After you’ve paid the bills, made the charitable donations you wanted to make, and otherwise covered everything you needed, maybe you have an extra $2 million to spend on a car. If so, we direct your attention to the January 19 RM Sotheby’s auction of an original Tucker 48 in root beer brown. Chassis No. 44, also known as Tucker 1044, may be the most desirable American car going on sale in 2017.
Any Tucker you see carries a hell of a backstory, and 1044 is no different. According to RM Sotheby’s, this model sat untouched and undriven for 33 years in an Ohio storage shed before it returned to the world. The owner had driven the Tucker 48 about 15 miles before filing it away into obscurity with 7,900 miles on the odometer.
Though Tucker people in the know were aware of this model, the owner declined all offers for it until 2015. After extensive politicking by an expert in Tucker restorations, the Ohio owner agreed to part ways with 1044. The car’s buyer subjected his prize shed find to a painstaking overhaul. He changed the fluids, stripped metal trim that did not come for the factory, and rebuilt nonworking parts.
Other than the drawbacks that came with every factory Tucker, 1044 comes with only a few cosmetic imperfections. But it’s ready to drive.
Tucker 1044 did not originally come in the “root beer brown” color it sports in 2017. RM Sotheby’s says it transformed from the original “andante green,” one of six original colors, to this shade later in its life. Inside, you find tan seats and brown leather details rather than the original green wool broadcloth. Suicide doors were standard. The auction house estimates $1.6 million up to $2.1 million when the gavel drops on January 19.
If this car sells at that price, it would make it the second-most expensive Tucker in history. In 2012, a pristine Tucker (1043) sold at Barrett-Jackson for a record $2.91 million. That car featured no flaws and had undergone a full professional restoration, making it ready to display as a museum or concours showpiece. With the right effort, Tucker 1044 can achieve the same level of perfection.
So $2 million for a problematic car? Every collector has special criteria, but as far as historical value goes a Tucker is nearly impossible to beat. Only 51 were built, of which an amazing 47 still exist. Each featured an H-6 engine that peaked at 165 horsepower and 372 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed manual transmission was the only option, and its top speed claimed to be near 120 miles per hour. A Tucker takes about 10 seconds to hit 60 from a standstill.
Yet Tuckers transcend any specs we can quote. Few cars were as important to the history of the automobile and the industry as a whole. In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 film, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, the filmmaker presents Tucker as a genius who got in over his head. Pre-orders, stock complications, issues with dealerships, production constraints, and meddling by the Detroit Three eventually buried his company.
Stop us if any part of the story sounds familiar. Maybe an anonymous bidder from Silicon Valley would want to add this model to his collection? It could hold symbolic value, even in 2017.