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 Alexander Sarantos Tremulis

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Alexander Sarantos Tremulis

  • Birth 23 Jan 1914 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
  • Death 29 Dec 1991 Ventura, Ventura County, California, USA
  • Burial Ventura, Ventura County, California, USA
  • Plot Section K, Plot 312, Grave 7-B
  • Memorial ID 5817812

Civil Engineer. He is considered by most as one of the greatest automobile designer of all time. Best known as the sole designer of the ill-fated 1948 “Tucker Torpedo”, he had many other automotive, railroad, aircraft and spacecraft designs to his credit, including the original design for what evolved into today's space shuttle, and very possibly being the inventor of the term "flying saucer". Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1914, at the age of 19, and without any formal training in art or engineering, he landed a job on the design team for the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company in 1933. Among his projects there were the now famous and classic “Cord 810” and “812” series, as well as a custom Dusenberg roadster having both convertible and hardtop options. He became Chief Stylist for Auburn-Cord-Deusenberg in 1936 at the age of 22, and remained in that role until the company failed in 1937. He then went to General Motors, and subsequently to Briggs-Le Baron, who was the coach builder for Chrysler at the time. In 1938 he worked for Custom Motors in Beverly Hills before consulting with Crosley and American Bantam in 1939. His designs for American Bantam remained in production until the firm switched over completely to the production of military Jeeps prior to World War II. Tremulis’ next work was on the 1941 Chrysler “Thunderbolt” concept car, and the production Packard “Clipper”. He enlisted in the United States. Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. There, he worked on advanced aircraft concepts at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force base), and developed a concept, which in the 1970s became known as the Boeing “Dyna-Soar”, a gliding re-entry space vehicle. This project evolved into the present day space shuttle. Also during his tenure in the Air Corps, he made the first speculative drawings of what extra-terrestrial life forms would use as transportation to visit the Earth. His concept drawings were the first saucer shaped spacecraft drawings documented. This concept generated much controversy, following which (in 1947) the even more famous Roswell "UFO incident" occurred. Freelance writer Deke Houlgate speculated at a 1990 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) tribute to Tremulis: "Do we have Alex Tremulis to thank for 40 years of speculation over space visitors?" After World War II, he worked with the design firm of Tammen & Denison until Preston Tucker hired him to design the 1948 Tucker “Torpedo”. The radical design was considered by most to be as beautiful as it was innovative, and is unquestionably Tremulis’ masterpiece. The ill-fated car was one of the first ever to adopt rear engine mounting, air cooling, hidden fuel fillers, the precursor to the current cornering lights found on luxury cars (a “cyclops eye” third headlight that turned with the wheels), seat belts, pop-out safety glass, padded interiors and several other innovations. Even after the demise of the Tucker Motors Corporation, and after Tucker’s acquittal on all counts of fraud, Preston Tucker commissioned him to design a revival intended to debut in the late 1950s as the Tucker “Talisman”. However, Tucker died in 1956 before he could put Tremulis’ design into production. Actor Elias Koteas portrayed Tremulis in Francis Ford Coppolla’s 1988 academy award nominated film “Tucker: A Man and His Dream”. He went on to style for the Kaiser-Frazer automotive company from 1950 to 1952. From 1952 through 1963, he worked as the Chief of Ford Advanced Styling. There, among his projects, he was assigned (in 1957) to “design the car he believed we would be driving in the year 2000.” The result was his design, on paper and a small model, of the Ford X-2000. The design was so enthralling to one Australian (Andy Saunders) that he actually built a running prototype of the car in 1999 and showed it at car shows in Australia in 1999 and 2000. Among his’ designs was the Gyronaut X-1 streamlined motorcycle, which won the land speed record of 245.66 miles per hour from a 90 horsepower engine at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah in 1966. The Gyronaut got its name from the fact that it was stabilized by gyroscopes. In the 1960s he continued in a consulting role to attempts at automotive world land speed records. His designs included the "Goodyear Wingfoot Express" (the first rocket powered automobile to reach 520 miles per hour) and the “Green Monster” (which failed to set a record after losing a wheel at approximately 600 miles per hour). He was commissioned by NASA to submit a design for the lunar rover, though his two-wheeled, gyro-stabilized design was not chosen. Among Tremulis’ last designs were the 1978 to 1987 Subaru “Brat” and the Subaru “X-100”, a three-wheeled, 150 miles per-gallon concept car. He was a frequent contributor to “Road and Track” Magazine, and was elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1982. He died in 1991, after suffering several strokes, one of which had blinded him.

Bio by: Scott Wilson

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Scott Wilson
  • Added: 2 Oct 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5817812
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Alexander Sarantos Tremulis (23 Jan 1914–29 Dec 1991), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5817812, citing Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, Ventura, Ventura County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .