tucker at 1314 Warwick Ave., Lincoln Park, Michigan, his occupation, zone mgr., auto industry. Also included are his wife Vera, brother William S. Tucker and four children; Shirley S. (6yo), Preston T. jr. (4½ yo), Marilyn S. (3 yo) and Noble R. (11 mo) Tucker.

After meeting Harry Miller Tucker made the trek to the Indianapolis 500 every year afterward and in 1932 the future automaker was photographed alongside Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and Ford’s three sons, Henry (II), Benson and Edsel Ford.

After Pierce-Arrow sales experienced a steady decline during late 1932 and in early 1933 Tucker resigned and took a job as sales manager at Cass Motors, Detroit’s largest Dodge dealer. By the end of the year he was working for the Mundus Brewing Co. of Detroit as the firm's traffic manager. A feature article in the January, 1934 issue of 'The Month at Mundus' highlighted the firm's new fleet of Dodge trucks whose self-loading truck bodies had been designed by Tucker. One of the pictures was included in The Power Wagon with the following description:

“A brewery that has made a clean sweep of its transportation, by re-equipping with new Dodge trucks, is the Mundus Brewing Company of Detroit. An innovation likely to revolutionize the hauling of beer in barrels is the unique self-loading truck body mounted on each of the above trucks. The designer,Preston Tucker, is seen standing in the foreground.”

While he was working for Mundus his name was mentioned in regards to a planned rescue of the Marmon Motor Car Company, the January 9, 1934 Associated Press newswire reporting:

“New Company Will Make Marmon Autos

“Indianapolis, Indiana, Jan. 9 – (AP) – Formation of a corporation to acquire a portion of the plant, equipment and inventory of the Marmon Motor Car company with a view to resuming manufacture of Marmon automobiles and constructing motor products of Harry A. Miller of Los Angeles, was announced here today by A.D. Sterner and S.N. Wheeler.

“Sterner and Miller will be connected with the new company, to be known as the American Automotive Corporation. Motors built by Miller have been used in a large number of racing cars in the annual 500-mile automobile race here, among them the winners of every race since 1928.

“Another official of the new company named by Sterner is Preston Tucker of Detroit, Mich., former sales manager of Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company and later with the Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company of Clintonville, Wis.

“Sterner said the company will begin production of the Marmon ‘16’ as soon as final details are worked out, and will manufacture Miller racing cars, and high speed aviation and marine engines.

“The Marmon company has been in receivership.”

Although the Marmon deal fell through, Tucker convinced Edsel Ford to have Miller build 10 Miller-Ford racecars in the hopes of having a Ford-powered car win the 1935 Indianapolis 500. Tucker and Miller subsequently formed a partnership, Miller & Tucker, Inc., whose operation was bankrolled by the Ford contract. Edsel admired Tucker after witnessing him light up one of his famous cigars in front of his father Henry. “Nobody smokes around me," protested the senior Ford, to which Tucker countered, “Tell that to your flunkies. Don't tell me.”

The 1935 Miller-Fords weren’t adequately tested and on race day their steering boxes, which were located too close to the engine's exhaust, expanded due to the intense heat and locked up, causing all of the cars that qualified to drop out of the race.

In early 1936 Tucker joined his former employer Richard A. Cott, sales manager of Cass Motor Sales, Detroit, in the formation of Packard-Indianapolis, Inc., 1510 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana. The firm’s incorporation was announced in the March 15, 1936 issue of the Indianapolis Star:

“Packard-Indianapolis, Inc., 1510 North Meridian street, Indianapolis: resident agent, Preston Tucker, same address; capital stock, 500 shares of $100 par value; objects, to operate automobile sales agency. Incorporators, Richard A. Cott, Preston Tucker and Carl Neubauer.”

Co-workers recalled that Tucker strutted around the showroom in short pants while he sucked on his ever-present cigar. One memorable promotion involved Tucker driving a new Packard around Indianapolis with a real baby elephant in tow.  The 1937 directory lists his home address as the Indianapolis Athletic Club, which was located down the street from his Packard dealership at 350 N. Meridian.

The 1938 directory listing for Packard-Indianapolis Inc. no longer includes Tucker, who had been handed his walking papers by Cott, who replaced him with William A.B. Hanchett. He also suffered a bought of appendicitis and while recovering from his subsequent appendectomy in the hospital, he read up on the looming European conflict and reasoned there might be a need for an easily maneuverable high-speed armored combat vehicle if the escalation continued.

He wasn’t out of a job long and was offered a position at an Indianapolis beer distributor, becoming manager of their fleet of beverage delivery trucks.

He wasn’t out of a job long and was offered a position at Detroit's Mundus Brewing Co. as manager of their fleet of beer delivery trucks.

Tucker was made aware that the Dutch military, nervous about the recent annexation of Poland by the German Military, was look for proposals for an armored combat car, to beef up its small collection of military vehicles. The connection was likely made through Indianapolis’ Marmon-Herrington Co. which was working with the New Jersey-based American Armament Corp., on several contracts for the Netherlands Purchasing Commission.

Tucker contacted his old friend Harry A. Miller and in late 1937 had him design and build a prototype armored car, powered by a modified 478 cu. in. Packard V-12 engine, mostly likely under a contract with the American Armament Corp. Tucker had no engineering background or experience but was very adept at putting deals together, especially if a large profit might be realized.

It turns out Miller already had constructed a narrow-wheelbase scout car for the American Bantam company, and the ‘Tucker Combat Car’ looked very similar to the vehicle Miller had constructed for American Bantam (especially the positioning of the frill and headlights), although it was significantly larger and more agile than the Jeep Bantam subsequently presented to the US Military.

On November 29, 1938 Tucker's Combat Car (aka Tucker Tiger) was subsequently evaluated by the US Army at its Aberdeen Proving Grounds on November 29, 1938. While the car's hard surface performance was exceptional - the Army clocked it a 74 mph – its off-road performance was fairly limited due to its excessive size and weight – it was sheathed in heavy 9/16” armor plate - and the government declined to order any duplicate examples for further testing.

Hoping to get others interested, American Armament Corp. produced a short industrial film that showed the ‘Tucker Combat Car’ going through its paces at the firm’s testing facility in NJ. The interesting film shows the vehicle equipped with a 37mm anti-tank gun in the turret as well as two .50 cals and two .30 cals on semi-flexible mounts. Several still of the scout car in action were subsequently featured in the February 1939 issue of Modern Mechanix:

“Armored Tank Attains Speed Of 114 MPH.

“An all-welded armor-plated army tank which, it is claimed, can attain a speed of 114 m.p.h. over a level road and 78 m.p.h. over rough ground was recently demonstrated at Rahway, N. J. Invented by Preston Tucker, an armament manufacturer, the tank weighs 10,000 pounds, which is 2,000 pounds less than the present conventional type. Besides machine guns, it features an anti-aircraft cannon, which is mounted in a turret atop the rear of the armored body.”

The project was tabled for the time being and both Tucker and American Armament were likely disappointed when they learned that the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940. However the government thought the novel transparent gun turret that he had designed for the vehicle showed promise and in 1939 he moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan where he continued to work on it.

There he established two firms; the Ypsilanti Tool and Machine Co. (aka Ypsilanti Machine and Tool Co., Ypsilanti Tool & Die Co. – never listed in the Ypsilanti directory) and the Tucker Aviation Corp., whose shared place of business was an expanded barn located behind his 110 N. Park Ave. home, which was shared by his wife and five children.

Just what products the Tool & Machine Co. produced is unknown, however the Tucker Aviation Corp. soon released plans for a proposed lightweight fighter it called the XP-57. Exactly who designed the aircraft is unknown – Tucker had no formal or practical engineering experience – but Tucker oversaw its marketing, which apparently was successful as Tucker claims the government ordered a prototype.

Nicknamed the ‘Peashooter’ the aircraft was to have a steel tubular frame with an aluminum skin and plywood wings. The Harry A. Miller-designed inline-8 cylinder engine, was situated directly behind the pilot in a configuration similar to that of the P-39 Airacobra. However it never got beyond the designs stage as Tucker Aviation declared bankruptcy in mid-1941 before construction of the prototype commenced.

The 1941 Ypsilanti, Michigan directory lists him as a salesman, the 1942 directory as head of the Tucker Aviation Co., parts mfrs., rear of 110 N. Park, his home address.

Just prior to going bankrupt, Tucker had gotten a military contractor interest in the gun turret, and he made a licensing agreement with a wealthy New Orleans shipbuilder named Andrew J. Higgins (b. August 28, 1886 – d. August 1, 1952).

Higgins thought the gun turret had possibilities and brought Tucker onboard to help develop it for use on his LCVPs (landing craft, vehicle, personnel - aka ‘Higgins boat’ – 20,000 were used in amphibious landings during World War II). Higgins formally acquired Tucker Aviation Co.’s assets in 1943 and made Tucker a vice-president as part of the deal. Tucker’s sole combat car prototype was included as one of the Aviation Co.’s assets and several Higgins’ employees reported seeing it wasting away at one of Higgins’ New Orleans facilities after the War. Unfortunately Tucker accomplished little in New Orleans and Higgins* handed him his walking papers in late 1944*.

(*“We kicked him out,” said Higgins, “for faking expenses, overdrawing salary and showing little regard for the money we advanced him.” In a suit, later settled, Higgins asked that Tucker account for some $845,000 and said he believed Tucker “had diverted for his personal gain, $118,000.” In spite of their differences, Higgins regarded Tucker as “the world's greatest salesman” and once warned a business associate, “When he turns those big brown eyes on you, boy, you'd better watch out.”)

Although pictures of the Tucker Turret cataloged by the National Archives list it as being for an Army flying boat, its only known application was on the Higgin’s boats – although it may have been fitted to some early Elco 70’ and 77’ PT boats as well.

Despite the 1935 Indy 500 debacle Tucker didn’t forget his old friend Harry A. Miller and when he passed away penniless on May 3, 1943 Tucker supplied the funds for his burial. After the War Tucker sponsored one of Miller’s pre-war four-wheel-drive racecars (the ‘Preston Tucker Special’) in the 1946 and 1947 Indianapolis 500s. He also hired Miller’s chief mechanic, John Eddie Offutt, to help develop the prototype Tucker Torpedo in 1947.

Using his Higgins’ boat windfall, Tucker returned to Ypsilanti and began work on creating his own automobile company that would produce a streamlined car incorporating his ideas with the latest technologies. He had the basic premise outlined by mid-1945 and after getting some advice from some industry insiders began to look for financing in Detroit but quickly discovered that the only way this would be possible was for him to give up control of the company. In that event he would be one of the last people to get paid if the company was a success.

He consulted with a Chicago acquaintance, a fast-talking ex-attorney named Abraham ‘Abe’ H. Karatz, who suggested he take a look at a large aircraft plant in the Chicago suburb of Cicero that the War Assets Administration was trying to sell off.

Karatz (b. 21 Mar. 21, 1890 in Odessa, Russia – d. Aug. 23, 1953 in Houston, Tx.) was a St. Paul Minnesota attorney who moved to Chicago in the 1920s at which time he became involved with several unsavory characters, the most notorious being Dave ‘long count’ Barry, a Chicago boxing referee who handed Gene Tunney a controversial decision over Jack Demsey in 1927.

Karatz was temporarily disbarred in 1925 after having been found guilty of professional misconduct; and on June 21, 1935 was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Amalgamated Trust and Saving Bank of Chicago of $54,000 at which time he was sentenced to a term of from 1-5 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary. Investigators discovered that the bank fraud was part of a much larger scheme whereby Karatz and his partners, Joseph Balata, Dave ‘long count’ Barry, Hayden Saunders and Gustav Lindquist hoped to raise $400,000 in order to gain control of the Abraham Lincoln Life Insurance Co., a well-respected firm with over $13 million in assets of which Lindquist was president and Saunders treasurer.

Karatz, who never denied his guilt in the scheme, exhausted his numerous appeals in 1937 and was officially disbarred by the State of Minnesota on March 4, 1938. He ended up serving ended up serving three-and-one-half-years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet and was released just before the start of the Second World War.

Tucker liked the expansive plant, which had a built-in railroad spur as well as its own steel and aluminum foundry, which formed most of the infrastructure required to build a successful auto manufacturing enterprise. He also liked the outgoing Karatz and chose to overlook his history of prison and dirty financial dealings providing he could deliver investors.

During the previous year Tucker had made inquiries to several Detroit automobile men as to the availability of a capable automotive designer and several mentioned George S. Lawson, a furloughed Briggs designer who had formerly worked at the Buick studio at General Motors Art & Colour.

According to his 1949-1950 SEC trial testimony, Lawson starting working on the design of the Tucker Torpedo during the summer of 1944. In an interview with historian Michael Lamm, the designer stated he never got an actual package* from Tucker although he knew it was to be a streamlined rear-engined car. He also recalled having trouble getting Tucker to commit to the details – such as exactly how large the engine was going to be and whether it would be mounted forward, aft, or above the rear axle.

(*package refers to exact measurements such as the car’s wheelbase, exterior dimensions, drivetrain, etc.)

During one of their first meetings at Tucker’s home in Ypsilanti, Lawson showed him a drawing of a radical Buick he had designed right before the War. Tucker appeared to be willing to consider whatever Lawson presented as his immediate need was simply for a design – something striking and futuristic that would get investors interested in the project.

Lawson got to work and by that fall had come up with several acceptable proposals all of which incorporated many of the following designs cues; a one-piece windshield that wrapped around the cockpit, center-mounted steering, doors that extended into the roofline, skirted aerodynamic front fenders that pivoted with the front wheels and a center mounted headlight, one of the few features that made it to the final version of the car. Like Tremulis, Lawson was a former GM Art & Colour designer who had ended up at Briggs Mfg. Co. at the start of the Second World War. Tremulis held him in high regard and crediting Lawson with helping him develop his skill at working with ‘Prismacolor’ the brightly colored pastels that designers used to make their presentation sketches, stating:

“George taught us all everything we know about Prismacolor – the use of Prismacolor on black backgrounds.”

In October of 1945 Karatz and Tucker met with Floyd B. Cerf, a small Chicago banker and securities broker who agreed to go over the specifics of what was required to go public.

Although he had formed several small firms in the past, Tucker appeared unaware of what was required to put together a stock company. At the partner’s first meeting with Cerf, Tucker simply showed the broker some of Lawson’s designs and stated: “I want to raise $20,000,000 to produce a car.” Cerf inquired as to whether they had built a prototype, or had made arrangements for a plant to manufacture it, to which a dumbfounded Tucker replied: “No.” Cerf explained to them: “We can't finance just an idea, we must have a plant, and an organization and the semblance of a product.” Undeterred, Tucker replied: “If that's what it takes, I'll go out and get it.”

During November and December of 1945 Tucker got busy trying to raise some startup money using some of Lawson’s drawings and some photos of a torque converter and an old Harry A. Miller Indy cylinder block, whose ‘Miller’ logo had been replaced with the name ‘Tucker’.

Tucker started the search for investors in his hometown of Ypsilanti where he held a meeting at the local Masonic Lodge where he displayed some of Lawson’s sketches and models to local businessmen. He found few supporters and took his dog and pony show to the Detroit Athletic Club where he hoped to get some pillar of the auto industry interested in the project (several newspaper reports mentioned that one or more of the Fisher Bros. had been mentioned as Tucker investors – a possibility as they were filthy rich, were members of the DAC and had recently - in 1944 - retired from their various positions at General Motors.)

Tucker was still not getting the money he was looking for so in late 1945 he approached freelance automotive writer Charles T. Pearson to see if he would write a show-stopping article on the development of the proposed ‘Tucker Torpedo,’ an article which was subsequently appeared in the January 1946 issue of Pic, the nation’s third most-popular picture tabloid (Life and Look were its main competitors) and is excerpted below:

“The first super auto job to get off the drawing board into the production stage is being put together at Detroit… It is the Tucker Torpedo… rear-engined car… aimed to sell for around $1,000… The Tucker Torpedo is the first serious threat to the supremacy of established automobile manufacturers and… may make models now in production obsolete almost overnight. Preston Thomas Tucker, designer of the Torpedo… has a recognized place in automotive engineering… As an associate of the late Harry Miller, builder of world-famous racing cars, he had a part in the design of speed creations that won 14 out of 16 races on the Indianapolis oval.”

The article was so successful that Tucker subsequently hired Pearson as the firm’s advertising and public relations man. Tucker and Karatz were spurred on by the enthusiastic response and subsequently formed the required corporation, Tucker Corp., and enlisted the help of Chicago Congressman Edward A. Kelly in assisting them in obtaining a lease on the recently vacated Chicago B-29 engine plant.

The January 1946 issue of Pic hit the newsstands the last week of December, 1945 and on December 30, 1945, the United Press newswire released the following story, which was clearly based upon Pearson’s story in Pic:

“Inventor Unveils Model of Dream Car, ‘Torpedo’

“Detroit - (UP) - That dream car is just around the corner. Announcement of the Tucker Torpedo, a rear-engine automobile that sells for $1,000 and cruises at 200 miles an hour, has released at long last all the shrouded knowledge within the industry about plans for 1947.

“What is a rear-engine car? That’s the point that perplexes most of us who buy sham and shiny steel and trust that our revenue outlasts the Morris-Plan.

“It develops that a rear engine provides power directly from the motor to the rear wheels. This eliminates a clutch, the transmission, the drive shaft, the differential and the rear axle—or all those delicate, intermediary parts which are most vulnerable to wear and the most costly to repair.

“The saving in bulk and weight and inconvenience is a significant improvement, reducing overall poundage from the 3,500 class to nearer a 2,000 pound maximum.

“Preston Tucker, a Ypsilanti, Mich., engineer and co-designer of the noted Miller racing cars, has not disclosed who will build the model he has created. But at least he has a model in operation and it has stirred the curious ambitions of his colleagues in the highly-paid properties of mass output.

“Tucker asserts that his car can be built with two, four or six cylinders, with economy of operation enhanced by the lower quotient of power and performance advanced by the six-cylinder car.

“For one thing, the rear-engine model utilizes solid fuel injection, as contrasted with carburetor, and Tucker regards this principle alone as an engineering improvement sufficient to alter the whole automobile industry.

“The Torpedo (which seems wholly inadequate to describe this piece of futurama) claims several other practical advantages:

“1. Absence of transmission and rear end virtually eliminating service on these wearing parts; gas, electric and oil lines are joined by a single operation and disconnected by the same multiple connector.

“2. A 230-pound engine (two cylinders) producing 150 horsepower, or more per pound efficiency than produced by light airplane motors.

“3. Disk type brakes, proved by racing tests as 50 percent more efficient than traditional drumtype brakes.

“4. A radiator system which heats by winter and cools by summer.

“5. A motor connection that can be disjoined by taking out four small bolts; replacement in same simple manner.

“6. Reduction of wear by friction from idling efficiency of 100 revolutions per minute from top engine speed of about 2,400 rpm; normal wear is 3,800 to 5,000 rpm.

“7. Elimination of intricate machine tools now required in production of orthodox cars.

“Tucker himself expressed only one fear of his wonder product. Designed in cooperation with the late Harry Miller, whose cars won 14 out of 16 Indianapolis speedway championships, the Torpedo presents the problem of attaining excessive speeds easily and without stress. To safeguard against this peril to the ordinary motorist, Tucker has designed a step-set foot accelerator. This device, he says, acts as an automatic governor on speeds until the driver becomes accustomed to the high rates of motion available. Elimination of sound and vibration misleads the driver, encouraging more rapid travel than safety sometimes would recommend, the inventor believes.”

The January 6, 1946 edition of the Madison Wisconsin State Journal ‘Through the Windshield by Mac’ column specifically mentions some of his information came from the Pic article:

“The Windshield, always impatient with the motoring public which talks a radical automobile but rarely buys one, sees hope for a real advancement in the Tucker Torpedo, 150-horsepower, 130-mile-per-hour rear-engined car, aimed to sell for around $1,000, described in the January issue of Pic magazine.

“Hinting the Fisher Brothers, previously builders of bodies for General Motors cars has something to do with the new Torpedo, Pic adds that Preston Tucker the designer is now screwball.

“‘As an associate of the late Harry Miller, builder of racing cars, Tucker had a part in design of speed creations that won 14 out of 16 Indianapolis races where Miller’s cars were entered. He was associated with Miller in designing the Cord, built the first power-operated gun turret for the army, and designed a gyroscopic gun stabilizer used on tanks and the first fire interrupter for airplanes.’

“Getting back to the Torpedo, the driver’s seat is in the center (another Indianapolis racing innovation), the windshield is a single piece of curved safety glass, and the doors open into the roof so you won’t scrape off your hat and lift up to clear curbs when parked.

“Tucker estimates gasoline consumption from 35 to 65 miles per gallon, depending on the octane rating of gasoline used. The car will weigh approximately 2,000 pounds, lighter than comparable cars, and will have a 126-inch wheelbase. The front tread is standard, the rear two inches wider for road stability.

“‘The engine will be available in two, four, or six-cylinder engine producing 1.5 horsepower per pound, better than airplane engines.’

“A hydraulic torque converter will transmit power directly from the engine to the rear wheels, eliminating approximately 70 per cent of the starting and stopping parts. The engine in the rear will eliminate noise and vibration.

“Another innovation, according to Pic, is front fenders that turn with the wheels, showing the driver where his wheels are pointed at all times. Driving lights mounted on the fenders will follow the curves in the road, while a fixed ‘Cyclops Eye’ center light directs a beam straight ahead.

“The article didn’t say when you can buy one.”

In a February 11, 1946 follow-up to their December 30, 1945 article the Associated Press included the names of Tucker’s business associates and states he had nearly completed acquiring the former Dodge B-29 engine plant from the War Assets Administration:

“Torpedo Car Will Be Made in Chicago

“Detroit, Feb. 11. - (UP) - A group of automobile executives pushed plans today for production of the radically-different Tucker torpedo car in the $300,000,000 Dodge airplane engine plant at Chicago.

“Preston Tucker, designer of the unique vehicle, announced that negotiations were virtually complete with the War Assets Corporation for use of the massive Chicago plant.

“Tucker said production of the new lightweight, rear-engine car, slated to sell for between $1,000 and $1,300, will begin within six months after occupancy of the plant is obtained.

“Officials of the company, whose capitalization was not disclosed include: Ray Rausch, vice president in charge of manufacturing. Rausch was with Ford Motor Company 24 years and was in charge of all Ford wartime manufacturing except Willow Run. Joseph D. Burke, sales. Burke is a Detroit veteran who has worked with six Detroit manufacturers. George S. Lawson, in charge of style and color. Lawson was with General Motors for eight years. Lyle D. Middleton, chief master mechanic, was with Ford from 1919 to last year. Maj. Mark J. Mourne, La Grange, Ill., is secretary, Tucker said. Tucker, who was associated with Harry Miller, racing car maker, from 1925 to 1941, said the new car, to be built principally of aluminum, embodies much of racing car design. He emphasized, however, that It was not a racing vehicle, though designed to reach speeds of 130 miles an hour.”

The article gives Lawson’s title as ‘in charge of style and color’ but fails to mention a chief engineer – an unnecessary position as at that time Tucker believed he was quite capable of handling the engineering himself. Clearly Pearson’s Pic article had served its purpose and had gotten people talking about the Torpedo, and numerous inquiries followed such as ‘When can I buy a Tucker?’, ‘How can I get a dealership?’ and ‘Is there any stock for sale?’

As several interested financial parties in Detroit had gotten cold feet, Tucker and Karatz came up with a new financing scheme – they resorted to selling franchises to many of the car dealers that had expressed an interest in the firm after the article in Pic came out. He would grant them exclusive franchises in return for a franchise fee, some of which would be returned to them once the company got up and running. The scheme worked, but only brought in $372,000.

Thomas B. Hart, regional administrator of the Securities and Exchange Commission got wind of the scheme – and Tucker was forced to return the money as the SEC considered it to be an unauthorized sale of securities.

The Associated Press distributed a wirephoto of Lawson’s latest rendering of the proposed Tucker Torpedo on February 13, 1946 with the following caption:

“This is a drawing of the Tucker Torpedo, named for Preston Tucker, automotive engineer and official of a company planning to manufacture the new type automobile within six months after getting possession of the former Dodge engine plant in Chicago. The six-cylinder 150 horsepower engine rests on the rear axle. Note the placement of the steering apparatus.”

February 13 Southtown Economist:

“Declares He Needs All of Big Factory

“Car Designer's Spokesmen Say He's Ready to Move in Immediately If Government Accepts Offer.

“Chicago spokesmen for Preston Tucker of Ypsilanti, Mich., designer of a new style automobile called the Tucker Torpedo, said today that Tucker has applied to the War Assets corporation for the entire 6,500,000 square feet of manufacturing space of the now idle Dodge-Chicago plant, 7401 Cicero ave., for production of the car.

“While negotiations aiming toward lease of the plant are being carried on, Chicago representatives of the Tucker corporation are making their headquarters in the Blackstone hotel. The Tucker spokesmen said that the corporation is making preparations to move into the plant as soon as the Reconstruction Finance corporation agency gives its approval. The representatives also said that all the machinery now in the plant is included in the application for the lease.

“Another Firm Wants It.

“Last month, Robert Zwikel, 33 N. La Salle st., head of the Chicago Industrial Districts, a property management concern, announced that he was negotiating for lease of the plant for 26 comparatively small manufacturers.

“At that time Tucker was conferring with New York financiers and was expected to make a bid for manufacturing space in the Dodge-Chicago plant with the Industrial Districts firm.

“Mr. Zwikel said that the bid of the Tucker corporation for leasing the entire plant has not interfered with the negotiations between the Industrial Districts firm and the RFC. He indicated that his firm is going ahead with plans to lease the plant and its facilities in units of 50,000 square feet to small manufacturers.

“Competitive Bidding

“RFC spokesmen said that the plant, the same as all government property, was advertised for competitive bidding and that the lease would be awarded on the basis of the amount of the bid and the use to which the plant would be put. Assembling of the new Tucker car will start within six months if the RFC approves the Tucker corporation bid, the Tucker representative said.

“The Tucker auto is of racing car design and is expected to sell for between $1,000 and $1,300. The car will have a 150-horsepower motor in the rear and, according to Mr. Tucker, will be capable of a speed of 130 miles an hour. The president of the auto firm said that the production of the car will employ from 25,000 to 30,000 persons and he expects to manufacture 1,000 a day.

“He announced that the vice-president of the firm in charge of manufacturing will be Ray Rausch who has been associated with the Ford Motor company for 24 years.”

On March 2, 1946 the United Press newswire reported:

“Big Dodge Plant Returned to RFC

“Detroit, March 2 - (U.P.) - Chrysler Corporation announced today it had turned over to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation the $174,000,000 Dodge Chicago plant. The enormous factory, largest aircraft engine plant in the United States, has been the focus of months-long negotiations by backers of the radically-new Tucker Torpedo automobile. Preston Tucker, designer of the new car, announced Feb. 9 that his vehicle will be built in the plant and that negotiations to obtain it were underway with the war assets corporation.”

Despite having little in the way of finances, the July 4, 1946 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune reported they had been successful in getting a 5-year lease on the disused B-29 engine plant:

“Tucker Leases Dodge-Chicago Plant 5 Years; Plans Auto Output Early in 1947

“The war assets administration yesterday leased the 170 million dollar Dodge-Chicago war plant to Tucker corporation, a recently-founded business organized to manufacture a new type, low-priced car. The transaction was announced In Washington, D. C., by the WAA and Preston Tucker, president of the corporation.

“After the papers were signed Tucker disclosed at a press conference he planned to start production on a four-door lightweight sedan early next and will turn out 1,500 cars a day when maximum output is reached. He said he has been assured adequate, supplies of steel, aluminum, textiles and parts, and hopes to provide employment for 35,000 persons.

“Includes Purchase Option

“The transaction, reported earlier in the day by Rep. Kelly (D., Ill.) provides for a five-year lease with two options. The first permits a five-year renewal on expiration of the first period. The second allows the corporation to purchase the plant for 30 million dollars within 4½ years.

“Rent for the plant, said to be the largest facility in the world, will be $600,000 the first year, $800,000 the second year, and $2,400,000 annually for the next three years. Financing details were not disclosed.

“The plant includes 84 acres under roof and is considered suitable for automobile production because it was used for manufacture of aviation engines to power B-29 Superfortresses in the war period. The facility was operated by the Chrysler corporation which turned the plant back to the government several months ago.

“Rear End Engine, 4 Wheel Drive

“The new car is to be called the Torpedo and differs substantially from present conventional models. Its principal departure from the conventional is a 150 horse power, rear-end engine which imparts power directly to all four wheels instead of two.

“It also will have a liquid coupling device similar to the fluid drive of the Chrysler line and the Hydramatic drive of the Oldsmobile and Cadillac. This eliminates the transmission, drive shaft, and differential, saving 600 to 800 pounds in weight. With a body of aluminum and an engine largely of this metal, the over-all weight will be about 2,000 pounds, about 1,000 pounds lighter than comparable models.

“The car will be streamlined and will have a top speed of 130 miles an hour. It will sell at retail from $1,000 to $1,300, Tucker said.

“Tucker, 42, also heads the Ypsilanti Machine and Tool company which does milling and machining of metals for other companies.

“Built Airplane Turrets

“In the war period he designed and built power operated turrets for tanks and airplanes and produced a fire control interrupter.

“With Tucker in the new venture are several men with long experience in automobile production. These include Ames E. Brown, vice president and assistant to the president, formerly president and general manager of the Canadian division of General Motors of Canada, Ltd.; Fred Rockelman, vice president and sales director, head of Plymouth division of Chrysler corporation and one time Ford official; Robert Pierce, vice president and treasurer, formerly secretary-treasurer of Briggs Manufacturing company, body builder, and Robert Jack, chief engineer, formerly chief engineer of the Oldsmobile division of General Motors corporation.”

Finalization of the lease was contingent upon the Tucker Corporation having at least $15 million in capital by March 1, 1947.

The July 28, 1946 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune announced a few of the Torpedo’s specifications and stated that Tucker was building a wooden mock-up of the car at his ‘Ypsilanti Tool Plant,’ the builder of the wooden mock-up was none-other than George S. Lawson:

“Tucker Torpedo Offers New Design in Modern Motoring by Frank Sturdy

“The automobile Preston Tucker plans to build in the aircraft engine plant at 7401 S. Cicero av., recently leased from the government, is totally different, aside from the fact that it has four wheels, from the cars American motorists now are driving.

“Tucker soon will build a mock-up of a wooden model of the car in his Ypsilanti tool plant. He plans to build 15 working pilot models for testing, and for developing production procedures, in the Cicero av. plant, into which he expects to move in September or October.

“Will Call Car Torpedo

“Specifications of the car, to be called the Torpedo:

“Engine - 150 horsepower, weighing 250 pounds. Six cylinders, horizontally opposed, in the style of a light aircraft engine. Block and head a single aluminum casting, with cylinder walls of fused bronze with the same expansion rate as the aluminum pistons. Cooled with a sealed, liquid system requiring no attention winter or summer. Liquid used will be ethylene-glycol, the same coolant utilized In liquid cooled aircraft engines.

“Low pressure, fuel Injection to cylinders instead of conventional carburetion, also a common practice In aircraft engines to produce smooth power and equal fuel distribution to all cylinders. Tucker predicts 35 miles to the gallon of gasoline at moderate driving speeds. The engine will be mounted in the rear.

“All Wheels Independent

“Suspension - All four wheels independently sprung. Tucker maintains that with this system, and the change in weight distribution secured by mounting the engine in the rear, means better control and riding qualities.

“Brakes - Disc type, with a single steel disc between two friction sur faces, a style used in racing automobiles and in aircraft. Offer more braking area than drum type brakes.

“Body - Fenders turn with the wheels. Lights are mounted in the fenders, and consequently beam in the direction the car is moving, rather than angling to one side as in conventional cars on curves. Top is one piece steel construction, Driver's compartment has a steel crash-panel lined with a two inch layer of sponge rubber for safety.

“Door tops virtually meet in the rooftop, so that when opened, passengers can get in and out without stooping. Doors swing up at bottom when they are opened to clear curbs when the car is parked.

“Luggage In Front

“The front end is short, giving clear forward vision, and contains a luggage compartment. There will be a second luggage space in the rear, over the engine.

“Although acknowledging such speeds are not practical on present high ways, Tucker is designing his car for a cruising speed of 100 miles an hour, suitable for cruising speeds on future expressways.

“Controls - Throttle and foot brake as conventional transmission gears will be absent. Instrument panel mounted on the steering post, in plain sight of the driver.

“The engine will be mounted cross-wise, with what Tucker describes as a hydraulic-drive system transmitting power to the wheels. A short, hydraulically driven shaft will connect the engine crank-shaft at each end to the wheels, one on either side.

“Transmission, drive-shaft, and differential of the standard design will thus be eliminated, at a weight saving estimated by Tucker at 800 pounds. Working parts will be reduced in the same way by about 800.

“Fenders of Steel

“Weighing one-third less than comparable conventional cars, the Torpedo will have aluminum door panels. The frame and body will be designed as an integral unit, constructed of welded steel tubing for strength and lightness. Fenders will be steel.

“Tucker's plans include mounting of the power plant as a unit, connected to the car by four bolts. Any competent mechanic, he predicts, will be able to remove the engine and replace it in 15 minutes with one serviced or rebuilt at the factory. Fuel, oil, hydraulic lines, electrical wires, and the foot throttle connections will be of aircraft type that can be unfastened with a single operation.”

As his initial design for the Torpedo had been seen in numerous magazines and newspapers, Tucker had Lawson prepare 1/8-scale orthographic drawings of Tucker’s two favorite proposals. The designer then transferred them to a double-sided ¼-scale plaster three-dimensional model of the car (good modeling clay was unavailable so Lawson covered the wood armature with plaster, an acceptable alternative at the time.) One proposal was sculpted on the driver’s half of the car, the second on the passenger’s half. Amazingly the plaster model created survived and can be seen at the Peterson Automobile Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Tucker even put together an illustrated ‘Torpedo Auto’ story featuring Lawson’s Torpedo that was published in Charlton Comic Group’s ‘Marvels of Science No.3’, pp39-42 during 1946.

At the end of December, 1946 Preston T. Tucker paid a visit to the offices of Tammen & Denison, a well-respected Detroit industrial design firm as he was looking for an automobile stylist. George S. Lawson, the initial designer of the Tucker Torpedo, had recently quit (or was fired) and Tucker was hoping that Tammen & Denison’s resident automobile stylist, Alex S. Tremulis, could help get his self-named automobile project back on track. Although the exact date of Lawson’s departure is unknown, his ‘doctored’ photographs of the plaster ¼-scale Torpedo date to mid-summer 1946.

Lawson claimed he quit because he had never been paid – Tucker implied he was fired – and he subsequently sued Tucker for $45,000, settling out of court for $10,000. In the 1949-50 trial to determine whether Tucker and his associates had willfully perpetrated fraud, Lawson appeared as the prosecution’s first witness.

(Lawson eventually returned to his hometown of Cleveland where he started a business with his brother James, called Future Products, which designed educational toys and rubber dolls. He eventually returned to automobile design in the mid-50s working for General Motors, from 1959-1962 for American Motors and from 1962 ‘till retirement for Ford.)

By the winter of 1946 Tucker’s small group of production planners and mechanics were unhappy with the firm’s continued lack of progress and direction. Tucker blamed the lack of activity solely on Lawson claiming that after two years, the designer had yet to present him with an acceptable design.

In reality the blame rested solely on Tucker’s shoulders – he had no idea what was required to design, engineer and build an all-new automobile (or any automobile for that matter) and the few people on staff that did, were afraid to speak up lest they be shown the door. During his 1949-1950 trial numerous witnesses testified that at this time Tucker had no research, test or engineering staff, no blueprints and no draftsmen. He did have a couple of racecar builders and mechanics, but none of them had ever set foot inside of an auto plant.

Tucker had managed to get a handful of experienced auto production men on staff with the promise of a big paycheck, however they had nothing to work with as there was no prototype, and at this stage Tucker still had little idea of what his self-named car would look like.

From late 1946 into late 1948 the following auto industry veterans would assist Preston Tucker in getting the car to market: Fred L. Rockelman, v.p. and director of sales (ex- sales dir. at Ford Motor Co., former pres. of Plymouth div. of Chrysler Corp.); Hanson A. Brown, executive v.p. (former v.p. and gen. mgr., GM of Canada Ltd.); Ben G. Parsons, v.p. and chief engineer (former engineer, Bendix div. of Borg Warner); Lee S. Treese, v.p. of manufacturing (former production superintendent of Ford Motor Co.); Herbert Morley, v.p. procurement (former mgr., Norge div. Borg-Warner); Mitchell W. Dulian, sales manager (former sales mgr., Buick) and Kenneth E. Lyman, development engineer (former engineer, Bendix div. of Borg-Warner engineer); Charles T. Pearson, dir. public relations (former Detroit reporter for Associated Press); and Daniel Leabu, gen. mgr. of production (former mgr., Ypsilanti Tool & Machine Co.).

Without a prototype to work from the entire project was dead in the water, as Tucker’s former publicity man, Charles T. Pearson, explained in 1960:

“Early in December [1946], during the lull in the housing fight, I was complaining to one of the top men planning production that I wished to hell we had something better than the lousy art work we were using, because it was getting tougher to sell every day. It was too arty and stylized to start with and, worse, still, even a layman could see that it was a long way from the six-passenger sedan Tucker said he was going to build.

“The production man said he was just as disgusted as I was, and if he had even an idea as to what the body and chassis were going to look like he could at least start figuring out how to build it.  That was what started the first actual work on the final body design, and the entire job was completed in less than a month.

“The dimensions set up at this time were, with few exceptions, the ones that were used in the final body design. There was no great attempt at styling, though the side silhouette was nearly identical with the finished design.  An extra four inches were allowed on wheelbase, because Tucker was still insisting on fenders that turned with the wheels, and the production man said there would be plenty of time to talk him out of that later.”

Many of Tucker’s problems were resolved in late December 1946 with the arrival of a single man - his name, Alex S. Tremulis.

The date of the first meeting Tremulis had with Preston Tucker was described by Pearson as being on Christmas Eve, 1946 – a date sometimes mentioned by Tremulis himself (he recalled meeting Tucker at the Drake Hotel on Dec. 24, 1946.) However Tucker’s records state the meeting took place several days later, with a call for an appointment on Dec. 27, 1946 and an initial meeting on Dec. 28, 1946 at the Tammen & Denison offices with Tremulis, Tucker, Lee S. Treese (Tucker Corp.’s VP of Manufacturing), and Kenneth Lyman (Tucker Corp.’s VP of Engineering) at which time Tremulis presented his guests with his portfolio of futuristic concept cars and aircraft. Impressed, Tucker agreed to hire him as a styling consultant, albeit as a Tammen & Denison subcontractor.

In his 1966 Automobile Quarterly article on the Tucker, Tremulis recalled his first meetings with Tucker:

“It was the week before Christmas, 1946 that I first communicated with Preston Tucker and requested an appointment. When I saw him a week later, he told me he could give me just fifteen minutes as he had a luncheon engagement.

“Those fifteen minutes stretched to three hours, as it happened, and by the time I left Preston's office I had a styling-study contract in my hand. The next five days were spent exploring themes and recommendations that I had discussed with him at our meeting. At about 7 p.m., New Year's Eve, Preston paid me a visit at the office of a product design firm in the Field Building, Chicago, where I was then working. He was on his way to a party. I had made some sketches, and when I showed them to Preston, he said simply, ‘That's it.’ Nobody could have been more surprised than I; so far as I was concerned, the sketches were just preliminaries, but Tucker insisted that first thoughts are always the best. ‘The trouble with you stylists,’ he said, ‘is that you never know when to stop.’ Tucker told my wife to tear up my styling-study contract, for I was no longer a consultant, that as of New Year's Eve I was chief stylist for the Tucker Corporation. It was a pleasant way to start the new year, and thinking back, I realize that Tucker was right in having a high regard for first thoughts. At least ninety per cent of the design ideas I showed him on New Year's Eve found their way into the production car.

“On New Year's Day I conferred again with Preston. I now insisted that the Tucker car be fully aerodynamic and that it express my design philosophy. Further, I told him that if he didn't let me design the car my way, I would return to the aircraft profession where people really liked my work. Reflecting back, I realize how brash I was then. But I had remembered Theodore von Karman's advice to those of us in the design branch of Aircraft Laboratory Wright Field during World War II. He counseled us not merely to talk about something we believed in, but to do it. And as a fillip to drive home his point, he would say, ‘Remember, the meek shall inherit nothing.’

“Preston Tucker's advice, on that first day of 1947, was similar, but there was more urgency in it. ‘Grab the ball and run with it,’ he told me, ‘but just make sure the car doesn't look as if it were frightened by an airplane. I want it ready for paint in sixty days!’

“‘Sixty days!’ I exclaimed. ‘It’ll take me at least sixty days for a clay model.’

“‘Who said clay? I’ve got the best metal man in the world waiting for you. Go! Go! Go!’”

In several other articles Tremulis claimed that 2 days after Christmas (Dec. 27, 1946) he had called Tucker out of the blue after seeing Charles T. Pearson’s recent article on the Tucker Torpedo in the December issue of Science Illustrated. Tremulis states he then met with Tucker the following day (Dec. 28, 1946) for a 3-hour meeting at which time he pointed out several problems with Lawson’s design, proposing it be re-designed to give it more market appeal and manufacturability.

Tremulis spent the next several days preparing design proposals which he presented to Tucker at the Tammen & Denison offices on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31, 1946), at which time he was hired as the Tucker Corp.’s chief stylist. In his 1949 Tucker trial testimony Tremulis stated that Tucker hired his services from Tammen & Denison under a three-month contract, which expired at the end of March 1947, a detail which he omits in his numerous interviews and articles. As most of Tremulis’ early Tucker renderings are emblazoned with a prominent Tammen & Denison logo, it follows that Tremulis was working as a subcontractor, not as a direct employee and he often claimed.

In any case, it’s accepted that Tremulis first met with Tucker in late December, 1946 and during the ensuing week he designed an all-new aerodynamic 4-door sedan that incorporated several of the Lawson proposal’s novel features such as the cyclops eye and steerable pontoon fenders.

At a Sunday, January 5, 1947 meeting with Tucker, Abraham Karatz (disbarred Minneapolis attorney and Tucker’s financial advisor), Fred Rockelman (Tucker Corp. vice-president) and Preston T. Tucker Jr. (Tucker Corp. engineer), Tremulis showed off a striking series of airbrushed renderings that bowled over the attendees. They liked what they saw and immediately agreed to hire Tremulis as Tucker’s chief stylist – initially as a Tammen & Denison contract employee and later on as a direct Tucker Corp. employee (after Tammen & Denison’s contract expired in late March.)

The best metal man in the business was Indy racecar constructor Herman Ringling. Although Tremulis probably didn’t realize it at the time Ringling and Tremulis had both worked for Duesenberg, albeit one decade apart; Ringling for Duesenberg Bros. in Indianapolis and Tremulis for Auburn Corp. (parent of Duesenberg) in Connersville, Indiana.

Tremulis became a big fan of Ringling, recalling:

“Herman Ringling was the sheet-metal maestro. Remember the ill-fated Stutz Black Hawk of 1928? Ringling had pounded out that vehicle for Frank Lockhart's Land Speed Record attempt, movable fender fairings and all, in just thirty days. He had built seven out of the ten front-wheel-drive Ford-Miller Indy cars of 1935. And he was known for his ability to repair a car that had gone over the wall two days before the 500-mile race and have it on the starting line in prime paint on race day”

With strict attention to passenger comfort and safety, Tremulis developed a body contour with adequate interior dimensions and windows that could roll down into the doors. His initial renderings included 4 doors that extended into the roofline and an expansive interior that seated 6 adults – 3 in the front, 3 in the back. At that time Tucker was still insistent upon his moveable pontoon front fenders and Tremulis did an exceptional job at integrating them into the rest of the vehicle, which managed to retain many of the styling cues introduced by Lawson.

Tucker badly needed Tremulis to complete the body design and orthographic drawings so that his mechanics and metalworkers could construct a working prototype within the next 60 days – a preposterous request given the circumstances. As engineering the moveable cycle fenders would have eaten up most of that time, Tremulis (and several others) managed to convince Tucker to abandon them in favor of conventional front fenders, a move which required re-engineering the center-mounted ‘cyclops eye’ to turn with the wheels instead, another one of Lawson’s ideas that made it into production.

To get Tucker to ‘go along with the program’ Tremulis pointed out that potential instability problems might result, providing Frank Lockhart's 1928 Stutz Black Hawk land speed record car as an example. It too incorporated front cycle fenders which in wind tunnel testing (at 200 mph+) had exhibited a tendency to turn the front end of the car into the wind (aka weather-cocking). Although the Tucker wouldn’t have suffered the same malady at normal speeds, Tucker reluctantly agreed – he may have actually thought the production Tucker would reach triple digit speeds.

One of Tremulis’ second group of renderings (dated to the first or second week of January) totally eliminated the pontoon silhouette from the front fenders in favor of a standard slab-sided treatment as found on post-war Packard and Kaiser-Frazer automobiles. Charles T. Pearson, the firm’s public relations man had never liked Lawson’s pontoon fenders, stating in 1960:

“I liked all except the front fenders which I thought stunk, and said so. My popularity couldn't have dropped faster with a sudden attack of smallpox. Tucker scowled at me for a week, though much later he admitted that at least he agreed with my logic.”

Tucker didn’t like the slab-sided look and insisted that the unique pontoon-style front fenders remain, which in hindsight turned out to be a great decision which like the ‘cyclops eye’, remains another endearing feature of the car.

Tremulis continued working on the project and by the middle of January had completely re-designed Lawson’s original concept, which dated back to the middle of 1946. On March 2, 1947, Tremulis’ 4-door Tucker debuted nationally via full-page newspaper advertisements introducing the ‘Tucker ‘48.’

Unfortunately Tremulis never detailed the contributions of J. Gordon Lippincott & Associates - a second group of designers that Tucker had brought in to help finalize the car in mid-March, 1947. Luckily Philip S. Egan, a junior member of the New York design firm and later on Tremulis’ assistant, wrote several articles and a book detailing his experiences while working for Tucker*.

(*Alex S. Tremulis nephew, William S. Tremulis - son of Demosthenes 'Dick' Sarantos and Elizabeth [Pickett] Tremulis - who supplied some of the material in this biography and publishes the excellent website - recently told me his uncle wrote a never-published biography which he hopes to publish in the near future, that may contain some additional details of the Lippincott group’s contributions.)

Egan had been working on a book detailing his experiences at Tucker for a number of years. He put the finishing touches on the project “Design and Destiny: The Making of the Tucker Automobile” just as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 biopic, ‘Tucker: the Man and the Dream’ was released. Egan also publicized his book via two articles that appeared in Vol. 26, No.3 of Automobile Quarterly entitled, ‘Tucker, Design and Destiny’ and ‘Tremulis: the Genius Behind the Tucker’. Egan’s take on Tucker’s unique prototyping procedure, which he admits “bordered on the ridiculous,” follows:

“Preston Tucker had originally dictated a rather unorthodox design process. When Alex told him that a clay model of the car would take 60 days to complete, Tucker responded, ‘Who said clay? I've got the best metal man in the world waiting for you. Go! Go! Go!’ So, with his acute sense of shape and dimension, Alex translated his layout directly into sheetmetal. (Tucker had permitted a stunted 1/8 scale clay, which was of very little help.) ‘The best metal man in the world’ was Herman Ringling, a master of metal fabrication in the mold of Cellini. Ringling had fashioned body panels for the Cord 810 on a drop hammer in just the same way he was forming them for the Tucker ‘48: ‘By eye!’ he said, and with primitive tools. He could pound sheet metal held in his bare hands (‘Gloves interfere with your touch.’) to arrive at just the right shape. Still, for a production car undertaking, this process bordered on the ridiculous.

“Between the first of January and our [Lippincott Team] arrival in the spring of 1947, Tremulis had managed a crash program calling for exhausting hours of work by a dedicated crew. They brought an automobile design project from scratch to a recognizable body shape in metal without a clay model (there had been an embryonic 1/8 size clay model of little help). For a production car undertaking this bordered on the ridiculous, but he had done it.”

Egan further clarified:

“Up until the time of our arrival, all efforts had been directed at forging the metal marvel [aka Tin Goose].

“Tremulis' role at the Tucker Corporation, beginning in early 1947, was not confined to styling. As the chief body designer, he established the fundamental dimensions of the projected car and supervised the building of the operating metal prototype. He also helped to dissuade Preston Tucker from some pet ideas that stretched the limits of practicality for a passenger car, such as cycle fenders that pivoted with the front wheels. And while Tucker remained committed, in spite of Alex's warning, to a huge, low-speed engine with fuel injection and hydraulic valves (it took the abysmal dynamometer performance of the prototype to convince him of its uselessness), Alex at least planned ahead for the engine's ultimate demise. Convinced of what would transpire, he [Tremulis]’decided to design the rear end [of the car] to fit a typical six cylinder engine. The 335-cubic-inch engine designed by Aircooled Motors fit perfectly in the engine compartment as I had designed it.’

“It is difficult to imagine the Tucker automobile without the influence of Alex Tremulis. Preston Tucker did not have a viable design before Alex joined the team, and he desperately needed help. It was Alex who took the torch and created a world-class automobile body from scratch. Regardless of the qualifications and skills of Preston Tucker and the talented engineers he recruited, they needed a design leader with practical experience in the construction of viable automobiles. They needed Alex Tremulis.”

Egan also gives Tremulis credit for the ‘Tin Goose’ moniker, which paid homage to William Bushnell Stout’s (click here for his biography) original 1926 Ford Trimotor which was promoted as ‘the safest airplane in the world’ due to its all-metal construction.

By the end of February the dimensions of the car’s package was mostly locked-in and Tucker’s small crew of mechanics and metal workers began putting together what would become the ‘Tin Goose’. Tucker felt Tremulis’ latest design was sufficiently developed to be used in an upcoming advertising, so Tucker asked him to put together some artwork for a series of newspaper advertisements that were slated to debut nationwide during the first week of March.

However, Tucker still had some reservations. Prior to hiring Tremulis, he had made the rounds of several of the nation’s leading industrial design studios, one of which was J. Gordon Lippincott and Associates*, a Manhattan outfit run by a former Pratt Institute instructor of the same name. In a 1987 interview with Philip S. Egan, Lippincott recalled:

“Tucker gave me a ring on the phone and said that he wanted to come up and talk to me about styling an automobile. And so, one fine day, he stopped in the office. Tucker said that he wanted to bring out an automobile as fast as possible… I suspect that Tucker talked to other designers, but he chose us… In our meeting, Tucker agreed to cash in advance. After all, Tucker didn't even have a factory at that time. We agreed on a budget, a very modest one. I believe it was in the $40-50,000 range.”

(*Dohner & Lippincott was founded in 1943 by two Pratt Institute instructors named Donald R. Dohner and J. Gordon Lippincott in partnership with the Douglas T. Sterling Co., of Stamford, Conn. Dohner passed away unexpectedly in December of 1943, at which time the firm name became J. Gordon Lippincott & Associates. In 1944, architect Walter P. Margulies joined the firm and in 1947 bought out Lippincott’s partner, Douglas T. Sterling Co., the firm subsequently being changed to Lippincott & Margulies. Known simply as Lippincott today, it remains one of the world’s leading brand strategy and design firms.)

At their initial meeting Lippincott brought out a Read Viemeister rendering that revealed an opulent automotive interior framed by an open door, captioned ‘Real Luxury in Transit!’ He also assured Tucker that his staff was more than capable of turning a simple rendering into a full-size clay model.

After several months of working with Tremulis, Tucker was no longer convinced that he had his ‘dream car’ so on March 4, 1947 he followed through with Lippincott and asked that he dispatch a group of designers to Chicago post-haste. By that time Read Viemeister had left Lippincott’s employ and founded his own consultancy, Vie Design Studios, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

As the agreement hinged on getting his services, Viemeister agreed to join the project as a consultant, and on March 11 the Lippincott team arrived at the Tucker plant. Hal Bergstrom led the group which consisted of Viemeister, Budd Steinhilber, Tucker Madawick and Philip S. Egan. Viemeister had brought along a recently-completed pastel rendering of generalized Tucker ‘48, which included an unusual front bumper with a dropped center section that, slightly-modified, found its way onto the 1947 Tucker prototype, and subsequent pilot models.

Much more recently, retired designer Gale Halderman, who worked under Tremulis’ in Ford Motor Co.’s advanced design studio during 1954-1955, recalled a conversation he had with Tremulis back in the day where Read Viemeister’s name came up:

“I told him [Tremulis] that my instructor at the Dayton Art Institute showed pictures of the Tucker in clay being designed. The designer’s name was Read Viemeister… his associate on the design was Budd Steinhilber… at the time they worked for Lippincott & Margolis Industrial Design firm in NY when Tucker called for design help… Alex wasn’t able to satisfy Tucker. When I told Alex this he said… ‘Yes, Viemeister really did design the car… but I got it ready for tooling.’”

Upon their arrival at the plant, the Lippincott & Marguiles team - Hal Bergstrom, Tucker Madawick, Budd Steinhilber, Read Viemeister and Philip S. Egan were met by Tremulis who led them on a tour of the facility which was described by Egan in 1988:

“Here we saw embryonic shapes in raw sheet metal coalescing into the frame and part of the body of an automobile. A nearby drop hammer pounded sheet metal from flat to contoured with ear-splitting vibrations, and the junctions of formed sheet and frame were fused under the bright sparks of welding torches. Elsewhere, men at work stations devoted themselves to the mechanical details of torching, cutting, bending, and drilling the parts of a prototype automobile.”

Many of the metal-shapers and mechanics seen by the Lippincott team were a fiercely loyal group of Tucker’s friends that he had met one decade before during his annual pilgrimage to the Indianapolis 500. They included Indy car driver Gene Haustein* (a veritable jack of all trades), engine builder Joe Lencki (fuel system and suspension), mechanic Al McKenzie (racing mechanic for the Horace E. Dodge Boat and Plane Corp.), pilot / mechanic William Burns, (worked for the Heath Airplane Co., Chicago, manufacturers of the Heath Baby Bullet and later on ‘Heathkit’ radio and oscilloscope kits); Joseph Thompson, (former Raymond Loewy Associated clay modeler); William Stampfli (master mechanic), John ‘Eddie’ Offutt (Harry A. Miller’s longtime mechanic); Warren Rice (Buick powertrain engineer who helped develop the ‘Dynaflow’ semi-automatic transmission), and notable racecar builders Emil Deidt and Herman Ringling.

(*Once the ‘Tin Goose’ was completed, Gene Haustein served as the official Tucker Corp. test driver.)

Herman Ringling was placed in charge of building the ‘Tin Goose’ which was constructed using an extensively reworked 1942 Oldsmobile Dynamic Cruiser Four-Door ‘Fastback’ Sedan that did double duty as a makeshift body buck. Against the advice of most everyone, Tucker insisted they construct the prototype directly from Tremulis’ sketches without constructing a full-size clay model beforehand. In 1960 Charles T. Pearson described the process which he had witnessed first-hand while serving as Tucker’s director of public relations:

“As each part of the new Tucker body was finished the original part from the Olds was junked, so when they got through about the only parts that remained from the original body were the roof, which had been completely reshaped, and door handles, window mechanisms, locks and hardware – parts that were the same whether they came from another automobile or from the manufacturer’s bins.

“The first car was, of course, completely handmade, and nobody connected with the job ever claimed it wasn’t. It also had plenty of solder, probably several hundred pounds. Maybe Cellini could have hammered out a body in ten years without using solder, but nobody in his right mind would try it on a one-shot job where one of the most important factors was speed.”

After leaving Tucker’s metalwork and fabrication department Tremulis led the Lippincott team to a more isolated part of the expansive plant where he had constructed a makeshift design studio where a full-size clay model (clay no. 1) was already being sculpted. Egan recollected:

“Since he had accepted the position of chief stylist in January, Alex had brought the design of the Tucker automobile from the nebulous to the three-dimensional. He had developed a firm layout of the car which he showed us in a 1/8-size drawing, with every outside and inside dimension carefully indicated.

“A two-man crew worked on the beginnings of a full-size clay model of a car. We could discern a shape in that brownish clay which was clearly the essence of the Tucker '48 I had seen in the newspaper advertisement. I noticed that the details at front and rear were vague, without resolution.”

The tour concluded with a long meeting with Preston T. Tucker where he stated his objectives and expectations, Egan recalling:

“Tucker immediately impressed me as the archetype of the salesman who could not only sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but also have them liking the refrigerators after the purchase. He was not a polished man, yet he had the power to interest others in his ideas. Before the night was over, I, too, shared the eagerness and enthusiasm of those who had chosen to follow him without reservation.

“As the meeting steadily warmed, members of the Lippincott crew, especially Read, began to contribute their own ideas for the design of the Tucker ‘48. The subject of exhaust pipes came up, with obvious relish for Tucker, who wanted the pipes to be a sassy reminder to any car behind his that there was a powerhouse ahead. Read did a quick 3/4 rear-view sketch of a ‘48 with three vertical exhaust pipes emerging from the top of each rear fender. Tucker was excited and seemed to consider Read's idea evidence that he was in good hands. (A little sober reflection squelched the concept when we all realized that those pipes would make a splendid target for mischievous pedestrians walking past a parked Tucker: Plop! in goes a rock, a marble or pre-chewed gum to foul up the works.)

“The meeting lasted for several hours and Mr. Tucker spoke without let-up. He was quietly persuasive and charming and his eloquence was punctuated with malapropisms. For instance, he called the gas pedal the 'exhilerator' instead of the accelerator. Tucker held the floor most of the time, and in the end our job was clear: to style the car based upon the essentials of his mechanical concepts and upon Alex Tremulis' body layout. At no point in the meeting was there any mention of our changing the wheelbase, wheel tread, interior dimensions or even the basic body shape. The primary dimensions were inviolate, as were the tapering roof and, of course, the ‘Cyclops Eye’ in the center of the hood. At the same time, there were no constraints implied within these specifics. We were expected to go all out in our efforts.

“On the way back to our hotel that night, we carefully considered the magnitude of the task that lay ahead. We were to start, almost from scratch, on a valid and professional presentation which would involve a second clay model right alongside the one recently started by Alex Tremulis. We realized that, with each stroke of our clay tools, we would be competing with whatever evolved next door. We were the new kids on the block, and everybody would be watching us.

“Now, however, for reasons known only to himself, Tucker had interdicted this modus operandi, and Tremulis had begun the full-size clay study that we had seen in the large, open bay. Alex proved a charming host, hospitable and cooperative. He offered us an enclosed office, thankfully insulated from the cacophony of Ringling’s drop-hammer, with several drawing boards and reference tables. It was small, but well lit, and we settled in and began to get ready to work.

“One of Alex’s major contributions to the Tucker was his attention to its interior dimensions, ensuring a comfortable posture for the driver and the passengers, while harmonizing these considerations with artful exterior contours and sound engineering discipline. He seemed to appreciate the nearly complete control he had been given over the final form of the Tucker automobile - a rare privilege in a field in which stylists count themselves lucky if they see a medallion or a door pull that they created reach production unchanged.”

As the Lippincott team waited for carpenters to build the wooden armature, or ‘buck’ on which they would construct their (no. 2) full-sized clay Tucker; Tremulis’ team, which included two contract designers supplied by the Chicago industrial design firm of Barnes and Reinecke, Inc.* were making steady progress on their ( No. 1) full-sized clay Tucker. 

(*Jean Reinecke began his career as a display artist at General Display Studios a St. Louis, Mo. designer of exhibits for industrial fairs and conventions. In 1930 he opened a branch office in Chicago where GDS began working on contracts for the upcoming Century of Progress (1933-1934) World’s Fair. After the Fair ended Reinecke remained in Chicago, forming Barnes & Reinecke with James Barnes; Reinecke handling design duties and Barnes handling sales. By 1938 Barnes & Reinecke’s design staff included David Painter, James Teague, Fred Priess and George Mendenhall and their clients included 3M, McGraw Electric (Toastmaster) and Polaroid. By 1947 Barnes & Reinecke boasted a staff of 375, and their clients had grown to include Caterpillar, Emerson, IT & T, Johnson & Johnson, Maytag, Union Oil, Westinghouse and Zenith. An excellent article featuring James F. Barnes and Jean O. Reinecke ‘Designs For Better Living’ appears in the April 1946 issue of Popular Mechanics.)

Almost immediately the Lippincott group had developed a great respect for Tremulis’ personality, humor and leadership, Egan recalling:

“At our first meeting, Alex presented the air of a debonair professor, amiable but slightly constrained, cooperative and in control. Gradually, his demeanor assumed new dimensions. He was very friendly, adding an interesting bon mot* to every situation and chuckling frequently as he described the improbable state of affairs at the Tucker Corporation. His knowledge of automobiles and their design was impressive, his stories about various car projects a delight and his humor a marvelous source of entertainment. He drove a right-hand-drive Lincoln Zephyr convertible in which one or more of the Lippincott crew had occasion to ride with him.

(*a witty remark)

“Budd Steinhilber, of the New York group, recalls that on one ride, Alex ‘hunched down behind the steering wheel, and I hung out the left window, hands flailing in the air, much to the consternation of adjacent travelers who must have assumed that I was driving the car.’”

Egan continues:

“Indeed, Alex loved to tell jokes about himself, such as the time he was crossing a bridge in an open car and lit a cigarette with a prized Zippo lighter - and threw the lighter out of the car, like a spent match, into the river. His descriptions were always sparkling and vivid; he would speak of a car design that was ‘so low that you'd have to reach up onto the curb to strike a match.’

“One of Alex's major contributions to the Tucker was his attention to its interior dimensions, ensuring a comfortable posture for the driver and the passengers, while harmonizing these considerations with artful exterior contours and sound engineering discipline. He seemed to appreciate the nearly complete control he had been given over the final form of the Tucker automobile - a rare privilege in a field in which stylists count themselves lucky if they see a medallion or a door pull that they created reach production unchanged.”

As the second clay model had to fit the package* that had already been locked-in by Tremulis and Tucker, the Lippincott team’s work centered on detailing the front- and rear-end of the car.

(*package refers to various dimensions and parameters that dictate the size and shape of the interior, engine compartment, etc.)

It would eventually feature the dropped center or ‘longhorn’ bumper that Read Viemeister had sketched out prior to his arrival at the plant. Egan recalling that:

“Fourteen days or more would pass before we would be able to sculpt in clay. Carpenters first had to build an armature, or ‘buck,’ upon which the clay could be applied. During this period, we ran off reams of sketches and numerous renderings to illustrate our proposals. We had ideas boiling over, just waiting to get onto paper or board. Meanwhile, fabrication of the handmade prototype continued. The pace slackened, awaiting the completion of the two clay models, although some fundamental structural decisions were still made and incorporated into the metal.

“Tremulis and his crew were building the no. 1 model in the image of the March 2 advertisement, while we were exploring front and rear end treatments. It was not long before Preston Tucker began regular visits to discuss our sketches and renderings and to monitor the progress of the buck. At this point, we began to fully comprehend what unusual conditions prevailed in the design area. Inside our studio, we enjoyed a definite degree of security; for now, we were free from the gaze of curious passersby, but this situation would endure only until the day we started on the no. 2 clay model. Then, unlike any design team we had ever seen or heard of, we would be out in the open for everyone in the development hangar to come and have a look at what we were doing. And if we knew anything about human nature, their curiosity would not be accompanied by silence, either at the time of their visit or later, when they spread the word to their compatriots about what the New York gang was doing.

“Fortunately, Alex and Tucker Madawick were both expert hands in the techniques of clay model bucks, platforms and bridges. Read had acquired firsthand experience at Graham-Paige on an earlier Lippincott project there. Hal Bergstrom, our project manager, proved to be just the right balance of scout master and hands-on participant. Madawick alternately sketched valid concepts and brooded over the poor quality of the clay with which we were going to have to work, the problems of heating the clay properly and how the entire setup compared (unfavorably, of course) to his experiences at Ford. And I, absolutely enthralled by it all, was constantly congratulating myself for having the good luck to be smack dab in the midst of a revolutionary automobile design project. Actually, there wasn't a phlegmatic personality in sight.

“Soon, a contiguous thread began to emerge, one which seemed to have promise. We were designing a car at a time when the proliferation of chromium and stainless steel trim was an obvious trend; yet we agreed that its fundamental shape should be the key to the Tucker’s identity.

“Within the confines of our charter, shape could not include drastic changes in the mid-body of the vehicle; in the front and rear, however, there could be dramatic breakthroughs. According to Preston Tucker’s instructions, the Tucker ‘48 should present a striking visage as it approached and a dramatic impression as it passed; this stimulated us to experiment with boxy shapes, rounded rear ends and elliptical contours, all the while avoiding excess trim. It wasn’t easy at that time.

“Nor was the challenge made any easier by the news that Alex and the Tucker engineers had not yet answered a particularly crucial question: 'Where would the radiator reside?' They did not know if it was going to be in the front or the rear of the vehicle. They had no concrete evidence, no wind tunnel tests upon which to base a decision - absolutely no empirical data. They did have plenty of ideas, some of them quite exotic, like the one that called for a fin-and-coil radiator at the lower front of the car with cooling hoses running in the rocker panels, conveying coolant to and from the engine in the rear; or another that called for the radiator to be located in the rear in the engine compartment, with air intakes in the forward edges of the rear fenders. If the latter were done, the radiator would probably be placed aft of the engine up against a grille at the extreme end of the car.

“It would be some time before the final returns were in on this issue, but we were to be prepared for either eventuality. In the meanwhile, Preston Tucker insisted that the flowing lines of the vehicle could not be disturbed; a flat front end to capture air for a forward radiator was definitely taboo, as were air scoops to direct the breeze toward a radiator in the rear. Further, we were told that the front end could not be bulbous above the bumper line and that the sharp cleavage of the Lawson and Tremulis designs had to be retained.

“Our area alongside the Tremulis Tucker was certainly no studio. The gray walls and concrete floors of the plant lent a construction site feeling to the surroundings. Natural light came in through high windows, and artificial light came from white reflectors surrounding floodlight bulbs in the ceiling. We immediately asked the carpenters to erect portable partitions as backdrops, about six feet high, on which we could pin our sketches and renderings to lend color and practical reference material to the proceedings.

“Tucker Madawick had devised a simple wooden box with light bulbs inside to heat and soften the clay. His worries about the quality of the clay were well-founded. It was not first-class material; It was too soft, and its color was more gray than the vivid brown he had been accustomed to at Ford. But it was what we had, and we accepted it, hoping that it would harden enough to provide a good surface upon which to carve.

“Preston still visited the site several times a week, dressed in his three-piece suit, often wearing a homburg and sporting a cane with which he loved to point at some feature of the model. He was frequently accompanied by an entourage of Corporation associates, plus signed-up and would-be dealers. Some of these visits were simply tours for the dealers’ edification; other were genuine decision- making stages in the design of the no. 2 clay model. Tucker and his retinue would arrive, and we would refer to the drawings on the backdrop and then to the area of the car which corresponded. Budd always thought of it as picking from a Chinese menu, dish after dish, idea after idea.

Tremulis told Pearson that they had it ready for paint in 100 days, or sometime in early April. However, it took more than a design and body shape to make a working prototype, and work on the Tin Goose’s flat-6 air-cooled engine, automatic drivetrain and fully independent suspension would continue up until the final moments before Tucker introduced the car to the public on June 19, 1947.

“Gordon Lippincott came to Chicago shortly after we had finished the fully shaped clay study and was obviously pleased with our progress. ‘In a matter of weeks, you guys had gone from sheets of paper on the walls to pushing clay,’ he told me later. Gordon brought some periodical photos of a Convair XB-46 twin-jet light bomber which had just been test-flown. The air intakes were elliptical in shape, very avant-garde, and he thought that the theme might be worth trying on the front end of our clay model. We absorbed his photos and set to work, adding globs of clay to the front end to support the concept. Roughed out, the idea did, indeed, have merit, but then a funny thing happened. Preston Tucker came by, drank in the whole concept and very politely said that it did not abide by his intentions. In his view, the front end must include the ‘Cyclops Eye’ at top center and provide for air intake at the bumper level, period, end paragraph. So much for elliptical excursions. In fact, Gordon expressed the opinion that the ‘Cyclops Eye’ was alone enough to make the Tucker unique. Perhaps he didn't know of the long history of center-mounted headlights in Europe; or perhaps he was simply a practical businessman who knew that, ultimately, the client had to be satisfied.

“Still, Tucker’s idea of a fixed circular headlight lens behind which a General Electric sealed-beam headlamp would pivot with the steering seemed non sequitur. Why not design a panoramic lens which would transmit the rays of the headlamp evenly while announcing its purpose? We began studies of this idea, blending the rest of the front end into a graceful shape above the bumper-level grille prescribed by Preston T. We also worked in earnest on the bumper/grille to make the entire front end an integrated image. This exercise evolved into two weeks of steady work in which our meager crew was dispersed all around the clay model. At the end of this time we had a complete car, quite rough in spots, but an expression of an entire design theme.

“The air intake on the rear fender looked like prewar styling (‘needs work,’ we said to one another). The rear end began to look good; many of Read’s and Hal’s ideas were clearly evident and succeeding with distinction. The exhaust pipes had moved to the top of the bumper, and Preston now had that sassy rear end, replete with an abundant grille to take in or let out cooling air - in the event that the radiator was going to be in the rear. But Tucker firmly vetoed the panoramic lens in what almost amounted to a confrontation. He claimed that the horizontal spread of the lens would not permit the boat-like prow he had envisioned. So, we cut back on each side of the hood so far that the wooden buck underneath had to be excised to allow the penetration. After this fairly radical surgery, we applied fresh clay and sculpted the new shape - and installed a sealed-beam headlight front and center. Still, our front end grille failed to excite him, and so back to the drawing board we went.

“Final preparation of a clay model includes polishing the surface of the clay, applying aluminum foil to surfaces intended to be brightwork and finishing it off with paint and other details. By this time, how- ever, it was April, and the unpredictable Chicago weather had inflicted a heat wave upon the non-air-conditioned Tucker factory. Our clay began to sag. Hundreds of pounds of the stuff, painstakingly ladled onto the buck, had begun to move, and the completed surfaces refused to respond to polishing. We tried turpentine as a glossing agent, but the sagging continued. Then, in a moment of inspiration, we called the Tucker Corporation fire department. ‘Bring over your CO2 truck quick!’ we said. The firemen weren't particularly busy, except for occasional drills, and they probably enjoyed a genuine call, but the odd nature of the request did not escape them. Still, bring it over they did and, despite their misgivings, expended cylinder after cylinder of carbon dioxide onto the clay, successfully curing the sags. From then on, whenever it was too warm in the development bay, we sprayed our magic nostrum on any surface ready to be polished - or about to sag.

“Even as we completed the clay, many of our original sketches and renderings still hung on the studio and partition walls. We frequently referred back to them, sometimes adding new ideas and other times removing old ones. The rear fender air intake had been refined; the rear quarter window had been swept back to provide more visibility; the door handle ideas were now being represented; and subtle changes to the trailing edge of the front fender had been suggested. One rendering always stayed, however: it was the one which Read had done in New York of the steer-horn front bumper. Oddly enough, it just kept hanging on.

“Tucker knew that he had to get the metal prototype completed in the shortest time possible in order to maintain the public’s interest and to keep the money coming in. He had set his sights on presenting a completed and running Tucker ‘48 in early summer. Work on the metal prototype had still continued, but the tempo had gone from allegro to adagio since we had entered the scene, with smaller and smaller portions being given to Ringling and his crew. As Preston T., his engineers and Alex all accepted one part or another of the no. 1 or no. 2 clay models as final, that particular shape was measured from the clay and translated into sheet-metal.

“Now, however, there was a new stir of activity in the plant, and the reasons for the sudden urgency were revealed to Hal Bergstrom on Monday, April 21. Tucker called a meeting of the 15 key persons responsible for making the design a reality. He had decided to mobilize a crash program to assemble six cars, with the first of them ‘on wheels, painted, trimmed and out of here Saturday night. . . . The whole cockeyed nation is watching us,’ he said, adding, ‘We better stick to the fender on the no. 1 clay model. I want that straight line on that fender.’

“It was as if a skipper had, alone, become aware of having passed the point of no return in a voyage. Why Preston Tucker chose this particular time to propose such a monumental undertaking has never been revealed. Perhaps he knew that it was impossible, but believed that his demand would spur us all into achievements which he could not otherwise expect. Incidentally, we never did find out which straight line on the fender he was referring to.

“The two clay models were almost complete. Model no. 1 was very close to the March 2 newspaper rendering except for the rear fender air intakes, which were still being worked out. The no. 2 model was-just short of climax. Some of its trim was extraneous and the front grille still lacked the dramatic touch that the Tucker ‘48 demanded. But both were very convincing Tuckers. Like two thoroughbreds racing toward the finish line, their moment of reckoning was drawing near, and at that moment, all that was missing was the hungry roar of the crowd.

“Everyone, particularly Preston T., knew that there could be only one design for the Tucker ‘48, regardless of whether it was all no. 1 or all no. 2 or a combination of both. The two competing projects had become increasingly interdependent. Alex didn't ignore what we were doing and made many suggestions which helped us. We, in turn, contributed a few ideas to him; certainly a just aid to a worthy compatriot. A constrained, delicate and very successful rear fender air intake on the no. 1 clay model was one of the results of this cooperative effort. Ultimately, it was Alex's accomplishment, but Read and Budd contributed ideas which helped him carry it off.

“Still, all of us in the Lippincott crew wanted to go all out. We knew that the constraints of our original charter from Preston Tucker did not allow such a departure. However, it seemed only logical that, as long as we were in Chicago, we be given the opportunity to depict the very best Tucker car we could offer. Why not, we thought, while finishing the Lippincott model, convert one side of it to a post-48 design, perhaps a Tucker ‘50 or ‘52?

“Preston T. did not object to the idea, and we translated many of our most avant-garde sketches into clay. We were, of course, still concerned with the final 1948 front grille. Fine tuning was essential. A last look at every line, every curve, every detail, became paramount. We revived that long-dormant steer-horn bumper and carefully sculpted it into the front end of what we finally presented as the Tucker ‘48 and the Tucker ‘52.

“The day of presentation to Preston Tucker was not consummated with photographs and trumpets. It just happened. Preston T. arrived to view the results of months of work, the two finished full-size models (actually representing three designs with the dual-faced Lippincott specimen) which had been brought into being by his wish, his drive and his confidence in his mission. He beamed at us all with his big brown eyes. He walked around both models, obviously pleased. He took one look at our steer-horn front end and said, ‘That’s it!’ But he would not indicate further what he would choose as the final design, in whole or in part. We had a general idea of what portions of the no. 1 and no. 2 models he liked, but we had no clear composite in our minds of what he would determine by fiat to be the ultimate Tucker. I’m not even sure that he knew at that moment. He seemed to like the steer-horn bumper, most of the front end and the rear grille of the Lippincott model. Our sweptback rear quarter window, rear fender air intake and small details such as our hood ornament were in limbo. The ‘52 left side was definitely ‘Not now, maybe later.’

“There was no fanfare, no champagne, no ceremony. Alex Tremulis had been working on this project for 125 days, at least, we for 53. The consequences of what we all had done now devolved upon Preston Tucker. He was very complimentary and obviously eager to have the metal prototype completed, but made no mention at all of the six-car crash program. It was not six days but six weeks before the finished prototype revealed what his design choices actually were.

“Alex Tremulis was primarily responsible for guiding the fabrication of the metal prototype. It was he who named it the ‘Tin Goose,’ and he became privy to Preston Tucker’s decisions regarding those portions of the no. 1 and no. 2 clay models that would be first shown to the public. The logistics of this were mind-boggling. Alex had to coordinate his colleagues in sheet-metal forming, body engineering, engine and drivetrain design, interior furnishings, instrumentation/controls and painting to produce a final product to the satisfaction of the boss. It had to be beautiful, it had to be convincing and it had to run.”

Egan contributed some exterior details of the car, but was mostly responsible for the functional parts of the interior: dashboard, door handles, etc. The instrument panel he created was minimalist and compact, giving the driver concise information in streamlined form. This was not the norm in the late 1940s when most dashboards were overly ornate and laden with large chrome bezels and faux wood surfaces.

Like the exterior, the Tucker’s interior was designed for safety. Egan conceived a steering wheel that had just a single spoke radiating from its center instead of the usual two or three: this would reduce the impact on the driver’s chest in a crash. Egan recalled:

“One of Mr. Tucker's very positive concerns was related to automobile safety in a crash. There was to be no dashboard to smash against for a passenger in the right front seat. He insisted that his cars have crash padding and pop-out windshields. Oddly, he did not require seat belts.

“But Mr. Tucker's concern for safety was not inclusive. For example, I designed an energy-absorbing steering wheel that Mr. Tucker did not approve. Instead, Mr. Tucker had another wheel designed to his specifications.

“Mr. Tucker's steering wheel was based on a design being used in the Cadillac and it had a very unsafe, protruding, center-of-the-wheel hub.”

But the Tucker Corporation, pressed for time, wound up using a third option, as none of the wheels could be produced in time to be ready for the pilot run of Tuckers. Instead they were equipped with Lincoln Zephyr steering wheels, sourced by Tremulis through a friend at the Ford Motor Co.

Tremulis recalled the hectic pace required to complete the ‘Tin Goose’:

“Once assembled, the Tucker team pounded metal, welded frames, un-welded them, made mistakes, corrected them, scrapped everything, started again from scratch. Sundays or Tuesdays, it made no difference, when each of us was working 400 to 440 hours a month! One of our men collapsed. In a panic, we rushed him to the hospital. Two hours later, I was called to the telephone—to hear the voice of an angry doctor remonstrating me: "What on earth are you people doing over there? There's nothing wrong with this man pathologically. He's just suffering from malnutrition and complete exhaustion." I used to look at Herman Ringling, then in his early sixties, and think he would never live to see the car completed. But he made it. We all did—not in sixty days, as Preston had wished, but in a hundred, which was remarkable, even so. When the Tin Goose rolled out in its pearlescent maroon, we knew we had a winner. It was worth the sweat and tears we had shed in making it. Call Preston Tucker what you will, he was a prime mover, the force that motivated us all. No one will ever convince me that Tucker wasn't trying to build an automobile!”

Philip S. Egan, who had returned to New York after the Lippincott team had completed their two-month stay on May 3, 1947, recalled the official debut of the Tin Goose (he doesn’t state whether he was present, or if the information was second-hand):

“June 19, 1947 - the day of the unveiling - started off well enough, but it soon became apparent that Lady Luck would not bestow any favors that day. Countless invited guests, many of them signed-up dealers, gathered in Chicago to see this sensation of postwar cars. Tucker had one section of his huge factory roped off, bannered and festooned. A band had been hired and an immense stage setup, high above the floor, with a ramp to the left leading to the north plant courtyard. The stage was bordered with thousands of flowers, its backdrop a diaphanous drapery 12 feet high. It was onto this stage that the Tucker would debut, running under its own power, brought forth from its crucible for all eyes to see. In addition to the dealers and stockholders, members of the Lippincott crew would be waiting on the sidelines to see what parts of their efforts had been built into the final revelation.

“Meanwhile, the metal prototype had already been modified countless times to comply with our incessant changes in contour, detail and direction. Budd recalls that he saw Herman Ringling cutting with ‘a hacksaw into a section of the front fender to make a change and [there were] seven layers of built-up sheet-metal!’

“Hundreds of pounds overweight from endless welding and solder-filling and from twenty-five layers of paint, the ‘Tin Goose’ collapsed on its suspension. With only hours to go before the presentation, Tucker's engineers scrambled to replace its aluminum suspension arms with steel. The 589-cubic-inch engine proved excessively loud, so Tucker ordered the band to play louder, but even the music could not cover the anti-freeze that boiled out of the front-mounted radiators. (The radiators of all subsequent Tuckers were mounted in the rear.)

“Still, as factory test driver Gene Haustein rolled it into place, the beauty of the Tucker prototype transcended all its flaws. The Tremulis body contours had been retained, with the Lippincott front and rear ends incorporated into the whole; the steer-horn bumper was resplendent, as was the transverse rear grille. For 1947, the car presented a distinctly dramatic visage. Gone were the bulbous, jutting contours of the typical postwar rehashes. Every line seemed to suggest a cooperation with the air rushing past, allowing smooth passage over the surface with a minimum of disturbance. It was long and low and wide and had not a jot of extraneous protrusion, nor one excess of trim.

“Preston Tucker, while neither a body engineer nor a stylist, had somehow guided the project to a conclusion that no one could question. He had worked long and hard for this moment. The crowd, five thousand strong, rose to its feet and roared its approval.

“Justifiably proud, Preston Thomas Tucker did not have to sell anything to anyone that day.”

Coincident with the ‘Tin Goose’s’ debut Tremulis offered Egan a job as his assistant and effective June 30, 1947 he resigned from Lippincott and returned to Chicago as an official Tucker Corp. employee.

Egan was disappointed to learn that both full-sized clay models he and Tremulis had built that spring had been destroyed, but was gratified at how well the ‘Tin Goose’ had turned out. As the car was only a prototype, the interior was underdeveloped and it became his responsibility to finalize it before production of the pilot models commenced.

One of the great characteristics of the Tucker automobile came about from its founder’s desire for safety. He insisted upon a padded dash and clear unobstructed cockpit whose instrumentation was grouped around the steering column – keeping all controls directly in front of the driver so that passengers would not be harmed by protruding buttons or gauges in the event of a collision. Tragically, Tucker believed installing seat belts would provoke a perception that his automobile was unsafe, so he missed being the first manufacturer* to offer the lifesaving devices as standard equipment.

(*That distinction goes to Nash, who offered lap belts as optional equipment on their Statesman and Ambassador models starting in 1949 – however the option was discontinued the following year. Ford first offered them in 1955 and Volvo and Chrysler followed in 1956. The first car that came with lap belts standard was the 1958 2-stroke Saab GT750. One year later [1959] Volvo introduced the vastly superior three-point lap and shoulder belt as standard equipment on their Swedish-market cars, however it didn’t become standard on US-bound cars until 1963. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed two bills requiring safety belts in all passenger vehicles sold in the US starting in 1968.)

Egan went to work and in no time at all delivered a clever and elegant solution incorporating all of his boss’ demands; today many Tucker fans believe his dashboard/instrument cluster to be the best looking part of the car.

Originally just another one of Preston Tucker’s safety features, the Tucker ‘48’s ‘cyclops eye’ would eventually become its defining feature. Although the light turned with the steering wheel* its sealed-beam headlamp couldn’t make a complete beam connection with the car’s outboard headlights. The problem was easily solved by the use of a panoramic lens, however Tucker vetoed the idea. At that time the Tucker’s third headlight was illegal in 17 states so Tremulis designed a cover that could be fitted where necessary. Due in part to the aforementioned regulations, the concept of turning headlights wasn’t seen again for nearly four decades, when Mercedes and Lexus began using a much more technologically advanced design to accomplish the same effect.

(*Tucker Nos. 1001-1025 used a mechanical linkage; Nos. 1026-1051 used a simpler cable and pulley system.)

In January of 1948 Preston T. Tucker had attended a demonstration of the Kinmont Safe-Stop Disc Brake at the Chicago Police Dept. motor pool at which time he decided he wanted Kinmonts for the Tucker. However, the relatively expensive brakes were eventually nixed due to their high unit cost and the 1948 pilot Tuckers were equipped with regular hydraulic drum brakes.

One pet project that Tucker was loath to abandon was his low-rpm 589 cu. in. engine which was being developed by John ‘Eddie’ Offut, Harry A. Miller’s former chief mechanic. Alex Tremulis described it:

“The original engine that Tucker proposed was to be made of aluminum with a 589-cubic-inch displacement and a five-inch bore and stroke. Its valves were to be actuated by hydraulic lines, in order to eliminate the valve train as we know it today and assure greater silence. On each end of the engine there was to be a torque converter, which supplied final power to the wheels. It idled at 100 rpm, actually pushed the car 50 mph at only 500 rpm, and would turn up a maximum of 1,200 to 1,300 rpm at a theoretical 130 mph. Because of its extremely low rpm, the engine was expected to have lifetime reliability. It was truly a masterpiece of simplicity in concept, but had several serious shortcomings that would have required years of developmental work to redeem.

“First of all, it was difficult to start the engine, as all the valves remained shut until actuated by the hydraulic pump. We finally had to resort to using a twenty-four volt electrical system, in the days of the six-volt system, in order to start the engine. The torque converters also required more development, and a means for reversing the car had to be worked out. The body program by now had reached the point where we were tooling for production.”

All agreed the fluid drivetrain was not ready for primetime, but Tucker’s crew of talented ex-Indy mechanics were still trying to get the 589 up and running into late 1947. They had grave reservations about the 589’s ability to perform in the real world and as the Tucker 589 went through its extensive testing regimen, numerous problems -including an abysmal lack of power, excessive noise, and the need for multiple batteries to start it – resulted in a report stating that ‘it failed in nearly all respects.’ By December 1947, all further work on the Tucker 589 engine was halted and engineers began exploring other engine options as the Hayes Mfg. Co. would soon begin stamping out the car’s sheet-metal, as relayed by an October 21, 1947 Associated Press wire story:

“Tucker Lets Body Contracts for Auto

“Chicago, Oct. 21, (AP) - Tucker Corp. announced today it has contracted for the body dies and stampings of its automobile, the Tucker ’48, with the Hayes Body Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich. Preston T. Tucker, president of the corporation, said the stampings of body sections would be shipped here in knockdown form by Christmas and would be ready for use before the first of the year. He said assembly line production of the new car would be started shortly after January 1.”

During December of 1947 Tucker Corp. signed several engine development contracts, the first being with the Hoffman Motor Development Co. of Detroit, a well-known engineering firm who worked for Detroit’s automakers on showcars, prototypes and new product development . Hoffman was to supply Tucker with six engines, three of which would be fitted with experimental Borg-Warner transmissions engineered specifically for the Tucker. The second was with Ex-Cello-O Fuel Corp. of Detroit, who proposed adapting a helicopter engine built by the Jacobs Aircraft Engine Corp. of Pottstown, Pa. for use in the Tucker. The third contract was made with a related firm, the Ypsilanti Machine and Tool Co., (partially owned by Preston Tucker’s mother and situated in his backyard) who purchased four surplus Aircooled 6 ALV-335 helicopter (Franklin O-335 series) engines from the Bell Aircraft Corp. The flat 6-engines had been designed for use in the Bell model 47 helicopters, and were manufactured by the Aircooled Motors Corp. of Liverpool, NY.

Several Tucker employees led by Ben G. Parsons were dispatched to Ypsilanti with Offutt to oversee conversion of the four 6 ALV 335s to liquid cooling. Tucker powertrain engineers were pressed for time and discovered the only existing transmission that would work without modification was the unit used on the 1936-1937 Cord 810-812. The Cord-Bendix 4-speed electro-pneumatic (pre-selective) manual transmission also included a built-in transaxle and remote-control gear-changing capability.

For the short term, Tucker needed a dependable powertrain that would actually run, drive and go into reverse, so in March the decision was made to proceed with a water-cooled Aircooled 6 ALV 335 engine mated to the Cord-Bendix transmission. At 320 pounds, the Aircooled 6 ALV 335 engine produced 166 h.p. and 372 ft. lbs. of torque – more than enough power to strip teeth off the Cord’s transmission in first gear. However that problem was easily resolved by replacing its weak components with beefier replacements.

A young engineer named Carl H. Scheuerman, Jr. had been hired back in February of 1947 to engineer the fluid coupling transmission for each end of the 589 engine for which he was awarded a patent:

“Transmission – US Pat. No. 2564999 - filed on Sep. 18, 1947 – granted on Aug. 21, 1951 to Carl H. Scheuerman, Jr., and assigned to Tucker Corp.”

After the demise of the 589 engine/ fluid-coupled transmission project, Scheuerman worked on several small transmission-related projects until he was assigned to Ypsilanti in order to redesign the Cord-Bendix transmission to handle the increased torque. Scheuerman’s modified Cord-Bendix manual transmission became the Tucker Y-1 (Ypsilanti-1).

Daniel Leabu, manager of Ypsilanti Tool & Machine Co., was commissioned by Preston Tucker Jr. to scour the nation’s junk yards and used car lots in order to locate as many Cord 810-812 transmissions as possible. Within several months Lebeau had managed to round up about two dozen units which were visually inspected and tested for correct operation.

Josh Malks, the world’s foremost authority on the Cord 810-812, believes that a total of 23 Tuckers, rather than the oft-stated 18, were fitted with un-modified Cord-Bendix transmissions (developed during 1935 by Auburn’s Harry A. Weaver and manufactured by the Detroit Gear and Machine Co.) after which Scheuerman’s improved Cord-Bendix based Tucker Y-1s were installed. The improved replacement components for the Tucker Y-1 were furnished by several Detroit machine shops and assembled in-house at the Tucker plant.

When they were originally installed in the Cord 810-812, the Bendix remote-control units suffered from several electrical gremlins and vacuum leaks, which were mostly rectified by the time they were installed in the pilot cars. LeBeau stated that except for a few bolts, washers and miscellaneous items, no parts in the Cord were interchangeable with the Y-1, including the Bendix electric-and-vacuum control assemblies. It was essentially a completely new transmission. Unfortunately road tests revealed the Tucker Y-1 wasn’t entirely satisfactory - some said the gear angle was wrong and others said the gears were cut from soft iron.

Malks did his own comparisons between the Tucker Y-1 (modified) and Cord-Bendix (original) units:

“[It] was in design essentially a slightly lengthened Cord gearbox providing sufficient room for a synchronized first gear. As in the Cord, there were two synchronizer units. In the Cord, one synchro drove second and third gear, and one fourth. In the Tucker, one synchro drive first and second, the other third and fourth. Other modifications included blocker-type synchronizers and a combined interlock switch and neutral switch contained in a large housing on the left side of the shift unit. What remained unchanged were the Cord’s bastard gear angles, the long – now even longer – mainshaft, and the brute force interlock to keep the synchros from slipping back to neutral. And it was still shifted by the Cord’s Bendix-built electric-vacuum mechanism.”

A quotation from Aircooled Motors of $12,500 for twenty-five engines, had been rejected by the Tucker Corp. earlier in the year as being too high. However, when the Ypsilanti project of converting the air-cooled ALV-335 helicopter engine over to water-cooling worked, Tucker offered the engine’s designer and chief engineer, Carl Doman, a job as director of engineering. Much to his surprise Dorman refused, to which Tucker responded:

“Is Air Cooled Motors for sale?”

To which Doman replied:

“I think it is. Let's call the president, Carl Roth.”

After several discussions with Aircooled’s board of directors, Tucker negotiated a price of $1.8 million and Aircooled Motors became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tucker Corp. One novel feature of the pilot Tucker that was demonstrated time and time again was its quick-disconnect engine cradle. By removing four large bolts, and unplugging a fuel line and electrical block, the Aircooled 6 ALV 335 could be removed and replaced by a two-man team in 15 minutes.

As the first Tucker Y-1 transmissions were completed, they were swapped out with the un-modified Cord-Bendix units previously installed in the first group of pilot Tuckers, with the exception of 4 cars, which reportedly retain the original Cord units to this day.

Back in 1947 Preston Tucker still had hopes of building his own fully automatic transmission, and he announced a contest whereby the first person to build/test a unit that combined the ease of a Buick Dynaflow, and the performance to a Hydramatic, would receive $5,000. A young engineer named Warren A. Rice was selected as the contest-winner. Rice designed a ‘hydro-kinetic’ automatic drive that used a torque multiplying device which gave an infinite variation of speed from start to top direct drive. It had two hydraulic couplings, but no hydraulic torque convertor to accomplish the variation and was unlike anything used for that purpose prior to that time.

A test model of the R-1 (the ‘R’ standing for Rice) was built in the shop at the plant and installed in a test car; 2 improved units (R-1-2 and R-3) were subsequently built and installed for testing – one in a test chassis and the second in one of the pilot Tuckers. In a test held inside the Tucker grounds a Tucker equipped with the Rice drive system came out ahead of a Dynaflow-equipped Buick which stalled on the loose rocks.

Development of the new Aircooled engine and Tucker Y-1 transmission took less than three months, and a running demonstrator was ready for the stockholders meeting well ahead of time. As reported by the Chicago Daily News, nearly 1,700 turned out in the big meeting hall at the Tucker plant to witness Preston Tucker demonstrate that the car was capable of backing up - many in attendance had come for the sole purpose of finding out for themselves if the reports were true.

While Scheuerman was working on the Y-1, Warren A. Rice worked on an automatic transmission for the production 1948-1949 Tuckers as it was deemed essential for survival in the automotive market by that time. From early spring of 1948 until the installation of the first Tucker Y-1 the two transmission programs ran in parallel. Three versions of the Tuckermatic were built, the R-1, the R-1-2, and the R-3, (the R for Rice, its designer). The first version, the R-1, was only used on a test chassis and was not installed on any of the pilot cars. It had one big problem – it required the engine to be off in order to select a gear. The R-1-2 was improved by adding a layshaft brake to allow gear selection while the engine was running. This version was installed on pilot cars no. 1026 and 1042 only*. The R-3 version had further improvements including a centrifugal clutch to help shifting between forward and reverse even further, but it was never installed in any of the final cars. Rice was made an assistant vice-president and supervised the Tucker testing program at Indianapolis during the summer of 1948.

(*Pilot car no. 1042 was wrecked, although its novel powertrain was salvaged. Pilot car no. 1026 survives intact and is part of the Cammack Collection at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Penyslvania.)

Because the twin torque converters of the Tuckermatic made the engine-transmission unit longer, the fuel tanks in the cars to which they were to be fitted (pilot cars nos. 1026-1051) had to be relocated from behind the rear seat to the rear of the luggage compartment, just ahead of the dashboard - even though only two Tuckermatics were actually installed.

Later in the year a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic was tested in car no. 1048, but by that late date it was merely an engineering exercise as most everyone knew that the chances of the Tucker entering series production were slim to none.

Although she had nothing to do with the interior design of the prototype Tin Goose, former Raymond Lowey Associates’ Studebaker designer Audrey Moore (b.1918-d.1996) came on board in March of 1948 as Tucker’s interior stylist. In addition to choosing fabrics, patterns and colors Moore also designed the door panels, kick panels, carpeting, headliner and seating surfaces, ensuring they all blended harmoniously with the palette of factory colors offered on the initial run of pilot 1948 Tuckers. In a 1985 interview with Dave Crippen, Moore recalled how she became connected with the Tucker organization:

“I had a brother who was working there, and I had come back home from my different kinds of job seeking and gotten a job at the University Hospital. My brother called me, and he said, ‘You ought to go over to Illinois and take a look at that Tucker car. I think that's something that you'd like to get into.’ So I asked him if he knew who was in charge, and he didn't know Alex [Tremulis], but he knew the man in charge in personnel, and he gave me his name. It seems to me his name was Wilson. And he said, ‘If you’ll call him, he could probably tell you who’s in charge of the styling.’ So I called, and he told me it was Alex Tremulis who was in charge in that department. So I called him and talked with him, and he asked me to come to Chicago and bring some samples of my work. He’d heard that Loewy had had a woman working for him. So he said, ‘That would be kind of interesting… We need somebody to do some interiors for us.’ And although interiors hadn't been my forte, it was something that I had done. So I went down, and I took some drawings, and Alex hired me on the spot, and helped me find a place to live.

“At the time I arrived there, however, they hadn't produced a car. In fact, when I came from the airport to the Tucker Corporation the first day that I was to report to work, the cab driver pulled up at a light, and when he found out that I was going out to Tucker to work, he said, ‘Oh, that’s a fabulous car.’ He told me of an incident; how he had been out driving and had stopped at a light, and this car came up, and he said, ‘Never seen anything like it. When that light changed, it was like a rocket; it just took off. I was still there. It was just a rocket!’

“So when I got out to the building, I was telling Alex about this wild car and what it could it do, and he said, ‘Let me show you the Tucker.’ So we went out to the showroom, and he showed me this beautiful car sitting there, and he said, ‘There it is.’ I said, ‘Is that the one that the fellow was talking about?’ He said, ‘Must B.’ So we looked at it, and it was a mockup, and it was made of wood, metal, clay, whatever they could get. There wasn't much clay because they couldn't get the venders to sell them any clay. I suppose the Big Three refused to allow the vendors to sell clay to Tucker. They needed it so badly to make their [own] models. So it mostly was anything. It was really a junk pile, but it was beautifully painted, beautifully shaped and styled. And he said, ‘That’s the one that left him like a rocket.’ So it was a wild imagination of people that Tuckers were around and what they could do, and here there wasn’t one out there yet.”

Crippen then asked Moore what her duties were in terms of interior design:

“I made drawings for interiors. Now there I did work with colors - fabric samples and also color chips, coordinating the interior colors with exterior colors, which was something else again. It was quite new because, up to that point, there hadn't been too much concern about color of interiors. They didn't worry about colors; they didn't worry about fabrics. There was just like one fabric, and it was.... quite drab. The old grey mohairs just clung to your clothes terribly. So we were interested in trying to use some different kinds of fabrics… I can't recall the names of them, but I can still see them, and I can still feel them. They looked like suede, but they were woolen. Beautiful, beautiful fabrics - just beautiful. And it was nice working with vendors and seeing what they have and working with the boys from the trim shop to see what they could do for us.

“I did designs for door panels, and seat covers, and coordinating the lines of the seat covers to the door panels and that sort of thing. It was different. I didn't do any of the work on the dashboard. That was a separate thing. It was already pretty well established that this is what they wanted, and the instruments were pretty well established in a cluster group in front of the steering wheel. There wasn't an instrument of any kind or any hardware in front of the passenger. In fact, the glove compartment was in the door instead of having the glove compartment in the instrument panel. They took the glove compartment out of there and put it in the door. So there wasn't anything that could hurt anyone if here was an accident. Everything was recessed.

“Preston’s wife dictated the colors that were to be used, and we worked with her ideas. Although we didn't work [directly] with Mrs. Tucker, the ideas got through to us. As long as it was blue, or pink, or peach, that was okay - and black, of course… How many of those ideas were carried out, I have no way of knowing. But I did submit drawings to the trim department. And we would see the doors and seats after they finished them. It was very nice. They did lovely work - it was very gratifying to see how well they followed our ideas.

“One of the interesting features of the automobile, and this was also one of Mr. Tucker's ideas, he wanted the front and back seat cushions interchangeable so that the wear would be distributed evenly. When we're turning in a car or selling it, the seats would be worn so evenly that there wouldn't be any distinction of wear. It was a pretty good idea.

“Now Alex dealt mostly with - in fact, neither Phil nor I had any meetings with Mr. Tucker, other than maybe social occasions when they were showing someone through the building or the department, or we went out into the showroom. Also, Alex dealt with engineering, and we were adjacent to research. But Alex did all of that, because he was the boss, and he was carrying out Tucker’s orders, and he could work with research.

“And we did meet engineers like Mr. Fred Rockelman. When he came along, and then I’m trying to think of the other fellow that was - Mr. White - somebody who did - was it the water­cooled engine? Yes, and he came through and talked to us. Then there was some fellow from Italy who was a real speed demon, and he came through and talked to Alex, and Phil and myself. We did get some information from outside, although design departments are usually under lock and key. Not anybody can walk in there. And we, of course, were not allowed to go anywhere, either.

“The trim department brought their things to me of what they had done to get our approval and to see how we liked what they were doing. And it was nice.

“When I worked for Loewy, we never went into any other part of the plant. And we were under lock and key. In a lot of ways it’s good, and in a lot of ways it’s very frustrating because you get so tired of not having anyone else to talk to. People were always stealing one another’s ideas, and that had a lot to do with it, and they didn’t want somebody to come through and take a job for a while, and steal the ideas, and move on, and carry the ideas along with them, or techniques, or whatever, and the techniques were very important.”

Although several sources credit Moore with designing the Tucker logo, she claims it was a pre-existing design that she modified for Vera Tucker:

“I went to their apartment to work with Mrs. Tucker [who] wanted me to design a heraldic crest using the logo from the car. I took the working drawing of the logo, and I made a heraldic crest out of the colors that she decided that she wanted the crest to be, and I took it up to their apartment… I was given the logo and told to work with it and change it any way I wanted and to do some different color ideas of com­binations and that sort of thing.”

Moore also recalled working with another former Raymond Loewy Associates veteran named Joseph Thompson, who later taught clay modeling at the Art Center School/Art Center College of Design in Pasadena after he retired from Ford:

“He was head of [Tucker] model-making. He was a marvelous clay modeler. I guess there were none better.”

The test chassis and prototype ‘Tin Goose’ had a rubber-bonded disc type front and rear suspension, similar to that found on some of Harry A. Miller's race cars, however it proved unable to handle the massive weight of the 2-ton+ passenger car.

Following the ‘Tin Goose’s’ catastrophic rear suspension failure prior to its June 19, 1947 debut, Tucker engineers developed a significantly beefier front and rear independent suspension that utilized torsilastic [bonded rubber and steel] springs that were originally developed for use on Twin Coach transit buses and acted as both spring and shock absorber. Tucker's bonded rubber and steel suspension components were supplied by three vendors, U.S. Rubber Co. (later Uniroyal), Firestone and B.F. Goodrich.

The rear suspension on all pilot Tuckers (nos. 1001-1051) featured a tube-style torsilastic spring unit which consisted of a central steel core encased in a rubber cylinder encased in a steel shell. Each side featured a long torsilastic tube welded to the trailing arm on one end and a shock absorber on the other. One small difference being a 2-inch shorter rear control arm on pilot cars nos. 1001-1008.

The rear suspension on pilot cars nos. 1001-1002 was so stiff that in order to change a tire the rear fender (or suspension) had to be removed. The rear fender contour on pilot cars nos. 1003-1051 was slightly altered to allow the tire to be easily removed.

Three different front suspensions were installed. Pilot cars nos. 1001-1002 used a torsilastic tube arrangement similar to that found on the rear of the car, which suffered from severe toe-in during heavy braking.

Pilot cars no. 1003-1025 had the tubes replaced by torsilastic shear-blocks (molded rubber slabs laminated between two steel plates and mounted between the upper and lower control arms). Although they exhibited superior handling compared to the later tube-style units that preceded them, shear block-equipped cars had no adjustment for caster or camber and were prone to sagging. Additionally the rubber often tore from around the metal plates which would result in unpredictable handling.

Pilot cars nos. 1026-1051 had their torsilastic shear-blocks replaced (once again) with much-improved torsilastic tubes and a redesigned hub that corrected the earlier units’ toe-in braking problem. This also solved the sagging problems, but introduced new handling problems that resulted from the alignment of the lower control arms which surfaced under hard cornering and braking. Like the earlier shear blocks, the rubber on the torsilastic tubes was also prone to separating from the metal tubes due to the loss of adhesion and breakdown of the rubber compound, which would also result in equally dangerous handling.

As Tucker had no testing facilities of their own, in early September of 1948 a small group of Tucker employees led by engineer John 'Eddie' Offutt were dispatched to the Indianapolis Speedway with seven consecutively numbered Tucker pilots cars (nos. 1026-1032) to test out how the various drivetrains and suspension set-ups handled on the speedway. Between September 16 and October 5, 1948 the seven cars were driven a total of 13,134 miles with only a single incident, which was described in detail by Alex Tremulis in Automobile Quarterly:

“Our visits to Indy in 1948 were not all the result of our interest in racing. We had no proving ground on which to test the first of our fifty pilot models coming off the line, so we made all our high-speed runs on the highway from Chicago to Kankakee, Illinois. We were a continual source of embarrassment to state troopers, whose 105 mph squad cars were being left in our dust. Our problem was to beat the troopers to the company gates. Once we were inside, our guards would slam the gates on them. Withdrawing in defeat, they would plead repeatedly that we find ourselves a race track for our trials.

“Since we were breaking the law and did not wish to be prosecuted for it, we rented the Indianapolis Speedway for our final shakedown runs. We sent eight Tuckers to ‘the brickyard’ and ran high-speed tests for a month. We knew that if the Tucker had any oversteering tendencies, we would surely find them at the speedway.

“Actually, we did make a number of modifications there. Our rubber torsilastic suspensions were a bit too soft, and after two or three hundred miles at better than 100 mph speeds, the cars would squat two or three inches closer to the ground (Standing fifty-eight inches tall, they were just beautiful, by the way.) Rubber company representatives told us not to worry, that they would come up with the right rubber compound very soon.

“To give the Tucker extra cornering power, we installed sway bars, with the result that Eddie Offutt, our chief experimental engineer, was going through all the corners at 105 mph and was consistently hitting 117 mph (corrected speedometer) on the back stretch. This performance can be compared with the fact that eleven years prior I had ridden several hundred miles with Ab Jenkins in a supercharged Cord during a twenty-four-hour run for the Stevens Trophy. Ab’s fastest lap ever was 91 mph. With due respect to the Cord, which cornered magnificently on the Indy track, I must point out that by the time Tucker cars were being tested, the track had been paved on the back stretch where Ab, had been forced to contend with two brick straightaways. This had cost the Cord 4 mph in lap speed. Considering that both cars weighed the same, had the same frontal area and were closely related in terms of power output (166 hp for the Tucker, 175 for the Cord), we could still lap 10 mph faster under similar track conditions.

“Reflecting back, I am certain that the Tucker’s exceptional cornering ability was the result of its being truly the first of the wide-track cars. Automobiles of that day had inherited the fifty-six-inch tread, a dimension handed down from early Roman racing chariots whose wheels were spaced the width of two horses standing side by side. The Tucker front tread was sixty-three inches, the rear sixty-five, a width that has yet to be exceeded.

“After the speed tests came the acceleration tests conducted by Warren Rice, designer of the R3 automatic transmission, which was planned as our production transmission. We ran zero to 60 mph in ten seconds, zero to 80 mph in fifteen seconds, zero to 90 mph in twenty-two seconds, and zero to 100 mph in thirty-three seconds consistently. The fastest car in America then, a 150 hp luxury car at that, required twenty-two seconds to go from zero to 80 mph.

“One early morning, during the test period at Indy, the Tucker had its baptism of fire as a safety vehicle. Eddie Offutt had lapped the track several times at better than 100 mph. Rather than change the right rear tire—which could normally survive only four or five laps at that speed without producing oversteering tendencies - he reversed his direction, now circling the track clockwise. Eddie was really stabbing it that day: 112 mph on the short north straight. Later he said he thought he heard the engine backfire, and he didn't think he could get through the turn without power if the engine failed. He hit the brakes hard and took the car into the infield just as one of the tubeless tires we had been testing for production let go. The car did a grand ‘razzoo’ on the wet grass and rolled over three times at more than 80 mph, then landed on its wheels. A flash of panic struck the onlookers in the moment of silence that followed. Then Offutt stepped out, his only injury a bump on one knee, which the gearshift bracket had struck when the car rolled over. More important, even, than the minor extent of Eddie’s injuries was the fact that the Tucker’s windshield had popped out, upon impact, just as the advertisements said it would! After the blown tire had been changed, the car [pilot car no. 1027] was returned to the pit area under its own power.

“The Tucker's high-speed performance (120 mph) was the result of its inherently aerodynamic efficiency. We had a considerable advantage over front-engined cars. The internal drag of air entering an engine compartment through the radiator core was eliminated by placing the engine in the rear; thus the front-end sheet metal offered excellent air penetration qualities. The air intake ducts in the rear fenders were designed to channel and direct air to the rear-mounted radiator core, where it was exhausted through the rear-mounted grille. The chop-off of the rear also contributed to turbulence that fomented additional scavenging of the engine-compartment heat at speed.

“The low floor height of the Tucker made possible a smooth, functional underpan that eliminated the turbulence effect of exposed members and chassis components that were a constant source of drag on conventional motorcars. The roof tapered in two directions to reduce high-lift forces. Coasting tests indicated that the car's coefficient of drag was as low as .30, whereas a conventional postwar car was on the order of .52. The Tucker car consumed 52 hp of aerodynamic drag at 100 mph, as compared to an average of 90 to 95 hp for conventional cars of that day.”

Later third-party road tests of the pilot models suggested the track-testing had produced a suspension that was a bit on the stiff side, which, while good for handling, caused noticeable front-wheel lift when cornering on uneven surfaces.

Contrary to popular belief, the pilot Tucker’s body panels weren't hand-hammered, they were made from stamped steel panels supplied by the Hayes Mfg. Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most of the dies Hayes used were furnished by eight different Detroit tool and die shops. Once they arrived at the factory, Tucker’s body men put the stampings in jigs where they were welded together then sent off to final assembly where they were put together to form the body shell. Certain components – such as the front fenders – were made up of several stampings which were subsequently welded together. Once the shell was completed, the sheet metal’s seams and imperfections were filled with lead filler then ground down by hand after which they were sent off to the paint department. In Tucker’s 1949-1950 trial, Lee Treese, Tucker vice-president in charge of manufacturing, testified that Tucker Corp.’s die-stamping program was only 90 percent complete in June of 1948, so a limited amount of hand-fabrication was still taking place during the pilot cars manufacture.

Thirty-seven pilot-production 1948 Tuckers (nos. 1000-1035) were produced before Tucker formally ended production on November 2, 1948. Tucker Corp.’s 3-member design team - Philip S. Egan, Audrey Moore and Alex Tremulis - were subsequently locked out of the plant and began looking for new jobs. Pilot cars nos. 1036-1042 were mostly complete but were in engineering awaiting transmissions. After the plant closed, John ‘Eddie’ Offutt and a small group of employees were allowed to enter the plant and in order to assemble as many vehicles as they could until they had exhausted the supply of parts. There were 8 completely unfinished body shells and many other parts left when they were subsequently ordered to vacate the plant after it was surrendered to the firm’s receivers on March 3, 1949.

Eight months later Tremulis was subpoenaed to return to Chicago and testify against his former employer where he almost - but not quite - managed to get the ‘Tin Goose,’ moniker into the trial record during his October 31st testimony, the November 1, 1949 edition of the Chicago Tribune reporting:

“Tucker’s ‘Dream Car’ Captured As Nightmare

“Breaks Down Three Times at Initial Showing

“by William Clark

“The Tucker ‘dream car,’ unveiled with a brand flourish before thousands at the Tucker plant in June, 1947, had no transmission, no disk brakes, no hydraulic torque converter, and no fuel system. A mechanical hodge podge consisting of reshaped 1942 Oldsmobile body parts, Chrysler fluid couplings, and a half dozen batteries wired in the rear to stimulate the indisposed engine, the car was pushed onto the reviewing stand by six husky plant employees.

“This description of the Tucker Torpedo at its widely heralded debut was given by witnesses yesterday before a jury in the federal District court of Judge Walter J. LaBuy, where Preston Tucker and seven associates in his ill-fated auto company are on trial on charges of mail fraud and conspiracy.

“Dream Car a Nightmare

“William Stampfli, Tucker corporation’s master mechanic until the production shutdown in June, 1948, said the individual wheel suspension apparatus in the first car had to be reinstalled three times the day of the initial showing because of persistent breakdowns. An engine displayed in an open chassis at the unveiling ceremonies was incomplete with the missing parts, he said.

“Carl H. Scheuerman, member of Tucker's engineering staff, said none of the 36 cars built while he was at the plant had the hydraulic torque converter, disk brakes, or fuel injection system so highly touted by Tucker in his advertising and publicity campaign. The majority had a modified Cord automobile type transmission and a Franklin motor car engine converted from air-cooled to water-cooled, he testified.

“Auto Unable to Reverse

“The two Chrysler fluid couplings used on the first car were removed after the first showing, Scheuerman said. It was explained out of court that the couplings permitted some power to be transmitted to them, but the power could not be adequately regulated without a transmission nor could the car be driven in reverse. One spokesman said that with the couplings the auto was able to make a journey of about 20 feet at the unveiling program. After the couplings were removed, the car could provide none of its own motive power.

“Scheuerman told the Jury he saw one hydraulic torque converter in the Tucker plant before he left the company in the summer of 1948, but it was not in a car. He said Tucker officials met in March, 1948, in an effort to settle their transmission difficulties. They finally decided to abandon the hydraulic torque converter idea for the time being and adopt a conventional transmission with standard parts that could be bought from established manufacturers, he asserted.

“Alexander S. Tremulis, the day’s first witness and the man who designed the body style used on the Tucker car actually built, was the one who said the first car was made of reformed body parts from a 1942 Oldsmobile. He said it was started as a metal mock-up, a full size model without mechanical parts. It was later decided to make it an operating car.

“Tremulis almost - but not quite - managed to get the plant nickname for the first car, ‘Tin Goose,’ into the trial record. Asst. United States Atty. Robert Downing asked him what name the car was known by around the plant.

“I well, unfortunately, it was dubbed the ‘…’, the witness began, but defense attorneys were efficiently prompt with objections to halt the sentence at that point. He filled in the blank with ‘Tin Goose’ out of court.”

In spite of the seemingly overwhelming evidence presented by the Federal Prosecutors during his trial, Tucker and his seven associates were found not guilty, the January 23, 1950 edition of the Sheboygan Press reporting:

“Defendants Found Not Guilty

“One of the most unusual cases in the history of the federal government was that waged against Preston T. Tucker of the Tucker Corporation and seven of his associates charged with mail fraud, conspiracy, and violation of federal securities regulations in promoting the manufacture and sale of the Tucker car.

“The jury which deliberated in this case heard the evidence of 73 witnesses over the three months’ trial and reached a verdict of not guilty on the fourth ballot.

“We class it as a most unusual case because the defendants did not present a scintilla of evidence to counteract the charges that had been made. The attorneys for the defendants contended that no evidence of fraud or conspiracy had been proven. The government contended that it was not the intention of the corporation to manufacture cars and that it was launched with the idea of fraud. The defense met this issue admitting that there might have been some misinformation, but there was no evidence of fraud and criminal intent.

“The Tucker car when it first appeared was a sample of a rear engine car, something new in the automobile field. When the case was tried before a jury of twelve, comprising men and women, and the government had submitted its entire case with over 1,000 exhibits, the attorneys representing the defendants took the position that there was no evidence of fraud and closed without submitting any evidence. The jury deliberated seventeen hours, taking four ballots and found the defendants innocent. Evidently it was no gamble on the part of the defense attorneys inasmuch as they openly announced in court that no charge of fraud had been proven.

“The judge’s charge was favorable to the defendants and placed the burden clearly upon the prosecution when he said, ‘Conjecture and suspicion cannot take the place of evidence.’ He cautioned the jury that it must find whether there was intention to defraud; and that it ‘must believe the facts are inconsistent with innocence.’

“What was in the mind of the defendants throughout the trial never came to the attention of the jury because the defense rested without introducing a single iota of evidence, Preston Tucker announced after the verdict was read that the company would now proceed with re-organization and manufacture of the newly-designed car.”

In spite of the myriad of problems Tremulis had endured while working for Tucker, Tremulis still greatly admired the man stating:

“Preston Tucker was an extraordinary man, a man of many facets, and most of all, a man whose drive and enthusiasm were such that everyone around him was caught up in the whirlwind he created. There were times when I looked upon him as a mathematical moron, at other times an immature businessman ill-equipped to hack his way through the jungle of modern commerce. And often he seemed to me just a brash, overgrown kid with a passion for automobiles.

“Actually he possessed all these idiosyncrasies, in some measure, and a great many virtues as well. He was a combination of four great men with whom I have been associated in my career in the aircraft and automotive industries. Periodically he reminded me of Roy Faulkner, the sales managerial genius of Pierce-Arrow and later the president of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg. With compassion for youthful creativity, Faulkner encouraged a young art student, Phil Wright, to whom he gave carte blanche for the design of what proved to be one of the world's most advanced automobiles, the Silver Arrow of 1933. Often, Tucker evinced qualities I recall in Theodore von Karman, father of the supersonic breakthrough, whose stimulating guidance and inspiring dedication to pure research left a contribution to the science of aeronautics that may never be equaled by another man in our time. Preston's devotion to and relentless pursuit of perfection was matched only by the legendary August Duesenberg, who also lived by the conviction that he was building the finest of all motorcars. Lastly, he reminded me of John Tjaarda, a tireless exponent of the rear-engined automobile, whose enthusiasm for the principle reduced every other configuration to the status of a Napoleonic coach.

“Time after time, when a major styling decision had to be made, Preston deferred to me, invariably cautioning me, ‘Just remember that we have a boss bigger than all of us and that's the automobile. Do what you have to do, but be sure it's right for the car.’ The authority he gave me was the answer to a stylist's prayer. It was a kind of utopia, but more akin to that enjoyed by a scientist at work in the Soviet Union, I'm afraid. Like the latter, I knew that if successful I would see myself crowned with glory. And, conversely, if I failed, Tucker would doubtless have me pilloried, for I would be solely to blame for any faults in the styling of the car. This was certainly a perilous responsibility, but it is one that a stylist must be willing to accept.”

Virgil M. Exner, Jr., the son of post-war Studebaker designer Virgil Exner Sr., recalls several incidents from his childhood that involved Tremulis:

“When my father was the chief designer at Studebaker in 1948, I know that he didn’t regard Detroit as having conspired to put Tucker out of business, but regarded the Tucker as a fraud. However, he did appreciate the design...

“Late that summer of ’48, on a Sunday, a guy pulled up in front of our house in South Bend and virtually pushed his way in and absolutely demanded that my father hire him. I witnessed that. Father rather sternly dismissed him and I asked father who he was. ‘That was Alex Tremulis, a real crackpot, blue sky type designer, that I would never hire,’ was my father’s disgusted retort.

“During the 1950s and 1960s Ben Parsons kept an engineering office in Detroit and was the Dayton Wire Wheel representative for Detroit. Parsons was a very kindly and wonderful gentleman and told me all about having been the main designer of Tucker’s first engine, working with ‘Alex the Terrible,’ and Bill Flajole* on the Tucker. He said Flajole had more input to the body design than Tremulus.”

(*As to Tucker chief engineer Ben G. Parsons’ claim that “Flajole had more input to the body design than Tremulis” I could find no substantiating evidence that Flajole was involved in the project. However, Tremulis own accounts of working at Tucker Corp. are often vague and rarely mention individuals save for the boss so it’s possible that Flajole assisted worked on the Tucker project at some point int time. During the post-war era Flajole headed his own Detroit-based industrial design firm, whose best-known project was the 1950 NXI concept for Nash, the prototype of the 1954-1961 Nash Metropolitan. However, Flajole doesn’t include the Tucker in his resume – perhaps the experience was best left forgotten.)

Tremulis career with Kaiser-Frazer and Ford will be covered at some later point as time allows.

After his departure from Ford in 1963 Tremulis formed his own independent design firm. In 1968 he suffered a severe myocardial ischemia (obstructed artery), and underwent an emergency Vineburg procedure - the direct predecessor to cardiac catherization. He relocated to Southern California to recuperate and decided to stay there permanently – his new address became 275 N. Kalorama St. (V) Apt. 406, Ojai, Ventura County, Calif.

Among other activities that kept Alex busy in California was designing a motorhome for Travoy using Oldsmobile Toronado running gear. With this machine he set a land-speed record for motorhomes of 10,000 lb. at El Mirage at a speed of 97.60 mph, leaving a rooster tail of dust behind him stretching for 2.5 miles.

Among Tremulis’ last designs were the 1978 to 1987 Subaru “Brat” and the Subaru “X-100”, a three-wheeled, 150 miles per-gallon concept car. In his road test of the Brat published in the March 1978 issue of Popular Mechanics, Michael Lamm writes:

“The Brat's styling got a boost from U.S. consultant Alex Tremulis, the famous designer who did the 1948 Tucker Torpedo and Ford's futuristic showcars of the 1950s. Alex also designed some of the Brat's accessories, including the fiberglass camper shell, the Conestoga canvas roof and the bed tonneau.”

Alex discovered Jack Telnack, told him to go to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and then hired him at Ford. A decade later he saw the same talent in another young man named Chip Foose. Foose’s father, Sam, constructed scale models for Tremulis after he moved to California and during the late 1970s the youngster took over building Tremulis’ scale models from his father. Impressed, Tremulis told Chip about the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and encouraged him to attend, which he eventually did, graduating in 1990. He also arranged for him to go work for Ford, but Boyd Coddington topped Ford’s offer and Chip remained in California as Boyd’s right-hand man and the rest is history.

Special Interest Auto’s Josiah Work visited Tremulis in 1984, describing him as follows:

“Alex is as chipper, and lively as ever and lives with Chris, his wife of 41 years, in Ventura, California. A dream of his is to head up a small think tank to forecast future developments, but meanwhile he is involved in consulting work for Subaru and he tries to work like hell for six months of the year so he can then play for the other six. His play consists mainly of designing and building models of futuristic cars that may have some application in the future.

“When asked what he considers to be his greatest achievement he will tell you that he's very proud of the 140 different designers he has trained over the years, some of whom—such as Ford's Jack Telnack—have gone to the very top of the profession. Alex discovered Telnack, told him to go to Art Center at Pasadena and then hired him at Ford. He looks on his 140 designers as a father looks on his children and on Father's Day a lot of them call him from all parts of the country.”

Alex and Chrisanthie retired to 9511 Halifax St., Ventura, California during which time he developed Alzheimers and suffering several strokes, one of which left him blind. He passed away in his Ventura home on December 29, 1992 at the age of 77. His obituary appeared in the January 5, 1992 edition of the Chicago Tribune:

“Alex S. Tremulis, 77, design engineer and automobile stylist who had designed the body of the futuristic Tucker car; a native of Chicago`s North Side, he attended Roosevelt High School, then began doing custom-design work at the Duesenberg dealership then at 333 N. Michigan Ave.; he also worked on the Packard Clipper and Chrysler Thunderbolt; after serving in World War II, he was commissioned by Preston Tucker in 1948 to design the body for his dream car; only 51 of the Tucker Torpedos, which had a headlamp in the center of the grillwork, were ever built; after the firm folded, he designed cars for the Kaiser-Frazer company; in 1952 he joined Ford Motor Co., where he was in charge of advance styling; Dec. 29, in his Ventura, Calif., home.”

Tremulis’ wife, Chrisanthie J. (Politis) died on August 16, 2006 in Ventura County, California, aged 89.

For the past several years Tremulis’ nephew William S. Tremulis (son of Demosthenes 'Dick' Sarantos and Elizabeth [Pickett] Tremulis) and his wife Sandra E. (Revill) Tremulis have been working on a biography of Alex’ career as well as a feature-length documentary on the Gyronaut X-1, the ‘World's Fastest Motorcycle.’ They also have a website dedicated to the Gyronaut X-1 and its creator – see

©2014 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to William S. Tremulis (Tremulis Archives) and the Ford Design Center Archives, Ford Motor Co.

Appendix 1 - videos

2013 Eyes On Design Press Event – Jack Telnack

Automotive Hall of Fame discussion with Jack Telnack

Lane Motor Museum/Restro-X interview with William S. Tremulis et all

Ford Seattle-ite XXI

La Tosca (mislabeled as Atmos)

Troutman & Barnes Gyro-X

Classic Car Designers

Tucker Combat Car

Tucker Automobile

Cammack Collection

© 2014 Mark Theobald for







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Carroll Gantz - 100 Years of Design: A Chronology, 1895-1995, pub.1996

Lester Velie - The Fantastic Story of the Tucker Car, Colliers Weekly, June 25, 1949 issue

Michael Lamm – George Lawson, Designer, Special Interest Autos No. 44, March – April, 1978 issue

Michael Lamm & Dave Holls – A Century of Automotive Style; 100 Years of American Car Design, pub. 1996

Steve Lehto - Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow, pub. 2016

Philip S. Egan - Design and Destiny: the Making of the Tucker Automobile, pub. 1989

Philip S. Egan – Tucker: Design and Destiny, Automobile Quarterly. Vol. 26, No. 3, pub. 1988

Philip S. Egan – Tremulis: The Genius Behind the Tucker, Automobile Quarterly. Vol. 26, No. 3, pub. 1988

Robert F. Scott - Ordeal By Trial: the Decline and Fall of Preston Tucker, Automobile Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 4

Alex Tremulis - The Challenge of Two Wheels, Automobile Quarterly. Vol. 3 No. 1, pub. 1965

Alex S. Tremulis - Aerodynamic Drag Characteristics of Land Speed Record Vehicles, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Technical Paper No. 660387, pub. 1966

Alex Tremulis - Epitaph for the Tin Goose, Automobile Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 1 pub. 1966

Alex Tremulis - Kaiser-Frazer's Stylists, Automobile Quarterly, Vol. IX, No. 3, pub. 1972

Alex Tremulis - "Gaylord: One Auto-Holic's Views on Another's Ultimate Car, Automobile Quarterly, Vol. XII, No. 4, pub. 1975

Alex Tremulis - Tunneling Through the Ages, A Lesson in Aerodynamics History, Road & Track, August 1982 issue

Alex Tremulis - Created by the Measured Mile; 1940 Chrysler Newport and Thunderbolt, Special Interest Autos, No. 28, May-June, 1975 issue.

Charles T. Pearson - The Indomitable Tin Goose: the True Store of Preston Tucker and his Car, pub. 1960

Nick Georgano & Nicky Wright - Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work, pub. 1995

J. Gordon Lippincott - Design for Business, pub. 1947

Peter H. Blum - Brewed in Detroit: Breweries and Beers Since 1830, pub. 1999

Oscar Cox – Thunderbolt; A Flash of the Future from the Forties, The Classic Car, Vol. XLVII, No. 2, June 2000 issue

Brad Darrach, Julie Greenwalt, Anita Lienert & Kristina Johnson - Unlike Coppola's Movie Hero, Auto Innovator Preston Tucker Was as Daring, Lavish and Flawed as His Car, People Magazine, Vol. 30, No. 12, September 19, 1988 issue

Jim & Cheryl Farrell - Ford Design Department Concept and Show Cars, pub. 1999

Perry R. Duis & Glen E. Holt - The Tale of the Tin Goose, Chicago Magazine, October 1982 issue

American Icarus - The rise and fall of Preston Tucker, Car and Driver Vol. 33 No. 12, June 1988 issue

Arvid Linde - Preston Tucker & Others: Tales of Brilliant Automotive Innovators & Innovations, pub. 2011

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design, pub. 1994

Giles Chapman - Illustrated Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Automobiles, pub. 2009

Douglas J. Ingells - They Tamed The Sky: The Triumph of American Aviation, pub. 1946

Richard M. Langworth – Kaiser-Fraser: Last Onslaught on Detroit, pub. 1975

Richard M. Langworth – Packard Clipper; Lost Continuum of an American Institution, Automobile Quarterly, Volume 34, Issue 1

Richard M. Langworth – Tucker (interview with Tremulis), The Milestone Car No. 11, Spring 1975 issue

Melvin D. Barger - The Tucker Car: Did the Big Guys Do It In?, January 1989 issue of The Freeman

The Alex Tremulis Streamliner, Hot Rod Magazine, June 1964 issue

Eric Rickman - Heir To the Throne, Hot Rod Magazine, March 1966 issue

A.B. Shuman – Tucker: A Modern American Tragedy, May 1971 issue of Motor Trend

Gray Baskerville - The Mysterious Millenium Machine, Ford’s X-2000 Lives! Hot Rod, April, 2000 issue

Bob Thomas - Alex Sarantos Tremulis: Always ahead of the Rest, Collectible Automobile, December 2008 issue

Alex Tremulis prototypes (Aero Van, Lone Eagle, Aeronaut), Your Auto, December 1982 issue

Josiah Work – SIA Interview: Alex Tremulis - Advocate of Aerodynamics, Special Interest Autos No. 82, August 1984 issue

Josiah Work – Alex Tremulis: Advocate of Aerodynamics, Hemmings Classic Car, March 2012 issue

Jim Donnelly - Automotive Pioneers: Alex Tremulis, Hemmings Classic Car, August 2011 issue

Tony Hogg - Alex Tremulis: A Man of Rare Imagination and Achievements, Road & Track, Volume 35, Number 4, December 1983 issue

Tuckers, Gyros and Little Green Men, Exotic Cars Quarterly, Fall 1992 issue.

David R. Crippin - The Reminiscences of Alex Tremulis – July 1984 interview for the Edison Institute's “The Automobile in American Life” series (interviews with Carl Breer; Gordon M. Buehrig; Harley Earl; Eugene T. Gregorie; Raymond Loewy; William L. Mitchell; John Tjaarda & Alex Tremulis) transcribed from a 60 min VHS tape copied from a videodisc master, pub. 1987

Ron Irwin – An Interview with Gordon Buehrig; Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club Newsletter, Vol. 14, No. 6, June 1966 issue

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