Far from the front lines of the Second World War, American innovators were working flat-out to secure military contracts with the military and the country's allies and ensure the U.S. would be prepared for war if it was dragged into it.
What you're looking at here is the work of Preston Tucker—yes, that Tucker—and Indianapolis 500 racing car legend Harry Miller. Miller-built cars won the event nine times, along the way finding time to be a pioneer in aluminum, front-wheel-drive, supercharging, and four-wheel-drive.
The result of this team effort was a 1939 light armoured car that was fitted with a 7.8-litre Packard V12 engine, rear-wheel-drive, and welded metal armoured plates for defence. Top speed? Sources say—at most—188 kph (117 mph). Yeah—if Batman had been kicking around in the '30s, this would be his Tumbler. The performance is thanks to a relatively light weight (about 4,535 kg or 10,000 lbs), and its 175 horsepower V12.
Built in New Jersey, they were being shopped around, with the Dutch army showing interest before being invaded by Germany. I think its most interesting feature was its underside, angled to deflect explosive forces—just like the U.S. military's latest and greatest combat vehicles.
What happened? After sales to the Netherlands fell through, the U.S. military apparently expressed concern that it was perhaps too fast—something I didn't think was possible. More likely: it simply wasn't all that great off-road.
As his first big vehicle project, that the Tiger failed is not surprising. What's surprising is that it spawned the most long-lived Tucker innovation, the Tiger's powered, roof-mounted turret. Even with patents in hand, the designs and patents for Tucker's turrets were essentially commandeered by the military and adapted for duty in both ships and aircraft.
With years of lawsuits to contend with over patent theft, Tucker could at least watch his innovation benefit the war effort. If the Axis Powers had known about the Tiger, chances are they breathed a sigh of relief—just imagine a fleet of these brutes flying down the Autobahn toward Berlin.