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Friday, July 27, 2012

Tatra 603, the guilty pleasure

To describe her as iconic is probably too much. But she wasn't a mainstream at all, for an average citizen to own her in the production era was close to impossible. She was unique, eccentric and powerful. The Tatra 603.

Why she ? Tatra was produced in former Czechoslovakia and many words in feminine person in czech, slovak and other slavic languages, often have an a at the end. Like Eva or Diana.

Tatra 603

Produced in Tatra Kopřivnice (later in Tatra Příbor) in just two generations or rather facelifts from 1955 to 1975. It was the last Tatra with aerodynamic chassis. The rear placed air-cooled 2.5 liter V8 engine in three versions over the time provided 98.5 - 105 HP at 152 - 166 Nm. [more data].

The rear wheel drive Tatra 603 with more than 5 meter length was more than visible on the road, however the 1400 kg curb weight was less than the impression of at least 2 tons. Mostly black coloured were driving around. Only around 20.000 pieces were produced, mostly by hand. One rumour says that there was an opportunity to export them to the U.S. for highway patrols but the demand was 1500 pieces per month which wasn't possible to achieve. 

It was the representative car for the czechoslovakian government and high level clerks behind the Iron Courtain. Therefore, for many people this car has a very sour flavor. But the car istelf was a masterpiece. Officialy it was possible to buy it, but the price was extremely high, according to historical pricelists in mid 60-ies simillar to Saab 99 but after 1969 the price increased on 44% more than a Saab. I don't know the reason, but speculate, that it can have something to do with being occupied by soviet forces in 1968 and complete close of the borders afterwards. So why not to pay more ... In all cases it was way beyond what an average person could afford.

There were some people buying used Tatras, but 12 L/100km consumption and availability of spare parts was a real challenge. After the change in '89 enthusiasts searched and bought them and also spare parts, formerly stored for "when a failure comes" started to appear. Of course, there are still some, owned by enthusiasts. But unfortunately, it's quite long ago, that I've seen one on the street, several years already. They used to be much more frequent.

Check out the engine sound, this one is the closest to what I remember.

The hassles, that Tatra 603 and it's predecessor Tatra 600 (Tatraplan) were a base for Porsche and VW Beetle are useless. It doesn't matter at all. What matters is the pity that this car couldn't be more known and produced in larger quantities. It was a wonderful piece of engineering and design.

The factory and company Tatra still exists and produces trucks. As I've heard, good trucks.

If you come near Ostrava or Brno in the Czech Republic, definitely dont miss the Technical Museum Tatra in Kopřivnice. It's wonderful, for every car lover a must.

Also, if interested, there is a nice historical video ad for the Tatra 603.

photo credits : Hemmings,,,, world viewer