11 of History’s Most Infamous Automotive Scandals

2. The Tucker fraud charges

Patrick Ernzen/RM Sotheby’s

Unveiled in 1948, The Tucker captured the public’s imagination thanks to its bold, streamlined styling, advanced safety features, and successful fundraising campaign by the company’s charismatic founder, Preston Tucker. Designer of a successful gun turret for the U.S. Navy during the war, Tucker mounted a national advertising campaign and traveled across the country in his futuristic car, selling stock, dealership franchises, and taking down payments on cars to raise money for production. But the company was nearly broke from the start, and the money he raised was used to keep the lights on at his Chicago factory.

With advanced safety features like a padded dash, reinforced safety cell, shatterproof pop-out windshield, and a center headlight that turned with the front wheels, the Tucker 48 was revolutionary for its emphasis on passenger protection. Unfortunately, the company’s business practices were suspicious at best. To shore up some much-needed cash, Tucker began selling options and accessories to customers whose cars hadn’t been built yet, and when a number of setbacks kept delaying the start of production, the government got involved. In 1950, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicted Tucker and his board of directors for fraud, and shut the company down. 

The Tucker factory was closed after just 51 cars were built, and the company’s high profile made the indictments and seizure a national scandal. Today, the Tucker’s rarity and place in history make it one of the most desirable classic cars in the world. The car pictured above was sold by RM Sotheby’s in August for $1,567,500.

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