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Tatra - marque/manufacturer information

List of all Tatra cars

Tatra is a vehicle manufacturer in Kopřivnice, Czech Republic. The company was founded in 1850 as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, a wagon and carriage manufacturer, and in 1897 produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Präsident. In 1919 it changed its name to Tatra after the Tatra mountains. Tatra is the "third oldest car maker in the world after Daimler Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot". Production of Tatra cars ceased in 1999 but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 10x10, and 12x12 trucks.

Early years

Ignác Šustala (1822 - 1891), founder of the company in Kopřivnice (German: Nesselsdorf), Moravia, started the production of horse-drawn vehicles in 1850. In 1891 he branched out into railway wagon manufacture, naming the company Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, and employed Hugo Fischer von Roslerstam as technical director in 1890. After the death of Šustala, von Roslerstam took over running the company and in 1897 he bought a Benz automobile. Using this for inspiration the company made its first car, the Präsident, which was exhibited in 1897 in Vienna. Orders were obtained for more cars and under the direction of a new young engineer called Hans Ledwinka (1878-1967) ten improved cars were made.

The first car to be totally designed by Ledwinka came in 1900 with the Type A with rear mounted 2714 cc engine and top speed of 40 km/h: 22 were made. This was followed by the Type B with central engine in 1902 but then Ledwinka left the company to concentrate on steam engine development. He returned in 1905 and designed a completely new car, the Type S with 3308 cc 4 cylinder engine. Production was badly hit in 1912 with a 23-week strike and Hugo Fischer von Roslerstam left the company.

Tatra concept

After the World War I Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau was renamed Kopřivnice vozovka, and in 1919 the name Tatra was given to the car range. Leopold Pasching took over control and in 1921 Hans Ledwinka returned again to develop the revolutionary Tatra 11.

The new car, launched in 1923 featured a rigid backbone tube with swinging semi-axles at the rear giving independent suspension. The engine, front mounted, was an air cooled two cylinder unit of 1056 cc. The T 11 was replaced in 1926 by the similar T 12 which had four wheel brakes. A further development was the 1926 T 17 with a 1,930 cc water-cooled six- cylinder engine and fully independent suspension.

In 1927 the company was formally renamed Tatra a.s..

Prewar streamliners

Tatra's specialty was luxury cars of a technically advanced nature, going from aircooled flat-twins to fours and sixes, culminating (briefly) with the OHC 6 liter V12 in 1931. In the 1930s, under Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka and his son Erich, and protected by a high tariff and absence of foreign assemblers, Tatra started building advanced, streamlined cars, starting in 1934 with the large Tatra T77, the world's first production aerodynamic car. The fastback T77's drag coefficient of 0.212 is rarely bettered even by the sleekest modern cars. It featured, as did almost all subsequent big Tatras, a rear-mounted, air-cooled V8 engine, technically very sophisticated for the time.

Ledwinka discussed his ideas with Ferdinand Porsche who used many Tatra design features in the 1938 Kdf-Wagen, later known as the VW Beetle. This is particularly evident when compared with the smaller T97 model which had a rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-4 engine and rounded body styling. Tatra immediately started legal action, but the matter was not resolved until 1961 when Volkswagen was ordered to pay 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks in damages.

War years

After the 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, Tatras continued in production, largely because Germans liked the cars. Many German officers met their deaths driving heavy, rear-engined Tatras faster around corners than they could handle. The Tatra, in fact, became known as the Czech Secret Weapon for the scores of officers who died behind the wheel; at one point official orders had to be issued forbidding German officers from driving Tatras 1.

Postwar Communist control

The factory was nationalised in 1946 when the Communist Party came to power. Although production of prewar models continued, a new model, the Tatra T600 Tatraplan was designed -- the name celebrating the new Communist planned economy. It went into production in 1947. In 1951, the state planning department decided that the Tatraplan should henceforth be built at the Skoda plant in Mladá Boleslav, leaving Tatra free to concentrate on trucks, buses and railway equipment.

The Tatra T603

A mere three years later, amid much dissatisfaction among officialdom about the poor-quality official cars imported from Russia, Tatra was again given permission to produce a luxury car, the famous Tatra T603. A fair successor to the prewar cars, it was also driven by a rear-engined, air-cooled V8 and had the company's trademark aerodynamic styling. Uniquely, the Tatra T603 featured three headlights, and the first prototypes had a central rear stabilising fin, though this was lost for production. Fitted with almost American-style thick chrome bumpers with bullets (a.k.a. Dagmar bumpers), the Tatra T603 was an amazing looking car for 1955. Looks weren't all it had going for it; performance was spritely for a large, six-seater car, and the ride was smooth as glass. Almost entirely hand-built, Tatras were not for everybody; normal citizens could not buy them. They were reserved for Party elites, Communist officials, factory presidents and other notables, as well as being exported to most other Communist nations as official cars. Even Fidel Castro had a white Tatra T603, custom-fitted with air conditioning.

Tatra T603s were built until 1975, a twenty-year reign as Communism's finest car. Numerous improvements were made over this time, but not all the new cars built in this period were actually new. When a new Tatra replaced an old, the old vehicle was returned to the factory. There, it was upgraded to modern condition, refinished, dubbed new and sent out again as a putatively new vehicle to replace another older Tatra. This makes it hard to trace the history of surviving vehicles.

The T603 appeared in the 2005 movie Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events as the other car that looks odder than the Chrysler Imperial.

1970s makeover—the Tatra T613

In 1968 a replacement was developed; the Tatra T613. It was styled by the Italian styling house of Vignale and was a more modern, less rounded shape. It was not until 1973 that any were actually produced by the factory, and volume production did not begin until the following year. Although the layout remained the same, the body was all new, as was the engine, being equipped with four overhead camshafts, a higher capacity (3495 cc) and an output close to 165 bhp. In addition, it had been moved somewhat forward for improved balance. These cars were built in 5 series and several modifications until 1996. It is a tribute to Vignale's excellent styling that they did not look dated until rather late in that time period. Over 11,000 cars were built, slowing to a trickle of but a few dozen a year towards the end as Tatras began to seem more and more outdated.

Recent years

With orders and production almost at a standstill after the fall of Communism Tatra decided to stop building the T613 in 1996. An attempt was made to produce an updated version, the Tatra T700; it was largely based on the old car, with updated body panels and detail. Sales were poor, and having in its history produced a total of 90,000 cars, Tatra finally abandoned their manufacture in 1999 to concentrate on trucks.

The United States Terex Corporation acquired the majority ownership (71%) of Tatra in late 2003. As of late 2006, however, majority ownership (80.51%) lies in the hands of Tatra Holdings s.r.o., an international consortium comprising Vectra Limited of U.K., Sam Eyde of the U.S., KBC Private Equity of Belgium, Meadowhill s.r.o. of Czech Republic and Ronald Adams of the U.S. On 15 December 2006, a contract was signed between Tatra and the Czech Republic for 556 trucks at roughly $130,000,000 U.S., or 2,600,000,000 Czech Crowns. This contract was signed in lieu of replacement of older military vehicles.

In April 2007 Tatra announced that it had already matched its production in 2006 and produced 1,600 vehicles. In 2007 Tatra plans to produce between 2,300 and 2,500 vehicles. In contrast to previous years, Tatra has increased employment by the hundreds within the past two quarters, has reversed previous errors, and is growing again. Although there have been many struggles in the past decade, the company still remains one of the great prides of Czech industry and has proven to be a valuable asset to international engineering, with its unique assembly and production methods and designs.


Passenger cars

  • Tatra T11
  • Tatra T12
  • Tatra T17
  • Tatra T57
  • Tatra T75
  • Tatra V570
  • Tatra T77
  • Tatra T77a
  • Tatra T80
  • Tatra T87
  • Tatra T97
  • Tatra T107
  • Tatra T600 Tatraplan
  • Tatra T603
  • Tatra T613
  • Tatra T700


  • Tatra T13
  • Tatra T26
  • Tatra T27
  • Tatra T43
  • Tatra T81
  • Tatra T111
  • Tatra T128
  • Tatra T141
  • Tatra T805
  • Tatra T138
  • Tatra T148
  • Tatra T813
    • RM-70 armored rocket launcher
    • Tatra OT-64 8x8 armored personnel carrier
  • Tatra T815
    • Tatrapan 6x6 Armored vehicle based on the Tatra 815 chassis.
  • Tatra T163 Jamal
  • Tatra T816
  • Tatra T810

List of all Tatra cars

Source: Wikipedia


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