Monday, November 30, 2015

Lorain’s Tucker Automobile Dealership

Last week I did a post about 939 Broadway, currently the home of Dabu Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, and for many years the headquarters of radio station WLRO. I’d mentioned in my post that there was a used car business at that location run by Arlington J. Popp in the early 1940s.

This triggered the memory of local historian and author Al Doane, who contacted me to point out something very interesting: that Arlington Popp had briefly operated a Tucker Automobile dealership at that same location.

It was pretty brief. An ad for the Tucker dealership only appeared in the October 1947 and October 1948 Lorain Telephone Company directories.

A 1948 Tucker Sedan at the Blackhawk Auto Museum
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Now, in case you’ve never heard of it, the Tucker Automobile was a revolutionary car conceived by Preston Tucker and known for its innovative design. 

Despite this, the car had only a brief life due to many controversial factors, and only 51 were produced before the company closed. (Preston Tucker and his cars were the subject of Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) starring Jeff Bridges and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.)

Al remembered one of the unique features of the car. “As the front wheels turned,” he noted, "the head lights also turned with the wheels.”

This is explained further in the Wiki entry on the Tucker 48 automobile. It states, “The most recognizable feature of the Tucker ’48, a directional third headlight (known as the “Cyclops Eye”), would activate at steering angles of greater than 10 degrees to light the car’s path around corners.” 

Not surprisingly – since so few cars were manufactured – Al remembered that the dealership “was never able to get one of the Tucker autos in their new showroom.”

Al Doane was also able to tell me a little bit about J. Arlington Popp. Al reminisced, “Arlington was very much like a midget, very short in stature.

“He was so short that he would place a 2 x 4 to the car pedals so he could touch them and be able to control the car. He lived on Hamilton Avenue just to the west of Lorain High School.”

My mother remembered J. Arlington Popp as well, although she thought he might have been a dwarf. Nevertheless, Mr. Popp sounds like he was very well known character in Lorain, and successful at what he did.

J. Arlington Popp passed away on March 17, 1989 at the age of 75. He lived in Lorain all his life, and there were no survivors.


Mike Kozlowski said...


Is there any indication as to whether or not Mr Popp sold any? I know there were only 51 cars (including the prototype) completed, and all but a couple of those still exist - it would have been someone out of the ordinary in Lorain who bought one.

Mike said...

The way that Tucker dealers worked- You gave a deposit, in return you got either the radio pr luggage!! The luggage was custom-fit to the trunk which was in the front. The Tucker was a rear engine car. The engine was originally an air cooled helicopter engine, much modified to be a water cooled engine. If you searched, you might be lucky enough to find someone with either a radio, or the luggage set, both of which are now highly collectible!! No record of how many of either were sold by the deposit!
Joe Pesch- Sheffield Lake

Wireless.Phil said...

I seem to remember a loan office or debt collection office in there before the Maintenance King building was build, I'm talking the 60s to 70s.

Now it's a restaurant?
News to me?

Wireless.Phil said...

Also some confusion about the engine.
One site says a straight 6, but an auction site photo looks like a V-6?

Note the auction price and engine photo.