The midshipmen-led Regimental Auto Club at the United States Merchant Marine Academy hosted its fifth annual auto show, featuring classic, historic, restored and modified motorcycles, cars and trucks, on the academy campus on Saturday, May 11.
The most notable among the many rare and classic cars was the 1948 Tucker 1044.
The Tucker 1044 was designed by Alex Tremulis and was considered “the first completely new car in 50 years” because of its aerodynamic design. Its trademark features include a third headlight in the center, the trunk in the front and the doors cut into the roof line. A total of 47 Tuckers are in existence today, and 18 are owned by museums. The car originally cost $2,450—$24,700 when adjusted for inflation—and is now worth more than $1,000,000.
The Tucker exhibited at the show is owned by Howard Kroplick, a noted car historian, as well as the historian of the Town of North Hempstead.
Kroplick purchased the car at an auction in Arizona in 2017 and had it restored in New Jersey. This unique automobile was the subject of the 1988 film Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starred Jeff Bridges.
Another movie-star car was on display at the event. Someone brought a 1973 Ford Falcon, the car featured in Mad Max. The owner decorated it with Mad Max stickers and posters, plus fake bullet holes, to make it look like the car in the film.
Another notable car was the 1923 Gardner Model 5. Both rare and vintage, it was made only 15 years after the first car was produced. The Gardner was auctioned off in Scottsdale, AZ, in 2004 for $17,875.
Another early-model vehicle on display was a 1948 motorcycle. Some might mistake it for a normal bicycle, because it has pedals and small wheels.
Several military vehicles were also in attendance. Three of them were actually used in combat—by the French army in the Algerian War of Independence, the U.S. Army in World War II and the U.S. Army in Vietnam. The one used in the Algerian War was purchased by its owner in 2011. He later painted “U.S. Army” on it in white and put his father’s Marine numbers on the back.
The auto exhibit was held at an extremely appropriate place—at the former house of Walter Chrysler. The founder of the Chrysler automobile empire purchased this 12-acre waterfront estate in 1923 from fashion mogul Henri Willis Bendel. Chrysler named it Forker House and wound up dying there in 1940 at age 65.
Just one year later, the property was sold to the U.S. government’s War Shipping Department and became known as Wiley Hall as part of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Highlights of the day included tours of Wiley Hall, along with access to the Mariners Memorial Chapel and the American Merchant Marine Museum.
In the end, the midshipmen voted the Tucker the best car at the show.
“Considered the most collectible post-war American car, the Tucker 48 was an innovative car for the time, with independent suspension, a rear-mounted flat six engine and safety features, such as a third, center-mounted, turning headlight and pop-out windshield,” noted George H. Rhynedance, director of External and Congressional Affairs for the Office of the Superintendent at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.