Thursday, June 19, 2008

2008 VW Classic Weekend: 1950 Tatraplan

Just like last year, one of the most interesting cars at the VW Classic wasn't a VW at all. It wasn't even German. It was this 1950 Tatraplan, the postwar version the Tatra T97 of the late '30s. There is a connection to VW, though: It's said that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche "borrowed" some ideas from his friend Hans Ledwinka's design when he was given the task of designing a German people's car. The rear-mounted aircooled flat four and streamlined shape of the original VW were more or less inspired by the pre-war Tatra T97, the production of which was halted by the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. VW even settled a lawsuit filed by Tatra after the war, essentially acknowledging the debt the beetle owed to Ledwinka's design.

Only about 6,000 Tatraplan T600s were built between 1947 and 1952, and thanks to the politics of the Cold War they're a particularly rare sight in the United States. I think this one might belong to the owner of the Tempo Matador that was a highlight of last year's Classic. If it does belong to him I want to see what else he's got in his garage.

A strange and beautiful car. I really wish I could have heard what that engine sounds like!


Praetor said...

T600 is not postwar version of T-97 (which was the "inspiration" for VW bug), but more of T87, which was pre-war and war luxury tatra (succesor to T77 - the very first streamlined production car). But as economy was crippled after war, they turned away from V8 engine to make the car cost less. They turned back to the concept with big luxury car with T603. T-97 production was stopped as the communist party decided, that skoda will be making "people's cars", while tatra was supposed to make heavy duty trucks (which are made up to this day and have unbeaten offroad performace) and cars for communist state officials.

If Czechoslovakia was not sold to Stalin at Jalta, the T-97 would probably not give any chance to VW bug to own the market the way it happened.

Scott said...

You may be right, as the T600 was relatively luxurious, but the T600 and T97 seem to me to have more in common in size and running gear. It seems to combine features of both the T87 and T97.