WUOMFM

Preston Tucker was a car salesman shut down by “vindictive bureaucrats,” author says

Jul 28, 2016

In the 1940s, Preston Tucker had a dream. The car salesman from Ypsilanti wanted to give a war-weary America a brand new car. A car for the future.

But that dream was torpedoed by the Securities and Exchanges Commission, which chased him down with accusations of fraud.

Tucker's is one of the most interesting and sad stories in American business history. 

"He was trying to start a car company, and he got shot down by government regulators."

Writer Steve Lehto explores the rise and fall of this fascinating entrepreneur in his newest book, Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow.

Lehto told us that when he started doing research for the book, he wasn't sure whether Tucker was accurately portrayed in the 1988 film Tucker: A Man and His Dream as a brave entrepreneur crushed under the weight of bureaucracy, or if he was simply "a huckster who was trying to rip people off."

But the more he dug into it, "the more I came to believe that he actually was honestly trying to build a car," Lehto said. "He was trying to start a car company, and he got shot down by government regulators. Which, of course, is a story as old as government."

"And that's the scary part, is he was basically put out of business, I believe, by vindictive bureaucrats. There were a couple bureaucrats in Washington who wanted him out of business for whatever reason. And so he tried to start the car company, and they put him out of business, and that to me is a scary concept in America."

I our conversation above, Lehto tells us more about Tucker and why he was drawn to his story.

GUEST

Steve Lehto is a writer, attorney and professor in Southeast Michigan. He tweets @stevelehto.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)