Tucker 48 Automobile in the Smithsonian

Tucker 48 Automobile on display in the Smithsonian

A Tucker 48 automobile is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, as seen during our July 2023 visit.

One of the distinctive features of a Tucker 48 is its third headlight in the center of the car. That headlight would turn when the front wheels turned, illuminating the road in the direction of travel.

There were only 51 Tucker autos ever produced, all in 1947 and 1948, before the Tucker Corporation was forced into bankruptcy due to negative publicity. Preston Tucker was even tried for stock fraud and received a full acquittal, although no more automobiles were made after that.

Due to the low number of these cars, seeing one in person is a treat for me. I was first made aware of the Tucker autos thanks to the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas, both of whom owned one of the cars. That was still that time where those of us who grew up with Star Wars took notice when George Lucas was interested in something, because it just might be cool like Star Wars and Indiana Jones were cool.

Some of the surviving Tucker cars are in museums around the world, and some are in private collections. So I thought it was fun to see one in the Smithsonian. I had not been looking for it, not knowing that it was there, so it was a happy surprise.


One of the qualities of Preston Tucker that the movie emphasized was his optimism. He was optimistic about a futuristic car design, and he was optimistic that he could build it. Even when he was facing bankruptcy and fraud charges, he was optimistic that he would get through it all.

When difficulty comes, optimism can quickly fall by the wayside. Life’s circumstances can easily drag you down, taking your hope away. Sometimes optimism is a fight. Often times, optimism is a choice. Just like having a good day, you often have to choose to be optimistic despite the circumstances.

Keep your optimism, despite the bad things that may be happening. Choose to look for the good in yourself, in your situation, and in others. Because whatever you are looking for is usually what you will find.

Choose optimism.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. - Romans 15:13

About the Photo

Unfortunately, there were not many angles to get photos of this Tucker 48 due to the way it was displayed, so this was the only photo I took of it. The display was also slightly dark, so I used Raw Therapee to brighten the dark areas up just a bit while not making the bright areas too bright. And in hindsight, I should have made sure to get all of the word “Reinvention” in the frame instead of cutting off the top of the first two letters. But at the time, I was just focusing on the car.

Photo: Each photo is a single Raw exposure, processed in Raw Therapee and GIMP.
Camera: Sony Alpha A7 II
Lens: Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens
Date: July 27, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.