Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Tatra time II

Once again thanks to Kuba from Tychy for this excellent set of photos taken recently in the Tatra museum in Kopřivnice in the Czech Republic.

My first remembered encounter with the aerodynamic Tatra was when driving through Czechoslovakia in July 1966. Czech roads were lightly trafficked in those days; there were humbler Skodas, but these were seen (rarely) on British roads. The Tatra was something else. Its form was quite unlike the Austins, Hillmans, Vauxhalls, Fords or Jaguars that I grew up with.

In those grim industrial Moravian towns of cobble and brick, where a red star on the front of a tram was the only colourful decoration, the sinister shape of a black Tatra, looking like a giant trilobite scuttling about, added to the country's visual uniqueness.

Below: the pre-war shapes of the T77a (right), T87 (centre) and T97 (left) were still to be seen in Czechoslovakia in the mid-1960s. The cars were usually painted black, the occupants either senior party members, factory officials or StB officers. But just look at these shapes. Rear-mounted air-cooled engines, bodies with extremely low drag coefficients even by today's standards.

Right: back of the T97, pre-war car that influenced Hitler's KdF Wagen, the direct antecedent of the Volkswagen Beetle. Rear-mounted air cooled flat-4, like the Beetle; but a more slippery shape.

Below: imagine lifting the back to get to the engine! I have childhood memories of driving behind one of these and wondering how the passengers could see out of the back (unlike the Beetle, the rear window was not in the passenger compartment, but in the engine bay).

Below: a post-war Tatra T600 Tatraplan. Again, rear-engined, though only four cylinders. Note its similarity with the Swedish Saab, which was designed around the same time.

the rear of a post-war T600 Tatraplan Monte Carlo two-door coupe. Note split rear windscreen, still separated by a fin, and engine grille. It looks from this view like a puffed-up Porsche 356 coupe.

Left and below: the T603, the last Tatra streamliner, (though not the last rear-engined V8 from Kopřivnice - that was the T613, an angular beast with Italian design that no longer had the Tatra character.

This is a late production version; in yesterday's post we saw an mid-series T603. The T603 was in production from 1956 to 1975. A wonderful beast, proving to the world what Czech engineering could achieve even under the heel of communism.

This post and yesterday's one fill me with a great desire to visit our south-western neighbour; I've only been there for three very short visits in recent years (last one recorded here).

This time last year:
Donald Tusk and Co. get re-elected (yes! it was only 12 months ago!)

This time two years ago:
Poland's wonderful bread

This time three years ago:
An October Friday in Warsaw

No comments: