Synopses & Reviews
"Fascinating." —Vanity Fair
"A delightful history." —Wall Street Journal
In 1964, Chrysler gave the world a glimpse of the future. The automaker built a fleet of turbine cars—automobiles with jet engines—and lent them out to members of the public. The fleet logged over a million miles; the exercise was a raging success.
These turbine engines would run on any flammable liquid—diesel, heating oil, kerosene, tequila, even Chanel No. 5. If the cars had been mass produced, today we might have cars that do not require petroleum-derived fuels. The engine was also much simpler than the piston engine—it contained far fewer moving parts and required much less maintenance. The cars had no radiators or fan belts and never needed oil changes.
Yet Chrysler crushed and burned most of the cars two years later; the jet cars brief glory was over. Where did it all go wrong?
Steve Lehto has interviewed all the surviving members of the turbine car program, from the metallurgist who created the exotic metals for the interior of the engine to the test driver who drove it at Chryslers proving grounds for days on end. Lehto takes these firsthand accounts and weaves them into a fascinating story about the coolest car Detroit has ever produced.
"A detailed, entertaining meander through the history of 'Detroit's Coolest Car.'" —New York Times
Lehto, the author of books on cars and other topics, details thestory of Preston Tucker, a salesman who built racecars before World War II, who wanted to build a car incorporating features likeaerodynamic styling, disc brakes, fuel injection, a safer passenger compartment, and the cyclops headlight. Not all were incorporatedinto the Tucker '48 car, but it included a rear engine, rear-wheel drive, safety-glass windshield, padded dashboard, independentsuspension, and automatic transmission. A Securities and Exchange Commission commissioner tied to Detroit's Big Three automakers leakedinformation about an investigation that suggested that Tucker was defrauding investors and contended that his cars weren't real and hisfactory was fake. He also had trouble raising enough money for his operation, resulting in the manufacture of only 51 of the cars. Distributed by Independent Publishers Group.Annotation ©2016 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"A fascinating example of engineering and product development. . . . Motorheads will love it." —Library Journal
"A delightful history." —Wall Street Journal
"Steve Lehto's lively history of Chrysler's turbine car program is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the automobile in the jet age." —David N. Lucsko, author, The Business of Speed: The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915-1990
"Steve Lehto gives the most detailed and in-depth analysis of the men behind this amazing auto. Here is what happened to their dream of building a gas-turbine car." Jay Leno
"A fascinating new book." Vanity Fair
"While personal-flight prototypes edge from pipe dream to purchase order, this well-documented history provides a satisfying substitution." —Kirkus Reviews
A dramatic story of automotive innovation and government persecution
In the wake of World War II, the U.S. automobile industry was fully unprepared to meet the growing demands of the public, for whom they had not made any cars for years. In stepped Preston Tucker, a salesman extraordinaire who announced the building of a revolutionary new car: the Tucker ‘48, the first car in almost a decade to be built fresh from the ground up. Tucker’s car, which would include ingenious advances in design and engineering that other car companies could not match, captured the interest of the public, and automakers in Detroit took notice. Soon, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, headed by a former Detroit man, began investigating Tucker, and when a leaked report indicated that Tucker was going to be indicted for a scheme of massive fraud, his stock crashed and America came to believe that he was nothing but a huckster. After a lengthy trial, Tucker was eventually exonerated, but not before he and his company were left with nothing. Here, author Steve Lehto tackles Tucker’s amazing story, relying on a huge trove of documents that has been used by no other writer to date. It is the first comprehensive, authoritative account of Tucker’s magnificent car and his battles with the government. And in this book, Lehto finally answers the question automobile aficionados have wondered about for decades: exactly how and why the production of such an innovative car was killed.
After World War II, the American automobile industry was reeling. Having spent years building weapons, the car companies had not made any cars for years.
And then, in stepped Preston Tucker. This salesman extraordinaire from Detroit had built race cars before the war, and had been a defense contractor during it. Now, gathering a group of brilliant automotive designers, engineers, and promoters, he announced the building of a revolutionary new car: the Tucker '48, the first car in almost a decade to be built fresh from the ground up. Tucker's car would include ingenious advances in design and engineering that other car companies could not match.
But the Big Three did not take Tucker's threat lightly. While Tucker raised money, leased a plant in Chicago, lined up franchises worldwide, sold millions of shares of stock, and built the first of his cars, the SEC, headed by a former Detroit man, began investigating him. Tucker fought on, showing his cars around the country while investigators seized his books. And when the SEC leaked a report to the press that Tucker was going to be indicted for a scheme of massive fraud, Tucker's stock crashed and America came to believe that he was nothing but a huckster.
Steve Lehto has here tackled Tucker's amazing story, relying on a huge trove of documents that no other writer to date has used. In this book, Lehto finally answers the question automobile aficionados have wondered about for decades: exactly how and why the production of such an innovative car was killed.
About the Author
Steve Lehto is an author and an adjunct professor of law and Michigan history at the University of Detroit Mercy. He is the author of Deaths Door: The Truth Behind Michigans Largest Mass Murder, a 2007 Michigan Notable Book, and Michigans Columbus: The Life of Douglass Houghton. Jay Leno is a stand-up comedian, a television host, and a writer. He contributes a column to Popular Mechanics, which showcases his collection of more than 200 vehicles and advice about automotive topics.