Gordon Buehrig’s Tasco.


Popular Science produced short films in the ’40s and ’50s that showcased technology of the near and distant future. This short was released theatrically on May 21, 1948 and featured “Streamlined Marvels on Wheels.” The first car is the Davis three-wheeler that employs the “tri-cycle landing gear principle.” It also features built in jacks to make tire changing an “exhilarating experience.”

The second car is identified only as, “If you’re looking for a 1960 model, this may well be it!” Or not.

In the third car featured you get to go for a ride with Gordon Beurig in his Tasco prototype. Tasco is an acronym that stands for “The American Sportscar Company.” It’s based on a design by Gordon Buehrig, built of post-World War II aluminum. It was shown in Wichita in 1948 in the hope of contracting with Beech Aircraft Company for production of the aviation-inspired automobile. This model is the only one ever built and is now owned by the Cord Auburn Dusenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana. Shown here at the Cardwell Manufacturing Company in Wichita, Kansas.

This clip is from the Popular Science Historic Film Series.

I wonder what all those levers are for that Gordon is fussing about. Especially the BIG lever.

  1. Ron Will

    A friend of mine back in Michigan owned a Davis 3-wheeler along with a dozen other 3 wheel models. He started as a collector of Rolls Royce’s but found the other collectors to be stuffy and pompous. He switched to three wheelers and found the other collectors to be much more interesting and fun to be around. Most of his cars ran, including the Davis. He took me out for a fast rally style ride through the back country roads of Michigan in his Davis. I was impressed at how well the car handled. The weight bias toward the rear two wheels would account for that. The four across seating, aerodynamic design and good handling probably made it one of the best 3 wheel cars ever produced.

  2. Anthony O'Neill

    Very interesting clip, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know there was film of these cars from back in the day.

  3. Stan Mott

    Three wheelers were a great source of merriment in the editorial offices of Road & Track, at least when I was there in 1957. The only machine we figured would be more fun would be a four-wheeler, with a diamond-shaped wheel layout. With steering fore and aft that baby could turn on a dime at 120 mph. Before it rolled up into a ball of metal. The three wheelers could only turn on a quarter. Before they rolled up into balls of metal. Much better.

  4. Virgil Exner Jr.

    Virgil Exner Jr. sent me this great follow-up about the Tasco:

    Gordon Beuhrig, Bob Bourke, my father, and Dale Cosper (a great design engineer at Studebaker who knew all about fiberglass) pooled their resorces in late 1945 to buy a junked 1939 Mercury at a local salvage yard in South Bend. The chassis was chopped and channeled and the engine moved back and lowered in our home garage in South Bend by all of them. My father and I designed and modeled the 1/4 scale clay in our basement in 1946. Meanwhile, Gordon hired Vince Gardner to design and do the 1/4 scale finished model that was to become the actual TASCO. Gordon then bought out the group’s chassis and left Studebaker for Detroit. I was heartbroken as Gordon’s daughter was my little girlfriend and Mom’s best friend was Gordon’s wife. The Tasco was built, but failed and Gordon joined Ford Design.

    The ‘Lowey Gang’ broke up when my father went to Chrysler. Dale started a very successful wheel chair company in South Bend, but Bob stayed with Lowey for a while, and Vince worked at various job shops in the Detroit area. They all remained good friends.

    1946 1/4 scale clay model by Virgil Exner for consideration before the actual design and build of Gordon Buehrig’s TASCO on the ’39 modified Mercury chassis. This generated the second design.

    1948 advanced sprts car design by Virgil Exner that influenced the 1950 Studebaker production car lines. The original is 20″ x 30″ rendered in pastels on 600 grain black sandpaper.

  5. Steve Tremulis

    Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, these designs never fail to evoke a visceral reaction. Either way you look at them, the often quoted (or misquoted) applies: “Those not imbued with enthusiasm will, as a rule, avoid major mistakes, but will also miss major accomplishments.” These designs were all major accomplishments.

    As for the Tasco, was there any cross-pollenation with George Lawson’s original Torpedo design for Preston Tucker?

    I’ve read that Lawson’s first rendering was published on December 16, 1945 and his model, above, was published on October 3, 1946. Also, Buehrig was quoted as saying the Tasco was inspired by a design by Clair Hodgman. So what was the story behind its inspiration and inception? There must have been some great discussion over its proposed features…

    By the way, black sandpaper as a canvas?!? AWESOME!

  6. GREAT photos!!! I love this! Lost history! I dreamed of having any of these men’s talent for drawing automobiles. I loved all the drawings so much, but could only draw buildings when becoming an architectual draftsman.

  7. This car was once part of Ralph Engelstad’s original Imperial Palace Antique & Classic Auto Collection. It was donated to the ACD museum by Mr. Engelstad from his collection.

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