SOLIDWORKS and the Tucker Torpedo Part 2

This is part two of a blog series covering how a group of car and engineering enthusiasts are bringing the Tucker Torpedo concept car to life. If you haven’t read part one, you’re encouraged to read it here

Our work has continued on the Torpedo since the first Blog entry. Sean Tucker has been working on the design of the interior and the unique turntable for the seats. Dre’ Clemons has been busy on the body design working on the details of the shape to make sure it conforms to the work that Rob Ida is doing on the actual sheet metal. And I’m working with Bob Cuneo on the chassis and drive-line design. Let’s look at what’s been happening so far in detail.

The original design of the Torpedo’s interior included seating that would swivel to allow easier access into the interior. Preston Tucker and his lead designer George Lawson were true visionaries as seen in this image of the original Torpedo interior design. Swivel seats weren’t introduced to mass produced cars until the 1970’s when Oldsmobile (you remember “not your father’s Olds” don’t you?) introduced them as the “Strato” swivel bucket seat. It was meant to make it easier to get in and out of the drivers or passengers seat.

Lawson Interior

Thanks to Hampton Wayt for the image.

Strato Seat

Rob and Sean wanted to improve on this design to make it even easier to enter the interior. A unique turntable design is being explored on which the three seats would mount. The reason for the turntable was to improve entry into the interior for twp reasons. First, the round shape of the roof makes it difficult for the driver to get into and out of the driver’s seat. Second, the driver is positioned in the center of the car as opposed to left side as we all know. The turntable would solve these two challenges by allowing the driver to enter from either side of the car by sitting in the seat that’s positioned closest to the door. The turntable would then rotate to place the driver in the center position. I can’t wait to see this in action. But, in the meantime click on the image below to get an idea how the turntable will work.


In order to determine how much power is required to rotate the turntable with three people (using an average weight of 195 pounds per person) sitting in the seats Sean will need to use SOLIDWORKS Motion to determine the horsepower required for the electric motor that will turn the turntable. Considering the packaging for the electric motor it’ll have to be compact but powerful like a starter motor for a small displacement diesel or gas engine. The current design is a chain driven system to rotate the turntable with the electric motor located in an optimal place inside or outside the turntable. The next objective is to finalize this design and focus on the support and mounting structure for the turntable in order to assemble it inside the chassis.

The Torpedo driveline will use a Porsche 964 engine and transmission. If you remember from the first Blog post the original Tucker “48” and the Torpedo have rear mounted engines. There aren’t too many cars on the road today, like Porsche, that use a rear mounted engine let alone an air cooled engine. Rob Ida found a decent low mileage 964 as the donor car and commenced to strip it down to its bare chassis.

The chassis was delivered to Bob Cuneo so he can start the process of removing the engine and transmission plus all the ancillary components such as the oil coolers, auxiliary oil tank, and electronics.

Upon delivery of the chassis, Bob was slightly concerned that we may have a problem with the chassis.  Some of his initial concerns were:

  • Is this Porsche chassis suitable for the Torpedo? Would it be feasible to design and fabricate a custom chassis as opposed to trying to retrofit the 964?
  • The stock wiring harness needs to be understood before tearing down the Porsche any further. Since this car has an automatic transmission, the wiring between the computer and the engine/transmission must remain intact in order for it to work when installed in the Torpedo.

Enter Daniel Jacobs, New England’s best and brightest Porsche specialist who brings 30+ years of maintenance repair and experience to the Porsche Racing Team. Dan has a comprehensive set of Porsche manuals and wiring diagrams on hand for the 964 which validated and streamlined the processes needed to separate the engine from the chassis. Dan really stepped up to the plate with his top team of certified Porsche mechanics and had the engine running in no-time. We are forever grateful to the boys of the Hairy Dog Grrrage in Oxford, CT.

Although now separated from the frame, all of those components from the Porsche will eventually need to find homes inside the Torpedo.

Here’s me and Bob with the engine and Porsche up on the lift. We had just finished measuring the engine. I’ll use those measurements to finish the engine 3D model. Thanks to Sari Gerb for taking the picture and supplying the SIMULIA hat.


I already conducted some pre-work modeling the 3.6L engine based on images that I found on the internet. The cross section below gave me a good start as it was used as a Sketch Picture. I’ll use the measurements we took to finish the overall package size of the engine and transmission which is more important than many of the details of the engine.

Cross Section 3

Porsche 3.6L


SOLIDWORKS Porsche Engine

Mounting the engine and transmission will be a critical job as it will have to fit under the rear of the Torpedo body which is fairly compact. So the need for a 3D model of the engine and transmission is going to be essential so we can work on concepts on how the engine, transmissions, exhaust, electronics, etc. can be mounted within the body work. Also, the location of the engine fore and aft is determined by the centerline of the rear wheels with respect to the centerline of the drive flanges on the transmission. Those centerlines have to align within at ride height to prevent pre-mature parts failure due to misalignment of the drive shafts. Ideally they should be parallel to the ground at ride height.



Torpedo Rear View

Since the Porsche engine is air cooled venting will be important for both air flow into and out of the engine compartment. Of course SOLIDWORKS FloWorks will be used once we get to that point in the design to ensure proper air flow and cooling. Heat will be another thing to consider so room for insulation will have to be kept in mind.

Dre’ Clemons has been working on the body design as you saw in the first blog. The model he created with the 3D Experience Platform was opened in SOLIDWORKS and scaled down to 1:24. This is a typical scale used for most plastic and die cast car models. I asked our SOLIDWORKS Reseller Prism Engineering in Horsham, PA to 3D print the body for us. Mike Kopec, 3D Printing Technical Services Manager at Prism, provided us with the 3D printed model pictured below. Mike used the Stratasys Connex 260 Durus using white Photopolymer to print the model.

Torpedo 3D Printed Model

Now keep in mind the plaster models shown in the first blog were painstakingly hand sculpted back in the ‘40’s taking many hours. You’ll also notice Preston Tucker did some concept design work with the same model in these pictures below. The right side is different than the left. The left side is our guide for the construction of the Torpedo. With 3D printing what used to take many hours to create now takes a few.

IMG_4902 IMG_4759 IMG_4900IMG_4892

In the next blog we’ll have updates from Dre’ on the body design, Bob on the chassis design, Rob on the progress of the body fabrication and Sean on the turn table design. Stay tuned!

This project is getting more exciting as we start the ‘collaboration phase’. Team Tucker will be utilizing web-based collaboration tools provided by the 3D Experience platform to interface with Rob Ida in New Jersey, Bob Cuneo in Connecticut, Sean Tucker and myself in PA and Dre Clemons in Detroit.

A car is born !!!!




Mike Sabocheck
Mike Sabocheck is a Technical Sales Director with Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS. Mike has been with DS SOLIDWORKS for 21 years. Prior to SOLIDWORKS he worked for Xerox for 17 years and then for Intergraph. His specialties are applying SOLIDWORKS to different design and manufacturing processes.