Monday, May 24, 2010

1959 Tatra 603

I mentioned this story in an earlier post, but I'll write it again. Last year I went to the Vintage Fall Festival at Lime Rock with a friend who is as big of a car geek as I am. We were walking around the track taking in all the cars, when rounding a bend we spotted a line of incredible Porsches. OK, that's not really true... She spotted a line of incredible Porsches, I spotted the lone Tatra mixed in. My friend started veering towards the line of classic Porsches. I made a beeline for the Tatra. She just looked at me, shook her head and shot me this look that said "You are one weird human being". What can I say? I love Porsches, but you see a lot of them. How often do you see a Tatra? I'm fascinated by them.

I can't write a better description / history than the seller did, so I'll just cut and paste his here:

"A 'Communist Super car??' Well, yes - rear engined HEMI V8 all aluminum overhead cam aircoooled engine! So exotic and weird you can't make this stuff up! With VW/Porsche type rear swing axles (more on that later), 4-speed transaxle with column gear shift!! Czechlosavakian automaker TATRA and their legendary designer Hans Ledwinka are generally credited with INVENTING the whole rear engine/central tube chassis layout and concept from which the VW beetle and thus every classic Porsche derived and evolved! Unknown to most Porsche enthusiasts is that in 1938 Tatra sued Ferdinand Porsche for copying their designs! After WWII Volkswagon settled with Tatra for several million marks. TATRA is both very significant in automotive history and yet relatively unknown.

So, one can argue that the TATRA is the first true four-door "Porsche," not the Panamera!

My Tatra 603 is a good running largely original/unrestored example of the car favored by so many eastern European Communist party chiefs during the cold war era. It is believed that Fidel Castro still has his Tatra 603!

This is my favorite line...

"So UGLY its beautiful!! Personally I describe the styling as "Buck Rogers Spaceship meets cockroach!"

There are many, many cars on my list of cars to own that come before a Tatra. But, if you buy this and bring it to a show in the Northeast, look for me running towards it. I'll probably be all wide eyed and awe struck. I'll also most likely be alone. I think my last "Tatra episode" alienated the last person who'd attend car shows with me.

Located "North of Seattle, WA", click here to see the eBay listing.


Jon said...

Meanwhile, back on the History Channel...

Following the famous Moscow "Kitchen Debate" with Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959.

My friends, the car in this post is a 1959 Tatra.

If Nikita really wished to prove his "We will bury you" Soviet superiority, he should have brought over a couple of these Tatras along for the visit. Then his KGB minions should have entered the cars in the the largest demolition derby they could find.

There is nothing that screams AMERICAN SUPERIORITY and EXCESS RICHES more than a good old fashioned demolition derby. The industrial world shakes in their boots as we loudly proclaim: "We are soooo stinking rich and have soooo many cars - that we SMASH them just for fun!"

If the Commies unleashed a couple of these Tatras in a state fair demo derby, the Cold War would have finished in 1959. The lopsided advantage of entering a large car with an air cooled engine in the back would have proven Soviet superiority once and for all. Forget Sputnik, that was just a scary abstract concept to most Americans in the late 1950's.

Like gladiators in the bloodbath of the Roman Coliseum, a couple of Tatras in a demo derby would have rewritten the history of the free world - and cut it short.

Bill said...

Visit the Lane Museum in Nashville TN. to see nice examples of every significant Tatra! Also I saw a 4 cyl Tatraplan at the Door Prairie Auto Museum in Indiana. You were looking for a road trip recently. The Lane is especially fine, geared towards your (our) taste. Lots of French, Fiat , and obscurity.

Jon said...

Bill - Thanks for the info on the Lane Museum. I visited the site and it has quite an amazing collection. They even have the "must see" Tatra T-87!

Prakash Raja said...

There are a few Tetras in Toronto.
One Pristine condition even better than a NEW car belongs to a Citro├źn enthusiast by the name of John Long.