Tatra truck maker to revive vintage T87 car after public poll

12-09-2008

Today the Czech company Tatra is known for making trucks. But in the past it made cars, including some of the all-time classic Czech automobiles. As part of a plan to bring back some of its classic cars, Tatra had the novel idea of allowing the public to vote on which should be revived. The outcome of the poll has just been announced, and the winner is the aerodynamic Tatra T87, as driven by the great Czech explorers Hanzelka and Zikmund.

Tatra 87Tatra 87 The famous aerodynamic Tatra 87 may be seen on the road in the Czech Republic and elsewhere once again. The Tatra truck manufacturer, based in Kopřivnice in northern Moravia, has announced the results of a public poll about which of its vintage models should be revived. The Tatra T 87 has won with over 72,000 out of around a quarter of a million votes cast. Prague-born architect Ivan Margolius is an expert on Czech design and the author of a monograph simply entitled Tatra. On the phone from London, he says that the choice did not surprise him.

“It’s the most famous car Tatra made. The production started in 1936, and so it’s natural that it’s been chosen as the most admired car, throughout the world, anyway, not just in the Czech Republic. It’s not surprising that it wants to be reproduced because it is sought after and not many of the original models are left. It was such a pioneering in those days, as a streamline model, and no other factory made a similar car throughout the world. It’s very famous from that point of view.”

The Tatra T 87 was launched in 1936 and soon became popular with drivers in central Europe and other parts of the world. Proud owners of the T 87 included the writer John Steinbeck, the Egyptian King Farouk I and the German general Erwin Rommel. The T 87’s finest hour came after the Second World War when two Czech travellers, Hanzelka and Zikmud, drove the large streamlined car around Africa and South America. Ronald Adams is the Tatra CEO. He explains the planned revival.

“This is for marketing. You know that the Tatra name and Tatra cars travelled all over the world in the 1950s and 1960s. And now, as expand our truck business globally, this is all designed to re-introduce and bring back the name Tatra in many markets.”

Tatra ceased producing cars some 11 years ago and will have to rely on others for the re-production of the T 87.

“We will not actually be the manufacturer. Our plan is to decide on a chassis and drivetrain that’s in existence with one of the large car manufacturers, and then to have the actual Tatra body, which is what everybody looks for, on top of that chassis. We won’t be manufacturing anything except the body.”

What numbers are you considering? How many Tatras 87 will actually be made?

“It’ll be very limited edition – I think no more than 100 per year of each model would be the maximum.”

The revived T87 will also have to comply with all today’s safety and environmental requirements. Ronald Adams says his company is ready to take on that challenge, too.

“Well, we’ll have to cope with it. This is an engineering challenge. The body appearance is what we are going for with the Tatra name. So we have to engineer it so that it meets the current requirements for safety and what not.”

Tatra is expecting to find a suitable chassis and engine producer by the end of the year, and then finally decide if the classic T87 will be put on the road again.

12-09-2008