Why did the third headlight from the Tucker auto never catch on?

Preston Tucker’s short-lived Tucker '48 automobile – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_Tucker; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096316/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxzZz0xfHR0PW9ufHBuPTB8cT10dWNrZXJ8bXg9MjB8bG09MjAwfGh0bWw9MQ__;fc=3;ft=20;fm=1 – famously featured a central third headlight which was not fixed in the frame, but turned with the wheels, supposedly illuminating the portion of the road where the car was about to turn. I’ve never seen such a headlight on any other care. If this was such a good idea, why did it never catch on? Did Tucker patent it and refuse ever to sell?

Don’t know whatever happened to the idea of the third headlight, but so-called “active headlights”, which swivel in the direction the car is turning, have been available as options in European luxury/sports cars for several years.

I think several of the Japanese manufacturers have recently begun to sell cars with this technology as well.

Here’s a bump because just the other night, my wife and I saw a commercial for a new car, maybe a Lexus, where the headlights turn with the steering wheel. It’s not a third light, but I mentioned the Tucker at the time we saw the commercial. Hopefully someone else has seen this commercial and knows what car it is.

Calling Tuckerfan !!!

Gee, I might know something about this. :wink:

First of all, Tucker didn’t originate the idea of the headlight which turned with the wheels. The earliest known instance of it that I’m aware of is that it was available as an aftermarket item for certain model Packards in the late 1920s (Tucker just happened to be a Packard salesman at the time). Also, the Tucker wasn’t the only car with three headlights where the center one moved. Tatra (which had one of their early models ripped off by a certain mustached European dictator for his design for a “people’s car”) offered it, and Citroen offered it in hte 1950s, and as jasonh300 pointed out Lexus is now selling an SUV with a similar feature (Ford was working on such a system, but theirs involved 10 lights).

There’s a couple of reasons why the idea didn’t catch on. The first is that when Tucker was building his cars, it was illegal in many states to have a moving headlight. There was a lot of debate within the Tucker Corporation as to whether or not the company should include them in the final design, Tucker himself, was adament that the cars have the feature. I’ve been told by folks who’ve driven a Tucker after dark that the system was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as those cars which have the extra white light in the corner marker light. Another reason is that the cars really weren’t all that well known until after the film came out. While Tucker enjoyed a great deal of popularity when he was trying to get his company off the ground, once the car company foundered, he rapidly disappeared into obscurity. (Francis Ford Coppola’s father was going to be a Tucker dealer, which is how Coppola knew about the car.) Finally, car companies tend to be rather conservative and no doubt were reluctant to touch ideas which a failed company like Tucker’s embraced.

Interestingly enough, Toyota (which owns Lexus) purchased Tucker 1004 several years ago, so it’s entirely possible that Toyota bought the Tucker, studied it, and found the moving headlight idea to be a good one.

On a not-so-related note, in the last years of Studebaker, they designed a car which featured a solid light bar in front, instead of a pair of headlights. The engineers at Studebaker found that this did a much better job of illuminating the road in front of the car than ordinary headlights. Much to the engineers dismay, Studebaker didn’t want to spend the necessary money to lobby (some would say bribe) legislatures in various states to get the laws changed in order to allow the use of such a system. The idea was briefly revived by Ford for use on the Mercury Sable, but rather than trying to get the laws changed to allow a headlight bar, they put a frosted cover over the center part of the bar, thus making it a decorative item instead of a headlight.

Heh, I saw the same commercial. I commented to my wife that it was funny to me that Lexus pretty much said they invented or through innovation came up with this rotating headlight, because it was invented long ago.

Lexus calls it Adaptive Front Lighting System . It is an option on several of their models.

To me, the geek side of me says “the idea is cool” but the practical side of me says “thats a lot of money to spend on something that doesn’t make a huge difference, and it is one more thing to break.”

Sorry about the hijack, but this is the kind of thing that really annoys me about many, many regulations. Why not write the regs to mandate that the car’s lighting system must illuminate X square feet of roadway at Y distance, to a strength of Z lumens, and let the auto manufaturer’s do whatever they want, as long as it meets the performance requirements of the regs. It would encourage innovation, and probably result in better products for the consumer.

Sorry, I’ll be quiet now.

Heck, motorcycles have had headlights that turn with the wheel for a century! ;p :wink:

Because if I am going to contribute to a legislator, I damn well want the regs to read that my exclusive design item is the only one allowed.

Because that would make sense. A lot of automotive regulation dates to the early years of the previous century. I can remember reading a magazine article written in the 1950s (I think) in which they were talking about square headlights performing better than round ones, and that the automakers were going to have to go to Congress to get the laws changed so that they could use the square ones.

There’s a lot of resistance to change in the automotive industries (as well as other industries), so they’re forced to change by regulations, which often have to be quite detailed in their nature in order to prevent industry from weasling their way out of compliance. I can remember seeing an interview with an excutive at Ford who was complaining about the emissons regulations on cars and saying that if they weren’t hamstrung by law, they could produce cars which had lower emissions and better performance, at which point I screamed at the TV, “Then why don’t you?” (Well, it was filled with obscenitites, but that was the gist of what I was shouting. :wink: )

In reality, that is taking place. In motor vehicle regulations of my State are promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation, and are based on many established standards by organizations such as SAE.