For a very long time, an automotive engineer from the Tucker Corporation (manufacturer of TUCKER brand cars) used to be impressed by German designed streamliner* automobiles. He was fascinated to see products such as the Mercedes-Benz W25 and Auto Union’s (former name of Audi) Type C with aerodynamic bodies. He also wanted to build one and make America proud.
* A streamliner is a vehicle incorporating a shape, that provides reduced air friction.
Norman Timbs, the engineer who had earlier built racing cars for the Indy 500 undertakes the project to build America’s first streamliner car. After working on it for nearly two years, he launches the SPECIAL in 1947.
He makes a special wooden jig to construct an aluminium bodied car that is almost 17 feet long and a wheelbase that is nearly 10 feet long. The powertrain used was from a 1947 made Buick Super, that produced 125 hp having twin carburettors. The engine was placed in a never before and unheard position - between the rear axle and the rear passenger seat. The chassis used was that of a Packard and the suspensions were from Ford. It was a 2 seater car with no roof, no door, chopped-off windshield with 38" height and a long stretched tail end. It could push the 1000 kg. aluminium made car to run at 200 kms/hr.
Norman Timbs designing skills could be observed by the ability of the car’s rear half that would lift exposing both the custom made tube frame chassis and the suspension.
The final cost of US$ 10,000 was a very princely sum in 1948. In today’s equivalent, the price would be US$ 103,000 or Rs. 70 lakh and so there were no takers. He eventually drove the car himself before he sold it after few years. After exchanging hands several times, the car was finally dumped by the last user. It was only in 2002, a person from Malibu in California, noticed this iconic car that was lying in a junk-yard. So, after a painstaking process that took him full eight years, the buyer of the junked car recreates the magic.
Today this car, moves from city to city participating in vintage automobile shows.
Several years back, a producer made a miniature car of this SPECIAL (in 1:43 scale) and today this is a prized possession. Owners of this collectible must have recovered their initial investment many times over. And, by first week of this March’2017, another famous brand will launch this collectible. Surely, this too will be released in the favourite international scale size i.e. 1:43 that will also grow in value, in the coming years.
The SPECIAL, America’s first Streamliner.