There’s No Dyno Run like an Original 1948 Tucker 48 Dyno Run

Its helicopter engine is still running strong.

byPeter Holderith|
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The 1948 Tucker 48 is one of the strangest cars in American history, dreamed up by the equally remarkable Preston Tucker. Its development was even stranger, with the original concept calling for a camless engine and a torque converter for every wheel. Although those features didn't hit the streets in the 50-odd Tuckers made, the production cars did have engines originally intended for helicopters. So how much power does that air-cooled flat-six make over 70 years later?

None other than Preston Tucker's great-grandsons are here to find out in this most unusual dyno run for Preston Tucker's Speed Shop on YouTube. Although they only made 51, every Tucker's location and specification are well documented. That's why Tucker's descendants know exactly which car they're strapping to the chassis dyno: #1034. According to the records, it's in a color called Waltz Blue and has the rubber torsion tube suspension. From the factory, the 5.5-liter flat-six engine produced 166 hp and 372 lb-ft of torque at the crank. 

That engine, the O-335, was built by Air Cooled Motors and intended for the Bell 47 helicopter. As the manufacturer's name suggests, the engine was air-cooled, like a Volkswagen Beetle's. Tucker had it converted to a water-cooled setup.

It's lost a few since then, even considering drivetrain losses inherent to running the car on a chassis dyno. At 116 hp to the tire, it's lost about 20% of its power since it rolled off the factory floor. That's actually not bad for 72 years. The torque was lower as well, at 212 lb-ft.

The power numbers may not be especially interesting, but watching the car on the dyno is. I'm not certain it has any sort of mufflers, as it's extremely loud and spitting fire out of the tailpipes. That sort of describes the entire Tucker car excursion in a nutshell. Lots of noise, very interesting, but in the end, it's a curiosity. That's not mentioning the tremendous amount of money these cars fetch at auctions these days, however. Preston Tucker's personal car sold for $1.8 million in 2017.

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