Car Collector Corner: Tatra and the company's co-op with Navistar
Q: Greg, I enjoy your column and want to know about a vehicle called the Tatraplan T-600. My friend once had one and it would be interesting to see what info you have on this company? My friend told me they also built a V8, too. Is this correct? Thanks much, Lee K., Illinois.
A: Lee, your friend is correct, and as for the Tatraplan automobile, it was produced via a government centralized economic plan in Czechoslovakia for many years. The T-600 Tatraplans were streamliner type cars that came with a 1952cc inline 4-cylinder air-cooled engines located in the rear. The body had a coefficient aerodynamic drag of 0.32, which was great for that era.
Overall, some 4,200 T-600's were sold from 1947 through 1951, but in late 1951, the Czech department of defense, which controlled the production of the cars, informed Tatra they would now build trucks. Cars would be built under the Skoda company, one of the other Czech run car companies. A third car company in the Czech Republic during that time was Praga, not to be confused with Prada!
In 1954, Tatra re-joined the car building with a large passenger car, and this is where that V8 engine you mention came into play. The V8 T603-engine had previously been developed and tested on the race track in Tatra experimental race cars. It was used in the new Tatra-603, and went on sale in 1955 and remained in production until 1975. In its 18 years of sales, a total of 20,422 T-603's were built.
Founded in 1923 and nationalized by the Czech in 1945, Tatra continued to produce cars through 1999. However, today, Tatra still manufacturers a wide variety of heavy duty all-wheel-drive trucks and buses, including 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 10x10 and 12x12 vehicles.
Additionally, Tatra and Navistar, the latter a well-known Illinois company that builds great trucks, buses and diesels, introduced an ATX6 universal carrier and an ATX8 troop carrier. The vehicles are based on a Tatra T815-7 6×6 or 8×8 chassis and cabin utilizing Navistar engines and components. Navistar Defense and Tatra will market these vehicles to the United States military and foreign military sales financed by the United States government.
Navistar is respected today for its International trucks, MaxxForce diesel engines, school and commercial buses and Workhorse brand chassis for motor homes and step vans.
Hope this all helps and thanks for the question.
Greg Zyla writes a weekly syndicated column and welcomes reader questions on old cars, auto nostalgia or old-time racing at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org