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The Sad Story of the Tucker 48 Killed in a Fire

Steve Lehto
Photo credit: Courtesy Tucker Club of America

From Road & Track

Before the Tucker Corporation was shuttered, 51 Tucker ‘48s were assembled. That includes 50 “production” cars and the prototype, dubbed the Tin Goose. Aficionados count the population by their VINs, which conveniently run from 1001 to 1050. All 51 are accounted for – that is, we know where they are or what happened to them – but a couple no longer exist. The saddest story of them all is the tale of 1023.

This Tucker left the factory in maroon, a popular color for the ’48. A few decades later, it found itself in Florida where its owner decided to have it restored. In 1978, the cars were climbing in value but had not hit the astronomical figures of late. 1023 sat in storage awaiting its restoration when tragedy struck: On September 29, 1978, the warehouse it was in caught fire and burned to the ground. The Tucker was a total loss.

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The fire was so severe that nothing in the warehouse was saved and it was quite some time before any recovery efforts could even be attempted. When the Tucker’s remains were finally pulled from the mess, it was clear that nothing could be done to save any of it. The warehouse had collapsed on the car during the fire and the heat had destroyed all of it but the skeleton.

Photo credit: Courtesy Tucker Club of America

Other Tuckers which had been damaged in accidents or testing were saved and later lived on by donating their parts to others. Pieces of damaged Tuckers have been used to reconstruct entire cars. Famously, 1018 and 1027 were both heavily damaged decades ago but they were saved until they could be used as donor cars for a “continuation” Tucker – made from authentic Tucker parts.

That would not be the case with 1023. The conflagration at the warehouse saw to that.

The remains sat outside for a few years – at that point, things couldn’t get any worse. Finally, perhaps coming to terms with the reality of the situation, the owner decided it was time to put the car to rest. He took the toasted remains and had them crushed. He then buried the crushed remains under his garage.

You can add Tucker 1023 to the list of cars we know about. That is, we know where it is. We just can’t see it because there is a garage on top of it.

Steve Lehto is a writer and attorney from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow, and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Design, Development, Production and Competition. He also has a podcast where he talks about these things.

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