Last June, as some of you regular readers may recall, I attended the CLC West of the Lake Region car show at Ettleson Cadillac-Buick in Chicagoland. I met up with several of my friends there, including Ron Schweitzer, Andrew Bobis, Mike Risatti and Jim Smith. Smith was late. But he made up for it. If you missed my walk-and-talk car show reports, you can check them out here and here.
As we were wandering amongst the Eldorados and Rivieras, somehow the subject of the Tucker came up. Jim’s grandfather was involved with Tucker back then, and I’m hoping he will do a post right here sometime to tell us more about that! But anyway, I mentioned during the course of that conversation that I’d heard the factory was still there, albeit divided up into different uses. Jim said, “Yep, it’s still there. in fact, it’s only about ten minutes from here.” “Really?” “Yeah. You wanna go check it out?” Heck yes!
Now, while I do visit Chicago and its suburban environs several times a year, I’ve never gone too far from Interstate 80. Simply because I don’t want to get lost, or mired in traffic. So I probably wouldn’t have gone myself, despite it being so close to the car show. But with Jim volunteering, I was in!
In short order, I didn’t know where we were, and commented on the fact that, although it had only been a few minutes, I wouldn’t know how to get back. Ha ha. And indeed, were were soon mired in traffic, though it wasn’t too bad for a Saturday. As we came up to an intersection, there was a ’70s style Holiday Inn, and behind it, there the factory sat.
Most of it, believe it or not, is a Tootsie Roll factory. Another part of it, again, believe it or not, is a mall, with a Marshalls and a JC Penney, among other stores. Bizarre!
But it is still there. Originally built to make B-29 engines for WWII, after the war it was unused and for sale. There were few takers, because it was huge. Huge to the tune of around six million square feet. It covered about 30 blocks, fronting Cicero Avenue.
Tucker managed to get the lease for the sprawling complex, and as we all know, it all vaporized in short order.
After Tucker was history, Ford Motor Company bought the site in 1950 and built aircraft engines there until ’59.
Then in 1961 the mall was created. A small portion of the factory was torn down to make way for the mall redo, and the mall itself opened in 1965. Tootsie Roll came along at some point after FoMoCo vacated the premises.
Today, Tootsie Roll is still there, as is the mall, though the mall didn’t look like it was doing so hot the day of our visit. Jim told me this part of the city is kind of stagnant retail-wise.
My host didn’t merely drive by the front, he took us completely around the property.
And while it may not be apparent from the photos, this place was BIG. Really big! I’d say the mall takes up maybe 5% of the whole complex.
This tower along the side of the property was interesting. Jim told me during WWII it was used to scan the skies for enemy aircraft, back when they were making B-29 engines. Hasn’t been used in decades, of course, but it still stands.
This was just really cool to see! It really made my day. And I was already in a good mood from all the Broughamage I’d seen at the car show.
After the factory, we just drove around Chicago for a while, into the neat, clean neighborhoods around Cicero Avenue and Midway Airport, with all the well-preserved 1950s neighborhoods.
We also passed by the Electro-Motive factory, which is still there, and not far from Ettleson Cadillac either. The original admin building was still there. And they still make locomotives there, according to Jim.
A friend of mine, Sean Flanagan, had an uncle who worked there for years. And Jim told me they used to have a really good car show there every year, until the early ’90s. He attended several back then.
Oh, and by the way, the pictures of the Waltz Blue ’48 Tucker were taken by my Uncle Dave, at the World of Speed Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, back in 2016. I’ve seen a Tucker in person, but it was back in 1989 at the yuuuge car show in St. Ignace, Michigan. I was nine. That deep emerald green motorcar completely captivated me!
And when my parents got me the 1/24 scale Franklin Mint Tucker back in 1991-92 for Christmas, it became my most prized possession. So as you can see, being able to see the factory in person, was really a blast! Special thanks to Jim for the field trip!