LAPORTE | Dick Stokes was living in Michigan City while his father drove around the Midwest selling dealerships for the first 1948 Tucker automobiles about to be mass-produced, when legend has it, the Detroit automakers put the now-famous company out of business.
Stokes, 59, made the trip from his home in Denver to see one of the futuristic Tuckers in LaPorte and descendants of the automaker, Preston Tucker.
His father, Merle, actually drove the 1948 Tucker on display at the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum, where Preston Tucker's grandson, John Tucker, and his two children, Sean and Mike, on Saturday greeted hundreds of enthusiastic fans of the car.
Less than 50 of the Tuckers are still around and some of the cars when put up for sale, are commanding as much as $2 million.
If not for the big three automakers forcing Tucker out of business just prior to the cars rolling off the assembly lines in Chicago, ''I think it would have taken off. It just wasn't meant to be,'' said Stokes.
John Tucker, 60, of Ann Arbor, Mich. was just 3 years old when his grandfather died in 1956 of lung cancer at age 53.
He said what stands out most about his grandfather was his ''undying energy. He never game up.''
In fact, he said, Preston Tucker was working to start up a business that involved assembling cars from kits imported from South America when he passed away.
The 1948 Tucker has followers worldwide.
The car was considered way of ahead of its time with features such as disc brakes, headlights that moved with the steering wheel and an air-cooled engine in the trunk, things unheard of in automobiles in the late 1940s.
John Tucker said interest really took off, though, when the box office hit movie ''Tucker: The Man and His Dream,'' starring Jeff Bridges playing his grandfather, hit the theaters in the late ’80s.
The movie about Tucker winning against the establishment only to be defeated at the end is what really strikes a chord with fans of the car, he said.
''I think people relate to the underdog,'' John Tucker said.
Stokes said his father used to tell stories about how 3,000 people once showed up at a dealership in Indianapolis anticipating being able to buy the car before the assembly lines could fire up.
Nicholas Guerrero, 27, of Chicago and his friend Mike Lofvers, 32, who lives in Florida, are such big fans they started a website featuring photos of the 14 Tuckers they have traveled to see in different parts of the country.
''We're really in love with the car,'' said Guerrero.
Identical twins Sean and Mike Tucker, who are 33, are now carrying on their great-grandfather's legacy.
They just recently began producing a car that highly resembles the original Tuckers.
Those cars are not for sale, though.
They are strictly a limited edition version to be showcased only at automobile shows and other related events.
''It's pretty special. We're just proud to be part of the whole story,'' said Sean Tucker, who lives in Pennsylvania.