ⓘ Tatra (company)

Tatra 111

The T111 was developed and manufactured during World War II as a heavy truck for use by the Wehrmacht. Production started in 1942 and continued for twenty years, ending in 1962 when it was replaced by the Tatra 138. Despite being built for the Nazi war machine, the vehicle ultimately played an important role after the war ended. The Tatra 111 contributed significantly to the rebuilding effort during the postwar era, mainly in Eastern Europe and the USSR. To its chief designer, however, it brought charges of treason and collaboration with the Nazi regime after the communist takeover of Czec ...

Tatra T3

The T3 is a type of Czech tramcar produced by ČKD Tatra. A late-2000s study conducted on the Prague tram system has shown 98.9% reliability, the best of the Prague tram system fleet. During its period of production, between 1960 and 1999, 13.991 powered units and 122 unpowered trailers were sold worldwide.

Tatra 87

The Tatra 87 was a car built by Czechoslovak manufacturer Tatra. It was powered by a rear-mounted 2.9-litre air-cooled 90-degree overhead cam V8 engine that produced 85 horsepower and could drive the car at nearly 100 mph. It is ranked among the fastest production cars of its time. Competing cars in this class, however, used engines with almost twice the volume, and with fuel consumption of 20 liters per 100 km. Thanks to its aerodynamic shape, the Tatra 87 had a consumption of just 12.5 litres per 100 km. After the war between 1950 and 1953, T87s were fitted with more modern 2.5-litre V8 ...

Tatra 603

The Tatra 603 is a large rear-engined luxury car which was produced by the Czechoslovak company Tatra from 1956 to 1975. It was a continuation of the series of Tatra streamlined sedans which began with the Tatra 77. In Socialist Czechoslovakia, only high-ranking party officials and heads of factories were driven in 603s; the car was also exported to a number of other countries.

Tatra 613

The Tatra 613 was a large luxury rear wheel driven car with rear mounted air-cooled engine manufactured by Czechoslovak manufacturer Tatra from the 1970s to the 1990s, as a replacement for the Tatra 603 series. It featured an all-new body styled by Vignale of Italy and used a dohc air-cooled 3.5 litre V8 engine with 168 PS 124 kW. Later injection versions reached 200 PS 147 kW, with a maximum speed of 230 km/h 143 mph. The design was updated a further five times until being replaced by the Tatra 700 in 1996, itself a restyled T613-5. The Tatra 613 vehicles were mostly used by government of ...

Tatra 815

The Tatra T815 is a truck family, produced by Czech company Tatra. It uses the traditional tatra concept of rigid backbone tube and swinging half-axles giving independent suspension. The vehicles are available in 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 10x8, 10x10, 12x8 and 12x12 variants. There are both air-cooled and liquid-cooled engines available with power ranging from 230–440 kilowatts. As a successor to Tatra T813 it was originally designed for extreme off-road conditions, while nowadays there are also variants designated for mixed use. The T815 and its descendant models took the Czech truck racer Karel Lop ...


ⓘ Tatra (company)

For other uses, see Tatra

Tatra is a Czech vehicle manufacturer in Kopeivnice. It is owned by the Tatra Trucks company, based in Ostrava, and is the third oldest company in the world producing cars with an unbroken history. The company was founded in 1850 as Ignatz Schustala & Comp., in 1890 renamed Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft when it became a wagon and carriage manufacturer. In 1897, Tatra produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Prasident automobile. In 1918, it changed its name to Kopeivnicka vozovka a.s., and in 1919 changed from the Nesselsdorfer marque to the Tatra badge, named after the nearby Tatra Mountains on the Czechoslovak-Polish border.

During World War II Tatra was instrumental in the production of trucks and tank engines for the German war effort. Production of passenger cars ceased in 1999, but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive trucks, from 4×4 to 18x18. The brand is also known as a result of Czech truck racer Karel Loprais: in 1988–2001 he won the off-road race Dakar Rally six times with a Tatra 815.


1. Early years

Ignaz Schustala 1822–1891, founder of the company Ignatz Schustala & Comp in Kopeivnice, Moravia, started the production of horse-drawn vehicles in 1850. In 1891 it branched out into railroad car manufacture, naming the company Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft ", and employed Hugo Fischer von Roslerstamm as technical director in 1890. After the death of Schustala, von Roslerstamm took over running the company and in 1897 he bought a Benz automobile. Using this for inspiration, the company made its first car, the Prasident, under the direction of engineers Hans Ledwinka and Edmund Rumpler, which was exhibited in 1897 in Vienna. Orders were obtained for more cars, and until 1900, nine improved cars based on Prasident 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 kilometres per hour 25 mph, 22 units were built. 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 Roslerstamm left the company.


2. Tatra concept

In 1921 the company was renamed to Kopeivnicka 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. In 1924 the company was renamed to Zavody Tatra ".

The Tatra 11 was replaced in 1926 by the similar Tatra 12 which had four-wheel brakes. A further development was the 1926 Tatra 17 with a 1.930 cc water-cooled six-cylinder engine and fully independent suspension. In 1927 the company was renamed Ringhoffer-Tatra ".


3. Prewar streamliners

Tatras specialty was luxury cars of a technically advanced nature, going from air-cooled flat-twins to fours and sixes, culminating briefly with the OHC 6-litre V12 in 1931. In the 1930s, under the supervision of Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka, his son Erich and German engineer Erich Ubelacker, and protected by high tariffs and absence of foreign assemblers, Tatra began building advanced, streamlined cars after obtaining licences from Paul Jaray, which started in 1934 with the large Tatra 77, the worlds first production aerodynamic car. The average drag coefficient of a 1:5 model of the fastback Tatra 77 was recorded as 0.2455. It featured as did almost all subsequent big Tatras a rear-mounted, air-cooled V8 engine, which was in technical terms very sophisticated for the time.


4. Tatra and the conception of the Volkswagen Beetle

Both Adolf Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche were influenced by the Tatras. Hitler was a keen automotive enthusiast, and had ridden in Tatras during political tours of Czechoslovakia. He had also dined numerous times with Ledwinka. After one of these dinners Hitler remarked to Porsche, "This is the car for my roads". From 1933 onwards, Ledwinka and Porsche met regularly to discuss their designs, and Porsche admitted "Well, sometimes I looked over his shoulder and sometimes he looked over mine" while designing the Volkswagen. There is no doubt that the Beetle bore a striking resemblance to the Tatras, particularly the Tatra V570. The Tatra 97 of 1936 had a rear-located, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine accommodating four passengers and providing luggage storage under the front bonnet and behind the rear seat. Another similarity between this Tatra and the Beetle is the central structural tunnel. Tatra launched a lawsuit against VW, but this was stopped when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. At the same time, Tatra was forced to stop producing the T97. The matter was re-opened after World War II and in 1965 Volkswagen paid Tatra 1.000.000 DM in an out of court settlement.

However Tatras works preceding Volkswagen are themselves preceded by designs of Hungarian automotive engineer Bela Barenyi, whose sketches resembling Volkswagen date back to the 1920s.


5. War years

After the 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, Tatras were kept in production, largely because Germans liked the cars. Many German officers died in car accidents caused by driving the heavy, rear-engined Tatras faster around corners than they could handle. At the time, as an anecdote, Tatra became known as the Czech Secret Weapon for the scores of officers who died behind the wheel; at one point official orders were issued forbidding German officers from driving Tatras.

Tatra was instrumental in the production of trucks and tank engines for the German war effort.


6. Postwar management

The factory was nationalised in 1945 almost three years before the Communist Party came to power and in January 1946 was renamed to Tatra Narodni Podnik ". Although production of prewar models continued, a new model, the Tatra 600 Tatraplan was designed - the name celebrating the new Communist planned economy and the aeroplane inspiration Colloq. Czech: aeroplan. It went into production in 1948. In 1951, the state planning department decided that the Tatraplan should henceforth be built at the Skoda plant in Mlada Boleslav, leaving Tatra free to concentrate on trucks, buses and railway equipment.


7. The Tatra 603

In 1953, amid much dissatisfaction among Communist party leaders with the poor-quality official cars imported from Russia, Tatra was again given permission to produce a luxury car, the Tatra 603. Much like Tatras prewar cars, it was driven by a rear-mounted, air-cooled V8 and had the companys trademark aerodynamic styling. The Tatra 603 initially featured three headlights and the first prototypes had a central rear stabilising fin, though this feature was lost on production vehicles. It was also fitted with almost American-style thick chrome bumpers with bullets a.k.a. Dagmar bumpers. Almost entirely hand-built, Tatras were not available for normal citizens as they were not permitted to buy them. The cars were reserved for the Communist Party elite, industrial officials, as well as being exported to most other communist nations as official state cars. Notably, Cuban President Fidel Castro had a white Tatra 603, custom-fitted with air conditioning.

Tatra 603s were built until 1975, a twenty-year reign as one of Communisms finest cars. Numerous improvements were made during its production run, although not all vehicles built were actually new but rather reconditioned. In exchange for a newer model year car, the older vehicle was returned to the factory. There, it was upgraded to current model year specifications, refinished, and sent out again as a putatively new vehicle to replace another older T603. This makes it difficult to trace the history of surviving vehicles.


8. 1970s makeover - the Tatra 613

In 1968 a replacement was developed; the Tatra 613. It was styled by the Italian styling house of Vignale and was a more modern, less rounded shape. It was not until 1973 that the car went into production, and volume production did not begin until the following year. Although the layout remained the same, the body was all new, was the engine, being equipped with four overhead camshafts, a higher capacity motor 3495 cc and an output close to 165 bhp 123 kW; 167 PS. In addition, it had been moved somewhat forward for improved balance. These cars were built in five series and went through several modifications until production ceased in 1996. It is a tribute to Vignales styling that they did not look dated until rather late in that time period. Over 11.000 cars were built, and sales slowed to a trickle of just a few dozen per year towards the end of production as Tatras began to seem more and more outdated.


9. 1990s Tatra 700

The Tatra 700 was a large luxury car released in 1996 by Tatra. Essentially a heavily restyled version of the Tatra 613 model it replaced, with updated body panels and detailing. The T700 was offered as both a saloon and coupe with either a 3.5 or 4.4 litre 90° air-cooled V8 petrol engine. The model was neither successful nor produced in large numbers, having produced a total of 69-72 cars. The T700 was the last passenger car made by Tatra with production halting in 1999. At this point, Tatra abandoned automobile manufacturing in order to concentrate on truck design and manufacture.


10. 1990s Tatra MTX V8

The Tatra MTX V8 was the fastest Czech car of all time. Production started in 1991 in Kopeivnice. It has a Tatra 623 V8 engine with inlet manifold injection producing 225 kW at 6500 rpm. It accelerates from 0–100 km/h 62 mph in 5.6 seconds. The top speed is 265 kilometres per hour 165 mph. The Czech designer Vaclav Kral designed this vehicle, with only 5 ever produced.


11. 2000s

In February 2008, Tatra announced the worlds first and only air-cooled engine meeting the then forthcoming Euro 5 emissions standards. The press release claims 7.5 times lower emissions of particulates and 3.5 times lower emission of nitrogen oxides compared to the previous engine. Further, production of air-cooled engines should significantly reduce the production of greenhouse gases due to the absence of liquid cooling systems. All Tatra vehicles from February 2008 onwards should use the new engine. A month later, Tatra CEO Ronald Adams told The Prague Post Tatra could return to producing passenger cars, saying: We would not come back to compete with the large automobile mass producers such as Volkswagen, Skoda, Toyota etc. But we might come back with a replica of the old Tatra cars using a current undercarriage and driveline from one of the major automotive producers. The company has launched a feasibility study, hoping to produce one thousand replicas of their legendary Tatraplan and 603 cars in 2010.

In July 2008 pictures of a fuel cell concept car designed by Mike Jelinek, the Tatra 903, were shown.


12. Tatra in the West

Unlike most Soviet Bloc manufacturers, Tatra enjoyed modest sales success in Western Europe, where its truck line had a reputation for simplicity and durability. No effort was made to distribute Tatras unusual automobiles in the West, though a small number did find their way to collectors in Western Europe, and even to the United States. The fall of the Soviet Union did not help Tatras fortunes, as the company made no inroads in Western Europes already crowded automobile market. Worse, the introduction of competitors, such as Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot into the Czech Republic, further eroded Tatras sales. Production of the passenger cars ended in 1999.

Among western collectors, Tatra automobiles remain largely unknown. The largest display of Tatra vehicles in the United States is at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. The museums eclectic automobile collection contains 12 Tatra models, including a T-613 ambulance. When talk show host and car collector Jay Leno visited the museum, the founder picked him up in a 1947 Tatra 87, prompting Leno to purchase one himself. Leno soon became an advocate for the brand. In the United States, the few Tatra clubs are closely associated with Citroen clubs, as many Tatra collectors also collect Citroen DS series cars.

A Tatra 87 is on exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


13.1. Trucks 1898–1914 beginning

The first truck manufactured at Kopeivnice in 1898 was a flatbed with 2 liquid-cooled side-by-side-mounted two-cylinder Benz engines each at 2.7 L capacity with total power output of 8.8 kW 12 hp placed after the rear axle and cargo capacity of 2.5 ton. The unique feature of the engines setup was that the engines could be operated sequentially depending on the load requirements. No 1 engine was started via a cranking handle and had a flywheel attached and No 2 engine without the flywheel was connected via a gear clutch and started by the first engine already running.

The second truck manufactured was once again a flatbed R type of 2.5 ton cargo capacity built in 1909. Powered by liquid-cooled petrol four-cylinder engine of 4.1 L capacity and power output of 18.4 kW 25 hp with the engine placed above front axle which is the conventional design to this day. The vehicle featured solid rubber tyres and semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension. In 1910 Tatra manufactured its first bus the Omnibus type SO with total production of 5 units.


13.2. Trucks 1914–1922 serial production

The first true serial truck production at Tatra was instigated by the beginning of World War I. In the year 1914 there were only two trucks made, type T 14/40 HP; however by 1915s end the production jumped to a total of 105 TL-2 units, and the following year, 1916, the numbers rose to a total of 196 TL-2 and 30 TL-4. Production peaked in 1917 with 19 TL-2 and 303 TL-4 models, but then production declined, and a similar number of vehicles of one type manufactured in a year was not achieved or surpassed until 1936 with the T 27 model.

Technically models TL-2 and TL-4 were almost identically designed; in fact TL-4 evolved from TL-2 where both had liquid-cooled OHC engines of max power output of 25.7 kW 35 PS; 34 hp. The TL-2 had a GVM 2.100 kg 4.630 lb and 4.000 kg 8.818 lb GCM, TL-4 had 2.700 kg 5.952 lb GVM and 6.700 kg 14.771 lb GCM respectively. Both types remained in production in small series until 1927. The TL-4 is considered the first truck to come out of NW Nesselsdorfer Wagen-bau to carry the name Tatra in 1919.


13.3. Trucks 1923–1938 Tatra concept

After the introduction of Tatra 11 and Tatra 12 cars with their distinctive backbone tube design and swing axles, Tatra introduced its first truck on the same basis, the light utility Tatra 13 powered by 2-cylinder air-cooled petrol engine with power output 8.8 kW 12 hp and 1.000 kg 2.205 lb cargo capacity. Further models followed, and in 1926, T23 and T24 were introduced, nicknamed "bulldogs", which could be considered Tatras precursors to COE designed trucks. Improved version T13 was introduced as T26 with a more powerful 4-cylinder flat air-cooled engine and in six-wheeler chassis created capable offroad light utility truck which later evolved into T72 model which was heavily used by Czechoslovakian army at the time and was also manufactured under license by the French company Lorraine-Dietrich. In 1933 Tatra built a limited series of T25 heavy artillery hauler with 4 and 6-cylinder petrol engines. The most popular Tatra truck before World War II was type T27 powered by 4-cylinder petrol or diesel engines, which remained in production for nearly 17 years 1930–1947 with total production of 7.620 units, by adding an extra axle to the rear the type T28 was created however, it was not successful and only limited production resulted in a mainly bus chassis. In the period from 1931 to 1938 Tatra also built a small utility truck based on the chassis from T30 named Tatra T43 which remain popular with small business owners. T72 model successfully continued the line to T82 built mainly for military in cargo and personnel transport between 1935 and 1938 and further to T92 and T93 built for the Romanian army from 1938 to 1941 which were identical except T93 had also a driven front axle.


13.4. Trucks 1939–1956 World War II and beyond

Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia the production at Kopeivnice was annexed by the Germans for the supply of trucks needed by the Wehrmacht. Apart from the existing line up of T27, T92/92 a new heavy truck the T81 commenced production featuring liquid-cooled 12.5 L V8 diesel engine with a power output of 118 kW 160 PS; 158 hp, in 6×4 axle configuration. This vehicle evolved in 1942 into the legendary T111 which continued in production until 1962, with the total of 33.690 units made. The T111 also featured Tatras first air-cooled diesel engine, a massive V12 originally designed for the armoured Sd.Kfz. 234 Puma. In the latter stages of World War II Tatra was instrumental in the development of air-cooled diesel engines for German tanks. In late 1944 General Heinz Guderian ordered that production of the Type 38t Hetzer tank be modified to incorporate a Tatra Type 928 V-8 air-cooled diesel engine, though this order was delayed so production could continue uninterrupted. After the war the T111 contributed heavily to the rebuilding effort in Central and Eastern Europe and a memorial was built at Magadan, Siberia for its exploits in the Far East of the USSR.


13.5. Trucks 1957–1982 moving forward

The decision to replace the reliable but ageing T111 was taken in 1952 based on central planning economy of socialist government where directive was made to Tatra N.P. that it should concentrate on the manufacture of 7 to 10 ton capacity commercial vehicles and in 1956 first T137 and T138 trucks were exhibited at the Czechoslovak machinery expo in Brno. Production of the T111 continued alongside the T138 series until 1962. The T138 itself continued in production until 1969 when it was replaced by the improved T148, which provided an increase in power output, reliability and product improvements.

In 1967 Tatra began production of one of its famous off-road trucks the T813 using its modular construction technology; the model incorporated the latest trends in commercial vehicle design such as cab-over-engine COE and wide profile tyres. It featured a new V12 engine and all military versions had a central tyre inflation/deflation system as standard equipment. The T813 was designed to tow loads up to 100 ton GCM and it was a familiar sight on the roads in Czechoslovakia hauling large often over-sized loads.


13.6. Trucks 1982–2008 T815 and beyond

The Tatra 815 was designed for extreme off-road conditions, and its road versions are derived from the off-road original. After the 53-rd session of CMEA council a directive that Tatra N.P. would be a sole supplier of off-road commercial vehicles of